Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hey everyone. Not a lot has changed in the past week. I'm still here at the lake having an awesome time, frequently applying sunblock, and eating fresh fish. I was on the southern part of the lake in Cape MaClear, but now I'm up north at Nkhata Bay. Good times. Happy New Year to all! Welcome to 2011.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!

First of all a big thanks to all those who donated to the Bangu well project. You're really making a difference to the people in my community. When I told the Chairman of the Village Development Committee (the one in the pink shirt below), that I secured funding for shovels, piping, and bags of cement, he went nuts and started dancing. So thanks from all of us in the village!

The last couple days I've been sick so I'm still recovering from that. Before you get excited, you should know that its just a head cold...nothing cool and exotic. This morning I got an awesome hitch into town where I am until tomorrow morning when I'm off to the lake.

I'm excited to spend the next two weeks hanging out by the lake, though it doesn't feel like Christmas, maybe its because its so hot and humid. Oh well, first Christmas away from home and I'll be spending it in a tropical paradise. Not bad.

I hope everyone over there has a great Christmas and a very happy New Year!

I send pictures in the mail yesterday so you should get those in a few weeks.

Monday, December 20, 2010

This is not the borehole project...but

http://appropriateprojects.com/node/473


This is for a smaller scale water project with my community. There is no water in my area so people in the village are resorting to what they're ancestors did...they're digging them. this project is to get more supplies and find cement so the water is clean(er).

This is my real first approved grant, so I'm excited! This is an amazing organization if you're looking for some place to donate. Its only available for peace corps volunteers which means more of the donated money actually goes to the project. I'll be buying bags of cement the first of the new year.

I should tell my friend Andrew (the one in the pink shirt in the photo) that he's famous. That might excited him.

This morning I headed to the bank with three members from the village development committee so they have a place to store borehole money before its done (mostly so its not in my house). Done and done after waiting 4 hours in the bank (that's how things are done here) and then lecturing the teller about the necessity and functions of the federal reserve (idiot). I even offered to draw her a graph, I'm not sure why she declined...maybe it was a translation issue. Whatever.

Rain storm. The rain finished but I have a problem with my bicycle tire....can't figure that one out and I have 18km before I'm home. Won't walk it...what to do.

Anyway, Wednesday I'm off to the lake to enjoy my Christmas vacation for a week and a half! I'm excited. I just got all those pictures and videos my mom sent so a big thanks and I miss you to all the folks in Lake Stevens. You're great. I'm going to send more pictures tomorrow in the mail so hopefully they should get there in a few weeks!

Thanks for all of your support, I'll try to get another post in my Christmas, maybe pictures if your lucky (actually, no, that won't happen, sorry). Anyway, hope all is well in 'merika!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chitukuko wa Madzi






One of the diggers standing in front of a hand-dug,un-cemented, traditional well.

I might move here."Water Development"

Dear, Lake Stevens, WA,

I am craving an Ixtapa Burrito and a Pepsi. Eat/drink on on my behave. Don't forget the chips and salsa. Most of my cravings are Mexican food.

That is completely beside the point but now that its out of the way I can get back to the issue at hand...what's happening here.

Yesterday, I was at a friends house when I saw a little boy dancing. He reminded me of a muppet so I laughed at him. It turned out he ate to quickly at was choking a little. Fail. People asked me why I was laughing at a choking 8-year-old boy....I tried to explain that he looked like a muppet (with my explanation I did my muppet-head/arm flail-you know what I'm talking about) but the explanation didn't help my case. Luckily the friend whose house I was at is the boys uncle so everything was explained. Amy strikes again.

It has cooled down here considerably, when the rain is actually falling. When its not falling, its unbelievably hot, or at least unbearable humid (it really IS the humidity that gets you).

I got grass clippings to bring back to my village to plant along the sides of the roads to prevent soil erosion. I'm also going to plant it on the sides of the river banks but I haven't told anyone that. I'm in the boma right now hoping to hear some things back from some different proposals and contacts I sent out last week...also, because I was looking for an excuse to get out of the village for a bit. Its always nice to take a break and get a cold fanta or bag of milk (yes I take a lactaide and yes, Diana, its pasteurized).

The borehole, I'm almost positive, is going to have to wait until next year because of the rain. Its here. I still have to convince my village to go along with it and wait almost a whole year, but that's ok.

Friday, I promised to explain the larger water project thats sort of still in the brainstorming area.

Water in my area is piped off the mountain from the Lujeri river that runs off Mt. Mulanje. Its piped down around tea fields and into the villages. The problems start right as it reaches the village because the bulk of the water is diverted into the tea estates to water the fields. The problem, with the water in the village, as I've been told is that the pipe that runs through the villages is too small. If the holding tank were to be situated with more cement to increase pressure, and the small pipes were to be switched out with two larger ones and expanded the length of the district, people could put taps in wherever they wanted and the water problems, would theoretically be solved. Keep in mind, however, that this is what was explained to me last week, I still have yet to see the scheme. I'm hoping to this week have a better idea of what exactly is needed. I know, however that it would mostly be pipes, taps, cement, and I don't know what else. We'll see if I get to see it this week and what I find out, but that's what's in the works right now, other than the fact that its lunch time and I'm hungry but I'm trying to upload photos so I'm stuck here until that's done.

I need to get flour on my way home so I can make pancakes. I make them a lot. :)

With the holidays coming up I'm finding myself slightly nostalgic for cooler weather, fudge, and dad's snow onsey (not that there's still snow on the ground). Then again, starting next week I'm going to be lounging on a white-sandy beach in a tropical paradise so both have their benefits. I have, however, been listening to Christmas music.

I went to my first wedding in Malawi this week. I'm not sure if I was late or early or that's all they do but it was a lot of dancing. Also, people here throw money (while dancing, of course) at the bride and groom. I think that's a tradition that should be taken to the US (meggie?). I like it. Anyway, it was a lot of fun, especially when the headmaster of the primary school in my village says "lets see your moves". People here need to stop watching bad American television. It was a good time though, despite the fact that I got caught in the rain. I have a hard time explaining to people that I'm used to the rain. They say it rains where your from too? Oh yes. Haha. Well, that's about all for now, enjoy the pictures, sorry there are only 3.

Love from Malawi

Diana's coming! She bought a plane ticket!!!!! Wahooooooo!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hey there from Malawi

where rice is a breakfast food, eggs are strictly a dinner food, and bananas are to aid digestion after meals (I'm not convinced)..and people here think everything I do is backwards.

This week, I'm still messing with borehole stuff, I'm not so sure now that it will happen this year seeing as how the community isn't even 1/4 of the way with their contribution and the kids start on Christmas Holiday today until the first week of January. Bad timing I guess, its the hungry season, after all; no one has money. Anyway, that's an update on that.

On top of the bore hole I'm trying to get my hands on some smaller scale proposals to get bags of cement so some of the hand dug wells, and more that will be made, can be cemented so they're at least producing clear water, instead of the cloudy, dirty water people are using now. We'll see how that goes.

What else, I'm still working on a greenbelt project to plant a sort of nitrogen fixing, creeping grass along the sides of the roads and rivers to help prevent erosion. All that's left now is to get the seeds which I have been promised by a person who is now really hard to find (I think he's avoiding me).

Other than a bunch of other little projects, like trying to find and oil press, knitting machine, gender development, small business advising, ect, I think I finally stumbled upon the large scale water project I've been waiting for in my area.

I'm not sure if I've explained the water situation in my village, other than complaining about how it never works. Actually, that's a story I'm going to save that story for when the internet at MMCT isn't broken and I'm not paying and uploading pictures for a proposal that needs to go out this week. Basically, I could fix all the water problems in m y area pretty easily, it just might mean me staying here an extra year....its a big project. More on that later.

That's an update on my projects.

In other news, Bri and I found bacon at a gas station in the boma (less sketchy than it sounds) so we're going to have BLT's - lettuce -mayo. YEAH!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Well hey there

So, I typed up a long post about everything I'vebeen up to this week (mostly complaining about long meetings that turned out to be pointless and talking about how I eat baby chickens and bugs and they're delicous) but then I accidently deleted it.

On the bright side, I uploaded this photo of a boy in my village. Meredith, this is the 13-year-old boy I promised you to. I went to take his picture and he asked me if it was to show you. When I said yes, he made me wait so that I could dress up. He ran to hishouse, colored this paper tie and pinned it on his shirt. Then, he let me take the picture. He also said that if you come here he'll give you a 50 kg bag of maize....you should be exciting. I probably should have put this on facebook.

Anyway, meetings meetings meetings this week since I've been back from Lilongwe.

Village Development Committee
School Committee
Community based organization
Head Masters
Cheifs.

All concerning the bore hole and the 25 % required community contribution.

Long meetings. In these long meetings, people are mostly discussing how to make people bring money. I'm worried because the rainy season is here.

I really wish I didnt erase that post. It was a good one.



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chuck likes the chimbuzu too much

WARNING: THIS IS GROSS.


I peed on her head this morning.

Woops.

Happy thoughts from Malawi.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ndege ya pansi


"Airplane of the ground"

I haven't left Lilongwe yet. I Think tomorrow I'll make an effort to head in the direction of Mulanje. I've decided, however, that I need to stop by Blantyre on the way home (possibly causing me to stay the night) so I can go to the limbe market to get a Jimi Hendrix shirt that I didn't buy. Hopefully its still there. It haunts me.

In the mean time, I'm waiting on a lot of projects right now that don't require my assistance so I'm staying close to the Peace Corps office to make people feel uncomfortable until they pass my proposals along to the appropriate person. I've quickly decided that that is the way to get things done.

Yesterday morning, when I was in the process of moving dorms, the chairwoman of my site-mates women's group (the one who she happens to think is the coolest women in the world)
called me to chat. Bri is bitter. I think its hilarious.

Yesterday, after two nights of getting bitten up by horrible bed bugs (the worse I've had, definitely) I moved to Mufasas, another lodge. There weren't beds left in the dorms, so me and some friends got moved to a private suite. Exciting for a poor peace corps volunteer. We decided (since everyone was exhausted) to watch some episodes of Arrested Development (I slept through those) then just go to sleep. Finally, a good nights sleep...with the exception of the itchiness.


Anyway, like I said, I'm in Lilongwe until tomorrow morning, when I'm going to try to head down down down, back to the South.

As you can see, I found a photo editor on my laptop that allows me to re-size pictures and since I'm in Lilongwe I have endless free internet so I can update said shrunk pictures.

Anyway, unless something exciting happens, this is probably my last post from the city. Just a warning.

In the mean time, here are some pictures for your enjoyment!



This is a Baobob tree in Liwonde National park. There is a human skull inside. Its hollow and 50 years ago as punishment, people through him in the tree. The skull is still there. I did NOT post the picture of the skull, I thought that might be too much.This is in September before IST at the lake. We camped here....ON the lake. Beautiful.
Chuck! This is Chuck last week. She's adorable.


This is a little girl in my village. I just thought it was a cute picture.



Things are good here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'm still in the city so I might as well tell you what I'm up to...not a whole lot

Yesterday morning I headed to the office to hang out before it was time to head to the ambassador's place for our Saturday-thanksgiving party. Around 1:00, the embassy buses started shuttling us over where we hung out and ate and drank and danced and had a good time. After we got back from there a group of us hung out talking until we decided to take a taxi across town to a dance club called Chez and Ntembos. We danced, watched a dance-off and had a good time then headed home, exhausted and sweating. Sleep.

This morning I grabbed my stuff and headed over to a different hostil where I'll stay tonight, maybe tomorrow night, I still haven't decided. I do, however, need to stop by the Limbe clothes market on the way home because I saw a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt for 400MK (which is almost $3) and I'm regretting it enough that I'm gonna go back for it. Lame.

Right now I'm at the office, people are throwing frisbees, checking they're e-mail, I'm trying to upload a picture of Chuck on facebook. I tried to upload a picture of elephants but it got to 95% complete and the power went out and dumped everything I was doing so I decided it wasn't meant to be. The picture of Chuck, however, I'm determined. That's pretty much it for now, exciting, I know.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

why yes, this is real silk.

Wednesday afternoon I got back from the boma (you like that seamless transition from the last post to this when, when does that happen, right? I know, I know, awesome.) and pretty much booked it (despite the temporary monsoon) to ask a friend of mine how the meeting went. He said it went really well and people were very receptive to the entire idea of not begging from me. Evidently, everyone thought they were the only one asking me for things and when everyone got together and talked about it, that dis-illusion came out in the open. Great. We'll see what happens when I'm at my house for more than 12 hours after the meeting. Bri came home from the boma with me and crashed at my house. I brought Chuck over to the Makhuva's (she snorted the entire way, it was cute) so she won't be alone until whenever I decide to go back home. The next morning (Thursday), early, we got up and headed to the bus stage. We caught a bus to Limbe for very cheap (the driver ended up being the brother of my nightwatchman, so I felt bad after I found out because I convinced him to take us for a couple hundred kwacha less than the price). In limbe I had a meeting with the country director of an organization that helps bring feeding programs to primary school. Rejected. I'll just keep trying the organization I've been trying (the one that's waiting on the borehole, more on that later). After I finished there, we headed to Blantyre to eat lunch, meet some friends and drop our stuff off. We headed back to Limbe for the clothes market where I didn't buy a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt for 400mk (still regretting it and am planning to stop by on my return to get it) but I did get a 100% silk green (but not a real green dress, that's cruel) dress for 150mk (under 1$). I am currently wearing it, and still, obviously, excited. After the market we hung around Blantyre until night, which included going to the curios market. One of the guys at the market gave me a bracelet because I said I would bring my parents to his shop when the come. Another guy gave me a bracelet (which I tried to refuse) because I said he could marry Diana (sorry kiddo, I didn't tell you that). So, that should be fun. I'm also wearing it right now, its cute! haha. I love Malawi, in case I don't say it enough.

That night, in Blantyre, all (most) of the peace corps volunteers in the south met at doogles (a backpacker's lodge) and hung out all night as an orientation. The next morning we got up and headed to the bus depot. I learned to take my doxy with food or it makes you nautious. I threw up my doxy, then got on a bus. We got on what we were told was the express bus that would get us to Lilongwe by 10:30 (leaving at 6:30am, great timing!). We got on the bus, we got our seats, we were comfy, we were off. About 2 seconds into the ride we stopped to picked up more people, realized it wasn't, in fact, the express bus and saw the express bus pass us upon that realization. Good times. We made it to Lilongwe around noon (still good timeing but some of us get antsy when we're sitting for more than 15 minutes which I'm told often by my mom is why the Cross family never took vacations of the road-trip types. Oh well.

We made it to Lilongwe fine but on the walk to the peace corps office, one of the girls in our party tripped and fell (surprisingly not me) and fractured her ankle. We drew a crowd. We flagged down a car to help, they did. The rest of us walked. She is casted and medicated, don't worry. The Peace Corps doctors know what they're doing, and she was lucky enough to injure herself within a mile of the Peace Corps office where there is free medication and health service. I got more sunblock (you know, after the skin-cancer scare, I vowed to be more diligent).

So this is yesterday. I ran around the office getting everything I needed done, done. Receipts signed, reimbursments, borehole stuff (skip to the last paragraph if you're anxious about that), smaller scale water project stuff (like bags of cement for hand-dug wells), ect. Oh, AND I got wireless hooked up on my laptop so I can use my laptop in the Peace Corps office (awesome!). Now, I don't have to stay until Tuesday, I probably still will so I can get other stuff done, but I don't HAVE to. So that's nice. I've never appreciated obligations. Some people live for them, I don't get it.

After I finished at the office, I went to go claim a bed at the hostil I'm staying at. The guy at the hostil tried to charge us double but discounted it if we promised to always stay there (there is a hostil rivalry in Lilongwe). I dropped stuff, picked a bed, hung out a bit, then went to get ice cream (somewhere in here I ate lunch). I came back and watched arrested development on my laptop (I love electricity). After a while, I headed, with some friends, downtown, where someone picked us up and took us to a mutual friends where we ate lebenese food. AMAZING! I'm still full off of the best food I've had in country. Back to the hostil, sleep.

This morning I had breakfast and came to the office. That's EVERYTHING I've done since Wednesday afternoon, the last post. I know you're not used to this ammount of detail but the internet is fast and hardly anyone is here. Also, I'm sort of killing time until its time to go to the Ambassador's house for our Saturday Thanksgiving celebration. I have 3 hours to kill. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'll figure something out.

Someone, a friend, who recently returned to country from the US brought me 5 skanes of wool yarn! That is more exciting than it should be for someone under 70. I'm gonna get my knit on.

I guess that's all for now, I can't think of anything to say. You'll probably get another update tomorrow, as I'm going to lock myself, in the office and write a bunch of proposals (for an oil press, bags of cement, ect, ect). If you're lucky, I might even update on Monday but I haven't planned that far ahead of time.

Borehole: I went to check on my proposal, again, for the bajillionth time only to find out that, since I dont' have microsoft word, only notepad, the person to whom I submited it couldn't open the file until yesterday when I had it converted. I'm frustrated so won't go into more detail but it should be passed on this week. I hear rumors of people thinking that it won't happen. I still fully intend on having this drilled this year. That is fully depended, however, on how quickly this proposal can be run through the Peace Corps ranks. Sorry for dragging you all on for so long, I am more frustrated that you know. My village, in the mean time, finished raising their 25% of the cost 4 days ago so we are litteraly waiting on administrated hoops that need to be jumped through. Still trying but, family, if you want to draw names, I understand. My intentions, however, are to get a deep borehole dug as soon as I get the money. I have been informed that it is still ok to drill even in the rainy season as long as the driller is aware of the depth of the water table and the situation, all things which I am capable of explaining in both chichewa and english. So that is that. I'm annoyed and impatient too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ready or not , the rain is here

Because this is Mulanje...I'm told.

The rain is coming...at least once a day there is a mini-monsoon. It scares Chuck...who is growing like a little annoying weed. Things are coming along here. I found a new house that I might move to where I don't have a landlord I am at war with. Instead, I would have dairy cows next door (that seems interesting). The house is beautiful, close to water, and farther away from the main road. These are good things. I cleaned out the water tank that the rain water from my roof drains into. Two weeks ago I ate the fish that were in there and now I can use the water for dishes and laundry (after removing about a foot of mud that I put in my garden (or what will one day be my garden if I ever get around to sticking seeds i n the ground). My excuse of waiting on the rain has run dry, or rather been washed out but the rain. Now I tell people that my hands are week like a babies and I don't deal well with pain. They tell me that I'm not that much of a wuss...most people who respond that way because I've beat them in a bicycle race.

Today, right now actually (which is why I'm in the boma instead of at my house even though I'm going to town tomorrow) my chief is holding a village-wide meeting to tell people that I'm a volunteer and they have to stop asking me for money or food or I will go away and find a different village to help (my words). I'm sort of nervous about the outcome but I've been told now to worry and that it will be nothing but helpful. We'll see upon my return, I suppose.

Tomorrow morning I have a meeting with a big muckity muck in Limbe about a feeding program at the primary school in my village so I have to get up with the sun to try to get a free ride before I cut myself off to take a bus so I'm not late. After the meeting, its on to Blantyre where a bunch of peace Corps Volunteers are meeting from the southern region for an orientation for the new kids. Then, Friday morning, we're all headed up to Lilongwe for Thanksgiving, Peace Corps style. I can tell I've been in country a while because when I say Peace Corps, even when I say it in my head while type, I say Peace CorPS. Bad habit I tried to not allow but it has infiltrated. Oh well, there are worse habits, like saying soda and listening to country music. That's right, I said it. I found a spot on my arm yesterday that I thought was a new mole it was weird colored, weird shaped, and new, so of course I freaked out (I lived with hypochondriacs for too long, you know who you are) and convinced myself that it was skin cancer. It was mud from cleaning out the water tank. Haha.

I hear that a lot of people read this. I don't believe it. If you have a google account you should comment so I know. In the mean time. HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hear there's snow, someone please whitewash Diana for me and throw a snowball at my Dad and Brother. Don't mess with my Mom, you don't know what she's capable of. Also, if you see my dad wearing his giant snow-suit-onesey...make fun of him. Also, hey Lake Stevens!

Today is pie-night at Ebenezer. Eat the lemon meringue for me. Yum. I'm going to have avacado for dinner, because the rainy season is here and I can. It came from my site-mate's tree. Be jealous.

That's all for now. Happy Turkey Day! Enjoy the leftovers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kwanu Kwaja Bwino?

"Did the darkness leave your house well?" (typical morning greeting)

I'm still waiting on a lot of administrative paperwork for the borehole but I did make an important contact for the feeding program today. I'm still running in circles but that's ok. Next week, its off to Lilongwe for Thanksgiving. Hope everyone at home is sleeping on sidewalks for big sales and eating pie in my absence. The internet was down at MMCT today so small post, will say more when I can.

I hear people read this (according to my Dad) so that's nice. Thanks.

I got de-wormer for Chuck today. That should help things.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Hot season, the hungry season

Times are frustrating. Its hot, my neighbors are hungry, everyone is preparing their fields for when the rains come so everything seems to be moving in slow-motion. I've involved myself in a bunch of projects around the local area but they all seem to be held up by one thing or another. For the bore hole I'm waiting for the schools to collect the 25% community contribution and for Peace Corps to process paperwork. On the school feeding program, my contacts said they would come back and look after the borehole was in. On the greenbelt proposal (I guess I haven't explained this one. I am helping a man, who works for the tea research foundation in my area, write a proposal to plant a nitrogen-fixing creeping grass along the sides of the roads and rivers to prevent soil erosion, especially during the raining season), the proposal has been distributed, as of this week, to all the important nobodies (eg, district commissioner, agrocultural minister, murea NGO, EPM, Roads authority, police, Mulanje Conservation trust,tea estates, ect) and are waiting to hear back. Today, actually, on the proposal, some volunteers are putting together a test area where they're pulling up all the weeds that are currently slashed or burnt into submission every so often and preparing the soil for when rain comes so they can plant Mimosa Pintoi, the desired type of grass, donated by the tea estates....since it will actually benefit them most.

Waiting...waiting...waiting...

While I've become a lot more patient since coming to country, I'm tired of waiting. On the bright side, I've gotten back into making my way through the stacks of books at my house, I am going to paint my house...really, and am reconnecting with some of my friends in the village who complain that I'm never around anymore.

I've also found time to work with a women's group in my village who have been making peanut butter weekly and selling it for a profit so they can buy chickens and sell the eggs for even MORE profit, then put that money into a village savings and loan and make MORE profit...they've got Moxy. They told me it was MY duty to ride my bike to the boma today...when I asked why, they said I had to because they're all old women with kids and such and I'm just a girl....they also added "Njinga yako ili ngati ndege"..."or, your bike is like an airplane" I can't deny it. So here I am, in the boma. I didnt find the bottles, which means, I'm going to have to go to Limbuli today, which is another 15 Km each way, where I know they are.....stupid youth and awesome airplane-bike. Actually, I don't mind it. I like the ride. I might have to bike around when I go back to the states.

Speaking of waiting, I'm waiting on the time now. I'm waiting on my laptop and ipod to charge so I can listen to Jimi and watch episodes of Arrested Development even in my village (what a hard life I lead). I'm waiting for the lunch hour to be over so I can go to the education office about a favor I'm doing for a friend in my village (trying to get their son a transfer from private to secondary school so they can pay less school fees) and I'm waiting on the road authority minister to get back to the office so I can follow up on the previously mentioned proposal, because Maxwell, said man with whom I am writing the proposal, could only take 2 hours off of work today to follow up with the tea estates. I like this Maxwell man, today, he asked me what I think about trash pits so people don't liter, not something on the typical Malawians mind. He also said that his favorite musician is Kenny Rogers....he, like the women's group, has moxy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feelin Hot Hot Hot!

the heat, not that it was SO TERRIBLE to begin with, is starting to settle down . I'm back home as of a few days ago. Yesterday, I took my counterpart's whife (one of my closest friends in the village) to Bri (my site mate haha)'s house to see her counterpart's whife. We figured they should know each other. That was fun. On the way back from their house we got a hitch back in a car that took us all the way to my house in my village. She thought it was hilarious seeing as how I think she thinks I'm making this whole hitchhiking thing up and that no, I don't really get free rides. She said I should make him nsima to thank him...I explained that that's not how things work. I let her borrow my shoes too. I was a weird day for her, I'm sure. Pretty normal for me, though.

Everyone in my village LOVES the name Chuck...they think its adorable...because it is.

IRMA! I got your birthday package! You're amazing! Thanks!

That's all for now, I need to head back to a meeting that theoretically started at 2:00 so when I get there in a half hour, I'll still be early and have to sit around and wait. Such is life in Malawi. I like it though. Its going to be difficult to re-adjust to the reality of American's and their over-punctuality....Mom. <3

That's all for now. Friday I'm going to teach two old men (who are seriously like those two old men from the muppet show) who sell salt at my market and sit high up on a table and laugh at people ( I normally go and sit with them for about an hour) to make candy with peanuts and sugar....that should be interesting.

Things are going well here! Tomorrow, my boss comes and brings me doxycicline and lime so I can be on different anti-malarials and paint my walls! I'm going to mix the lime with water based paint and have a yellow house inside....Yes, you should have seen that coming.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dzina lake ndi Chuck

Her name is Chuck. The puppy, that is. Thanks to Kristen for the name! Also, people in my village, mostly my counter-parts daughter-in-law named her Bridget after she explained that she should just have two names. I will call her chuck and people in my village will call her Bridget....or Chuck. Done.

The puppy is doing well, despite the fact that she spends the nights making noise. On the bride side, I'm learning all kinds of new chichewa verbs, like to make noise (Kusokosera) and to stare (Kukang'ana). Thanks puppy for helping me communicate more thoroughly with my community....except for the fact that she keeps me up all night so I'm tired and incompentant during the day. She'll learn. Pong'ono pong'ono, as they manage to say here (little by little) in every sentence.

Check out the new picture up top, I figured I should have one of Malawi. This was my first view of Mt. Mulanje before coming to site. A big thanks to Diana for bothering to do it for me! Anyway, I'm in town for Halloween hanging out with some other peace corps volunteers from the south who didn't want to travel for three days to make it to chitipa (next year). The usual antics have occured and will continue to because we attract interesting people.....who like to hang out with us. Its cool. We're kind of a big deal, peace corps, that is.....or peace corPS, as they say here (they're over-pronouncers in this country). Gotta love it.

Yesterday I hit the Limbe market, which is a MASSIVE clothes market wtih giant piles and piles and piles of clothes to look through. I love it, I don't know how I'll ever go back to shopping in the states, everythign is too convenient there. I would take pictures of it but that would cause CHAOS! Because people LOVE to have their pictures taken here. I got some much needed clothes yesterday, a cool summer dress (so I don't die of heat) and some other things.

I got a tip from a friend today that there might be funding available in my area for a women's beekeeping group so I'm going to try to talk a group of women in my village into working on that. We'll see how that goes.

All is well here! Wednesday I go off of Mefloquin (because of how crazy it made me) and I go on to Doxycycline, which I will have to manage, somehow, to take every day...so that should be interesting. Don't worry, Mom, I won't get Malaria. I hear it sucks. I've officially been at site for 6 months...half a year. That blows my mind. I love this country. I got a ride into Blantyre yesterday with a man who spent the entire 2 hour car ride telling me I should just get citizenship and move here because I already speak the language, and I said it was a beautiful country, what is stopping me? Don't worry, I told him I would miss my family. He said I should be more independent. Sure.

Okeedokey, that's all I have. I'm just too excited about the chicken cheeseburger I'm going to have for lunch to post anymore. You know why? Because I found a restaurant with HEINZ KETCHUP! Yes. You read that correctly. Delicious. I love the city.....for a bit...then I get sick of it and just want to go back to my village.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nsima ya nthandaza

I forgot. Yesterday, my counterpart's neighbor had me come to her house to learn to make nsima from cassava. It was sticky, difficult and like glue. I was stirring it and the pot kept slipping off the fire making her have to grab the scolding hot pot (still sitting on the fire) to keep it from flying. I drew a crowd. It was hilarious.

Galu.

'dog'

I GOT A PUPPY! She was just weaned and is about he size of my chaco sandal. We have the same color hair. She has no name but does have fleas. I tried to fix that situation today but nobody can come up with a good name...try through comments or facebook....I will announce the name when I pick one.....and the vet in the boma told me they only sell de-wormer and do flea dips on Fridays. Its an ABOMINATION!!! Oh well. Other than that, things are just putting along as usual. Sunday, a US-based organization called Africare came and held a village-wide meeting. I got to sit up front with all the chiefs....everyone things its normal to have the crazy foreigner sit up front with all the dignified chiefs but it cracks me up every time.

Before the meeting my group village headman (see bottom for chief-hierarchy) told me I should go say hello to all the women. I did. They told me I should marry the chief. When I reminded them that he already has a wife, I was reminded that polygamy is TOTALLY acceptable here. They said I can be his second wife. Goodie! (this was his sister, note, making the suggestion) Anyway, to wiggle myself out of the situation I told them that I can't be a second wife because I plan on having two husbands and that would be just too many people. They said I can't because I'm a women. I said tough bananas that's how its going to be. BAM...gender empowerment. Consider yourself developed Malawi. Anyway, since turning 24, every women in my village has decided to inform me of every single man they know and asking me if they should bring him to my house for me to look at an approve or deny. I politely decline. It's they're mission to get me to marry a man in my village and stay there forever....which is sweet in a way. They really do like me!

Chief Hierarchy:

President

upper-level governmental dignitaries (eg. Members of parliament act as go-between between the government and the district assembly but they are also part of the district assembly, this is sort of messy because Malawi is still currently attempting a decentralization process)

District Commissioner (they closes thing we have to a governor from what I can tell...only he/she has a lot of influence but no REAL direct power)

District Assembly (all the important people assemble in the district...go figure)

Traditional Authority (TA Mabukha, mine, has about 8 Group Village headman under him with about the same amount of villages under them. There are about 5 Traditional authorities per district)

Group Village Headman/woman (My GVH has 8 villages under him) My GVH is Chief Duswa.

Village Headman/woman (in charge of 1 village) My Village headman and GVH happen to be the same person because each GVH is also a VH. Its rectangles and squares, not all rectangles are squares but all squares are rectangles...if that helps.

Sub-chief

Villagers.

I'm on the same rung as the villagers.

Anyway, give me dog names. She's a girl.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Internet connection

for me, is now free. Thanks MMCT.

Today, I received my birthday package from my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad for all the pictures! and the battery charger....and the GRE prep book..I forgot I asked for that and was stressing about where I was going to find one so I can get my study on and they maybe someday in the future get my grad-school on. Yeah!

I'm still waiting to hear back from PCPP about borehole donation, i the mean time, its making me crazy. To dull my craziness, I have officially biked over 100 km in the last 5 days. I went to the boma and back Monday, to the market on Tuesday. To the boma and back again on Wednesday, then to Bris village that evening, back home Thursday and boma (and I will go back this afternoon) today. That's three trips to the boma at 18 km each way. Plus a trip to the market (maybe 10km round trip and a trip to and from Bri's place for a grand total of 150ish km (the distance to andfrom Bri's place is an estimate). That sounds like a lot. According to my phone that's 93+ miles! Lets just say I'm preparing for the STP....2 years ahead of time. :). My bike is like a lambourgini. Anyway...

I finally got hooked up to the internet at the Mulanje Conservation trust, thanks to my other site-mate john so here I am. I'm not promising more posts, but I can at least promise longer ones.

While I'm waiting for borehole stuff to go through (which is frustratingly slow) I'm writting a grant for an oilpress so a women's group in my village can make peanut oil and sell it (rather than selling it as it is important from Mozambique)...besides...they're peanut farmers, it only makes sense. We'll see if that works out.

I called the doctor this week and went off of Mefloquin, the anti-Malarial medication I have been on since coming to contry. Not only did I get crazy dreams (even weirder and MORE lifelike that the ones I always had....I didnt think it was possible either) but I will, hopefully, no longer have these crazy mood swings that I've been having (not normal). Next week my boss comes from Lilongwe to do a site visit and with her she's bringing Doxycycline...a daily anti-Malarial pill instead of the weekly, Mefloquin. We'll see if I can remember to take it....

We had a crazy rain storm yesterday afternoon with HAIL! I never ever thought to see hail in Africa but it was there. Little kids collected the hailstones with peices of cloth (so the water drained) and had themselves some frosty beverages in this humid tropical paradise....awesome. They thought I was crazy because I didn't...I just watched. I did, however figure out that I need to clean my gutters and that my roof leakes more than I remembered. Maybe I'll try to patch it with nsima haha.

I got a visit from a grad student doing research in Mulanje (ex-Peace Corps Volunteer) yesterday. Other than having to tell everyone in my village that no, he's not my husdband or my boyfriend, we had a good time hanging out, playing bananagrams and watching the rainstorm...it was almost like being back in 'merika.

You know what I'm going to miss upon returning to the states? When I'm riding my bike and someone passes me going the other direction (because I don't let people pass me going the same direction...that means race!) and they point at me and say "'MERICAN!!!" I find it enduring, for no particular reason.

Because of the rainstorm, the water tap started working for a bit but not long enough for me to get water so its still a bike ride away.....I need to take a day and make a ton of trips for water. Its silly of the world to make water the hardest to find when people need it the most...when its hot andsticky and bathing and drinking is necessary. I broke down and washed all my neglected dishes today. I had been putting it off because I didn't want to waste the water on them but it was getting pretty bad...and smelly. Its done now. Next water-intensive chore that I've been neglecting? Laundry. Maybe I can wait until the rainy season? Bad idea. So far only drinking water and bathing have been making the cut. Bathing only makes the cut because of that abscess...otherwise I'd really be saving water!

Well, that's enough for now.

What's on the agenda for next week? I'm bringing two members of the peanut butter group in Bri's village to the village next to mine to teach them to make Peanut Butter. I'm also going to teach another group in my village to make it. This is partially to help them with income generation, and largly because homeade peanut butter is tastier than store bought and I cut store-bought peanut butter from my budget to make room for other things....like ketchup! That is that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

borehole update/I'm 24

For those who are out of the loop, or not so much and are just curious, here is your update:

I have submited a proposal to the Peace Corps Partnership Program to get a link on the web for people to donate to put a borehole at the primary school in my village. I'm currently waiting as the proposal jumps its way though the bureaucratic rungs that is an government operation. I'm sure I am incessantly and thoroughly annoying my superiors as I e-mail and call them all the time to see if there is any way I can speed along the process but they keep telling me that they're going as fast as they can and I will be informed when progress has been made or if there is anything I can contribute. I am trying to get the borehole dug next month before the rainy season kicks into full gear, raising the water table. I had a meeting last week with the local school committee and village development committee concerning the 25% community contribution that is both required by PCPP and necessary for local ownership of the project. It was decided that every student at both the primary and secondary school (over 3,300 students) will bring 10 Malawian Kwacha every week for 7 weeks until they reach the grand total of 70MK (about 45 cents) per student which is about 28% leaving a 3% buffer for those who either can't pay, or fail to contribute their full amount. So that is that. As soon as I hear of the proposal approval in Washington, I will call the borehole contractors and set a date for sometime around Thanksgiving.

For those who are concerned or interested in donating, keep checking my blog and asking my family because as soon as I know that the link is up, they will, then you will know. As for now, I am hoping for sometime in the next 2 weeks but expecting it before the month is over.

Thank you for those who are interested. This borehole will affect thousands of people in my area who are in dire need of safe drinking water. This will be the most important thing I do with my entire service and I am grateful for those who have shown interest in helping both me and my community here.

Also, I had an AWESOME birthday hanging out in my village. I spent the afternoon, while my phone was charging, hanging out with a friend of mine who kept insisting on singing to me and have people give me presents....which I refused...except for the peanuts. It was great. Thanks to everyone who called or tried to call! Sorry my phone battery didn't last through the day (or even though out conversation mom). I'M 24!

Oh! The internet cafe just turned on the AC! Oh what a challenged life I lead! Its actually cooled off a bit this week, it was cool enough to bike to the boma (where I am now) this morning...I should head back though before it gets too hot.

Miss you all!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Asimayi Samamva Kutentha!

'Women don't feel heat'

Except for me...its HOT. I have never lived in a place where you can lay on the ground in the shade under a tree wearing a skirt and a tank top...not moving at all and still have sweat drip down you. My poor Northwest body is not used to this weather...maybe soon it will be. Its beautiful though. According to my thermometer its around 95+ but its humid. Oh well. I'll get used to it.

Last weekend I went to Liwonde national park to help with the game count. The first day, my site-mate, Bri, me, and two park gaurds (who only took a bottle of juice, a package of cookies, and a giant gun) walked from one end of the park to the other (about 14 km). We counted animals. We saw bush pigs, wart hogs, kudu, and tons of smaller animals that you only see on the discovery channel. Awesome. After we finished for the day we went back to the hostel we were staying at and watched the monkeys run around like the owned the place....it was a lot like that part of Jungle Book with the louis Armstrong monkey....awesome. They were really baboons, though. Anyway, the next day we got up early in the morning again, to finish before the hottest part of the day. We were dropped off by a water hole in the middle of a flood plane. We sat on a termite hill for 4 or 5 hours and counted more animals. We didn't see hippos or rhinos but we did see ELEPHANTS ELEPHANTS ELEPHANTS!! Also, we saw more bush pigs, wart hogs, water buffalo, ect ect. It was amazing. Yes, Dad, they were African elephants, not asian elephants.

After the game count was over, Bri, me, and Sara, another volunteer headed back to my place (we got a great hitch so we made it back before dark) where we hung out for a couple days. Sara made birthday cake for Bri and I's birthdays (Bri's is 2 days before mine). My cat stole a piece of birthday cake...then puked it up this morning on my porch. There was blue frosting. It was especially gross.

Work is the same. I met with my chief yesterday. Also, yesterday I taught a youth club how to write a proposal for a grant. Today I have a micro-lending/chicken-rearing womens group coming to my house for a meeting. Tomorrow I'm meeting with another women's group that does mushroom farming. This weekend I'm going to town to celebrate my birthday....that should be fun.

That's really all for now. Hope everyone's well.

Amy

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blantyre

I'm in Blantyre. I refused to pay for a bus and cars were not jumping at the chance to give me a ride so it looks like I'm crashing here for tonight (staying the night here is still cheaper than paying for bus fare all the way to Blantyre hence, the hitchhiking). I realize this means nothing to you, reader, but I just don't like to pay for things....ask my family for verification. Anyway, I left Lilongwe early this morning (but 2 hours after I normally leave....about 5:30) . I walked from Mufasa's where I slept to the bus depot. I sat and waiting on a minibus (because they don't leave until they're full) for a couple hours (I had a lot of luggage with me because I've been gone for the last couple of weeks, so I didn't want to walk out of town). Anyway, the bus finally headed out and dropped me right outside of town where I waiting for another couple hours until finally the police took me about 2 hours outside of Blantyre. I was tired and wanted to rest, and ditch the obligation to have a conversation, so I told them I didn't speak chichewa and spent the rest of the 4 hour car ride eaves dropping on a conversation the driver and other passenger didn't think I understood. That was exciting...and educational. That ride dropped me off a couple hours outside of Blantyre where I waited for another couple hours for a ride the rest of the way (still optimistic at this point about reaching Mulanje before dusk). A nice car driven by two Ethiopian men picked me up and took me all the way into town. By the time I was dropped off in Blantyre and thinking about my next move toward my house, I realized that I didn't have time to get home before dark, and didn't want the extra stress of traveling close to dusk by myself, so I headed to a hostel where I will spend the rest of the night before I finally head back to my house in the morning....for free, hopefully.
I'm here tonight, at my house tomorrow night, Wednesday, hopefully, I have a contractor coming to my primary school in my village to give me a price for drilling a bore hole there, then Wednesday night at my house, Thursday I'm back in Blantyre meeting a friend, and Friday, off to Liwonde for the game count. I'll take pictures. After the game count is over I'm looking forward to getting some work done in my village, and not leaving until its time to come back to Lilongwe for thanksgiving at Peace Corps country director's house. For now, at least, I'm tired of wandering around...luckily its going to be awesome, but short lived and I'll have a couple months to get sick of being stagnant again. It's really a great life I'm living. I love it.
I don't really have much of anything to say but I splurged and payed for an hour of internet (instead of my typical 30 minutes) and now have so much time.
Birthday shout out (wow, I can't spell or speak anymore...Diana, you're right...is that right? It looks funny to me. Then again, I ALWAYS have trouble with the word garage) to Meredith and Kristen!!
People are speaking german around me.
So many people are switching off Mephloquine (my anti-malarial medication) because it has altered their personalities and made them crazy-ish that not I'm starting to be paranoid that I'm going crazy. Am I? Its all in my head.
Projects: I need to do some grant writing (I finally learned how...mostly). I want to get an oil press for a group in my village to starting pressing oil as an income generation activity. I want them to tie it to some sort of micro-finance organization for start up capitol and longevity purposes but I haven't quite worked out all the kinks in my head. We'll see how that turns out. I also am in the process, as many of you know, of writing a grant for a bore hole, but before I can finalize all the details I need a price, for budgeting purposes, obviously. The problem, and hold up, with that is the contractor. I have the contact information for a few different contractors, so I can price around. The issue, however, is getting them to show up. Before they will commit, or even suggest a price, they suggest a site-visit to investigate things like the water table, and the surrounding area. Its hard to get them to actually show up. Anyway, as previously mentioned, I have a meeting with a contractor on Wednesday, we'll see if he actually shows up, I'm not holding my breath.
Also, I want to do some work with perma-culture. During In service training, we had the opportunity to go to a couple's house who used to be peace corps volunteers and not live a bit outside of Lilongwe doing work with perma-culture, mostly as it relates to food security on the village level. Interesting. The point of all this rambling (and these are not even a nugget of all the ideas flying around me head, which is the entire point of IST) is that I have come back from IST engergized, revitalized, and excited to do some projects in my area.
I need to remember to buy candles before I get into my village, I forgot that I ran out of them and didn't buy anymore (I had some minor budgeting issues at the end of the last pay period).
Lastly, I have been hearing through the grapevine that some of you want to visit me (those of you who know me well, not those of you who just internet-stock, that's weird). I don't know what is stopping you. Send me an email: amymcross@gmail.com. I'd be happy to give you the low down on what awesome things there are to do in Malawi, why you should visit me, what you should bring, any logistical things, and how easily it would be to come here, even alone. Malawi is Africa for beginners. Also, I know my way around now....mostly. The point is, if you have a bit of money saved up (you know, for a plane ticket and stuff) and you've always, or even just recently, wanted to visit Africa, now is your chance. I have a guest room, and my door is always open to friends....especially friends who bring chocolate.

The hot season is here, however, its warm.

Ok, that's all for now (probably for a long while, that shouldn't surprise you). I'll try to think of something cooler to say next time other than just rambling about this and that....

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana

Hey there! Woah, I just realized that its been over a year since I graduation. Way over a year. Its weird to think back to this time last year when I was just finishing up on staff at Holden and preparing to hit the road (fail) before I headed off to Malawi....in fact, tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of the day I found out I was coming to Malawi (I'm not sure why I remember that date). Anyway, for those of you who have been faithfully (and probably bored) reading my blog since then, my how time flies.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I survived IST

I just came from In service training in Dedza at the college of forestry. A few weeks ago I got a free hitch all the way to Lilongwe in a matolla carrying cement. I got to Lilongwe, stayed one night, met my friend, Katy, and headed up to Mzuzu. We stayed a night in Mzuzu, had the best hamburger I've had since I've been in Malawi, hung out with some south african men and a dutch couple who were at the same hostil, and headed to Nkhata bay the next morning. The lake is amazing. It's endless like an ocean but freshwater like a lake. It's like the wave pool in wildwaves...withouth the floating bandaids....there aren't any bandaids here.

A bunch of Peace Corps Volunteers and I hung out on the lake for a couple days then headed down to Dedza for training. We were there for a week hanging out and enjoying each others company.

The next week, our counterparts came. We learned about soap-making, jam cooking, peanut butter making, tree budding and grafting, ect, ect. It was a lot of information and now I'm ready to get back to site.

This morning Peace Corps took us a bit outside of lilongwe to learn about permaculture, then we got a ride (non-peace Corps) into the city where I am right now. I'm sticking around until Tuesday morning so I can get some things done in the office and not have to make the trip up here for a long long time.

Oh, and I finally took giardia medication after 4 months of on and off illness. YEAH!

I'll have internet for the next couple of days so I will try to think of something to say....

In the mean time, Diana put ALL of my pictures up so look at those. Thanks Diana!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pictures from Malawi

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2075466&l=a089b1f246&id=44902613

Here are the first pictures from Amy in Malawi. They took hours to upload so I am sorry that they are out of order. All the pictues of the Liberty bell were taken when Amy was in Philly right before she left. This is only the first 200 of 534 pictures. Amy will provide the descriptions when she gets internet access again.
Diana.

Pictures 200-399 are at this link
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2075484&id=44902613&l=634748c277

Pictures 400-536 at this link
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2075508&id=44902613&l=b782faf452

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mt. Mulanje

I made it...I hurt, but I made it. The largest rock face in Africa. It was absolutely beautiful. A group of 6 of us made it up and down after spending three nights and 4 wonderful days up on the mountain, returning the day before last. Pictures to come in a few weeks. We climbed Sipitwa peak, the highest of all of them all in all totaling almost 10,000 feet in a few days (hence the soar muscles). It was wonderful and I definitely plan on doing it again...after I get paid. I came back to my village yesterday and spent the day walking around (slowely) making my normal rounds. today, I woke up early to head to the boma (back to work) where i have been waiting around for different meetings to happen. After all that, as soon as I sat down to check my e-mail, my flip-flop broke. Ugg. Oh well.

More details about the hike next week, for now, 30 minutes of internet doesn't leave much room for anything. Thanks everyone for the letters and packages. My Peace Corps service is really starting to pick up, I'm getting busier and busier every day. I can already see the time flying by.

Also, yes, the second turkey (the soap eater) has been slaughtered and eaten. Delicious. Now I can plant cantalope.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My turkey ate some soap

I couldn't prevent it. I'm worried. Today, in the internet cafe people are arguing about Manchester United vs. Liverpool. Very important. Very relevant to everything. I don't have anything to say really. I hear the rain has officially ended (late late late) so I'm a bit frightened since water was an issue in my area back when it rained every day. My Washintonian self is worrying. Oh well. Thanks for the letters. I should devote more time to blogging if for no other reason than because when I update my blog, people call me and offer to send me stuff (Kanagopants). Does this count as an update? Oh, need to publish before the internet is gone. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oh, mumagona mu thupwa...



"Oh, you sleep in a pocket..."

I was describing to a little girl my sleeping bag (they don't exist here) when she told me that I sleep in a pocket. Upon reflection, I
've decided she's right. Last night was the coldest it has been since I've been in Malawi...it dropped below 60F. So I zipped myself up in my 40+ mummy bag put another blanket on top, put on my wool socks and read until I could feel my toes again. I'd say I've adjusted to the climate. To all of you who write me letters complaining about the summer heat and assuring me that its nothing compared to what I'm enduring, I envy you. You are warm and I can't remember what it feels like to be exessively warm, even overheated. I've been assured, however, that the hot season is coming and I will be sorry in no less than 2 weeks that I ever wished for heat. I beleive them.

I other news, a lot of meetings have been canceled because of the rain and funerals (devistatingly connected here) so I have had time on my hands. What have I done with that time? Taught some little girls how to knit and fell in love with Kurt Vonegut books....and a lot of wandering around, which has become my usual (and recognized by my neihbors) routine.

In about two weeks I will have been in Malawi for 6 months. Half a year. As that monument comes closer and closer, I can't seem to wrap my head around it. It's been 6 months since I said goodbye to friends and family and headed for the wonderful (but cold) 'Warm Heart of Africa'. Time is picking up exponentially (still) and every day (mostly) I'm absolutely beyond thrilled to have the privilage to live here.

I decided to do some cosmetic things to my house. I am going to re-lime, maybe even spring for paint. If I ever get around to it, maybe pictures will follow. I should stop promising pictures. They'll come eventually but I don't know when. You'll just have to be suprised.

Yesterday were initiations in my village. Groups of people, after church ends, leave and slowly walk (in a dancy kind of way) down the road ( I didn't figure out where because there's only so long you can go on dancing). Dancing Dancing Dancing. When I got tired of dancing (we're not big saunter-down-the-street-while-dancing-people in the US) people kept on asking me why? I told them (because being tired isn't a viable excuse) that I have shame. "Osachita Manyazi". Don't have shame. Oh, ok. Thanks for those instructions. Malawi has, however, brought out my inner dancer. I can think of a few people who will be excited to hear that.

Sorry I hadn't had an update in forever, the world was working against me in the form of a series of blackouts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Amy, Mukuvala dresi?

"Amy, you're wearing a dress?"

http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press.view&news_id=1599

Look at the first picture. On the right is President Bingu. In the back with the brown dress (that I sowed out of a sheet last week) is ME! The President promised us he would dance so I took my opportunity and boogied close to him. When I was close enough I shook his hand. Sneak-attach presidential greeting! Anyway, the luncheon was wonderful and the entire affair was a lot of fun. There was a band so of course there was dancing (which is pretty much what happens whenever peace corps -Malawi gets together). It was a really fun trip and I'll update more when I have more than 3 minutes left on my internet. So excited!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Amy, Chifukwa??

"Amy, because?" There isn't really anything interesting about this...I just hear it a bajillion times a day....so as you can see my life hasn't changed too much, Mom.

Ok, so I came upon and interesting discovery this week...mostly due to my ever-increasing chichewa skills:

I'm always, ALWAYS followed by a small (sometimes large) gaggle of children. What I didn't realize until a few weeks ago, however, is that they're not just playing in the same direction as I am going...whenever I go anywhere within my village. They're following me. I walked to the post office this week and noticed two of my little neighbour (I decided to give into the European spell check- hence the u) boys (who basically live at my house) following me closely and stopping whenever I stopped under the (false) pretence that they were playing (that's what they said when I asked them what they were doing). They were just pusing a tire around with a stick (that's what little kids do for fun...when they're not spying on me). I send some letters (yeah!) and headed back to my house only stopping a few times to talk to some friends and do this and that. Keep in mind that I walked over a mile there and back. When I got back to my house a group of maybe 15 little boys (about 8 year-olds) gathered together outside my fence and listened as the two who followed me gave a VERY detailed description of where I went, what I did, how long I was gone, who I stopped to talk to, where, what we talked about, ect. I would find it creepy or annoying if it wasn't so adorable. Since my discovery I've been more aware and I realized that of the group of 20 little kids who normally hang around, 2-5 are always sent to tale me. Weird. I don't think I'll ever get used to it. Oh well.

In other news, since there is such an issue with gender rolls here, I decided to start teaching little kids about "my culture" when they're at my house (I tell them that inside my fence, we're in America so they have to follow my culture). Whenever there are boys and girls at my house (every day) the little girls always get pushed to the ground while boys sit on my bench. I started telling them that in my culture if a woman wants to sit, out of respect, a man offers his seat and HE sits on the ground. Now I have little boys asking nicely for girls to sit on the bench and they sit on the ground or stand around. It's only funny because women aren't treated well here.

Oh yeah, and Wednesday I'm going to eat lunch at the President (of Malawi)'s house. I guess I'm headed to Lilongwe again next week. I won't promise pictures because I don't want to jinx it.

Until next time...my wrist is cramping (my typing muscles don't get a lot of use here). Also, I had another marriage proposal this morning for the driver of the car I got a hitch in, so I'm up to 20!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tikufuna kucheza koma tikuwopa a makuketembos!

"We want to chat but we're scared of the turkey's!"-some little kids peeping inside my fence.

Hello! Lilongwe was a blast but I'm happy to return to beautiful Mulanje. The trip back was significantly less exciting than the trip there. We left the hostile we were staying in right as the sun was coming up and grabbed a minibus to the big bus depot. From there we hopped on a big bus which left quickly. 5 hours later, we were in Blantyre. We stopped at the bank and to grab some food, then were on the road again. Minibus to Limbe, then another minibus to the Mulanje boma where we had to switch buses twice. Made it back Mimosa and walked the 2km to my house. Walked in right as the sun was setting. Such is traveling to my house from long distances. Sun up to Sun down...but worth it. I have the most beautiful site in all of Malawi. I made it back to my house just before dark, with barely enough time to visit some people in my village, tell them I was back and have them jump up and down (which was a really nice reception after 13 hours of travel). I slept well that night. it was really nice to see people who told me they missed me while I was gone. It was also nice to hear that a few people noticed one of my turkey's was missing and were worried...until I told them I ate it. Then they laughed at me.

Yesterday was the Malawian Independence day (but the 46ths); I spent the day restocking my water supply, watching soccer, cleaning my house, and re-settling in after being gone for a couple days, and hanging out with my neighbor (spellcheck is angry that I don't want to put a 'u' in neihbor...stupid ex-brittish colony...sorry Kristen). Today, I rode my bike to the boma to check mail. THANKS AUNT SUZIE!! You're amazing. Also, halla to Abby C. for the letter. As for the rest of the letters being held hostage in Lilongwe, maybe in a couple weeks. I'm going to return sometime this month for a large event that I will explain better when I have more details...but you should be excited for me!

In other news, I saw about 20 monkey's today riding my back in the same place I saw the one last week on the way to Lilongwe! So that's awesome!

There isn't really anything else to report but its beautiful here, I still have diarrhea and my chichewa is getting better every day. This afternoon I'll go to a women's group meeting for people who make jam...or grow mushrooms, I can't remember. There's still hope for pictures, I know I keep promising. Be patient; they're coming.

Aside from the diarrhea that just won't quit, I'm doing really well here! Thinking of you!

P.S. Cross family: don't think for a second I'm unaware of the fact that our weekly conversation was about 2 minutes long. You owe me 58 more minutes! I have SO much to tell you!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

I came with the intention of putting up pictures (sorry to taunt you) but the computer at the internet cafe isn't recognizing my thumb drive so you might have to wait longer. In the mean time, please forgive me for my rediculously horrible blogging. I know- fail. On the bright side, story:

So, yesterday morning I headed out of my house at about 6am when the sun was rising. I walked to the road and caught a hitch (two in a row, actually) to my boma. From the boma I took a minibus to Limbe, then another to Blantyre where I got on a big bus headed toward Lilongwe. After being assured that the bus was leaving in the next 10 minutes (so I expected to wait a long time) I sat on the bus and waiting for an hour and a half. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Because, naturally, the bus won't pull out until its full. Finally, we pulled out. Right when we pulled out a man stands up and stars praying for a safe journey and the top of his lungs. He finished, with a hoarse voice, then started reading passages (in Chechewa) from the bible and preaching to us walking up and down the isles. Meanwhile, I'm trying to help the women next to me defend her week and a half old baby from all the luggage that was trying to fall down on them. The preacher got off the bus and we were off and running. A half hour outiside of Blantyre, the bus breaks down. The conductor refused to refund so I could try to hitch or take other transportation so I waiting another hour and a half on the side of the road with a ton of angry Malawians for a new bus to come. It did, eventually and we were on out way again. We (my cite-mate and I) arrived in Blantyre, waiting for a friend who was 20 minutes behind us on a different bus, took a taxi to the hostile we are staying in and proceeded to see and hang out with all the people we haven't seen for 2 months. Also, pizza.

Today-bagels. also, we did things like headed to the office, walked around the city, charged electronics, blah blah blah. This afternoon we'll go to the embassadors house for hamburgers and good things that represent the 4th of July. I'm not sure how long I'm sticking around here but I find myself missing my site (which I'm taking as a good sign this early in the game (2 months). I've officially been in Malawi for over 4 months!! Chichewa is coming along quickly. My counterparts whife has started telling me that its a problem that I understand so much because I shouldn't be able to know what people are saying most of the time when I've only been here 4 months. I take it as a compliment.

In other news, I received a phone call from a really good friend, it made my week (which is big since I ate pizza yesterday). I'm recovering from about 2 solid weeks of diahrea (I know you want to know-especially the Ebenezer crue) so now I have to deal with my counterpart and his whife telling me (in a very conserned way) that I'm shrinking and I need to eat more...try Amy, try (they keep saying). ha. Anyway: Major family, I like anything chocolate and most candy. Reallly, anything you wouldn't pawn off on your younger sibling after trick or treating sounds great to me!

The letters have stated to ROLL IN so a big thanks to everyone who decides to make me happy. I promise to be a better blogger!!! PROMISE! Someday you'll see pictures. Worse case scenario, I deal with the postal system and have someone there post them. We'll see what happens. Aren't you excited?

OH. I SAW A MONKEY YESTERDAY! On the way out of Mulanje, I was in the back of a pick-up truck (very safely buckled in, Mom) and my cite-mate, Bri, pointed it out. So there. I'm in Africa and I saw a monkey.

Also, on top of learning chichewa, I've picked up basic greetings in another local tribal language, Chilomwe. People think its HILARIOUS.

2 weeks ago I fell off my bike because I was looking at a bird. I scraped up my leg but its healing nicely (no thanks to the honey my counterpart insisted on smearing on the cut...that just made my leg sticky like a child).

I killed a turkey. I feel liberated as an ex-vegitarian. I cut its head off then brought it to my counterparts house to share. It was just too creapy...pooping on my floor and looking me in the eye and all. You'd do the same thing. I feel more rugged now...Bear would be so proud!

Anyway, life is great here, its frustrating at times but then I realize how rediculous some situations are and I think its funny again. I miss you all and love you lots! I think about you all the time, send more chocolate!

Amy

Friday, May 28, 2010

To make my sister Happy

Almost 3 months ago I landed in beautiful Malawi on a sunny tropical day. We were received by most (probably ) of the PCV's here at 6the airport, introduced to everyone and promptly rushed off to Dedza (an hour South of Lilongwe). We spent a week in Dedza as t a college of forestry learning everything from using a chim to the offensiveness of sniffing food (that one still gets me for those of you who know about the pickle test). After week 0, we were taken to two villages close to t6he college for 5 weeks of home-stay with a family. I was in Chikanda staying with a family of 4. The 2 parents were both 30. I also had 2 younger hose brothers, a 4 year old, Dalandila, who quickly warmed up to me and by the end of my stay refused to leave my side, and a 1 year old who was as scared of me as he was of chickens. I lived in a tiny 1 room mud, thatched-roof house facing my hose families house. Every day, we went to language, culture and/or technical sessions (except Sundays). Those were some of the most interesting 5 weeks ever. I fumbled my way through Chichewa, admired the beauty of Malawi, and danced with some teenage girls every night after sunset to some songs I didn't understand. Homestay, though while it was happening felt like the longest days of my life, went by in a blur in retrospect. T the end of the 5 weeks in Chikanda, there was a going away ceremony..complete with singing, dancing, speeches and the Guli Wankuli (you already know too much).
The next morning we loaded up everything we collected from PC and were taken back to the college for a few days of administrative sessions and debriefing. We spent a few days enjoying each others company, then were dropped off at the Dedza bus stage with direct6ons to our sites and told to go....come back next week.

5.5 hour Minibus ride (bad Idea) one Rockin night in Blantyre, and another few buses later and we were in Mulanje (3 PCV's here) on ashadow visit. My site-mate and I spent a couple days at out other sit6e-mates house seeing the forestry office, boma, ect, then were on our way again to my cie , then Bris, then a Pastoral Center for a week of intensive Language classes. There ,we reconnected with the 7 people in the southern region, I had the greatest shower ever, and we ate like kings for the last time..probably. After a week of getting in trouble for not speaking in Chichewa for a week, we were taken back to the collage for a few more days. We were prepared for swearing in, cleaned up, and taken to Lilongwe where we took an oath to uncle sam and ate until it hurt. We also got to read some lovely letters from families telling (everyone else, at least) how proud they are....mine said that my room is now the sail locker (I love you too, Dad). Late night that night, then early the next morning, we packed up and were dropped at site...alone.
I've now been at site 4 weeks..as of yesterday. I'm learning Chichewa, getting my house the w3 way I want it, learning to do basic lack of electricity and running water things, and figuring out whats needed most in my area. I've made friends in my village now and am beginning to settle in though some days are still really long an d frustrating, I live in a absolutely beautiful place with wonderful people (who are thoroughly confused by the fact that there is no Nsima in the US.).
I'm learning to love the temperature,although Winter is coming and I find myself wearing long pants and a thermal when its 70F. I can bike to my site-mates house in 1 hour (door to door) which is about 15km (I also switched to SI) so that's comforting if things are frustrating (which happens when you're 7000 miles from your family, little kids think you have candy all the time and you don't speak chichewa. but I'm learning. I get about 10 hours of sleep a night and I get 12 hours of solid daylight. I have 2 turkeys whose main mission in life is to fun in my house and poop on my floor (all the time) and a cat who didn't take well to being given away...she returned. I think that's pretty much it.

Every call, letter, e-mail, facebook message, text, thought, totally makes my day.

P.S. I just tried to post pictures but it was unsucessful because of the speed of the internet...this internet situation, however, is temporary. I'll shrink them down when I'm not paying for internet and try again next week...or you can wait until I get faster internet. I'M TRYING MEGAN! haha. Miss you all!! In the mean time, you can e-mail me pictures if you shink them down a TON and e-mail them :0. Missing you!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hello again!

I promise one day soon I'll actually sit down and try to upload some pictures....someday. In the mean time, go to peace corps journals and read the blogs of the recently inducted volunteers. Thats pretty much what happened to me :). Also, you could call my mom...or ME! Its free for me to receive calls! 265991950393. I would LOVE to talk to people. I think skype is 17 cents a minute or something. I also receive texts for free so if you want to spend 20 cents to make my day...you can :). Just saying. Things are great here, just feeling out the area to figure out what there is.

Missing you all! I talk to my family all the time so if you REALLY want to know want to know hat I"m doing ask my mom.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Greetings from Mulanje!!

So Wednesday morning the group of 21 of us took an oath to Uncle Sam partied with the current volunteers that night and were shipped off to our sites the very next morning. This is going to be short post because I'm paying for internet at my market as I'm still working out contacts for the free internet I keep hearing rumours of. So I'm in Mulanje now, where I'll be living for the next 2 years. I'm slowly getting to know people in my village and fumbling through enough chichewa to have small spurts of conversation. Sorry, you won't be getting those pictures today that I promised last time I had internet. Someday, you will see pictures. In the mean time, call my parents if you want information on what I'm up to past what I have the capacity to type in the next 5 minutes....I talk to them more than they want to talk to me. To my friends and family, people I've met in random places, the US government (I know you read this), and the friends of family of the other Peace Corps Volunteers here in Malawi who do almost as much blog-stalking as my family, hello. You should visit Malawi, its beautiful!! That's all I really have time to say. I cleaned all the scorpians out of my house...my turkeys are creepy and my chichewa is coming along quickly. There are SO many letters in the mail. I have a new mailing address: Amy Cross, PO Box 119, Mulanje, Malawi, Southern Africa. Mail me letters!!! or better yet, CHOCOLATE.

Thinking of you!

Amy in Mulanje.

P.S. facebook doesn't like that I'm trying to log-on from Africa so there is no facebook contact until next time I'm in my boma. Sorry Sarah.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like olympus over the sarangeti!!

Swearing in on Wednesday. I'll post more when I get more of a chance but I'm here, its beautiful and you should visit! Send me chocolate! I'll post pictures within the next 2 weeks. That's a promise. I'm thinking of you all and love the letters and package (thanks jenni).

Amy

Monday, March 22, 2010

We finally got a letter from Amy!

Hey everyone (Diana here again)
I just wanted to let everyone know that we got our first letter from Amy today!!! She wrote it on Monday March 1st, her 2nd day in Malawi. It sounds like she is having lots of fun, and is excited to really get started in the training. Here is a link to be blog of one of the people in Amy's group, and describes a lot of what is in Amy's letter.

http://intothewarmheart.blogspot.com/

We found it interesting and thought you might too. Hopefully the next update on here will be from Amy herself!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Greetings from Philadelphia!!


Close-up of the pole (the next picture). Layers of rust and paint. It looked like it used to be a streetlight before electricity but who knows. Anything that close to Franklin's grave has to be important and historically significant, right? That's the problem when you're in a city older than your state, to many things to be fascinated by.

This pole didn't have a sign but I was in the historical district and it looked old so I thought I would give it some attention.


Philadelphia is so patriotic, they like to put cement blocks with amendments carved in them around the city.

Me with the Liberty Bell!

The Liberty bell with its old home in the background.




Its cracked....in case you didn't know.



Me and Susan B. Anthony, we go way back. Thanks Susan you know, for the right to vote and the whole suffrage movement thing.

China town (a few blocks away from the hotel).
Warning:This will be my last post from the United States and my last post for 8+ weeks. Try not to cry...

I arrived yesterday in the evening. I took a cab (my first cab ride) to the hotel. My cab driver was REALLY excited that I was paying cash and leaving the country: he asked me to marry him. That kind of made my day. I spent the night unpacking and repacking anxiously. This morning on the today show, they were in Vancouver B.C. showing video of Mt. Baker...there was a slight shock of how much I am going to miss the beautiful Pacific Northwest but not enough to keep my from going (sorry Grandma). I skyped my family a bit then headed out to see the liberty bell. No, I don't know what freedom taste like due to a lot of security but I did get to see it. Oh well. I snapped a few pictures, hit the gift shop for some postcards, then headed back to the hotel where I was meeting some folks from my group for lunch. I finally got my Philly Cheese steak. I think it would have been better if I appreciated steak...but I don't. Oh well, now I can say I've had one, right?

After lunch we had just enough time to come back, change, and meet for staging. 6-7 hours later, I'm an official Peace Corps Trainee (my identity for the next 8 weeks). Exciting!!!

After staging, a big group of us meet for dinner, I had sushi for the first time (I've seen the light) and then headed back here to finalize some packing decisions for the last time. I also found out that people not from Washington think people from Washington live off of sushi. Maybe some people do?

Anyway, there is a group of 21 of us (almost all here) and everyone seems pretty great. I'm excited!! I'm hearing that JFK is closed down so we'll see if we actually get to fly out tomorrow but I'm excited. Once we land in Lilongwe we'll be whisked off to training so we're all going to hit the ground running, despite the jet lag. Ready or not, here we come!!!

P.S. Note on the previous post: PLEASE if you send me something, send ukulele songs...your favorite or something I've heard. As much as I love Bob, there's only so much Dylan a girl can play on a four-stringed instrument before people want to throw rocks at her head. Thanks!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ukulele

Hello Guest blogger Diana is writing this for Amy today. Amy has taken her Ukulele with her and had a request for me to pass on. When you write her a letter, which I am sure all of you will be doing, please include Ukulele or Guitar Songs that you like, or think she should learn to play. Amy can play songs with chords or Tabs. You can find lots of songs on the internet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All my bags are packed; I'm ready to go



Tomorrow morning I leave my house at 5:am to go to the Seatac airport. My flight leaves at 8:30am and from there I'm off to staging. By mid-day Sunday I will be in Malawi starting off on the adventure of a lifetime. To say that I'm excited/nervous doesn't quite cover it. I am feeling every emotion you might imagine wrapped up in an awe of disbelief. We'll see what this adventure holds but I can only imagine how wonderful of an experience it will be.

To all of my friends and family, I would not be doing this if not for your constant support. You all mean more to me than I could ever explain.

Next time you hear from me I will have completed eight weeks of intensive language and job training.

For once, I'm at a loss for what to say out of shear anticipated exhaustion. Please write me letters and keep me updated on what is happening in your life. If you are feeling generous, send me candy (gummy things and chocolate, the darker the better). Also, send me pictures of you or us. I want to know how you are because I miss you already.

Amy Cross PCT
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 208
Lilongwe, Malawi
Africa

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Post for Packing

I'm losing energy on the packing front. Last week, packing was the most calculated/planned escapade I had ever embarked on; that being said, it has turned into this...
In other news, here is am mostly complete and deeply unorganized list of everything I am bringing:

  • Glasses (2)
  • Ukulele strings (2)
  • Floss (5)
  • Toothbrush (5)
  • Chapstick (2)
  • Hair-cutting scissors
  • Comb
  • Wind-up clock
  • capo
  • Swiss armyknife
  • headbands (2)
  • Calendar
  • Inhaler
  • Harmonica
  • ork gloves
  • books
  • 3 Musketeers
  • Hitchhikers Guide to the Galexy
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Bible
  • Peter Pan
  • Postcards for gifts (4)
  • Stationary (some)
  • Titanium spork
  • Netbook
  • External harddrive
  • headlamp
  • sleeping bag
  • gortex poncho
  • Inflatable Pillow
  • solar charger
  • ipod
  • knitting needles (2)
  • HIking boots
  • chacos
  • dressyshoes
  • sneakers
  • ukulele tuner
  • tape measure
  • cards (2)
  • solar charger accessories
  • mug
  • tent
  • sheets (full)
  • sewing kit
  • jewelry (cheap)
  • hair pins
  • kite
  • toothpaste
  • fishing line (to teach kids how to make kites)
  • deoderant
  • Colored pencils (presents)
  • spices (Rosmar, Basil, Cumin, cayan pepper)
  • Creole seasoning
  • nutella
  • chicken bullion
  • underwear (23)
  • seeds (11)
  • mouthwash
  • Shampoo/Conditioner (8 week supply of a 2 in1)
  • plyers
  • multi-head screwdriver
  • duct tape
  • ukulele
  • inflatable globe
  • Jeans (1 maybe 2 depending on space/weight)
  • dress pants
  • Tank tops (5)
  • T-shirts(7)
  • Blouses (3)
  • Long sleep T (1)
  • Bat6hingsuit
  • shorts (for sleeping-2)
  • capris spandex
  • long underwear
  • socks (2)
  • skirts (2)
  • hanky(5)
  • bras (8)
  • french press
  • 8" cast-iron skillet
  • metal spatula
  • knife
  • convertable pants
  • towels (2 thirsty ones)
  • thermometer
  • bunjee cords (3)
  • razor/refills
  • sweatshirt
  • flannel
  • slinky
and there you have it! Things I will add: short wave radio and bananagrams. I think I'm pretty much set.