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 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.



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:


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.



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 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 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 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.


Monday, October 4, 2010


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 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: 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 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!