This trip was so different than the last trip we took in 2012. For one thing, it was twice as long. Seriously, I can't believe we only went for six days last time and somehow managed to fit in as much as we did. This time, half way through I kept thinking, "I can't believe that we were headed home at this point."
First off, I am so thankful that Shirley did well on the long flight. By God's grace we were given the whole middle row on both long flights to and from Malawi, so Shirley had an extra seat all to herself. We were able to lay her down on a pillow and strap her in with the seatbelt and she could sleep or watch her little TV. Toy Story was the movie of choice. ;) Then for the short flights, we took the advice of friends and put some pillows on top of the food trays and she was able to sleep. It worked great!
So grown up! :)
Another thing I am thankful for is that we were all healthy the whole time! In 2012 I was having a lot of problems with my ulcerative colitis and I had a terrible cold. It made such a difference feeling well and not being in a daze the entire time.
The last major difference between the two trips is fairly obvious. This time, Kwacha and I were married! With a baby! Last time we weren't even engaged. It was such a blessing spending time with my new family rather than just meeting Kwacha's family. It was wonderful having extended time with my new sisters and brother, my second mom and dad, and my nieces and to have Shirley meet them all for the first time!
The day after we arrived in Lilongwe we drove five hours north to Mzuzu where Kwacha's parents live. The one bitter aspect of this trip is that three days before we left for Malawi, we found out that Kwacha's older brother, Granger, died. It was very unexpected. We're still not sure exactly what caused his death, but it sounds like it may have been a brain aneurism. We are so thankful for God's timing though. We had originally planned to go to Malawi in July but that didn't work out. This way we were able to be there to help comfort the family. Especially Shirley! In her youthful ignorance to the situation, she was her normal, cheerful, funny self. We truly think she helped lift everyone's spirits.
Grandma (abuya) and Shirley's cousin, Chigo
When we arrive in Mzuzu and got out of the car, I saw my niece, Chigo, and I started to say hi to her but she ignored me and went right for Shirley! :) Then she pretty much stayed by her side the rest of the trip, feeding her milk, playing with her and pretty much being a second mama. We were happy to have her come along with us on most of our outings.
We had such a wonderful time in Mzuzu. We were able to stay for about three days. We met so much of Kwacha's extended family as well. They had all gotten back from Granger's funeral the day before and in their culture many people come to the home in order to give their condolences and comfort the family. Groups from their church, their choir, and many other friends came. Some would arrive wailing. After people enter the house they greet everyone with a handshake, sometimes kneeling. I really love this about the Malawian culture. Everyone is so kind and respectful. They truly show their care for each other.
Shirley with Abuya's friends
The lady on the left told my mom and me that she she is Shirley's grandma's best friend. She talked with us for awhile and told us a little more about Malawian culture. I really like her!
There were a few times where I didn't know where Shirley was. On one such occasion I walked outside and found her here. No need to worry. ;)
Hanging out with her cousin, Charity
We were able to go on a few walks while we were there. Kwacha, my mom and I visited Mzuzu University one morning and we saw where Kwacha's aunt used to work. She was in charge of meals for a large group of people! Kwacha lived with her for a year on campus so we also saw the little house they lived in.
The place where Kwacha's aunt worked
The house they lived in
Another day we went on a walk with our nieces to the Mzuzu coffee factory. I don't drink coffee anymore but I'm told it's delicious! It was fun seeing more of the neighborhood and watching Shirley being carried around in a chitenje by her older cousin, Ruth. (We like to call her Hite.)
On the last night we were there, Kwacha, my mom and I walked over to the church that Kwacha's parents attend. A traveling choir from Zambia had come and they had a friendly sing off with the local church's choir...starting around 10 p.m. at night! One of my favorite things about this was that a number of women had their babies with them strapped on their back, fast asleep! I loved it. And their voices are amazing. I will try and post a video later of their beautiful voices.
It was sad to leave the next day. We look forward to spending more time with his parents in the future. Kwacha loves going to Mzuzu because it's a more relaxed place than Lilongwe. When you want to get away from Lilongwe for a bit, Mzuzu is the perfect place.
So it looks like I couldn't write all about our trip in one post. So there's Mzuzu for you!