Picking papayas

Recently we have free for a whole weekend, which means we also have a little bit of spare time of Saturdays. Rik has been working on a bedframe (but I’ll show you more about that later) and after lunch we went to the garden where the chickens are.

The chickens are slowly getting used to their new home, but in the past three days there has been a fresh egg every day. After feeding the chickens, we were on our way back to the beach when we passed a papaya tree and I wondered if we would be able to get one down.

So I walked up to the tree and tried to give it a good shake. Unfortunately I didn’t succeed in getting one down. But then, while looking around, I saw two bamboo poles tied together which they had used to get papayas down before. I was bumbling with those poles while Rik was watching me. He said I was too short. Of course Rik had to come over then to show me how it’s done!

The first papaya that came down did not survive the fall. Fortunately the first one we tried already had holes in the bottom, so we didn’t feel so bad when this one splashed on the ground.


Shortly after a second one followed. Fortunately we were not standing there! This one showed some cracks in the peel, but didn’t explode so we picked this one up (and used it in a smoothie shortly after).

But we were not done yet. We were convinced there must be a better way if one of us used the poles to poke the papaya and the other one would catch it as it was coming down. It was in essence quite a good plan and the third one easily came loose (Rik was already adept in using those poles by now) only we didn’t keep into account that neither of us was very good at catching… It flew into Riks direction while he was a couple of meters away from the tree, so it was beyond my reach. Oh well, another crack, but apart from that it still looked fine. Guess we’ll just have to be quick about eating those two papayas.


Yesterday afternoon the last wall of the bathroom was put in place, which means we can take showers from now on!

We had tried the shower before with some temporary screens, but now the bathroom is almost the way it is supposed to be, and it’s really awesome. Enthusiastically, I already started planting the bathroom with plants we had in the garden. For now we have planted some lemongrass, ferns, a Swiss cheese plant and a flower (of which no one around seems to know the name, but the leaf resemble banana leaves). Soon we will go to a tree nursery again to get some more plants. I am already so excited for that!

For a couple of days we have been taking showers shortly after 5 o’clock, because everyone has just left around that time and the sun is still up (and because we can enjoy the sunset from the shower! How cool is that?). Afters Riks first shower here he was totally zen. His review: the bathroom truly is the nicest place of the house.

We already had our first guest in the bathroom too: a chameleon! How that one ended up on the fence is still a mystery to us, but it was definitely a nice surprise.

Of course, the bathroom is not finished yest, because the shower column still needs some paint, we need to plant more (yay!) and we need to add pebbles. Because as you may have guessed; that rubble with two timbers for a shower tray is not like the final design.

Having a bathroom with wall is a luxery which we had to do without for so long. Now all I want is hot water. 😉

Peanut butter

We ran out of peanut butter, which meant that we ran out of all of the spreads. The hardest thing about this is that the people in this region don’t even know what peanut butter is, so it is not possible to just buy it somewhere. They do, however, sell raw peanuts everywhere for 1000 kwacha per kg ($1,32).

So, what do you do in this case? You make your own peanut butter.

Rik said to me earlier that the peanuts which I had bought on the market did not taste very good, so we still had a whole jar on the shelve. What he didn’t know about it was that those were raw peanuts, and he expected the taste of roasted peanuts. So the first step in making peanut butter was to roast the peanuts. Fortunately thats easily done by putting them in the oven at 180°C or 355°F for 10 minutes.

Next I removed the skins as I think they are a bit bitter. I collected the skinned peanuts in the bowl of the foodprocessor we have since Roy has been here.

From here it’s actually very easy. I added a pinch of salt and turned on the food processor. When the peanuts looked like crumbs I scooped some out and set them aside, because Rik prefers a chunky peanut butter. Then you continue using the machine until the crumbs start to stick together and form a ball, but at this point you don’t stop yet. You continue until it goes soft and smooth again and then you add a little bit of oil, so it becomes spreadable. I made Rik taste it and he said it tasted like Calvé (the most well known Dutch peanut butter brand). Peanut butter here is imported from South Africa and they add sugar while in the Netherlands we are used to peanut butters that only add salt. So it tasted like Dutch peanut butter, good! As a final touch I reintroduced the peanut crumbs and mixed it in.

Then all that was left to do was scoop it into a jar. I chose an old peanut butter jar which we cleaned, so we could reuse it. What better container could I choose?

Next time I’ll make a bigger portion 😉

Just in time for lunch!

A second attempt

Our first boat trip did not go exactly as planned, but it was time to try again. We replaced the spark plugs and got some extra petrol. And for those who wonderen: we still had petrol left from the first attempt, so that was not what went wrong then. 😉

During our first trip, people were staring at the contents of the tank and found some dirt inside. So this time the fuel was sieved through a fish net, and the tank was rinsed before the petrol was returned. Time to board the ship again, with a set of extra paddles this time!

Miraculously everything went well this time. We stayed close to the shore and first went to the east and then 2 kilometers or so to the west before returning to the beach. Along the shoreline we have seen many small fishing villages.

Chakuda on fishnet watch.

Almost all of the guys on board were visibly in their element, and I realised that most of them were fishermen before they started to work with us.
After ‘testing the engine’ for half an hour we were back on the beach. It was time to work on another problem with the boat: fixing some leaks. Today the boat was pushed up on the beach as far as possible and tomorrow we will see if we can fix the leaks.

Let’s hope three times is the charm.

The first boattrip

To protect the boat against damage caused by high waves, the anchor needed to be placed in deep water. We had made a concrete block to serve as an anchor, but getting this heavyweight 150 meters off shore, proved to be not so simple.

The anchor, which must have weighted a couple of hundred kilograms, was lifted on board.

Rik and I were eager to come along since we haven’t been on a trip once since we bought this boat. With 9 guys the block was already lifted on board before all of us boarded. The first part went without a hitch and the anchor went overboard at the designated spot and an empty jerrycan was attached to function as a buoy.

Given it was our first boat trip, the guys wanted to take us a little further on the lake, and so we set sail towards Cape Maclear. We didn’t get very far, because after 500 meters or so the engine stopped working and none of the guys could get it to work again.

Aimlessly we were floating around while some of the guys were trying to figure out what’s wrong with the engine. A fisherman in a dug-out canoo passed us and he was asked to help us out. He also couldn’t help us any further.

Overview of the boat with the fisherman’s dug-out canoo on the right side of the boat.

Chakuda suddenly got the idea to use the fisherman’s peddle in order to get back to the shore. It worked, however it was terribly slow with a wooden boat with 11 passengers.

Chakuda is paddling with the houses on the beach in the background. peddelen.

Ikiton thought it was going too slow and took the fisherman’s canoo and someone’s flip-flops flips to paddle back to the beach with.

Meanwhile, on the beach some employees who didn’t come along had figured out something was wrong. We saw Charles walking up to the neighbours where he borrowed a canoo, so he could bring us some extra peddles.

Charles with an extra paddle.

Peter figured out a way, right on the moment Charles got us another paddle, to use a wooden plank as an extra paddle (we still don’t know where he suddenly got this plank from!). The plank, however, didn’t last very long… Fortunately I had decided to film seconds before it broke. The clip turned out to greatly entertain all employees later on.

Shortly after Ikiton – who paddled away using flip-flops – returned with even more extra paddles. Now the fisherman could continue with whatever he was doing. In the meantime the sun was almost setting already, but we were getting close to shore. With all those extra paddles it didn’t take long before we arrived at the beach and were received by some employees who stayed after working hours to make sure we made it back. Such an eventful first boat trip!

Chicken villa

Today we have finally finished the chicken coop. Riks grandpa had already given us money to buy chickens before we left, but we thought it wasn’t a good idea to already have chickens before we lived there. Now we have been living here for a while, except for the 1 to 2 nights we spend at the lodge to shower and use an actual toilet.

We started in the garden by measuring out the poles digging holes for them.

Then the poles needed to be cut to the right size with a panga knife, after which the bark was removed by hitting the wood with a hammer.

The poles were then anointed with timberguard – which should protect them against termites – before they were put into the ground. Beams were attached to those in order to build the foundation of the floor.

Bamboo was attached to this to make the actual floor. It hangs over the edges for 50 centimeters, to explicit instructions of Rik’s grandpa, to protect the chickens and their eggs against snakes.

Then it was time to start with the walls. While Michael and James weren’t exactly sure why they had to leave a hole in one of the walls, they closely followed our instructions.

As soon as the roof and the nestbox were finished (Ah, so there was that hole in one of the walls for!) we were almost done.

As finishing touches, a net was stretched over the opening under the roof, and the built in planter was filled with soil and strawberry plants!

Salete, a girl from the village, helped me by buy some chickens for me (if I would’ve done it myself, the price of one chicken would surely have tripled). We picked up the chickens at her house and put them in the trunk of the car. Fortunately, the drive was short, and soon we could remove the strips of fabric from their legs. The next morning there were already two little eggs waiting for us!

Now we really had to hurry with the construction of the run, so they could also roam outside, so that’s what we started o yesterday. While we were busy stretching wires across the run, we were watched by a hawk. This confirmed our belief that we really did need those wires if we didn’t want our little chickens to end up as bird food.

Today, just before lunch, we finished the run so we could let the chickens roam. Shortly after the door opened they were all outside chasing grasshoppers. We stayed for a while and watched them before we went back to the beach for lunch: it has become quite cosy in the garden.

The chief

Earlier I wrote about the boat we bought, but of which we had only paid a deposit yet. So today we went to Cape Maclear to finalize that sale. The previous owner, Isaac, had printed a contract which needed to be signed in triplicate: one for us, one for Isaac, and one copy for the chief of the village.

According to the tradition, there had to be eyewitnesses to such a transaction, so we had brought Danny with us. From Isaac’s house we walked to the house of the secretary of the chief (the head of the village was probably too busy to see us himself). Here we were put into enormous chairs that took up almost all the space in the small living room.

After everything was signed in triplicate, we paid the remaining amount and with that the deal was done: Lake of Stars is officially ours, with the approval of the chief of Cape Maclear!

Chambo fillet

Yesterday evening we had just thawed the chicken for dinner when someone walked up to our beach with two chambo in his hands – of which one was very big.

James wanted to hold the chambo for a picture.

During my time here I had not seen a chambo of this size yet, so I was willing to buy it if the price was right. The man wanted to have 2500 kwacha for the both of them, but since we were only really interested in the big one the price was 2000. We asked Charles whether this was a fair price and immediately it dropped to 1500 kwacha (about €1,77 or $2,01). Sold!

Rik showing off our ‘catch’.

This morning it was time to roll up my sleeves. Because this chambo was so big, we wanted to get filets out of it, so we could eat two different nights from it. First I had to remove the scales.

Then I cut off the meat and removed the skin. Halfway through Rik asked me how on earth I knew how to fillet a fish, but I honestly had no idea. In the end I am quite content with the fillet. The second sides went better and faster than the first (the first try resulted in two pieces, but on the second try I got one nice big piece).

I guess we will know how well I did it tonight!

Lake of Stars

Lake Malawi is also called the Lake of Stars, because at night numerous fishermen with lights on their boats go out on the water to fish. When you look at the lake at night it often twinkles because of the vast amount of fishing boats out there. However, Lake of Stars is not only a nickname of the lake, it is also the name of our boat!

Lake of stars at our beach

Roy really wanted to have a local wooden fishing boat, so Rik and I have been asking around and found one at Cape Maclear. Now that Roy was here we could finally take a look from up close, however when we first saw it there was some maintenance scheduled. Yesterday in the afternoon it was finished and we asked if he could come down with the boat to our beach. He only arrived after sunset and it had taken him 2 hours and 10 minutes to find us. Luckily we had already seen the boat in daylight, because now we had to look at it with just the torch.

After the negotiations a handwritten contract was drawn up, which says that we paid a deposit and we will complete the transaction when we transfer the papers on Monday.

Negotiations in the dark

It needs a little bit of fixing, but I am already quite fond of the boat. It was used ar tourboat for tourists, so it already has a floor and a frame for a shade.

I already know what we’ll be doing coming lazy Sunday!

Herding goats

While we have a fence around the terrain, it is not hermetically sealed. On the last few meters of the beach to the lake there is no fence, and at the entrance we have a gate. Exactly those places are also where intruders are entering: the local goat herd.

It is not a terrible thing to have some goats in the yard, if they weren’t eating the young (palm) trees or ravaging the vegetable garden. Fortunately, because there are many people here every day, the herd is spotted and chased off very soon after they enter. The one who sees them first calls out: Mbuzi! (Goats!), and then soon people jump to action and chase them away.

The neighborhood goat herd on the wrong side of the fence.

But on Sundays it’s up to us to protect the premises. Then either Rik or myself run at them while waving a stick in order to chase them away. Quite a funny sight actually. And we also have to look after our own three goats, which need to be moved to and from their shelter every day.
Here we are parttime goatherds