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

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