Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ndasala ndi matsiku 43 ndisanachoke Malawi

'I'm left with 43 days before I leave Malawi"

Some young man riding his bike SCHREECHED to a stop by where I was walking and shoved his headphones in my years telling me to listen to what he’s listening to. It turns out he was an artist…he’s not untalented. I told him “Uli ndi chidwi” or “You’re talented” and he let me go. That was a perfect example of something that doesn’t really faze me as uncommon here, I wasn’t shocked or surprised by it at all, but back home, I would tell everyone about it as something really weird that happened to me. That being said, I have 46 days and one wake-up before I leave Malawi.

So, this past weekend I went to a wedding. Not only did I go to a wedding, but it was the fanciest wedding I’ve ever been to here, or back home. Fancy Fancy Fancy. There was even champagne, or the people I was with thought it was champagne and got all excited, enough that they took turns taking pictures of it. Then someone actually read the table of it to find out that it was non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice. That was funny to me because I was the first one to see what it really was but didn’t bother telling anyone because they were so excited about it.

Oh Malawi, 32 days left in Chiradzulu, 44 days and a wake up left in Malawi. Malawi, the country where every day someone asks me if my ipod is a phone, its polite and encouraged to go to your neighbors’ houses and demand to be fed, and if you want to bath you have to walk down a hill, then back up with a bucket of water on your head…unless it’s raining (because then the water comes to you).

Right now I’m sitting in my office drinking an ice cold coca cola and listening to “Halo” by Beyonce over and over again on my iPod loud enough to drown out my ex-landlady and current office-mate’s terrible singing to terrible gospel music (not that I have anything against gospel music, I just have something against bad music-which is ironic given what I am currently listening to).

Since we’re on the topic of my starting to enjoy bad pop music, today is the two anniversary of the Environment group 2010 coming to Malawi. Two years together. 44 days and a wake up to go. Crazy. That’s all can say about it. Crazy. Twenty-one in, sixteen out. 76% Successful. Two years here and every letter I get I still read 4 or 5 times. A big hand to Janice and Wanda for double handedly (mostly) providing me with reading material during my stay here.

It’s been almost 6 months now that I’ve been counting down and trying my best to push time forward. It’s time now to pull back. I’m ready to go but I’m upset about leaving (yes I realize that every post I contradict myself).

Side note: I’m still listening to Beyonce…also, I just added Beyonce to the dictionary on word on my computer so I can talk about her all I want and the red squiggly line won’t come up like it just did when I wrote squiggly…take that , world.

My supervisor just came in and saw the backdrop on my computer and made a noise in my direction suggesting that it is inappropriate. Change requires words or actions, not mumbles. Mumbles get nothing done here, out there, or anywhere- think about that world! Would it kill you to enunciate? What do you want? I informed him, in answer to his mumble that it is my computer, not the offices so my backdrop requires no action as per his mumble. My backdrop is the one I had with Milty, for those who know me and have seen it before (yes, I still think it’s funny and I always do…he was and economic pimp daddy).

Like I said, Environment 2010, Twenty-one in, Sixteen out. This is us during our Close of Service Conference.

Us how we normally are.

Fancy fancy fancy wedding.

The "champagne" that turned out to be bubbly juice. I'm still laughing at everyone's reaction.

I took this at the Limbe post office last week. Limbe, Airmail, Elsewhere.

The soccer pitch right outside of my boma.

That delicious coke I was drinking.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

“Nthawi yobwerera yakwana”

“The time to return has come”

Zambia, our neighbor to the west, and cultural look-a-like, has won the Africa cup of nations. Huzzah! Zambia, we are celebrating with you!
I was walking to work this morning (walking and not bicycling because its too hot to wear pants and I flash people when I ride a bike while wearing a short skirt…flashback to flashing the village headman in Mulanje way back when) when my neighbor pulled up in his mini bus and gave me a ride to work. It was nice.

In other news, Peace Corps is rolling through town today, I’m trying to decide if I’m going to send them up with my bicycle or not. I have a few hours to decide.
As of now my office mate and former landlady is playing the same song over and over again as I take a picture of my fanta bottle (fanta passion is delicious! It tastes like passion fruit). She’s complaining that I haven’t taken a picture of her so I won’t be able to show everyone in America what she looks like. She’s not a good person but I feel for her because her husband cheats on her. Ok, I just took a picture of her…and of everything else. Diana keeps complaining about how I don’t take enough pictures.

I know I’ve been here too long as I just spoke this sentence after someone in the office offered to make me tea:

“Eyai, Sindimakhonda tea upanda mkaka” or “No thanks, I don’t like tea without milk”

Good news! I finally bought the cement to fix my well yesterday!

Seven bags of cement. Large stones and river sand have already been collected. The driver who was with me whined so much about having to do physical labor (because when it came time to load the bags into my house the only people around were my 84 year old and 21 but pregnant with malaria neighbors….not much help) that I ended up buying him beer once we got back to the office. Either way, it’s here, it’s safe in my house, and its going to help a lot. Once people started to find out that the cement actually arrived, they started coming back to my house telling me any number of the following:

“Mulungu akudalitse” or “God bless you”

“Mulungu akupatse nzeru” or “May God give you intelligence”

Ect. Ect. Ect. You get the picture; needless to say, they were grateful. This is the first time I’ve done a project and been thanked for it. I don’t know how to handle it. At any rate, the cement is here, not we just have to actually do the project….we’ll see when it gets done. Just call me the community mobilizer! I will organize this project so hard people won’t know what hit them.

Then my neighbor lady (the old one, not the pregnant one) woke me up this morning banging on the door. I thought there was a problem so I rushed out to the door. She was begging body lotion because her skin was dry…..not a fun way to wake up.

I saw this sign in Blantyre..evidently they have a problem with people rushing up and down the completely open staircase.

"Chigumu" which is cake made with maize flour and banana's (which sounds much more delicious than it is as it is dry and gritty even freshely baked. They bake them in cut off sweet and condenced milk tins.


Cement. BIGGEST THANKS EVER to Dave and Irma!

When I talk about soya pieces, this is what they look like.

The 99 kwacha shop.

This is the old lady who lives next to me. She's Zulu, from Johannesburg but came to Malawi in 1964 by train to be married. She never went back home to South Africa even though her husband passed away in the 1980's because the chiefs asked her to stay. She has no contact with any of her family. She's the one who woke me up wanting lotion. I don't know her name, everyone just calls her "Agogo" which means "Grandmother". She's hilarious. She sweeps my backyard every day to keep me safe from snakes. When I told her not to sweep, I want grass to come and I'm not affraid of snakes, she said that she needs the exercise so that she doesn't walk like an old lady... My landlady is Agogo's only surviving child of four daughters.

Agogo sits on her porch all day long. She tells me that she's my "moronda" or "gaurd".

My neighbor, Davy, brought a picture of himself for me to take a picture of so everyone back home could know what he looks like when he's all dressed up. He wants me to take another picture of him on Sunday when he's wearing his Sunday best.

This is what Africa does to headphones. I just got these in September. It has to be at least my 6th set since I've been here. I hope these last a couple more months.

Eggplant (Mabilingano)! I eat this more than i will admit.

This is my old landlady, and current office-mate, Mrs. Shawa. She's the mean one.

Co-workers co-workers co-workers!

Another co-worker...he's an accountant.

The market across the street from my office.

The market across the street from my office.

This is the UNDP car that the District Commissioner rolls around in. Thanks United Nations for donating cars to the people who can already afford them!

More co-workers

This is them posing for the camera. People here don't normally smile for pictures...

Some of my co-workers.

Working hard, or hardly working?

Some of my co-workers cracking themselves up over something.

Fanta Passion is DELICOUS!

This is the game called snake on my phone. It looks like this. I had to stop playing because I kept having dreams that snakes were chasing me. My top score is REALLY high though.

Sometimes I do this...I'm getting better. In this game, when you win, the cards bounce in VICTORY!

Termites like books too...

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Atsikana ndi Asimayi

"Girls and Women"

I might not do much in these past couple months of my service, but if I do anything, it will be on my long walks to and from the office every day, walking with young girls knocking off and going to school throughout the day. They might not remember what I’ve done for work, but I at least will have crammed their young impressionable and tender minds with my strange, liberal thoughts of gender equality and self progression. I find myself saying these same strange things over and over:
Topic Numero Uno: The troubling eternity that is hopelessly inescapable village life and its relation to education.

“Usamatamangire chikwokwati, anyamata, chiyani chiyani. Pitirizani ku school, Khalani serious. Ukamaliza, udzadziwa moyo wa bwino kwambiri. Sudzadandaula za zokudya pafupifupi, sudzatunga madzi tsiku ndi tsiku, kutaya nthawi ako kuyesesa kupeza nkuni. Zimenezo, eyai. Usamavitike choncho eyai. Ndimakufinira moyo wa bwino.”


“You shouldn’t be always running toward early marriage, and chasing boys, what what. Continue with school and be serious about it. After you finish, you can know a very good life. You won’t have to worry about food all the time, you won’t have to fetch water every day, or waste your time looking for firewood to cook on. These things, no. You shouldn’t be troubled like that, no. I want you to have a good life.”

Topic Numero Dos: Relationship/Marriage/Gender equality in terms of sexual and physical abuse (Of course addressing this topic is why I had to leave my old site, and why it is so important to me. I breach the topic often, but tread lightly.):

“Mudziwa chiyani? Kwathu, mamunayo, amakamenya asamayi, apolice, amamumangira, amapita ku jail mpaka zaka zambiri. Amakafuna kugona ndi akazi wake, ngati akazi safuna, ndi chimodzimodzi kuguirira. Amapitaso ku jail. Kathuwaso, anthu, amakalowa mu jail, samathuluka sanga ingati kuno. Kuno, amakalowa mu jail, mawa amathuluka. Amangosalamo umo nthawi ayithali kwambiri. Ifeyo, asamayi, tisamawope asibambo. Tikhale limodzi, kuchezana, kuguirizana, kugayirana, basi, osati kumenyana, eyai.”


“Do you know what? Where I’m from, men, after they beat a women, the police arrest them, they go to jail for many years. Even after they want to sleep with their wives, if the woman doesn’t want to, it is the same as rape. They go to jail for that too. Where I’m from after people go to jail, they don’t get out quickly. It’s different from here where when people go to jail for these things, they get out the next day. They just stay in there for a long time. We women, we shouldn’t be afraid of men. We should be together as one, chatting, agreeing, sharing, that’s all, not fighting each other.”

Note: The most devastating part of this conversation (which, believe you me I have every week, minimum) is that women are always SHOCKED to find out that in America, men go to jail for raping and beating their wives, and not only do they go to jail, they stay in there to rot until we decide they’re decent enough for society again. When I say shocked, I mean open mouth, jaw dropped shocked. The response is immediately, “that would never work here” or “do you hear what she’s saying? “ like every single women is being beat and raped by her husband (which is common here I know for a fact. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a man say, “it’s her duty to satisfy me, she can’t refuse, she’s my wife,” I would be sickened by how rich I would be) and the thought that someone doesn’t have to live like that is shocking to them. It breaks my heart every time.

I’m sure these girls get sick of my lectures but they like talking to the crazy white girl so they have to listen to them. As far as I’m concerned, one day, even if its way in the future one of them will listen to me.; On that day, but not before that, my entire two years of service to this country will be justified and I will feel, in my soul, through an internal, intercontinental, sisterly bond, that I did something worthwhile, and I will smile and be proud. I feel for these girls who will grow up to be troubled, trapped, abused, un-liberated.

In other news, I can tell it’s time to move along, away from Malawi as the following songs are popping up more and more frequently on my playlists by no intention of my own (much like before I came to Malawi):
“So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You” –Woody Guthrie
“Gotta Travel On” –Au Go-Go Singers
“Hard Road to Travel” –Jimmy Cliff
“Midnight Rider” –The Allman Brother’s Band
“Wagon Wheel” –Old Crow Medicine Show
That kind of thing. Oh subconscious, you are what you are and you know its time.

Bad news. Yesterday, I accidentally deleted all the music off of my ipod. 7000 songs! 30GB! All gone! Ironically enough, I was trying to back them up on my hard drive but before I did that I decided to delete a playlist. Due to the computer being slow, I just closed the program, only to find later that there was nothing on my iPod. I’m upset about it but trying not to lose my cool. I keep reminding myself that it’s all backed up at home. Thanks goodness! At least I have space for all that Malawian music I like, now...
Yesterday, to distract myself from flipping out over the one thing that has been keeping me relatively sane, I made mango wine. Two weeks until its ready. Something about squishing the life out of each mango and then throwing the pit at the goats that wake me up every morning baaaaahhhhhing, made me feel better.

In other other news: How about that super bowl game? How about that halftime show? Huh? Huh?