Rob Pfeiffer Blog 1/15/2016 School Presentations
I started the day (Friday, January 15, 2016) working my way up the mountain on my bike with big Monarch butterflies as my companions. They may be another species, but resemble Monarchs and have that same irregular flight pattern. They floated right in front of my face and flew beside me. Magical!
Our trip to three schools turned into quite a day. First of all, you don’t travel anywhere in Malawi in an open pickup truck without picking up riders. We picked up 20 or so mothers of small children travelling since before dawn, and so appreciative of a ride. Some were headed to the hospital and others had other business. So, we are stopping and starting a lot. What made it a bit hair raising was the fact that we had no fuel gauge in our aged, borrowed truck, so I was coasting down all the hills, standing on the brakes as they don’t do much without the engine running. Quick starts when the corners got close. I’m sure some of our riders were less than impressed. Everyone arrived alive and we had a huge reception at school number one.
The school committee members came, the administrators were friendly and the kids wildly excited. I guess I have some idea what Bruce Springsteen feels like now. Please picture 500 first through eighth graders sitting on the ground, fortunately in the shade of a huge tree. Once the talking started, they were silent and attentive. We invited them to attend our planting day on January 30th and many said they will come. They are hooping we will send a helicopter to fetch them, but agreed to walk.
Then we raced off to the next school, picking up and dropping off as we went. The second school was equally excited and friendly and had scheduled tree planting on the grounds in our honor. Of course we had to inspect the new plantings and it was fortunate we did; they had planted the trees in the plastic tubes. Fortunately, it was just he principal and I so I could correct the situation without too much embarrassment, but he had over 100 trees planted on a hillside to dig up.
By this time, school was letting out for lunch so 30 or 40 screaming kids piled in the back and off we went to the third school which was holding their “learners” for us. By the time we arrived, we had dropped off all our student friends and picked up some more hospital travelers. It was boiling hot and they had us out in the direct sun. Another cheerful bunch of 500 greeted us and settled in. It was clear we were all wilting, so moved to some shade off to the side of the campus. Whew! 95 degrees and humid. This time as we left, we were really full of kids. People came out of the villages we passed to see what all the excitement was about. Just happy kids singing. We had food for lunch with us, so, after dropping off the last child, we started looking for a picnic spot. Luckily for an old man, we picked him and his bike up before we stopped. He thought he had died and gone to heaven. One minute he was facing a 12-mile uphill walk pushing his bicycle (these hills are brutal!), and the next, he was sitting in the shade having a nice lunch and going home in style. 1,500 kids and staff got a strong environmental pitch and committed to planting trees either near home or with us in the forest.
We had a sad moment the next day as a 10-year-old girl passed away in one of our villages. Apparently she had a urinary tract blockage and had been repeatedly to the hospital over the past week. Unfortunately, they couldn’t help her. Our local clinic is up and running and I visited and spent an hour or two last week. Unfortunately, they run out of the malaria tests and the nutritional supplements about half way through each month, thus necessitating the numerous hospital trips our villagers make.
We have set out all our seedlings on the side of the mountain and they are soaking up a warm rain. All is good! Now, we transplant down the slope, hopefully with the help of a mob. That’s some of the news from Malawi.