Saturday, May 30, 2009


The other night, I thought I heard something outside, and couldn't sleep for an hour or so because I was so scared. But I was reassured by how protected we are (well, for the most part).

First of all, we have guards (students at the college who are trying to earn some money for school tuition) who walk around the campus at night. Well sometimes they fall asleep, but they are still out there, which comforts me.

Also, we have a wall and gates around our campus.

Lastly, we have bars on our house. We live in one of the first houses built on campus, so our bars are a little different than the newer houses. Our main rooms (the living room, dining room, and kitchen) have windows without bars. We do have bars we put across the doors, though. Here is a picture of one of the windows. The side windows do have bars, but the center window is completely bar-less, which does not protect us against break-ins!

Ergo the gate! This gate is in the doorway from the living room to the hallway (with the bedrooms coming off of it). If you lock it, then no one can get back into the bedrooms.

Here is a view from the closed gate into the living room.

The windows in the back all have bars on them.

In case of a fire or another emergency, one of the back window bars can be unlocked and swung out. Then you have to slide the glass slats out, break the screen, and climb out.

These precautions make us feel pretty safe. The upper campus has had some break-in issues this past year, but the lower campus (where we are) has actually been fine. But, in the late 80's and 90's, the lower end of campus had a lot of break-ins.

One fun little story: When we went on spring holiday, we locked the gate to the hallway after putting some valuables in our bedroom. Bech put the gate lock key on his keychain. When we got back, he forgot to take it off of the keychain and hang it inside the hallway. Some nights we don't lock the hall gate, and we didn't that night. But then Bech heard something outside, so he got up to lock the gate (forgetting that the key was on his keychain in the kitchen).

The next morning, when the alarm went off, Bech realized that he had locked us in the back of the house. I was not very nice to him about this all (don't worry, I apologized to him later). Bech unlocked the emergency bars, pulled out the slats, and climbed out the window. He then broke the screen on one of the living room windows, and pushed off the door bar, successfully breaking into our house. So we weren't locked into our back rooms for that long. But it still wasn't a fun feeling at 5:30 in the morning!

less than one month!

First, an update on Malawi...It is winter right now and it is COLD! Okay, so I might be exaggerating a tad bit. It can still get warmish during the day. But at night and the early morning, it is pretty cold. Think late October/early November in Mississippi. I am glad I packed at least one pair of flannel pj's!

Rainy season is officially over, proven by the below pictures. Malawi looks like it did when we arrived last August. The fields are bare and starting to look pretty dusty. We can smell the fires in the morning and at night as people are cooking their nsema for meals. All of the maize has been cut down to feed the people for the next year. And the mice on a stick are back!!!

Here is a close up of mice on a stick. Men burn out the grasses in fields to catch the mice, tie the mice to a stick, then cook the mice. Some people love to eat it (Bech and I are not part of that "some people"). Actually, a few ABC missionaries have tried this "delicacy."

During the dry season, men often stand at the corner to ABC (not because of its proximity to the college, just its a good place to sell things) with the mice. YUM!

Last night, we had the Ballet and Band Recital...It was so great! I will be posting some pictures later today or tomorrow! My girls looked so beautiful and did such a great job! I was so proud of them. The power went out, but it was right before the 2nd ballet song, and the generator came on in a few minutes. Other than that, everything went smoothly.

I can now cross that off of my to-do list! I have a bunch of other things to do, though! We got a calendar of events for the next few weeks, and it is FULL! Today is high school graduation, tonight we are going to the Copper Pot with friends, tomorrow is a college function (plus I am working on the yearbook all day tomorrow)! Then next week is crazy busy! Not to mention, we have to finish selling our things and packing!

In a month from today, we will be home! Actually, I have very specific plans for today. I want to wake up in my bedroom (I mean, I'm almost 24 and married, so its kinda not really my bedroom anymore, but I still love it) in Brookhaven. I will go downstairs in my pj's and eat cheese grits, made by my mother. Then I will go to Wal-Mart. I will probably be very freaked out and overwhelmed by the enormity of Wal-Mart and all of the different options, but I haven't been shampoo shopping in a year. And one of my favorite things to do in the world is stand in the shampoo aisle of Wal-Mart and smell all of the shampoos (even though I usually end up buying the same one I had before)...Bech hates this little ritual of mine, but that's why I won't take him on my 1st day home Wal-Mart trip. But the best part of it all is that we will be with our families!!! We can't wait to see everyone!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

what we've been doing lately...

We haven't been posting much, so I thought I would let you know what we've been doing lately.

First of all, we are trying to pack up our life here. The biggest thing we are working on is selling our car (pray that we will be able to before we go!). We have sold a lot of our other stuff, which is good. We brought many things from america, so we will use this money to replace what we brought.

We had elections in Malawi, and they went really well. Elections can be very scary in Africa, so we are really thankful that everything here was safe!

Lucius is almost done with his house, so Bech went out to Kauma to visit the house.

We've been teaching (only 3 1/2 more weeks of school!).

The ballet recital is this Friday...AHHH! Please pray that everything goes alright! The older girls have the dance down pat...the same definitely is not true for the youngest girls. But they look so darn cute doing the dance! I will be sure to take LOTS of pictures at the recital.

We have been to Mua. We have cooked a lot. We have been sick, twice...Once with some sort of bad cold that was going around, and right now with Malawi stomache...not fun but not that unusual here.

Okay, I'm almost late for church, so I will leave you with some pictures from the past few weeks:

Here is Lucius' maize. All of the ears are in this structure. The kernels will be taken off of the ears, dried out, then ground up to make maize flower. There is enough maize in here to make nsema for Lucius' family for the next year.

Here are some kids in Lucius' village.

Lucius and his youngest in front of his new house.
The house is almost finished...all that remains to be done are the floors and the roof.

Bech with his preschool students.

We visited Mua Mission again (we went there in early February with Josh and Mary Elizabeth). It's not as scary if you don't spend the night there, but there were still some pretty freaky carvings!

Seriously...whose mind comes up with these scary animals?

We took the mountain road from Mua to Dedza. It's beautiful! You can see the mountains, the lake, and (I think) Mozambique.

We made sushi! We only used avocado and cucumber as our middles, but it was really good!

Look at us...we are practically sushi chefs!

So the list of what we have learned to make this year: tortillas, chips, white sauce, chicken broth, soups of all kinds, bread of all kinds, sushi, etc. If you want to learn how to cook, live in a 3rd world nation.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Graduation, Blaise!

Today, my little brother graduates from high school. I am so proud of him, but I am sad I won't be there! It seems like everything important happened this year! I had several really good friends get married and two siblings graduate (law school and high school). So here is a look at Blaise through the years! He is off to Ole Miss next fall where (because he's doing pre-med and honors college) he will have to study for the first time in his life...hah!

Here is Blaise last november, when my family stopped in London on their way to see us. Isn't he cute? By the way, if you are 19 or under, he is single!

Aw, blaise when he still had braces! Let's see...I am 19 in this picture, so he must have been about 14.

Sadly, the Elvis featured in this picture is my father. I know, it's kind of embarrassing! I think Blaise is about 10 in this picture.

We love our "Bubby" (even though I'm pretty sure he hates when we call him that)!

Congratulations, Blaise! Have a wonderful day...I wish Bech and I could be there!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

my friend beth just did a great blog post on Malawian culture. go her website to check it out. everything she wrote about the culture here is right on. it will give you a good taste of life here.

my favorite thing she talks about is how you have to greet everyone when you meet them. and that doesn't mean just saying, "hey," and that's it. in Malawi, you need to ask how the person is, maybe even how their family is. so when i get home, don't be weirded out if i always ask how you are...i am just so accustomed to greeting people like that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

our plans for next year

we've had a lot of people ask us about our plans for next year. up until this week, we couldn't answer that question completely. but now we can!

we will be living in jackson (hopefully in this cute little house in belhaven), because i will be the girl college intern for 1st Presbyterian. i am so excited! i will be working with college students at Millsaps and any college students that attend 1st Pres.

we will get home on june 29th, and i start work july 1st. so come visit us! we want to see everyone! we are for sure making a trip up to oxford in july, so we will try to see everyone there then.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a trip to the market

sorry i am just now adding captions to this post. the pictures finished uploading right when we had to go to the jr./sr. banquet (more on that later) let me explain everything!

i have talked about going to the market before...there are many all over lilongwe, but this one is the BIG one! it is "across the bridge," in area 3. it is HUGE, loud, and slightly smelly (a mix of body odor, food, chickens, fish, etc.).

live chickens for sale!

i have no idea what this is. becca and i saw it in the market last week. i had never seen it before. we asked the women what it was, and they said it was made out of nsema. but nsema is white, so i'm not sure what makes it black. so i'm not sure i want to know what it's made out of!

another shot of the mystery pie!

women selling fresh peas and beans.

more beans and some potatoes

i wish i could show you what it feels to be in this market. it is an experience! it was scary the first few times, and now its kinda fun. its loud and crazy, lots going on. usually i am one of the only uzungus (whites) there. people are selling clothes, pirated dvds, toothbrushes (that aren't covered...ugh!), shoes, everything you could think of! you can by butchered cow and pig meat. you can buy live animals. so i guess you'll all just have to come visit us and see for yourself!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

happy mothers day

(this is the first picture taken of my mom and me)

since it is mother's day, i would like to share the reasons why my mother is amazing:

1. My mother makes the BEST food ever. seriously. hands down, no competition. her cheese grits are WAY better looking than this picture i found on the internet, but her cheese grits may be her best dish.

2. my mother knows the answer to almost everything. you can ask her a cooking question, a relationship question, a clothes question...whatever you want to ask, she's got a good (and probably right) answer.

3. my mom (with the help of my sisters) packed me boxes for each month (well except august, because we started out the month in the u.s.) we have spent in malawi. the first 4 months were sent on the container, mom brought the next 3, and katy brought the final 3. every box has been really fun. i am always amazed at how well my mom knows me and thus what to pack. in this last box, she packed a hershey's cookies and cream candy bar...which is my favorite candy bar! i have liked it since i was 6 (or something like that). i remember going to the store and buying this candy bar, while mom got a hershey's mint bar (which they don't even make anymore). so it was really sweet for her to remember how much i love this bar and to pack it. i am saving it in the fridge for a bad day.

2. my mother loves laughing at really stupid things. in fact my whole family does...that's what makes the bradens so much fun (okay, okay, i know that statement is up for debate!). i just love hanging out with her, going to wal-mart, going to sid's, etc.

1. my mom is one of the most "i'm 3rd" people EVER. she is so sacrificial. she gives her time, energy, and money to take care of her family. and she does an amazing job at her.

so, to the world's best mom ever....Happy Mothers Day, Mom!!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

so even though we are less than two months away from coming home (i actually just stopped to check a calendar and it's less than 6 1/2 weeks...whew! that is soon!), bech and i are actually both going through serious homesickness. the last time i felt this homesick was over christmas. this is a little strange because, like i just said, we will be home so soon. and we are both really sad to leave this country. but we are so ready to be home! i don't think i have ever loved America as much as i do right now. so here are a few pictures of people we miss.

now, i do have to give a disclaimer. we don't have all of our pictures on our computer (they were taking up too much space, so some got moved to a back-up hardrive). so you are not going to see a picture of katy (which does not mean i love her any less than the rest of my family). i just couldn't find a recent one of her from this past summer. i mean, i could show you all a picture of her when she came to visit me in malawi, but that would be a little silly. but she is about to be a J.D.!!! she graduates from law school today! so maybe my mom will email me a picture and i can show you all how cute she looks in her hat, gown, and hood. i, by the way, am a little obsessed with the whole "hood" thing. i can't way to graduate from graduate school so that i too can wear a little hood on my head. i know, i's slightly weird.

here i am with my nana and was my birthday and my nana made me a marmalade cake (which, if you were at our wedding, is what our wedding cake was based on). i am really, really excited to see my nana and papa...i have seen everyone else in my family but them! i miss them a LOT.

blaise and my mom at cantina de laredo...the best mexican food! and when i get home, blaise will be 19 (well, he already is, but i haven't seen him as a 19 year old). mom will be...hah! don't worry, mother! i won't tell your age.

my dad (brookhaven is lucky to have you!) and my 16 year old "baby" sister!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Today, my "baby sister" turns 16...i can't believe it!

ansley loved to help dad plant flowers.

this is one of my favorite pictures of ansley!

she's a little goofy sometimes

i have no idea whats going on in this picture...maybe cooking for thanksgiving? its one of the only ones i have on this computer of just us together.

Happy Birthday, Ansley!!!