"The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" by William Kamkwamba, Prologue–Chapter 2

This memoir describes how Kamkwamba, who grew up in a small Malawian village, built a windmill to bring electricity to his family's home.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Prologue–Chapter 2, Chapters 3–5, Chapters 6–7, Chapters 8–10, Chapter 11–Epilogue

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. crude
    not carefully or expertly made
    I continued to climb, slowly and assuredly, until I was facing the machine’s crude frame.
  2. grove
    a small growth of trees without underbrush
    Without anyone seeing, I ran into the blue gum grove behind my house, leaned against a tree, and tried to make myself clean.
  3. forsake
    leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch
    They’d take me aboard their planes and force me to fight, leaving me for dead along the magic battlefields. And as my soul drifted alone and forsaken above the clouds, my body would be cold by morning.
  4. maize
    I ran all the way home to where my father sat against the house, plucking a pile of maize.
  5. heave
    rise and move up and down, as in waves
    “Oh yes, we were just in time,” he said, then started laughing in that way that made me so happy, his big chest heaving and causing the wooden chair to squeal.
  6. compensate
    adjust for
    In a land of poor farmers, there were too many troubles for God and man alone. To compensate for this imbalance, he said, magic existed as a third and powerful force.
  7. wreak
    cause to happen or to occur as a consequence
    During this time, just northwest of our village, a ferocious black rhino began wreaking terror across the land.
  8. renowned
    widely known and esteemed
    This man was Mwase Chiphaudzu, whose magic was so superior he was renowned across the kingdom.
  9. swath
    a path or strip
    Standing atop the Rock of the Edible Flies, the chief pointed down to a giant swath of green earth and turned to Mwase.
  10. thriving
    very lively and profitable
    So Mwase returned to Lilongwe and got his family, and before long, he’d established a thriving empire.
  11. chisel
    carve with an edge tool
    His skin was so dry and wrinkled, his feet looked like they were chiseled from stone.
  12. initiate
    set in motion, start an event or prepare the way for
    Hunts were usually initiated by one man, the mwini chisokole, or owner of the hunt, who called together all the willing men from the surrounding villages.
  13. strut
    walk with a lofty proud gait
    Once when I was very young, a magic dancer appeared in our courtyard, strutting like a cock and hissing like a snake.
  14. potent
    having or wielding force or authority
    In these places where they practice, their potent magic takes on many shapes.
  15. delinquent
    past due; not paid at the scheduled time
    Magic lions are sent to kill delinquent debtors, and snakes the size of tractors can lie in wait for you in your fields.
  16. strife
    bitter conflict; heated often violent dissension
    This leads to great confusion in the kingdom of the devil, and this strife leaves many dead and injured, which is why children make the perfect soldiers.
  17. prevail
    prove superior
    We respected the power of juju, even feared it, but my family always trusted our faith would prevail.
  18. thatch
    a house roof made with a plant material (as straw)
    These men were appearing in films shown in the local theater, which was really just a thatch hut with wooden benches, a small television, and a VCR.
  19. exploit
    a notable achievement
    The exploits of Rambo and Delta Force became confusing to some, who’d never imagined men escaping entire armies, while still managing to kill so many people.
  20. pith
    spongelike central cylinder of the stems of flowering plants
    After removing the core, we chewed up bits of maize pith and shoved them down the barrel, followed by paper spitballs to create a seal.
  21. grievance
    a complaint about a wrong that causes resentment
    As usual, we found a line of truck drivers, market women, farmers, and traders waiting outside under the blue gum trees to share their concerns and grievances.
  22. intervention
    the act of getting involved
    “We have an issue that requires your intervention. The land you granted me fifteen years ago is being encroached upon by my brother’s son. I need you to help so there’s no bloodshed.”
  23. encroach
    impinge or infringe upon
    “We have an issue that requires your intervention. The land you granted me fifteen years ago is being encroached upon by my brother’s son. I need you to help so there’s no bloodshed.”
  24. ferment
    cause to undergo the breakdown of sugar into alcohol
    The cartons discarded by the drunkards at Ofesi once held Chibuku Shake Shake, a kind of beer made from fermented maize that is popular in Malawi.
  25. ideal
    model of excellence or perfection of a kind
    After washing out the booze, these cartons were ideal for making the chassis of a toy truck.
  26. chassis
    the skeleton of a motor vehicle
    After washing out the booze, these cartons were ideal for making the chassis of a toy truck.
  27. fleet
    group of motor vehicles operating under the same ownership
    That way, when you saw a tire track in the dirt, you knew instantly if it belonged to the great fleets of Kamkwamba Toyota, for instance, or Gilbert Company LTD.
  28. tuber
    a fleshy underground stem or root, often used as food
    We then dug up large, round tuber roots called kaumbu and carved them into wheels, using blue gum poles as axles.
  29. missionary
    someone who attempts to convert others to a doctrine
    If it weren’t for the great Scottish missionary David Livingstone, the Yao and Chewa might still be at odds today.
  30. endure
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    My father endured this teasing, because what else could he do?
  31. estranged
    caused to be unloved
    Fumulani was singing one of his most beloved songs, “Sister,” about his estranged wife.
  32. composed
    serenely self-possessed and free from agitation
    Struggling to stay composed, my mother said, “I’ll have to think about that one,” then turned and ran away.
  33. gush
    flow forth in a sudden stream or jet
    In a matter of seconds, the man lay on the floor with blood gushing from his ears.
  34. indulge
    enjoy to excess
    “Kamkwamba,” he said, “I’ve always advised you not to indulge in these unnecessary fights. Someday you’ll be killed or kill someone else, and look what happened here. You’re my friend, and I don’t want to lose you...."
  35. expanse
    a wide and open space or area as of surface or land or sky
    The following night while asleep, my father was visited by a dream. All he saw was darkness, nothing but an endless expanse of black.
  36. clan
    group of people related by blood or marriage
    We lived in this house for three years until our growing clan became too big.
  37. squabble
    argue over petty things
    My bedroom became my fortress against the squabbling girls, a hideaway where I could be alone with my thoughts.
  38. bulge
    swell or protrude outwards
    Phiri was breathing heavily and ready to attack. His hands were in fists and the veins in his arms bulged like tree roots.
  39. neutralize
    make ineffective by counterbalancing the effect of
    Although mangolomera never weakens, it can be neutralized for short periods of time using the green vines from a sweet potato plant.
  40. tethered
    confined or restricted with or as if with a rope or chain
    Phiri kicked and screamed like a tethered animal, but my father held on tight.

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