Friday, March 21, 2008

Final Comments

It's strange but I haven't blogged anything on this site for close to a year and I still get comments on it. Strange....
Anyways let me leave a few last comments for anyone that might be coming by to get information about the Peace Corp and Malawi specifically or any other random thoughts you may want out of this RPCV (returned peace corps volunteer)

Best place that I've seen on the web to get a good overview information about the PC and Malawi is on the Peace Corps wiki ( They have pretty good general information however I must warn you, alot of the information on Malawi, based on the quick cursory glance i gave it, is out of date. I can't remember much specifically but one thing is that 1 dollar is closer to about 150 kwacha nowadays.

To bring or not to bring that is the question.....
If you plan on wearing sandals all the time don't bring socks! I brought a bunch of pairs but literally I wore socks maybe 3 times the entire time I was in Malawi. I only needed it when I used hiking boots which mostly was rare. I always wore my chacos or padapadas (sandals). Head lamp is crucial for the night time chimbudzi (pit latrine) visits. You will eventually learn to travel with a small backpack. In my opinion you could live with a jacket, two shirts, shorts, and 1 pair of pants when you travel. Anything beyond that is luxury. I traveled to Mozambique with just that and was generally comfortable. I don't understand why people need to carry huge backpacks with them when they travel. I would recommend bringing like a small handheld music/PDA player. It'll make you feel better and it's easy to carry. I had a simple PDA to keep track of what was going on. Just pray you don't lose it or get it stolen. New undies after the first year feel nice. Have someone send you a care package later. Beyond that the general recommendation is don't bring alot. I definitely brought more than I needed. But from what I've seen even if you feel like your bringing alot, at the end of your service you'll be a different person in some sense and what you think is a little then is definitely going to be different from what you think now.

Random things about Malawi
People are friendly for the most part but those who are "too" friendly in the cities be wary of. But when you do greet people, greet them fully, it can be impolite to give a half gesture of greeting. I'm not sure if that make sense but take it as you will. Hitchhiking is the preferred mode of transport for most volunteers. But be sensitive to see if the person wants money. Some do some don't. Don't mess it up for others by not giving something if they expect it. Hitching is a little harder up north...fewer cars. Lots of accidents happens on the roads also so try to be careful when travelling. One time I got out of a minibus and literally 10 seconds later a kids getting out of the same minibus got hit by a car. Pretty tragic but happens quite often. When on public transport be ready to be packed in like sardines and share a seat with a chicken or goat under you. This is no place for whiners who need "leg space". If your in the far northern region of Malawi check out a dance called stuff to watch. It's a dance to celebrate the end of the harvest.

General final thoughts
I miss being in the Peace Corps and Malawi. Life would I say it...simpler. It didn't take legal documents and oversophistication of doing the most common things in life. You just talked to someone and just got it done. The community is your support. It makes me wonder, why do we have so many issues in this country with just feeling safe in your home. Then I live in a country of strangers. Everyone is always moving and changing. We don't really know who lives next to us. We can't help someone when they yell help because everyone is detached from everyone else. I guess thats one thing I wish was here....a sense of community.....where is it?

Anyways that is all. Leave a comment if you like...