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.