Saturday, July 31, 2010

Update of mid 2010

Long time no blog!

There are alot of things that happen here from day to day but when it comes time to sit down at a computer screen and type a blog my mind draws a blank. It's like I get slight writers block or something. Anyways, instead I try to write them on paper ahead of time while I'm at my house or somewhere then type them when I have internet access for a long period of time.

Let's see...

In April for Earth Day (a holiday that does not exist here) I decided I wanted some students at my closest CDSS to plant trees around their campus. I bought 5 moringa oleifera trees and my counterpart donated like 15 of his own trees from his nursery. The actual planting went well. It's afterwards that killed. I found out one month later that soon after planting majority of the trees were attacked by termites and that the remaining ones were dug up by

Soon after that planting event i headed to lilongwe for the swearing in ceremony for the new Environment kids and our MST (mid service training). I would say that MST was a bit motivating. We got to all talk about projects we worked with on within the last year. It was cool to hear about people's prior activities and those that they plan to do.

One other wonderful thing that happened at MST is that I was convinced to go to Mozambique...on a vacation that would start a few days after MST ended...It was a whirl wind but I got my stuff together in time.

So as for Mozam, it was pretty awesome! We started our journey in Tete where we stayed the first night in what I would affectionately call an overpriced roach motel. Somehow the second night we lucked upon a couchsurfer (the only one inTete according to him) who was quite nice and hospitable. Veeeery early the next morning (4:30) we caught a bus to Chimoyo en route to Vilankulos. The entire trip was about 14 hours long via coack bus, asian labled coaster, mini-bus, and a hitch. The place we stayed was awesome however the beach was littered with glass. We remained in Vilankulos for a day or two waiting for 2 of our other travel buds to join us from Malawi. Once they arrived we went snorkeling on one of the archipelago islands. Then after Vilankulos we moved on to Tofo which was amazing. Wonderful beach (with no glass) and cool town. Didn't want to leave but had to after spending one week in Tofo.

So...after that shortly we had 4th of July at the Ambassador's house. Then we had something even more exciting...lunch with the president of Malawi the Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mtalika.

Then I helped at two girls camps in August. The first was camp GLOW which was cool in itself because the vice president of Malawi came to talk to the girls. There are some girls from my group I won't forget because of there awesomeness and/or courage.

In between the camps I had a training for the poultry group i'm working with in a nearby village. It went well and i hope they are successfull when they do start rearing the birds in a few weeks.

The second camp in August was a Women 2 Women camp held in Karonga planned by Monica. She worked her butt off planning that camp and it showed. Everything went smoothly and we had the best group of girls and PCV's there.

So that's really the latest skinny on my life here. More of a photo log than anything.

I'm just trying to keep as busy as possible for the next few months. I have a camp or two coming up that i want to help at...coupled with the project i have going at my site I should hopefully be busy enough.

In the meantime my pals and I will continue our greatest job of showing Malawians the diversity of America one day at a time.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

One year in country (almost)

My time here in Malawi is sometimes quite bittersweet...

Some of my projects are actually starting a bit. The hygiene and sanitation club I'm starting at a primary school will soon be underway. I have a business training lined up for a neighboring village, and I'm working on a proposal with a colleague for a girls empowerment program. I've done 3 or 4 jam making demonstrations around my area and may do a few more. So far, no one seem interested in making it to sell, which is okay. A group wanted to learn to bake using cassava flour. Of course initially they thought I was going to be teaching them to learn from each other and try several things. I can offer suggestions and feedback...but really all I am is the push for them to teach themselves. So, once we were all on the same page, they tried baking with the cassava flour and one batch wasn't so hot. However, the second batch was quite good. It was like a cassava biscuit (cookie). I think they may be able to sell them if they'd want to try...but it's up to them. I gave them a few suggestions like putting jam in the dough, honey, sprinkling more sugar on top before baking. I hope they try them.

I've had the opportunity to be a part of some camps I feel were great.

First was a girls empowerment workshop/camp called Women 2 Women. It was spearheaded by two powerhouse female volunteers in my area. Total there were 7 female volunteers and one male volunteer working at the camp. The overall goal of W2W was to empower the girls involved (all Secondary school girls) on three broad topics: their bodies, their minds, and their futures. I believe it was a great experience for the participants. It was good for them to see women (particularly black women) who are educated and doing positive things with their lives.

The second camp was called "The Malawi Music Project." It was held in Liwande National Park (which is very beautiful). The participants were two village bands comprised of mostly primary school level children. The focus of the camp was to encourage creativity in their music making. We also sprinkled in a little environmental education (making musical instruments using seed pods from flame trees).

On the other hand there are some less than sweet times...

The times when I'm walking around outside my village and people give me weirded out looks...the times when I'm traveling with my Caucasian friends somewhere fun and a mini-bus driver tells me (in a language I don't understand...usually Chichewa) "thank you for bringing these white people to me" like I'm their Malawian tour guide or something...or times when again I'm with my friends and a "bus to bus" merchandise seller comes up to the bus telling my friends I can give them a good price on his goods, you know, because I'm Malawian right?...many other instances happen to me day to day here in Malawi. All in all they make me feel sometimes like my experience here will never be as much fun as any of my friends' experiences. I am always judged by Malawians...I'm always a tour guide or some other form of escort in their eyes when I'm with them.

However, there are sometimes nice times within my village. I have a few favorite ladies in my village these days (like 2-3) and it tickles my heart pink to spend time with them. One good example is my friend Clara. She's a married woman with like 7 or 8 kids. One day I wanted to help her farm in her field. We started off at 6am. I think we were there until 9 or 10am. The entire time her and her her husband were saying "oh, Kyndal's tired...she should go home." I told them I wasn't tired and kept on working. Eventually we did leave and I told Clara I'd need to get water. The place we'd get the water was ages away because the water closer to our houses was closed (for beautification/re-cementing). So we grabbed some buckets from her house and walked for at least 1k to the other bore hole and carried the water back to her house. Once there her husband told me I must wait there. In the background I see them killing a chicken and such. There was an older lady there as well. I think she was the husband's mother or something. Anywho, eventually I realized I was waiting for lunch to be ready. In the mean time Clara offered for me to take a bath in their bafa. I thought this was cool because I've never bathed at another Malawian home besides at my homestay family's house. They even brought me a towel, soap, lotion, and a rock to scrub my feet with. It was a cool experience. So after lunch was eaten Clara was tired, and I was tired so she offered for me to take a nap at her house. After some objection I agreed and lay on the couch to sleep. Clara took a nap too with me. We awoke about an hour later and I left around 2:30 after realizing I hadn't fed my dog all day! Anywho, that was a pretty cool, great day! If I could have more days like those I'd have waaaay more fun in my village I think.

I wanted to add pictures to keep you entertained, however it hasn't worked out that way...maybe next time.

Well that's all for now, check ya later!

Oh yeah...Happy New Years! I forget about that one.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It is about 57F here right now...true story

Malawi, Malawi, Malawi…What can I say about you so far? Actually I could say quite a lot but I won't have an infinite amount of time to type this so I will pick and choose some of the most important/interesting things.
I have yet to discuss some of the weird Malawian customs…

Sweeping: So, people here in Malawi sweep dirt. And when I say sweep I don't mean rake…I mean sweep with a broom made from weeds (or something). They bend over and nearly break their already overworked backs (of course this is the women not the men) and sweep their yards. The result is a barren wasteland…true story. It's quite sad. What are they sweeping you may ask? It's he leaves mostly. Why? Because they just do. Actually I was told there was an initiative by the Malawian government to have people sweep to control mosquitoes. Now it's just a practice and habit and no one thinks about it.

Male Contact: Here it's completely cool for men to hold hands…seriously. It's seen as a sign of friendship. So, typically when two men are greeting each other they'll exchange their verbal pleasantries and then lingeringly grasp each others hand and swing them too and fro…kinda like children do when they skip in America (or at least used to). However, in this culture (mostly in villages) it's not cool for a man and a woman to hold hands. But along the same lines women can hold hands as a sign of friendship, no problem. In the cities though people get scandalous and you may see some opposite sex hand holding going on.

Greetings: The jury is still out on my opinion of Malawian greetings. So generally most people greet each other (either a standard "how are you?" or "how have you spent your day?") especially if you know each other. A simple smile or hand wave isn't enough here like in America. Also something interesting is most people (again typically women) stoop down all the way to the ground to give their greetings…especially to a chief or authority figure of some kind.

Meetings: There is no such thing as a start time for meetings. When there is one it's a loose round about figure (give, never take, about 1-2 hours). Once the meeting does start there's a long procedure of "ulemu kwa" (which is giving honor to various people, eg. chiefs, guests) then you MUST pray at the beginning and the end of every meeting. During the meat of the meetings it's always funny to hear people say "pepani" (sorry) ten thousand times before they speak. I was later told that the "pepani" in this context is less of a "sorry" and more of a "excuse me." Also, Malawians always sound professional when speaking even if it's just off the cuff. They are good extemporaneous speakers (and they expect you to be the same).

Staring: You know how in the states if kids are staring at someone we slap them on the hand (or wherever) and tell them that isn't polite? Well here in Malawi I have yet to see that. Parents don't teach that here. In fact I'm led to believe, through my few months experience here so far, that the exact opposite may be true. They may be encouraged to stare at a stranger or a strange thing. Dunno why. But the fact of the matter is that all Malawians (regardless of age or education level) will stare a "strange" person down! If looks could kill I would have been brutally murdered about 60,000 times by some of these people. However, I kind of chalk it up to a child-like curiosity that isn't beaten out of people here like it is in America…so I try not to be too hard on people.

Okay so now just a few general notes on my life here in Malawi.
It's hella hard! I knew what I signed up for but you never REALLY know what you're getting into until you're actually in it. And boy am I in it! I still don't really have any furniture in my house (so I'm sleeping on my mattress on the floor), my fence isn't finished, my kitchen area leaks, and I can't speak Chitonga well. All in all there are moments when my life here downright sucks so far…but then there are the moments that make me happy or excited and they bring things back into perspective for me a bit.

I have been riding a bicycle more than I ever have in my life. To give you an idea of how much I may ride my bike in a week I will say I ride it at least 10k per day. (about 6.5m for those of you in the States). And that's just on days when I go to the CDSS to teach (Agriculture, Form 4, kinda the seniors). Some days I go visit one of my counterparts who lives an extra 6k round trip. however some days I go to a neighboring village which is maybe 3k away (about 2m) which is 6k round trip which isn't very bad at all. It's just all WAY more biking than I'm used to. I'm getting used to it a bit though now. I eventually learned to use the gears on the thing which was exciting…so now I'm an old pro. Now I've just got to understand bike repair…where's the "mountain bike repair 4 dummies" book when you need it?

Anyways, I'm doing well here so far. I have my ups and my downs but that's what the experience is about. I can't wait to start my projects so I will possibly have defined things to do to help pass the time.

Here are a few pictures...

My host family during our pre-service training.

The Environment 09 group at swearing in on April 22.

My we-bitty house. It'll feel like home after quite a few internal additions/adjustments. And some external stuff too.

Me and Lyn. It's actually funny. We new each other before meeting here in Malawi. When I went to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity for a few days Lyn was in Americorps and her group was in Baton Rouge. We talked about Peace Corps and how we were both applying. Turns out we were put in the same group! It's uncanny!

These are a few of the kids in my village. The one holding the orange (yes it's an orange but it's green) is my least favourite right now for more than one reason. The little boy behing her is my most favourite at the moment. This could all change in a day.

That's all I can do right now. Hopefully there will be time for a few more pics in a day or so. we'll see. I'm now in the city for the 4th of July festivities so I have net access for the next few days.

I'm trying to upload the video of my speech to Youtube. I will email the link to those in the know.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hey family and friends!

I'm writing you from an internet cafe in Nkhata Bay near the shore of beautiful Lake Malawi.

So, I'm finally a real volunteer as of last Wednesday! The swearing in ceremony was awesome. I gave a speech in Chitonga (the language spoken in my area of Malawi) and rocked the freakin house! I can't wait to upload it. It will be at least another week though.

My time here has definately had its ups and downs but overall it has been the experience of a lifetime and it's only been 3 months so far. The only thing I can say is sorta getting on my nerves is that most Malawians assume I am also Malawian. I expected as much though. Besides that most people are really friendly especially once they find out I am American. Ususally they imediately say, "Oh, Barack Obama! Your president is a Black man!" It pretty cool.

My house is coming along. I just moved in two days ago so it's pretty empty. I mostly have all of my luggage and stuff in the room which will be my guest bedroom of sorts (So next time you're in the area of Malawi...stop by ;) there'll be a mattress and mosquito net waiting...I'll even leave the light on for ya). I'm cooking on a parrifin stove which is waaaaay easier than cooking on an open fire would be.

That will have to be all for now. The cafe costs maybe the equivilent of $1 per hour, but there are a few people waiting so I should be courdeous. Oh....and my English will decline as I go along so any misspellings should be ignored.

Peace out!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Arrived in Philly

Hey hey hey!

I made it to Philly all intact thank the heavens. Now in the morning we head off to New York by bus to catch a 17 hour flight to South Africa. Here are a few pics...
The Luggage...
A few of us taking our Malaria medication at a times

That'll probably be it for a while...Tiwonana (see ya later in Chichewa)!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

YouTube Channel

Also, I plan on attempting to upload a few videos of my experience here...

Now it's time to say goodbye...

to all our company...

Anywho...this is it! I depart in approximately 10 hours for Philadelphia, PA. Once there I check into our hotel, go through the small amount of staging stuff we handle in our day in Philly, and go to sleep eventually (If I can). Then early the next morning we check out and ride in a bus to NEW YORK for a 5pm flight to South Africa. After that it's Malawi!

Starting today my internets will be limited. As soon as I have access I will be updating this blog to keep everyone updated with my goings-on in Malawi. In the mean time I'm going to be writing letters and such so if you're one of the lucky few be on the a few weeks you'll get the first hopefully.

I've had lots of fun in my last few weeks in the States. A few going-away parties and enjoyable nights out with friends...I couldn't ask for more!