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 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.


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.