Timonene (hello...in Chitonga!:)
 
Picture
18 weeks of chilly winter swimming, and summer seems to have finally arrived. Our weekly winter swim group welcomed the glorious Sunday afternoon weather, and a new runner/swimmer, fellow Ultimate Frisbee player Kyle Sullivan. We also were able to share the lovely weather with two journalism students from Columbia College, Joanna and Emily. Joanna had contacted us several weeks prior, interested in both RIPPLE's charitable work in Malawi, and interviewing us for a segment on her schools news channel. Having had such a large group supporting RIPPLE Africa's endeavors, along with temperatures that would make an ice cube melt, I figured we spend a moment discussing weather both relative to Malawi and our few months swimming in Chi-beria (there, I said it :)

I remember back in late October last year, testing the waters for this whole 'Reflections for RIPPLE' idea, wondering if this could actually be sustained throughout the entire winter. The season prior I had done similar swims, with little worry about significant ice build-up on the beaches; I knew it would come, but not like it did this winter! Here are some pleasant snow-laden memories that'll make this spring feel that much warmer. 

Pre-season 'Testing the waters' swim
One of the coldest swims I had happened to be before this whole endeavor even started! In mid-November, when I was contemplating such a commitment, Chicago was the chosen recipient of some 25 degree air off of Lake Michigan, with gnarly swells and a sustained 15-20mph NE wind. In short, wind chill factors of about 10 degrees. With waves crashing on the beach, and a truly frigid air, I ran in and out, and got dressed faster than I had all season long...to date! This was a hair-frozen first and important milestone. I was cold, but hadn't shivered. I had also established a threshold temperature. Anything less than 10 degrees (with wind chill) was off limits. Safety first. I mean it. 

Nose breakage
Not expecting ice buildup in early December, my week 2 swim turned into a real pickle of a jam. There was simply nowhere to hop in. Even protected beaches near North Ave had frozen over from strong NE winds and waves. I knew this would be a factor at some point, though not until Jan/Feb at the very least. This led to me a less than ideal swim spot...the inner harbor Belmont dog beach. Yep. I was there. I wasn't too concerned with the cleanliness of the water, more so about the long term challenge of finding another spot: I wasn't too keen on going in there again.

To make matters (worse...) interesting, upon arrival, I had a thin layer of ice to break through on the beach shore. Wading into cold sandy water and ninja chopping ice at 5pm on a Saturday? Why not. Making an opening big enough to get in, I fell to my knees and dunked, getting a few strokes in before running out of room. Quite exhilarating, I must say. Just ask the innocent bystander with his dog: "RIPPLE Africa!" I exclaimed. 'Nuckin' Futs' was what I thought I heard retorted back. 

The fun didn't stop there, however. Drying off, shiver-less of course, I realized I had gashed the ole' bridge of the nose wide open. Good thing I had a healthy dose of adrenaline to curb the pain. Cool scar, I guess.

Relentless winds

It became apparent early on that wind, not water temperature, was the most crucial factor. A 20 degree windless day was a real peach opposed to a gusty near-zero wind chill. Even cloudy snow-ridden swims proved to be utterly delightful! We also used the wind to our advantage; by initially running into the headwind we were able to really battle the head-on breeze, while running back with the wind at our backs enabled a seriously sweaty return. 

How about weather in Malawi? Accu'curious!? Having a close relationship with our geographic surroundings, weather in Malawi was as equally awe-inspiring as the lake and mountains themselves. Here's are some tales to help get you through this lingering winter weather!

Thunderstorms...

..in Malawi, are like clockwork. During the rainy season (December- April), weather patterns shift, creating Malawi's 'monsoon'-like season. Thunderheads roll up and down Lake Malawi. You can count on evening thunderstorms, which are both incredibly loud and booming, while also being relaxing and soothing. Talk about a way to get to bed. Beats sirens and Lincoln Park hooligans barfing on sidewalks!

Sweat, all the time

Temperatures also soar in the rainy season; a hot and humid day of sunshine is a certainty. With the sun working to create giant cumulus clouds up and down the lake, an afternoon thunderstorm can also be counted on daily. By about 4pm each day, with the sweltering day coming to an end, a hard is almost certain.

Full cycle effects
Unbeknownst to me, these rains and cycles are in danger of their consistency, at the mercy of deforestation by local tribes. It's a great example of how RIPPLE Africa is working to create long-term, sustainable initiatives for the Malawian community. Specifically, RIPPLE Africa has helped to create deforestation bylaws that are governed by local villages. They help reinforce the idea that by mindlessly cutting down trees for firewood, land erosion and evaporation from the humid hills/mountains is affecting rainfall. This is turn leads to less rain for crops, a vicious cycle that some fear is already having effects locally. By raising awareness about this long-term issue, paired with the innovative CCM fuel efficient cookstoves, RIPPLE Africa is not only addressing an issue and educating locals, they're providing a cost-effective solution available to all. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, is changing people’s way of thinking. 

Check out some of the bylaw information here. And as always, donations are greatly appreciated.

USA DONATIONS 

UK DONATIONS


 


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