Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Wonderful OLDER Sister!!!!!

No translation necessary.

Not a whole lot has happened since my last post but I'm here with access to internet so I might as well post, right? In the words of my Genius cousin, Jenni, "you know if you post more often you won't have to write as many words." Thanks Jenni <3.

So last week went by like any other week where I'm just going to work and not traveling a lot (which is actually kind of rare for me these days). The only exception was the weekend. Over the weekend I went to Mulhako Wa Alhomwe, which is a massive festival (it is estimated that about 40,000 people attended) in Mulanje celebrating the Lomwe people, a tribe located mostly in the Southern region of Malawi as well as in parts of Mozambique. There was traditional dancing, song, food, dress, ect. Seeing as how many cultural practices particular to different tribes in Malawi are being lost and forgotten (even the language of the Lomwe people, Chilomwe, is unknown by most people my age and younger, its only the older generation and the traditional authorities who know it), it was very interesting to get to see, first hand, the reincarnation of tribal and traditional pride, especially in a place when those things are lost or undermined by Westernization.

The festival was Sunday, since then I've been working all this week, until today. Today I head toward where I will be for Halloween...but more on that after it happens.

It is hot here. It was 90F inside my bedroom last night at 11:00pm. Hot. I bought the thick candles so they wouldn't melt and bend over like they did last year. Hot. I don't mind it though like i did last year, I found a fridge I can use while I'm at work so I can drink cold water. The only part of hot season that REALLY bothers me is that vegetables don't last. They wilt and then rot within one I never thought these words would leave my mouth (or my fingers, as it were) but there's only so many peanut butter sandwiches a girl can eat. Also, thing about the humidity, I'm drinking at least three Liters of water per day and still only peeing once...I guess I'll try to push for more (but not too many seeing as how I'm going to be on a bus for the next 12 hours).

They're not actually working, they're looking at pictures...but look how professional they look. My officemate and another co-worker.

A friend of mine in the office, Yami, the assistant forestry officer.

Yami was playing with my camera. This is me sitting in at my desk being the most productive human to ever live.

The ride back from the Lomwe festival of course everyone in the car wanted their picture taken. Everyone here always wants their picture taken.

President His Excellency Bingu Wa Muthalika.

Some Mozambiquan guy wanted to show off his knitted bottle at the festival, he didn't do that great of a job. "Pobregado! (Portuguese for Thank you)."

I didn't think I had enough pictures to be enough for this post so I just took this of myself.

Aaaand, this is where I'm sitting at the moment, in the blue chair.

I'll post again after I get to Lilongwe for Peace Corps and USAID's 50th Anniversary celebration. Sorry this wasn't very exciting, but at least now you have a glimpse into my every day life instead of just the exciting stuff.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ndine Nkalamba Sopano

"I'm an old person now"

Lets start waayyy back. Mom and Dad left and it was sad and lonely for a while. I was used to constant attention, then they left. That feeling, however was short-lived since i jumped right back into the crazy life that is of a Peace Corps Volunteer. After they left, I made and attempt to go back to the south and failed because of a bad hitching day. Day number two of trying and I made it down in no time. Coincidentally that day I also was invited to meet with the new US Ambassador with some other Volunteers from the southern region. She is phenomenal and seems eager to work and in and with our little organization which means good news for us, or it at least can't be bad. I spent the weekend in town seeing as the demonstrations were switched from active anti-government rallies to silent protests in the form of staying home from work for three days. Town was safe, we had official Peace Corps transport, and it was a great weekend. After that I headed back home and back to work. That weekend was lake of stars which was great, as expected. What could be bad about a giant hippy-music festival in the middle of Africa right on the lakeshore? That's right, nothing.

After LOS, I got violently sick (no doubt from the water at the festival since i was cheap and refused to buy bottled water). Four days at home on the couch, unable to move. I called the doctor. Gastroentinitus. Medicated. Now, I've never felt better. I was only home and at work for a few days before I headed to Blantyre and celebrated my birthday with some people from my group. Another girl from the central region came down and her and Bri and I went to my house for the night. The next morning we got up, and hit the road toward Liwonde, only stopping briefly in Zomba to pick up some groceries for the week. From there it was on to the park for the water hole count.

Last week was the waterhole count for Liwonde National Park. See pictures. It was fantastic! Basically, everyone was assigned one 4 hour shift per day with the option to choose more shifts (which most people did). There was always a minimum of two people per shift, one volunteer, and one park guard (with a huge gun that they will not let the volunteers play with no matter what they offer). So the parks people made a little hide out house just above each of the three waterholes, normally up in a tree. Its a basic structure, covered in grass (very hi-tech camouflage) with a slit to look out of. I saw Elephants, Zebra, Water Buffalo, Rhino, Bush bucks, water bucks, wart hogs, impala, baboons, monkeys, Elan, Kudu, ect ect ect. It was really a great experience. Not only was it really neat to get to be inside the Rhino Sanctuary inside the park but I got to spend almost an entire week with some of my closes friends in Peace Corps, people I came into country with. We spent the week (night and day) taking shifts, cooking together, hanging out, reminiscing, talking about our experience and how its coming to a close, making Christmas plans, talking about after service trips, ect ect.

Yesterday was my birthday. I celebrated kale kale (already) in Blantyre with some friends who were nice enough to come all the way down to the southern region to celebrate Bri and I's birthdays. We wore party hats and caused scenes and watched Cowboys and Aliens at the movie theater. It was everything I could hope for in a birthday. That being said, when my actual birthday came, yesterday, I went to work like the responsible adult that I now am at the striking age of 25. The world looks different. I am adult, hear me roar. Like I said, my actual birthday was anti-climatic, except for all of the people who e-mailed me and texted and called and facebooked me to wish me a happy birthday. To those of you who thought of me, I would like to say thank you for remembering me even though I'm tucked away in a very far corner of the world. I know its easy to forget someone when they're no where to be seen or heard and I'm very grateful to have such wonderful friends and family.

So life here is what it is. I've come into Blantyre for the day to use the internet. I'm on the hunt for grad schools. Before I need to apply I need to know where exactly it is I want to apply. I am taking a break from my last minute, panicked, intensive school search to appease the complainers and reward the interested with an update (complete with pictures! See below).
Other than waterhole count and my birthday I haven't updated because there really isn't that much going on. Lake of Stars was great, obviously. My birthday was cool, I got a free mini bus ride. Work is picking up, in that I think I have a nice balance of responsibility. I got to go see a movie at the movie theater last week (always a highlight), ect. I did however discover this morning that even though cooking on charcoal is life changing, I can't seem to light it myself. Maybe I should switch to good old-fashioned wood....except I would have to climb a mountain (literally) to get it and I don't have an outdoor kitchen to cook in...maybe I will just stick to karosine, despite the rising costs and increasing scarcity (there are petrol and diesel shortages again in country causing long lines, rising prices, and a very frustrated population...even coke is unavailable these days though there's some debate as to whether that's because of fuel shortages or because the factory only produces one kind of pop per day).

The ticker is still counting down the days between now and my contract being up. Just taking life one day at a time. I am however finding myself at a crossroads between being excited for what will come next after my service, and simultaneous nostalgia for the roller coaster that this time has been.

Ok, I should really get back to trying to figure out what my future will look like (its kind of important) so as a prize for reading all this, you get pictures!!!

This is my desk, this is where I sit and do very important things of a very important nature. Notice the ipod speakers are on. The desk across from me houses the Environment Minister (I can't remember her title, exactly but its something along those lines). There are four of us in the office. Me, her, the acting Deputy of Planning and Development, and the one in charge of the "One Village One Product" project. It's a pretty bwana office, I'm the only one who is ever in it.

Bri by the Shire river, note that she is an appropriate distance away from the crocodile, hippo, and carnivorous-fish infested water.

A heard of bush buck coming for a drink. Those trees in the background are ebony.

Can't remember exactly what kind of animal this one is....weird how the memory fails occasionally.

Elephants. At one point there were about 27 elephants who were hanging out at this waterhole for the entire 4-hour shift. They had no idea we were there as we were down-wind of them which means two things: 1. as I said they didn't know we were there, 2. It smelled. I have videos.

The view from the slot of the shack we sat in. Now you can see that I wasn't using my zoom with these pictures.

There was a monkey jumping on the tent. Hippos and Elephants just roamed around where we were camping. A baboon stole our hardboiled eggs!

Baby monkey.

Some of my co-workers, Jolly and Henry.
At the going away party for my supervisor who was transferred to the northern region.