Two weeks in…

28 05 2007

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It’s been a week since I arrived in the Gulugufe (Butterfly) village. There are 14 families that reside in this village, I live in a brick house with a thatch roof, one that belonged to the Agogo (Grandparents) until I dislodged them from their home. It has 4 rooms, one of which is my bedroom, a main room and the other room is where my 14 year old sister sleeps. We’re good roomies, as most of the time is spent out of the house anyway. The village is safe and the scenery is quite spectacular, being located in a valley between two different mountains. It’s like the praries and reminds me of being in Calgary, except it’s above 23C most of the time and under the sun, well, I would prefer to not be there.

 

I live without electricity or running water. One of the managers from TLC visited me the other day and asked, “where’s the switch?” I asked the same thing when I arrived, but one gets use to living without electricity and running water at your fingertips. It’s actually not too bad and I’m quite surprised that a city girl like me is able to live in a village without any major problems. In fact, if compared to China last year, I enjoy staying in the village a lot more. I have had no health problems so far, except for eating a weird deep fried donut, which I picked up on my independent minibus journey to the current village. There’s a borehole about 50m away from my house that was rehabilitated by the Red Cross in 2006, that’s the main source of water and from what I experience, it’s safe to drink. At night, I can see all the stars clearly.

 

I’ve arrived during harvest season, this year, the farmers are harvesting very well. Partly because the weather has provided ample water, partly because of conservation farming, which TLC has implemented. I eat nsima and usually some relish, either leafy greens and tomatoes or some meat or fish. I’m fed very well here with sweet potato snacks, peanuts and sometimes oranges.

 

Work

My role with TLC is to help implement certain tools to help the field coordinators monitor and evaluate the projects. My experience so far has been limited as I’ve been given ample time to adapt to the village life. When I was suppose to start working, the motorcycle which my fellow extension worker rides had broken down so I’m currently waiting for the first full day to begin. So far, I’ve visited a few farmers and through Llewyllen’s (TLC extension worker) translations, I’m able to understand the challenges and the realities that these rural farmers face. It appears that the soil conservation methods such as contour ridging and the use of nursery’s really help increase the farmer’s yields. For instance, my host family is still harvesting maize (their staple food) after hauling in 3 heaping oxcarts full of maize (each oxcart is about 3m x5m x 2m) after starting conservation farming last year.

 

My name here is Annie Chung and people here also know me as Napiri (pronounced Na-pee-li) which means mountains. I don’t know why they gave me that name, but upon arriving into the village, that’s what I was given so I take it at face value (I know I shouldn’t).

  You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy

Here’s a typical day in the village, broken down into hour increments. Time here, is another dimension, which holds no numerical value, so I find. It’s based on the sun, we wake when the sunrises and sleep when the sun is down and the night is cool.

 

5:30am I awake to the sounds of the Rooster crowing. I sometimes wish it would be quiet so I can sleep for an extra few minutes, then the sounds of the ladies sweeping their homes start and I rise from the reed mat which I call my bed. I find the exit out of my mosquito net and I enter into the Malawian sunrise, helping with the sweeping, helping pump the water, and of course, visiting the pit latrine.

 

7:00am Breakfast is served which consists of bread and tea. The villagers really like sugar in their tea and thinks that I’m weird by not adding 2 heaping spoonfuls into my tea.

 

I spend the day helping out with the chores or visiting farmers in different villages in the surrounding area. It helps that I have an awesome co-worker, Llewylen (spelling?) who picks me up in the morning or early afternoon and we ride off onto the red dirt roads on the back of his motorcycle (don’t worry, it’s pretty safe except for that one time when… )

 

6:00pm Dinner is served and it consists of a lot of food from 4 different families! It’s disrespectful to eat only one person’s nsima (the staple) and I’ve learnt my lesson thus far. Don’t fill up with just one family’s nsima, instead, spread your appetite around or it will hurt later on in the night (literally)

 8:00pm Bedtime! I prep my sleeping area by laying out the reed mat and ensure that there are no creepy crawlies (cockroaches, spiders) that are in the room. Then I carefully lay out the mosquito net and crawl into my cotton sleeping bag liner, throw my locally purchased blanket over myself (it’s cold at night) and then proceed to sleep.

Sorry for the lack of details, I’m pressed for time on the internet. If you have any questions or comments just let me know (call me or email me) and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. I hope this post finds you well.

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Anne goes to work in flap flaps *Cell phone number*

11 05 2007

My first day at work *sigh* I would like you to imagine what your first day of work would be like if you were in
Malawi…okay, stop imagining.

 

My expectations (as seen by my packing list) was more gear towards dressing for the field. When I walked up the 3 flights of stairs up to the TLC Office, the hallways were carpeted, the walls were a faint pink, but it’s very much a professional office setting. Me walking in with flap flaps (flip flops) was the best I could do with a black skirt and a white collared short sleeved blouse. I’m not sure if I left the right impression with the people there with my fashion choices, but they were all very friendly, especially when I greeted them, “Muli Bwanji!” (How are you?)

 

Tomorrow, I’m leaving for Mwansambo by Nkhotakota (sp?) I’m living with a family: mom, dad, son (15), daughters (14, 10, 3) and will have my own little room a little off the house. I think I’ll appreciate the space but I’m looking forward to fully integrating with the family. My project is to work with the field extension staff, to help them monitor and evaluate the forestry and irrigation projects as well as work on surveying the Chia Watershed Lagoon. I’m updating this blog one final time before I leave as when I’m in Mwansambo, I’ll have no electricity and therefore, no internet access. I will, however, have running tap water and/or a borehole water source. I also have a cell phone here and will include the number at the end of this blog. My accommodations will cost from 3000-3500 kwacha (about $30-35/month) and includes food as well. I’ll be supplying some of the food (ie. Bringing in a live chicken tomorrow night for dinner…should be interesting)

 

You can reach me at : 011 265 9 283182 (I get free incoming calls! J)

 

Until next time, eat well and rest well.

 

Funny Story: “You fell into what?!?”

 

It’s pretty dark at night, there’s no street lamps and along the sides of the roads, there’s usually a ditch or an open sewer. We have all decided to go out for dinner with our “coaches” who are long term EWB overseas volunteers. One of the JF’s (short term OV’s) stepped out of the mini-bus and onto the side of the street. Being fairly dark outside with more people coming out of the mini-van, he decided to step aside to let the other people out.

THWACK!

 

He falls into the sewer.

 

Good thing it’s dry season…





Chin Chin in Malawi

11 05 2007

Woof woof! Cuckadoodledoo! We were awoken by the sounds of these animals, so familiar yet so foreign to our ears. The day started with EWB training on the history and culture of Malawi, extending into the NGO (non governmental organizations) in
Malawi. From my observations, NGO’s make up quite the industry here in Malawi, everywhere that I’ve roamed down the streets, I see white SUV’s with labels and symbols painted on them from a wide array of international NGO’s (EWB doesn’t have white SUV’s anywhere, everyone at the National Office uses bicycles to get around).

 

We were sent to the Market place for a scavenger hunt and it’s quite an interesting and another overwhelming experience.

 

“Chin Chin! Ni hao! Konichiwa!” Sometimes, this is all I hear, but most of the time, people are quite friendly, asking me where I’m from, what I’m looking for and if they can escort me around the market. The market has a smorgasbord of goods, ranging from shoes to clothes, chickens to frying pans, soaps to toys, etc. It’s quite an interesting place to find all your goods but if you don’t’ know your way around, it’s easy to get lost.

 

I’ve been approached by random people who ask me if they can be my friend. What do they mean by friend? Do they mean in the strictly, platonic North American definition or do they mean, let’s be friends and get married? It’s something to be weary of, but the people here are quite friendly and I’m not too sure if I have the right filters in place to interpret such open ended but simple questions.

 

I leave the market, looking at all the imported used clothing that they sell here. Most of the clothing actually comes from
Canada’s second hand clothes stores. I recognize the Gap fleece, the Johnson family reunion 1994 t-shirt, the Napoleon Dynamite t-shirts and wonder if there’s harm in flooding the local markets with used textiles. The textiles here are quite beautifully patterned (I have about 4 meter’s worth of cloth to wear as a wrap) and I’m sure it’ll do just fine, but I don’t’ understand why there’s so much western clothing flooding the markets and I can’t fully comprehend the marketplace in Africa with Western good flooding it. What do you think about this?

 

—-TANGENT!—

I’m the safest person in Malawi, apparently, after some gross misrepresentation of everyone chinese in the kungfu movies, I can beat anyone ugly.





Officially in Malawi

11 05 2007

After 36 hours of flight, touching down in 3 continents, I arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi in one piece. My luggage, however was missing, lost in flight either somewhere between Toronto and London, London and Johannesburg, or Johannesburg and Lilongwe! I didn’t know and certainly didn’t pack an extra set of clothes or any more clean underwear. As soon as we arrived in Malawi, we were greeted, “Moni!” by Erin, the wife of a current long term overseas volunteer, living in Lilongwe. Stepping off the plane, we immediately felt this warmth, emanating from the tarmac at the Lilongwe International Airport. The sun is hot..very hot, but with a cool breeze, it’s actually quite nice here. That night, after given some time to clean ourselves up (remember, I had 3 continents worth of dirt everywhere), we dove head first into more EWB training, learning a little bit of Chichewa, a little bit of culture, a little bit of health and safety (it’s very safe here, I’ve drank quite a bit of tap water and ate food from the markets and I’m healthy). We arrived at our surprise for the night at Erin and Jason (EWB OV’s) home, where we were greeted by the local church choir. The experience was nothing less than overwhelming but pretty awesome. Dinner consisted of nsima (a maize (corn) flour paste with a consistency of mashed potatoes) with some relishes and meat. It was all prepared with love and tastes amazing! I’ll have no problems keeping food down. Despite lacking electricity and a wall which collapsed during rainy season, this family was nothing less than happy. We danced the night away in the candlelight to Agogo’s (the grandfathers) recorded music as he was a musician.





And the final day of training..EWB gave to me….

6 05 2007

How can one summarize all the moments that happened in the last 7 days? The journey of learning and realizing that what we thought we knew, is only the smallest most miniscule amount of knowledge that we understand and that there are so many factors that we have to consider to constantly unpeel the layers and layers of understanding.

My biggest “ah ha” moment (moment of enlightenment) is accepting that I know very little and to constantly test out hypotesis’ when there are no answers that are available. It’s accepting that to understand a situation, one has to constantly question and dig deeper…deeper…DEEPER!

I’m sitting on the green couch in the EWB house surrounded by Team Malawi. The flight leaves tonight at 11pm, arriving in London, Johannesburg (sorry about the spelling) and then finally to Lilongwe, Malawi. I’m not too concerned, a little relaxed and a little apprehensive of the summer ahead of all 9 of us. I’ve included some pictures below that I’ve collected from the Pre-Departure.

The next time that I update this will be in Malawi!

Take care.





On the third day of training, National Office gave to me….

3 05 2007

HOMEWORK!





On the second day of training..National Office gave to me….

2 05 2007

..New tools to deal with culture shock, health and safety, integration and power and privilege…

I think in this post, I’m going to highlight one key thing amongst the many that I learnt in the 14 hours of training today:

1. Integration – Integration isn’t solely about adopting a community’s approaches/beliefs or ideas. I believe integration is the ability to respect each others differences and trying to understand where each person is coming from. We performed skits on sensitive issues that reverberated with the group. Touchy issues such as vegetarianism, sexuality and abuse in the overseas context came up and it’s hard to assess the situation and to have clear cut answers of how to deal with something like relationships between husbands and wives or parents and their childern in the overseas households. I think I drew out of the session is that there are certain surface elements that we can see, touch, feel ..sense about a culture but behind each action, there’s a reason and it’s extremely crucial to try to understand these reasons behind the action.