Howling at the Moon
There are no traffic sounds to bother us where we are staying. The roads are quiet, doubly so with the severe fuel shortages. There are no noisy cafes or bars. We should sleep soundly while the big full moon beams down on the peaceful neighbourhood. But the dogs in our compound have to let the dogs next door know they are defending their territory and not to try anything. Those dogs in turn have to communicate with the next dogs along, until all the dogs in Nkhoatakota are letting one another know they are there. The howling and barking eventually ceases and you are just managing to drop off when the cockerel decides that 3am is about time to tell his girls to wake up and get on with life. The hens have more sense and take no notice, so having no wish to be ignored he asserts himself again and again and again….
Daily life starts early here – people rise about 5 o’clock, water is pumped, metal bowls are clattered, greetings are shouted – no need to set an alarm clock. The sun rises and all is bright and sunny by 6. It is no wonder we fall into our beds so early after the tiring days of filming but though tiring, they are fascinating days, challenging, uplifting, engaging, stimulating and much more besides. In fact all the qualities we want for the film.
And now the moon is on the wane we may get a bit more sleep!
11th August 2011, Nkhotakota
I sit on my verandah writing this while the waves crash on to the lakeshore and the pied kingfishers fly to and fro chattering to one another. I watched the sunrise sipping my early morning tea made from boiled Lake Malawi water and cannot quite fathom the fact that there are hippos and crocs out there in the vast expanse of water, which to my mind should be a salty sea.
Team PFP have been here three whole days yet is seems much longer with the amount of things we have already seen. Let me assure you that we have not been resting on our laurels lake gazing! Our trip down was very comfortable and our fears of weighing in too heavy at the SAA check-in desk with all the film gear were unfounded. The emergency chocolate supply needn’t have been left behind after all though Olivia and Colin seem to be coping well without it. Lilongwe airport was chaotic with three international flights arriving at the same time and only one small luggage carousel to cope with it all. The girls’ luggage arrived at once but it took one and a half hours for Colin’s to appear. Fortunately, Onyx from TLC was waiting for us unperturbed when we finally made it through.
Total Land Care is impressive. The staff are all friendly helpful and the work they are doing in Malawi is inspiring. So far we have seen several projects around Salima. Wherever we visited we were greeted with singing and dancing by the whole community. Colin caused much hilarity joining in the singing. Malawi is known as “The Warm Heart of Africa”, a beautiful country with lovely people and you constantly see things which are heart-warming, yet also heart-wrenching.
The first project was an example of maize stalks being left in the fields as a mulch to conserve moisture in the soil and suppress weeds. Eventually when it decomposes, the stalks add nutrients to the soil. The stalks are placed in one direction and so it is easy to weed and sow through it. Using this mulching method also means less labour is needed to tend the fields.
Another innovative idea pioneered by TLC is a simple mud brick oven, which burns more efficiently using less precious wood and is much safer. Sadly, small children are frequently burned by open fires. The women we met in the village were very pleased to have the new style ovens and proudly showed us how they worked. We went from home to home led by singing and dancing women and girls, followed by a trail of small children, young men, old men and an assortment of dogs and chicken.
We also visited a village which is planting young trees to replace denuded forest and we still have a few more projects to see before we start filming in earnest.
As of this afternoon we have moved into our head quarters (no more lakeside verandahs!) in Nkhotakota, smaller than Ilminster and with a character all of its own. Colourful and bustling with a small market, a bakery and enough shops to meet our modest needs.
The locals have decided that Colin is Papa, Ingrid is Mama and therefore Olivia has to be our daughter. We explain that we are a film crew, working for TLC, “Ah yes, I see, you are working. Goodbye Papa, goodbye Mama!” So we just shrug and say, “Goodbye, see you tomorrow!”