Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nyumba yakupezeka....I hope

"A house is available...I hope"

So, while I'm still here in Lilongwe, enjoying rituals like the barbreaking party, representing the last night at Mufasa's (the backpacker's lodge where I've been staying for two and a half months) old location and the move to a different location. I had the honor and the privalage of taking the first swing at a giant pile of bricks and cement with a sledge hammer I could barely lift while a group of roughly 30 Canadians, 1 Englishman, 1 other American, and roughly 6 Malawian's cheered me on. Always a good time. Pictures to come as soon as I replace the batteries in my camera.

A good friend of mine from my village came through Lilongwe two days ago. He was north of here and headed through town on his way to Nsanje (as far south as you can go without being in Mozambique). He stayed long enough to have a fanta, see the office, and threaten a man who insists that I marry him. Thanks Namanya, it was a great visit. Not to taunt you with possible, false promises, but I have pictures of him here too, that you might get to see if I feel like it....and again, the battery thing.

In other, more exciting news, a house has been identified for me. Everyone, cross our fingers that it doesn't fall through, as these things have a bad habit of doing, thus, proving Murphy's law correct at every opportunity. Tomorrow, I'll leave Lilongwe and head down to Chiradzulu, where my new site is. I'll stay with a friend that night and go see the new house (one bedroom, 11km away from the office I'll be working with, no electricity- but hey, its a house), then head to Mulanje. After arrival in Malawi's most beautiful district, I'll visit Spoon (a good friend)'s daughter in the hosptital who is receiving treatment for the galoping consumption (as some would say) for the next two weeks after months of un-identifiable illness. She seems to be doing well, as far as I can tell from my breif, yet frequent phone conversations with her mother. After a short visit in the hostpital I'll go to Bri's house. Overnight at Bri's, then I'll stop by my old site to see some old friends on the way to Blantyre. A night in blantyre, then its off to the lake for a weekend of party and relaxation (if those two can be combined). I'm excited for a bit of roaming after being on the border of becoming a barnacle for so long. Awe, freedom, how you taunt me with your breezes.

What else is there to report? I was poked fun at yesterday for being pale for the first time in this country. Do we know what that means? I'm being a good little northwesterner and wearing sunblock! Be proud Mom and Doctor who will most likely treat my skin cancer that I could have given myself from being flaky. That can happen, you know. Flakiness leads to cancer, I hear.

Anyway, Mufasa's moves today after a long time planning. Hopefully I don't lose all of my worldy posessions in the process, especially since my leaving tomorrow would leave me with limited recovery time.

What else, what else, what else? PCPP has been signed off by Peace Corps Malawi and forwarded to Peace Corps- Washington DC so, hopefully that should be up soon, I will update when it is. Borehole!!

I think that's all for now, I'm hungry, and I do beleive its time for lunch!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kusowa nyumba.

"There is no house."

I left. I was out. Now I'm back.

Tuesday morning, I left Lilongwe and headed all the way down to my site in Mulanje. We met with my chief and said goodbye. From Duswa's house, we went and packed up my house and moved it all into Peace Corps transport. I said my goodbye's and we were on our way, to stay in Blantyre for the night. I left some furniture and Chuck at my house until I can come back and divvy it up amongst community members and peace corps volunteers in the area. I also got permission to go back to the village to continue projects (like the bore hole project) that I already started.

The next morning, I woke up early after staying at a friends house in Blantyre and headed to my new (most likely) site. I got there, only to find every person we needed to speak with in Blantyre for a meeting. On top of all of our contacts being out, there was no house for me. So, there we were, my boss, myself, and the driver, with a carload full of all of my possessions (minus my furniture) with no place to put it. We brought all my stuff to another PeaceCorps volunteer's house who lives in the district. After we left all of my stuff there and after speaking with the district health officer and a representative for the project I'll be working on, we headed back to Lilongwe, where I am right now.

So, basically, I am here until the district assembly (which is like a city council, but for the whole district) can figure out a house for me. There is a housing committee meeting on Friday, so I'm here until at least next week....homeless, still. I feel ok about it because the awesomeness of the job trumps my disappointed over still being homeless.

About the project: The opportunity (which will go through assuming adequate housing becomes available) is a job with UNICEF working with a project called WASH ( Water And Sanitation Health) advising on water and sanitation projects under the WASH umbrella for the entire district. I'm really excited. It's really a great opportunity.

Anyway, I'm heartbroken and upset over not being able to return to my village but I'm relieved that I can not only visit, but see through previous projects. I'm also excited that the village might also get another volunteer next year. Why I can visit when I want and finish projects and they can get a volunteer next year but I can't stay there now is beyond me, but I'll take what I can get. Anyway, like I said before, my being upset over not being allowed to live there anymore is trumped by my excitement over this new opportunity.

In other news, if any of you would like to see some great pictures of Malawi by a VERY talented photographer and good friend of mine check out Briana's blog at: http://www.brianascroggins.blogspot.com/ You won't regret it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Abwana anakana

The boss refused.

The final word is in, I can't return to Mulanje. Sometime (hopefully in the near future, but no one can know for sure) I will be headed down to look at a new position near Blantyre. Hopefully that works out. In the mean time, I'm around.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


So, I would first of all like to apologize for my lack of updates/communication for the last two months as I haven’t had much to say. On March 12th, due to a security issue (in reality, Peace Corps being over-protective because of recent policy changes as a result of re-occurring bad press) I was pulled from my site. Since then, after spending a week with the new trainees, I’ve been in Lilongwe. I’ve spent the last two months in Malawi’s capitol trying to decide if I want to stay in Malawi, as well as trying to find a new site for me to live for the next year before my close of service in April, 2012. These two tasks involved me sitting around the Peace Corps office, bored, a lot. Anyway, under the saying, “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” I’ve been silent (except for updates on the new trainees). So, here’s what happened (forgive me if I have already explained either partially or in full):

In December I found out some behaviors of my former counterpart that forced me to stop working with him because I did not want to be associated with him and those behaviors in a community, especially when we were both supposed to live a certain lifestyle, an example of development and behavior changes. I stopped working with him and cut off all communication between him, his family, and myself. I started working directly with the traditional authorities in the area as well as active community members (instead of a government-assigned forestry extension worker who only lived in the area because of a government assignment). After changing my professional associations within the community, I had become, in general, a more affective volunteer.

Some time after I had cut off communication with my old counterpart, I was informed, by the Peace Corps office, that he had been calling the man in charge of safety and security to ‘tell them what I was up to’. I was telling the Peace Corps office lies about what I was doing and who I was associated with at site in hopes of removing me from the area to make room for someone who would be more willing to work with him. After the 6th phone call, I was called into the office for an explanation. Rather than being unquestionably supported by personnel in the Peace Corps office, I was lectured for disrupting the relationship between Peace Corps and the department of forestry. After feeling I did, in no way, need to defend myself against the frustrated spouting’s of a rejected, and ego-bruised man, I went to the next highest authority to report my being unsupported by the staff in the office. Because of, what I can only imagine was a misinterpretation of my objections, said higher authority remembered my complaints in a different light.

Months later, when I was helping as the PCV of the week for the new trainees, I found out that the highest authority on safety and security for my region was coming to the college of forestry to lecture as an expert on safety and security. While he was in the area, a particular authority within the Peace Corps ladder decided it would be a good have me explain my situation to him. I explained it in the light of me not being supported by staff; he received it as a security report. After not more than a two minute conversation with me, he decided there was too much of a risk and I should be pulled from my site. One nightmare of a miscommunication.

All parties involved (except myself and former counterpart) had a meeting and decided to pull me from my village. The decision officially came from Peace Corps main office in DC. I spent the next two weeks trying to fight the decision and have it overturned. This process included phone calls, visiting my chief and community members, letter writing, ect. The decision remained the same. I started trying to find another site. I was offered three positions (including teaching abstinence-only education, working with a district forestry officer who asked me to do his job for him, and a village with a drunk for a chief), all availability due to the sub-par quality of the positions.

Update of the last two weeks: An ideal position has been made available to me but due to the amount of time I have already been out of site, the slow motion timing in which things here tend to run, and the unwillingness of my supervisor to do excess paperwork, that may not happen. Also, my old counterpart has been transferred to a different district, as per his request. These two situations are up in the air but will, with a little hope, find resolution within the next week.

In the mean time, I’ve been living in a backpackers lodge in the capitol in a room with 13 beds in it (most of which are filled with any combination of peace corps volunteers and/or travelers on any given night). The picture is the place where I’ve been sleeping for 2 months now (with exception of the few nights I spent in Blantyre or at Bri’s site). It has surely been interesting. No personal space, no alone time. I have, however, made contacts all over the world, which might or might not come in handy depending on the severity of my future hobo-ing. To protect any possible future contact I have made so to remain hospitable in any way possible. I show people around the city, I take them to the market, I offer myself up as a translator, ect.

All and all, given the situation (and day, of course) I feel I’m doing pretty well, especially considering the fact that I’ve been living out of a backpack for 2 months that when I packed I intend to be gone for 5 days.

Happy Easter, Happy May Day, Happy Cinco de Mayo, and more than anything…