Family, friends and those who’ve been with us since the beginning will know that when Mom, Sharon and I launched ThreeManyCooks I was living in Malawi, Africa. It’s a bit of a long story, but after my first trip to Malawi (working for a small grassroots organization building a school) I started my own project in December 2007 to build a maternity clinic with a small rural community. I spent two years planning the project, and when we reached our fundraising goal Andy and I packed up our lives and moved to Malawi to oversee the construction of the maternity clinic. My dear friend Emily also helped us plan the project and joined us for the adventure.
It was challenging—from day one until the day we packed our bags and left. We were working with contractors, laborers, suppliers, government officials, village headmen, traditional authorities and community members. We were up against the clock, the weather and the wildlife (snakes, spiders, mice). Some days we were in meetings, other days we were hauling bricks in the midday sun. It was a tough job, but they were the best five months of our lives. Why? There were a lot of reasons.
I got to hold babies like this every day:
Her name is Esther. Look at that face, that belly!
And this is Gift. He is the most precious and good-natured child I have ever met. He and I were buddies. He and Andy were even better buddies. We have a picture of him on our nightstand, but I don’t know if that makes missing him better or worse.
We loved our daily lunch under the mango tree with friends, prepared for us by Mrs. Agnes Lungu.
This was our evening commute: a five-minute drive from the construction site. We lived in a house on that mountain, just past these fields of tea.
The evenings were unforgettable. Everyday we came home dirty, exhausted and hungry. But after a few weeks, we settled into a routine of taking care of ourselves. We would all have showers (which were only sometimes hot) and then Emily and I would prepare dinner. We listened to music while we chopped vegetables, stirred simmering soups or kneaded dough. And we always had a refreshing drink. Here’s me cooking in our kitchen. It wasn’t great, but we were lucky to have a stove (the oven didn’t work, just the grill).
The garden at our house had eight lemon trees which were just ready to pick.
We made delicious, fresh lemonade most every evening which we enjoyed with popcorn. Sometimes we’d make simple syrup and a lemon juice mix, to which we would add gin and tonic. It was the best way to end those days. We were sun-kissed, clean as whistles and in light, loose-fitting clothing (outside our house we girls had to wear pants or longs skirts). After those long, arduous days, we’d throw open all the windows and doors, let the breeze rip through the house, put up our feet, and enjoy that fresh lemonade.
When the day came to pack up and leave, we did not want to go home. But we took with us memories and lifelong friends. And we left this. The Chisala Maternity Clinic.
Jenny Flake says
Wow, I can’t imagine what that must have been like to live in Africa. Great post. Thanks for sharing with us 🙂
I stumbled upon this site through Mark Bittman’s blog. What a find! Your writing is beautiful but, not as beautiful as your selfless commitment to making this world a better place.
Summer is the perfect time for a cool, refreshing tumbler of Lemonade!
Great post! Love the lemonade too. 🙂
Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday says
Wow, what an amazing experience!
cookin' Canuck says
What an amazing project. I’d imagine you put your heart and soul into it and I’m sure there are many that appreciated your time and effort.
Mags, I knew you lived in Malawi for some time, but it was wonderful to hear more about your everyday activities there. And now that I know you personally, I can imagine you and Andy doing the things you wrote about. What a rich experience you had, and what givings souls you both are.
Wow, what wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing.
That must of been an incredible experience. I know many people who wish they had done the same. Kudos to you for making it a reality.
Jen @ How To: Simplify says
Wow, what an inspiring post. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. The project sounds absolutely amazing.
Patty Paulsen says
Your story touched my heart and healed me from my day. Thank you.
lisa p says
What a blesssing to give and to receive
Thank you all for your lovely comments, they really meant a lot to me.
What an amazing accomplishment! Everybody talks but not everybody does. You do. I love that.
emily s says
You are incredible! What an adventure – I can’t imagine how hard and yet how rewarding it must have been. Keep the memories with you forever.
Dear Lemon Lady,
That would be amazing to step out your back door and find the fruit for fresh lemonade just waiting to be squeezed. Also amazing to find such special babies and little friends ready to be squeezed. I’m sure you savored your days there as much as we will savor the lemonade made from your recipe… As we sit sipping from our frosty glasses we will be lost in thought… you, in thinking of your memories and friendships… us, in pondering a way to help as you did.
Squeezing the Joy Out of Life in NE
Fuji Mama says
What an amazing story and an amazing legacy! I didn’t know that. Now you’ve got me craving lemonade.