Thursday, December 28, 2006

My visit home

I'm been in the states for a few weeks now and been experiencing the wonders of life in the land of plenty.  I suppose in so many ways many things are pretty much the same......the sights, the smells, the routines.  Theres always that part of me thats thinking in the back of my mind that none of whats going on is new to me.  I'm driving (which I hadn't done in over a year) and I'm thinking..."don't freak out, this isn't anything new".  Of course my other brain is thinking....."whoa, this feels weird".  Then the rational middle of my brain is thinking......"this is america, in america they drive on the right side of the road, also in america people do not ride in the back of pickup trucks, ahhh america the land of no roundabouts".

I've also been enjoying the joys of eating food you can actually feel the grease attacking your veins and heart..Yum....
This is also the land of big things:
big houses, big cars, big pants, big bellies, even big vegetables......

Its scary when you realize that you have two thought processes going through your mind when you buy that nice juicy hamburger and fries
Brain 1:   mmmm mmmm mmmmmm.....bring it on
Brain 2:  you paid what for that *!@!#!  Dude, thats like how much you spent in a month in the village.  Are you nuts!

Is it possible to have multiple personalities?  I'm looking back on the first half of my Peace Corp experience so far and am glad for the experiences I've had.  I'm still having trouble putting everything into words of how I feel so far and what my expectations are for my remaining time.  I'm officially a 2nd year volunteer now, whoo hoo.   Hopefully I can get a few more projects off the ground and help the community initiate them.  We'll see if they bear any fruit.  All I can do is pray and try.  The greatest thing I suppose I'm greatful for are the amazing people I've met and gotten to know.  That in and of itself I suppose is the greatest gift so far of this experience.  There are no such thing as perfect people but something is inspiring of meeting and working with people who have the heart and desire to make a difference.......If human beings are created in the image of God, this I believe is when its best reflected...

Flying back on Jan. 2nd!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

peacea corpo

I've realized that I've been taking mefloquine for more than a year now.....I'm beginning to wonder if my brain chemistrys been messed with in some way.  Is mefloquine a psychotropic drug?  You'll let me know if I act a little weird or speak in funny languages right? 

I was surfing through other peoples xanga sites looking at group pictures and an interesting thought came to my mind:

"Where are the black people?" 

Suppose I've gotten used to seeing black Africans everywhere I go...interesting.

I'm part of a group of volunteers who are peer supporters and during the recent training we were talking about how many of the volunteers feel frustration for always feeling like they are singled out and people stare at them or point at them.  But then its funny because when we see a random white person coming into the village we do the same thing, "we're like who's that, whats she doing here,  oh my gosh she's showing her thighs!"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

One Year Gone By

It's amazing to think that a year has passed since I first flew into this country.  It honestly doesn't feel like its been that long since I first stepped off the plane.  I remember when I first heard that I was coming to Malawi how I had absolutely no idea where this country was.  And now I find out Madonna the "pop icon" came here to adopt a child from an orphanage and its all over the news and now everybody whos watched tv or listened to the radio knows about this place...
Its interesting thinking about the things that people pay attention to. 
They say that the one year mark is a time when there exist particular mental struggles in dealing with, living in, and understanding another culture.  I think I'm definitely going through the normal doubts and struggles at this point.  I think I experienced a classic case of depression in that I laid down on my futon and didn't want to move for about an hour....kinda scary now that I think about it.  I suppose I question how much good I'm really doing being here and teaching....  A profession by which I haven't recieve any true formal training in, but then again we've been asked to help in a country where there simply aren't enough people with the minimum qualifications to the meet the needs for teachers.  I guess I find it ironic in that people complain that there are "too many" people whereever they are, but not enough people with the ability or the desire to do the jobs that need to be done.  Theres that parable about the harvest is plenty and the workers are few related to spreading the gospel....i think it may be simply applicable to everything that people do.  I guess I've notice even though that there may be large cultural difference between groups of people but the underlying drive and actions of people are pretty much the same.....people are people....however you may want to understand that statement.
Its about that time of the year where its getting really hot.  In the district that I'm in the elevation is lower than most other parts of the country except the lower shire region (which one Malawian described to me literally as hell on earth).  Basically right now I sleep naked because my underwear sticks to me from the sweat because of the heat.  But then all that means is that my sheets stick to me instead....  Oh well what can you do.  It really isn't all that bad though because you simple get used to it.  I suppose back in the states we constantly move in and out of climate controlled environments so the differential between the two temperature extremes make it seem that much worse when in all reality "it ain't that bad yo". 
They have a great traditional dance that they have in the northern region of Malawi and southern parts of Tanzania from what I understand called Mwalipenga.  It's probably the best cultural experience in what I've seen in this country for me.  It's basically a group of dancers that come out and dance in unison to a beat driven by a drummer in concert with a group of guys blowing into some hollowed out shell (which I still haven't figured out where they find).  They'll dance either with spears or those shells themselves and people surround these groups which go in and out of the circle to battle as they might say in the u.s.  I'll have to get some footage of it when they start dancing again this time next year. 
I'm getting ready for summer school....I'm in charge of organizing several different aspects of it and being bursar as mentioned before....Just wondering did anyone donate??  I guess pscychologically its nice to know that people from where I'm from support things I work on even if its with just a few dollars...If not just another reason to feel sad I suppose.
I'll be visiting home very soon during Christmas time... It'll nice to see some folks and most definitely my family. 

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Want to help with a Peace Corp Project?

Hello everyone who's looking at this beautiful piece of typed prose this very moment.  This little blurb below describes a project that I'm a part of (I'm the bursar, "the dude handling the money and paying for stuff")  Please donate if you can and help with the project.
This project was started by education PCV's here in Malawi several years ago and my group has decided to continue it.

In an effort to encourage and further the education of students attending Community Day Secondary Schools, Peace Corps education volunteers host an annual summer school for two weeks during the Nov.-Dec. summer holiday. Through this school, students are offered the opportunity to attend classes that complement and expand on the subjects the students are taught during the traditional school year as well as participate in fieldtrips to local businesses and national parks in the surrounding area.

Nicknamed CAMPSKY (Career and MSCE Preparation for Successful and Knowledgeable Youth), Summer School 2006 will host 60 of the brightest students from the schools in which we (Peace Corps Volunteers) teach. Through CAMP SKY we hope to give these students the opportunity to study in a more challenging and diverse atmosphere than what is normally offered at the Community Day Secondary Schools that they attend. We plan an intense set of core classes to help prepare the students for their government MSCE exams, taken at the end of their senior year and which determine the course that they follow after graduation. Also offered are a range of electives that will allow the kids to explore their musical, journalistic, star-gazing, and catapult-building creativity. We may even use the catapults to launch a chicken or two, after properly calculating the trajectory of an average chicken, of course.

CAMPSKY is an independent creation of Peace Corps Volunteers and their communities and, as such, is funded by friends and family. Donations from home are important in making CAMP SKY possible, no matter what size. A donation of $100 pays for food, lodging, and transport for one student for the entire duration of CAMP SKY. Every donation is immensely helpful (and tax deductible). 

Donations are collected through Friends of Malawi, and can be made by check or online.  Be sure to clearly designate your donation for our Summer School.  The website below has specific instructions and a link to donate online.  To donate, click on the button next to PCV Summer School Project.

If you prefer to donate by mail, please write FOM Summer School in the memo line of the check.  Mailing instructions can be found on the website above. 

We appreciate very much anything that you are able to share with our school program and thank you in advance for your support. Look forward to a web page to be posted in December sharing pictures and stories so that you can see what a wonderful thing you've helped to make possible.

All our thanks – Zikomo kwambiri!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Just thinking out loud

Well the second term is finally over. My students are sort of learning something.  I think......but based on the assessments that I gave them I don't think they really understand anything that I've taught them in the last 3 months or so.......
Frustrating!!!!.............................It's even worse when they ask me if they can borrow a book to read over the break and I'm like.....eeeee  I don't have any you can borrow.  If one of them borrows a book them the rest of them will just on me like leeches asking for a book.  If I even think that the book will be returned but theres no guarantees either. 
Oh....if there are any trainees headed this way anytime soon: do not! i repeat do not throw away your cell phones at the airport!!! (this is what some of the people from the new environment group did!!! yikes!!)  This may be one of the poorest countries in the world but they still have cell phone service.  I mean I have service in my village and its literally in the middle of nowhere.  You just need to have a GSM enabled phone thats been unlocked.  But even the unlocking part can be done here for probably u.s. equivalent 10 bucks so you probably don't want to do that in the states either.   The good part is that people from the states can call me without me being charged for anything (but it costs like a dollar a minute for me to call the states)
Eun's visiting me   yea!! 
Airplane ticket: alot of money!
Safari: alot of money!
Zanzibar: alot of money!
Seeing my site and hitching around Malawi: free!
Seeing your most precious lady friend after 9 months 21 days 9 hours 23 seconds and 16.2 milliseconds and counting....:  Priceless

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More random pics for your eyeballs

Pics from Ashley in my group.  Enjoy!
This one is pictures of Malawians (e.g. World Food Program maize distribution, market in Jenda, random people):

Sunday, June 18, 2006

9 months down 18 to go...

I think for this post I'm going just ramble on about things that
visitors to this site might be interested in knowing. One thing they
tell you that you should always remember when your writing anything is
to know who your audience is (atleast who your intended audience is.)

Sooooo..... It appears that people who come to this site are people
who are about to come to Malawi, people who are interested in Peace
Corp in general, and hopefully a few people who still remember me from
back home. Just a general disclaimer: anything here is a
representation of my opinions and not those of peace corp or the U.S.
government. Just protecting my mathako (thats buttocks for you not
chitumbuka speakers, pronounced ma taco, taco bell)

General information about Malawi:
This country is called the "Warm Heart of Africa". The people are for
the most part friendly and are willing to help you with most things.
Some call this country "Africa for beginners" because of the
relatively mild climate and the presence of so many english speakers
(relative to other places you could be). My site is in the northern
region of Malawi where most of the people speak chitumbuka (which
means language of the tumbukas, example: chizungu which means language
of the white man "english"). However, just like any other part of
Africa there are all kinds of tribes concentrated in various regions
so they have their own language for each of these tribes. Here in the
northern region you'll find people who speak chitumbuka, chitonga,
chinghonde, chindali, etc. etc.... The official languages of the
country however are Chichewa (spoken in the south) and English. Just
some interesting tidbits of the language that you might find amusing
(the context of which you speak has alot to do with it).....

chimbuzi = pit latrine or big goat
Nikufumila ku america = i am from america <but> Nikufumila = I have diarrhea
chinonono = difficult <but> chizonono = ghonorea
*theres more but i'll let inspiration bring it out later

Staple food in this country is something they call "nsima" basically
its a thick porridge like substance that they make out of maize flower
or cassava flour. It tastes ok (in that it doesn't really taste like
anything) but I personally prefer rice that is plentiful (at least in
my region) Heck I'm even starting to learn the different types of
rice that they plant throughout the year. They have alot of
irrigation schemes set up in the region that I live so the diverted
water is used to grow rice and even at times maize. Oh also
everything that you eat is a dende or ndiwo (relish). For many people
psychologically, if you haven't eaten nsima you haven't eaten. So
basically if you eat a entire slaughtered cow but no nsima, you
technically haven't eaten yet.

If you look at Malawi on a map you'll notice that Malawi is a
relatively "skinny country". In the southern region parts of the
country are surrounded on both sides by mozabique. Its funny because
part of the M1 (motorway 1), near a village called Lizulu, runs along
the border between the two country. On one side of the road your in
Mozambique and on the other side your in Malawi. The other countries
surrounding Malawi are Zimbabwe on the far south, Tanzania to the
north, Zambia to the west, and the ever famous Lake Malawi to the
east. You can definitely find more detailed information elsewhere.
Basically when I heard I was placed in Malawi I was thinking where the
heck is that??? I know how you feel.

My general perceptions of Peace Corp so far...
The whole concept behind peace corp (in my opinion) is to attempt to
educate in multiple ways {both intended and unintended} and to bring
human resources to those who need it. Peace corp definitely has a
more grass roots approach to how they go about their basic mission of
providing skilled (somewhat, questionable at times) people and an
understanding of cultures both to us and to them. This is why they
focus so much in making sure that we atleast get a fundamental
handling of the local language and culture. I suppose the hardest
part of the whole experience is basically understanding how cultural
differences can have such an affect in even how you and your community
approach solving problems that you see. Makes both you and them
frustrated let alone simply the problems of the lack of resources. Of
course for us education volunteers they have a nice little accronym
they used called TALULAR (teaching and learning using locally
available resources). But even that can only be stretched so far.
They big thing they always talk about is sustainability. If the
solutions that we present to our communities cannot be maintain
without our presence its not going to do them much good in the long
run. We see so many examples of NGO's throwing either very modern or
very sophisticated solutions towards problems they see but ends up not
lasting very long simply because it doesn't fit with the skills sets
and knowledge of the local community. Peace Corp gives alot of
freedoms towards the individual volunteers although they have pleny of
specific expectations. Alot of what happens even at site is mostly
self reported, that being said you could literally sit on &*% the
whole two years without too many people knowing. It's one of those
jobs that has the greatest potential for both great change and total
uselessness. It's really totally up to the individual volunteers.
Education sector is somewhat easier to follow into since there is more
of a structure of actually teaching at local schools. Depending on
the site for health and environment it can take a while for people to
get settled into actually projects. I've heard people taking the
first year simply to get settled before actual projects begin to take
hold. Theres nothing wrong with that simply the way it is. But at
the same time what do I know I've only been here for 9 months......As
with all opinions take it with a grain of salt.

Comments about the peace corps official packing list......
It's a load of crap! They need to seriously update that thing. Simply put...
Bring jeans, any electronics you want (although I'd recommend sticking
with low voltage devices like ipods and such), contacts, a few pieces
of clothing that is opposite to what you think its like over there.
"Right now it is freezing in Mzuzu" Don't bring any medications
besides the initial prescription meds. Peace corp will drug you up
all you want. It's nice to have some basic camping supplies like a
tent and sleeping bag also for when you travel. Beyond that its
really up to you......

And last but not least Steph from my group has finally posted some
pictures so peruse and enjoy at your leisure. I'll post pictures one
of these days..........scouts honor

Shutterfly Album

If you want the password just ask me or Eun

Friday, April 07, 2006

1 Term Down 5 to Go

The first academic term is finally over. The perception of time is the thing that is strange each day sometimes seem to take forever to finish and get through but then at the same time I look back and think where the heck did 3 months go!! Oh my gosh........
I'll be heading down to lilongwe tomorrow to start what they call IST (in service training). Basically its a meeting of all the volunteers in our group where we discuss any issues or things the big boys in either the country office or PC Washington thinks we need to know to be more effective volunteers for the remaining time that we've been here. The one thing that definitely makes you aware that your being funded by government dollars is the paperwork they always expect you to fill out for every little thing. It's crazy how much of the little details they want to know. They want statistics on exactly how many boys, girls, men, woman your work is helping. You have got to be kidding.......

One thing that PCV's are given are TREK mountain bikes for "official travel" in and around our sites. Lets just say I've put my bike to "good" use.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH what the heck is wrong with gmail.......

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Whats been going ON!

Well I've been teaching for about 2 weeks now.  The struggles of being a peace corp volunteer can vary from person to person and depending on the site.  I would say the great thing about my site is that I wake to an amazing view of the Nyika plateau every morning.  It makes you want to sing Hallelujah watching the clouds roll of the hills and when it rains the chance of seeing not one but multiple rainbows is amazing.  Aside from the heat, I've gotten pretty used to my site and living life here (as much as an azungu can in 3-4 months).  The hardest struggles I would say are with frustrations of seeing things occur that you have very little control over and waves of loneliness that can feel like its crippling.  The thing is that many times I have to consciously make an effort everyday to believe I'm making a difference here.  Were so used to having things occur instantly for us back in the states that when things slow down as you have to in order to do anything here its somewhat of a shock.  I don't know, just thinking too much.
This thats are "interesting" here as a teacher at a CDSS.  Some of the students have to walk 2-3 hours to get to school and then another 2-3 hours to get back.  Would you come to school?  They do...  Teaching math without books is ok, I can give notes.  But dang yo.....teaching english without books, these students have nothing to read.  We PCV's get newsweeks so I've been giving those out as reading material.  Pray for me is all I can say.....
Anyways whenever I can get some more descent internet time I'll write a more detailed and prosetastic rendition of life in Africa.
Anyone thats interested in seeing pictures of training and such, one of the peeps in my group has posted some photos....Go here------>
Take care and write me people, I get lonely :-(
Advice to people thinking of becoming peace corp volunteers.
1) Bring Jeans, you'll thank me
2) Bring contacts, you'll thank me (don't forget the solution like I did)
3) If you buy a solar charger buy the one from Brunton not Isun (trust me I'm an engineer)
4) Send yourself a box of books before you leave then let me borrow them
Till next time....