2 weeks to go!

Photos and events from the last few weeks. I’m aiming to have everything finished in the next few weeks, so the countdown is on!


The tiles are looking good, but fitting burglar bars on all the windows was definitely one of my least favourite jobs of the project so far. Using drill bits that are the wrong size and type (12mm timber drill bits just aren’t available in Mzuzu) combined with an old Makita drill made for slow and tedious progress. Slotting the rusty metal bars into the slots and back to fix them left my hands blistered and sore…. apologies, complaint over, they look quite good now and in some ways make the windows look more interesting from the inside and of course much safer.


An option for Chitenge curtains got quickly rejected by the clinic, which is a shame as the patterns are so interesting which you find in the market here. There was some debate over using woman’s ‘national wear’ as curtain material. The clinic staff seem intent on using net curtains and heavy-duty material. I’m sure well come to some sort of compromise soon.



The on-site Taylor: Mr Kaka (as are many people named from Nkhotakota!), sits here at his sewing machine all day. He makes many people’s clothes for them on campus and I was hoping to use him for the curtain making.



Tiling continues on the south side of the building. I think the boys are getting better as they go along.


We’ve made the opening and fitted the new door to the phase 1 clinic now, creating the all important link between the 2 buildings.


Interesting to see the enormous full depth of the 230mm deep interlocking SSBs using on phase 1



Dan and I laughed a lot about how long it takes to build and how quick it is to demolish!


We got the frame in place fairly quickly, cast a new up stand at the threshold and had the existing piece of glass cut into the new window frame and door vision panel



The new door in place. Saddock was hard to convince that the design would work, but we pushed through with it and the end result works really well and looks good.



Saddock and Mr Kaka, my biggest fans of the Chitenge curtains



A missive amount of effort the last few weeks from the carpenters finishing all the doors and hanging these. We’re just doing a final sanding of these and varnishing them at the moment to complete the activity.




A short week-end trip to Sambani on the lake provided some spectacular storms and skies – and of course plenty of swimming



Wezi fighting with the sinks somewhat. I probably annoy him checking these with the spirit level!



Main light fitting finally being installed now we have the doors on and a secure building.


A few shots from the hardware market. This chap’s having a good kip over lunch


Smoked fish for sale


Sinks in place – good job Wezi!


lights in and working


Banda was quick to make a chain for himself from the left over chains we used to hand the light fittings!


Lots of a activity on the south side


The rectangular external Khonde tiles going down very quickly this week


We’ve had three metal drains fabricated for the Khonde drain this week.



Connecting the 40mm sink waste pipes and bottle traps – almost running water in place.


George laying the khonde tiles





March Progress

So far March has been a busy month on site, plus a visit from my brother and sister, my birthday and yet more transprt problems!

Here’s another photographic update from the last few weeks on site as the building gets closer and closer to being complete despite at times it feeling like a never-ending list of tasks! One thing I’m certainly learning, especially from being so involved with the building work itself, is that building is not quick! It requires many pairs of hands, a lot of team work and lots of energy and strength. Building the final west gable end wall and windows last week-end and this week, which after deliberating over for so long I felt it was only right for me to complete this, has left my whole body aching thanks to lifting all the SSB’s and cement into place! Perhaps not the most plumb wall in the building, but not a bad effort. After discussions with the team, we opted to part with the perforated screen wall for one that is more solid with open fenestrations. This in part has been due to the additional privacy walls introduced (partly a client request) and also for buildabilty reasons, this solution now seems to be work well and gives the building a really strong wholeness and cube-like mass under the ‘floating’ roof and provides the end users with the levels of privacy they require

The Dedza Pottery tiles were also finally ready at the end of last week after some delay in finishing these due to the ongoing rains the south of the country have still been experiencing. I had to go to Raiply again on Friday morning (for hopefully the last time) at which time the tiles were due to arrive . As ever I naively presumed this would be a simple operation of off-loading these. Unfortunately the company we used to collect them sent possibly the worse lorry I have ever seen, which got stuck on the site, about 500m from the clinic! We had to have a whip around for hands to help transfer these onto one of our better lorries and transfer them to the site… a rather long afternoon in the end, but at least by the end of the week all the tiles were safely on the clinic khonde and ready for laying first thing this week. See photos bellow of progress on this.

The carpenters are tirelessly pushing on with the big task of door making and we’re looking to start fitting these once the internal tilling is complete and we can properly cut these to threshold dimensions. They’ve done an excellent job on these, making them to a really high standard – far better than the doors you can buy in town, partly benefiting from the good quality timber we have from Raiply, but also and more so, a testament to their excellent carpentry skills.


It was great to show some family around the building and to meet the on-site team and see all the hard work from everyone over the last 7 months


A quick shot with my brother and sister before a lunch at Mzuzu’s ‘Green Vee’, where they serve a great ‘Condowole’ (A Cassava Nsima) Mpassa (a rather boney but fleshy lake fish) and beans


Photo from one of the warehouse’s at Raiply for what was surely our final trip here in Chikangawa


I always like the signs hung randomly on the premises at Raiply


At the same time I was at Raiply this shipwreck of a lorry had finally made it to the site carrying the 15 tonnes of clay floor tiles – I’m almost certain it had a number of breakdowns on the way from Dedza causing its delay arriving on the Friday. It soon became apparent that it was not going to make it all the way to the clinic, having traveled over 600km, it was stuck in the mud 500m from its destination!


The lorry was literally patched together with bits and pieces of old metal sheeting


Plenty of people soon materialised (at the offer of 1000 kwacha) to help shift the 7,000 tiles from this lorry to a better one.


Our new, recently hired cook Emily (should have hired her to save time right at the beginning) was particularly good at this task, she’s a great character.


Stacking the tiles on the khonde


All 7,000 tiles in place


Some really beautiful colours and tones across the collection which should look great once layed.


Starting work on the west end wall, flanking the new waiting area


The rains have definitely quieted off now and almost back November temperatures on site. I will admit to some topless working on Saturday when things were a bit quieter and unbearably hot bricklaying with my back directly to the sun!



It was a challenge stabilising the wall, which is in fact projecting from the main structure (another reason the perforated wall would have been rather unstable), every 4 courses I’ve fixed either brick force wire between window frames which I inserted after 4 courses, and 6 inch nails fixing the shorter return walls into the columns. Once the rear of the wall is plastered, this will add further strength to the ‘freestanding’ walls stability.


A pleasant view looking through the treatment rooms from the waiting area and out to the university grounds beyond. I’m very pleased we opted for clear glass in the end to maintain these views when users want them. I’m currently discussing with the university tailor(!) about making some nice curtains from some of the interesting material I have found here in the Swahili market. I have also just ordered the steel for the burglar bars which we will need to install. Unfortunately these are a must in all new, and many existing, buildings here in Malawi.


Demonstrating the setting out for the internal tilling to make sure that we minimise any cut tiles


The new concrete work surface in the Autoclaving room. If funds are available I will ask (and of course help) the carpenters to fabricate under counter cupboards for these.


Horizontal louvre window detail


String and a spirit level are essential equipment when building a wall


All doors almost complete now and looking great



The new waiting area – just the bench and floor tilling to finish off now


The internal floor tilling gets underway


Some shots of the completed west gable wall. The roof really has the feel of ‘floating’ now, especially from this end of the building. I’m half tempted to remove the vegetation from the opposite side to enforce this aspect, but morally struggling to remove any more trees!






Plastering the back of this wall in the waiting area


Internal tilling moving on quickly


First room complete!


Setting out the external khonde tilling today. I’ve explored a few options for tilling over the drain, but I believe this will lead to tiles becoming cracked or broken along here. I think it’s also important for the torrents of water that will fall from the phase 1 roof to fall directly into a drain. The splash back from hit/miss tiles will be fairly sever here otherwise. I have drawn up designs for some 4mm gauge metal grates to be fabricated and installed along here.



A much enjoyed Birthday celebrtaion on 4th March with friends at Mzuzu’s new italian restaurant/lodge.