Malawi Blog 2 - St Augustines School - and a detour...


Hi All

What an amazing experience so far. I'm going to write something up over the weekend but here are some images and quick recollections while I can get online. The photos are from St Augustines School in Balak, Malawai. Some of you in Scotland may see the film on STV channel this week. I'll upload mine here then too. I'm traveling with the excellent musician, and Celtic Connections creative director (and Fellow Argyll native) – Donald Shaw. And these are all Donald's shots. This was our debut performance together – with 2 mins rehearsal ! while we were surrounded by smiling faces and soon we were collaborating with the kids. What a day.

St Augustines is one of the Mary's Meals schools in the country. As soon as we arrived the children started with a welcome dance and song. Hundreds of children. We started playing music with them, me on guitar and Donald on accordion, saw their classrooms – quite depressing really, that up to 100 children at a time are taught in a classroom that in the UK would fit 10 or so. No tables or chairs, just a concrete floor – but an amazing spirit. We tried their porridge, quite tasty. But the teachers and the pupils were inspiring. I honestly dont think I have the words to illuminate the last 2 days, so here are some of the images and a brief attempt.

You can see how vital the Mary's Meals daily porridge serving is: it has increased the school's attendance levels because the children come to school to get something in their stomachs that they wouldn't otherwise get. The smiles. The frenetic dancing and chanting. Their openness. Affro envy at Addis Abbiba airport. Dedza Pottery. The dancing head mistress. Bosco, our singing driver (who broke a period of silence in the car as he drove us and said to me: 'K-evin, will you be my friend'). His new song, called "Ambuye" (My Lord). sung to us as we passed village after village. It was on the head-shifting road journey from Lilongwe to Dedza: beautiful children walking alone on the roadside. Too much for the senses to take in. Smiling faces. Women balancing bags of ? on the heads. B-B-Q rats on sticks. Chickens tied to the back of bicycles. The township singing across the field as we fell asleep on our first night. Oh – and the fact that we visited 4 African countries in one day. One of them unintentional: we got off the flight…the heat…wow, the sensation of being on Malawian soil finally…walk along the tarmac to customs…images of The Last King Of Scotland in the air, a very official man approaches: 'Hello sir,'. "Hello".  "Welcome." "Thankyou". "To…The Congo." "What?" "Where do you think you are sir?" "Eh…Malawi". "No sir, this is The Congo." We ran back on the plane to Malawi, which luckily was still on the runway. Red faces as we boarded the same plane we'd just got off. You can take the boys out of Argyll…

The one word which sticks though – despite the poverty, and the massive divide in wealth, the children and their amazing natural musicality and rhythm (I taught them 'You're A Star' and they reworked it to their own rhythm; Donald played them some great jigs) – is beauty. The people are beautiful. 

Colin (Kevin)

p.s. been busy writing as the moon rises over Blantyre, Malawi. An orange sun like I've never seen before, climbing up from the hills to an orchestra of crickets. I'll get some film of the music and dancing uploaded this week.