It was common for my father to sit my sisters down and tell them things like, "I saw a girl working in the bank in town, and she was a girl just like you." My parents had never completed primary school. They couldn't speak English or even read that well. My parents only knew the language of numbers, buying and selling, but they wanted more for their kids. That's why my father had scraped the money together and kept Annie in school, despite the famine and other troubles.
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Don't worry about the water, " said a man with a nervous grin. "This is hardwood, it won't ruin. You'll have this chair into your old years. How much do you have? I'll take anything. My children need to eat." A few of the businessmen like Mister Mangochi bought things they later gave back. But most people had no money. They simply shrugged and shook their heads.
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With the money my mother earned from selling cakes, my father cut a deal with Mangochi and bought one pail of maize. My mother took it to the mill, saved half the flour for us, and used the rest for more cakes. We did this every day, taking enough to eat and selling the rest. It was enough to provide our one blob of nsima each night, along with some pumpkin leaves. It was practically nothing, yet knowing it would be there somehow made the hunger less painful. "As long as we can stay in business, " my father said, "we'll make it through. Our profit is that we live.
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News came of Beni Beni, the madman of Wimbe, who'd always made us laugh in better times. He'd run up to merchants in the trading center with his raving eyes and snatch cakes and Fantas from their stalls. No one ever took them away because his hands were always so filthy. The mad people had always depended on others to care for them, but now there were none. Beni Beni died at the church.
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Papa, why are you selling our goats? I like these goats." "A week ago the price was five hundred, now it's four hundred. I'm sorry, but we can't wait for it go any lower." Mankhalala and the others were tied by their front legs with a long rope. When my father started down the trail, they stumbled and began to cry. They knew their future. Mankhalala looked back, as if telling me to help him. Even Khamba whined and barked a few times, pleading their case. But I had to let them down. What could I do? My family had to eat.
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Sensing my delight at seeing his laptop, Tom asked me, "William, have you ever seen the Internet?" "No." In a quiet conference room, Tom sat me down at his computer and explained the track pad, how the motion of my fingers guided the arrow on the screen. "This is Google, " he said. "You can find answers to anything. What do you want to search for?" "Windmill." In one second, he'd pulled up five million page results-pictures and models of windmills I'd never even imagined.
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Inside the maize mill, the owners no longer had any use for a broom. The hungry people kept the floors cleaner than a wet mop. At the beginning of the month, the mill was packed full of those waiting for fallen scraps. The crowd would part long enough to allow women to pass with their pails of grain. As the machine rumbled and spit a white cloud of flour into the pails, the multitude of old people, women, and children watched intently with eyes dancing like butterflies. Once the pail was pulled away, they themselves on hands and knees and scooped the floor clean. Afterward, old women would rattle their walking sticks up inside the grinder as if ringing a bell, collecting the loose flour that drifted to the floor.
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Although Geoffrey, Gilbert and I grew up in this small place in Africa, we did many of the same things children do all over the world, only with slightly different materials. And talking with friends I've met from America and Europe, I now know this is true. Children everywhere have similar ways of entertaining themselves. If you look at it this way, the world isn't so big.
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Mister Geoffrey, my experiment shows that the dynamo and the bulb are both working properly, " I said. "So why won't the radio play?" "I don't know, " he said. "Try connecting them here." He was pointing toward a socket on the radio labeled "AC, " and when I shoved the wires inside, the radio came to life. We shouted with excitement. As I pedaled the bicycle, I could hear the great Billy Kaunda playing his happy music on Radio Two, and that made Geoffrey start to dance. "Keep pedaling, " he said. "That's it, just keep pedaling." "Hey, I want to dance, too." "You'll have to wait your turn." Without realizing it, I'd just discovered the difference between alternating and direct current. Of course, I wouldn't know what this meant until much later. After a few minutes of pedaling this upside-down bike by hand, my arm grew tired and the radio slowly died. So I began thinking, "What can do the pedaling for us so Geoffrey and I can dance?
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Your Excellency, " [Chief Wimbe] said, turning to face the president. "I'd like to congratulate you not only for what you've done in Malawi, but all across the great continent of Africa. We're having about all the things you're doing in Congo and how you'd had success. We're very proud of our president. But please understand, we're also at war here in Malawi, and that war is against hunger." He then asked the president to stop funding wells and toilets and use the money to buy grain. (Because really, how can you use the toilet if you never eat?) [... ] Shortly after, when the president got up to talk, several well-dressed officials approached Gilbert's father and asked to speak with him. Knowing the president's habit of giving handouts, the chief became excited. They're giving us money. My speech must've worked. About six men led the chief behind a building near the stage, and once there, they confronted him. "In what capacity were you speaking such nonsense?" one asked, looking very angry. Before Chief Wimbe could answer, they knocked him to the ground and began beating him with clubs and batons.
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Me and my cousin, most of the time we worked on radios and fixed them. I guess we started because I was curious to understand how radios work. When I was little, I used to think there were small people inside. Most of the time, I was just trying to see the people who are speaking in the radio.
Climate change is important to Malawi, but many people see alternative energy more as a means to skip the government and get electricity and power. Deforestation is a huge problem in Malawi, which only adds to the problem. People cut down trees because they have no power to run electric stoves, etc. So they use firewood.
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