A Malawian Birthday

First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDREW! My darling husband turned 25 years today! I will admit that the day started out not according to plan, but by the end turned out incredible. 

For about a week I have been speaking with Sheba and Fachi, two Ethiopians who own an Ethiopian restaurant in town. At first they agreed to host a cooking class for Andrew and I on his birthday, but I soon received a call saying Sheba (the owner) would be unable to carry out such an event. Later I learned that this was because she did not want anyone to steal her recipes and open up another Ethiopian restaurant in town. Africans are very superstitious. I called Fachi to see if there was anyway we would still do the cooking class, and he informed me that he would be able to teach us. He sent me a short list of ingredients over the weekend and then I didn’t hear from him again. Typical in an Airtel society where no one wants to pay for phone minutes.

At this point it was Sunday, I had purchased most of the ingredients on his list, and realized that I was the one who was probably going to be teaching the Ethiopian cooking class tomorrow. Luckily I had done a lot of research on Ethiopian cooking throughout the week and felt very prepared to make authentic food.
We decided to go to work in the morning and attend the management meeting so we could make plans for the rest of the week. In that meeting we were able to arrange visits to 3 villages and the distribution of nearly 400 surveys. We also we able to discuss the priority of conducting midterm evaluations on the farmers who had been involved in the program for the past 2-3 years. We have discovered that in Africa, data collection is not a priority. This is a problem because without data, you have no idea what is and what is not working. We scheduled a conference call with NuSkin for later this week to further discuss the need to collect evaluations on the farmers.

The morning was intense, but very productive and much-needed. At lunch all of our colleagues at the office surprised Andrew with a chocolate birthday cake and a beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday. You can tell that not many people in the office have cake very often because it was gone in a matter of minutes after Andrew cut the first piece. 

We continued to work until the end of the day because we had so much research to catch up on. Luckily Andrew is such a good sport to come to work on his birthday. Also, I specifically planned a week-long birthday for him, knowing that our main celebrations would come on the weekends.

We walked home when work ended at 5:00pm and arrived home right before dusk once again. I gave Andrew clues number 7,8, and 9, and we proceeded to start the Ethiopian cooking class. We made four dishes, injera, shirt, alkilt wat, and gomen. Each dish turned out delicious, not quite authentic, but delicious none the less. We did have some problems with the injera (Ethiopian bread) staying together, but hey it tasted great.
I am sorry grateful for Andrew and for all the adventures that we have had together. I love you, and happy birthday!

(Below: Andrew’s post)

As I think back through the day so many things about it was special, and that’s thanks to Kylie. We woke early and in good spirits, smiling as the two of us had oatmeal for breakfast for the first time in a long while. Kylie had prepared a muesli style breakfast with oats, fruits and a wee bit of sugar (it’s my birthday after all!). It was a real treat!

One thing she’s been doing over the past couple days prior/post birthday is writing me sweet notes. As we walked to the office this morning I was passed another one of these notes describing what we’d be doing for that day. On the agenda, Ethiopian cooking night. I was excited!

Our morning walk into the office was brisk and quick, we had a lot to do and we wanted to sync with the team. After some discussion with Gibson and Thwango, we discovered that the survey we wanted to administer would be too complex for the AEDOs (farmer trainers) to administer. Phew, that was frustrating.

We spent the next few hours not only revising our survey, but meeting over how best we could accumulate the data we needed. After a lot of back and forth we decided to administer a reduced version of our survey and speak with Adam in the evening (who was in the U.S.). Adam acts as the director for CBF, or at least that’s how I envision him. We left hopeful we could get what we needed.

During the next couple meetings as I went back and forth with the data needs we had, the entire CBF office surprised me with a beautiful chocolate birthday cake! It made me smile to hear them all singing and laughing as they asked me about the major life points that brought me to today. I was grateful for everyone’s kindness.

Once we got home we took over the kitchen! We pulled out sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrot, chickpea flour, among other things and began creating three Ethiopian dishes. I’ll be honest the names escape me at the moment, but I do remember one name injera, the Ethiopian bread.

Why do I remember injera? Because it kept sticking to the pan and breaking instead of forming a thinly fermented bread to eat the other food with. I could tell Kylie was frustrated, but I thought everything was delicious and couldn’t be happier.

The evening grew dark and we returned to our little room to discuss the game plan for the next few days. As Kylie was feeling sleepy she lay in bed and soon drifted off. I left her and got on George’s computer to google hangout chat with Adam to clarify our direction. It took some time to connect to the net, chat with Adam, and download some things I needed from the web… Internet in Malawi is never fast.

By the time I returned it was midnight and Kylie was already asleep. As I brushed my teeth I thought to myself while most would imagine a birthday being filled with cake, gifts and the like, I was just grateful to spend my birthday with my wife. Even if it was in the office 🙂 




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