My life here pictures

24 06 2007

Thank you for visiting the blog even with a lack of visuals. I’ve included some pictures (not all) that I’ve been snapping here and there, mainly in the village and some of my work. Of course, I’m rarely in them (i think it’s a habit that I’m not) but I hope to change that soon.

Anyway, enjoy!


GIANT PapayaMy roomChicks I saved from drowning and hypothermiaMy roomVillage RoadMy house


Work pictures

24 06 2007

BeekeepingContour RidgingMudstovesMudstove Final

Maize in the village

24 06 2007

Amayi and Abambo (Mother and Father)Maize MillMaize Scientists

Annie are you okay? Are you okay? Are you okay Annie?

23 06 2007

**Note: This post is strictly about my personal health, not about the project or organization (TLC or EWB) affected health**


Annie is okay..I think. I live in a pretty secluded area, 28km from the main road. I know, 28km doesn’t seem very far to some people but when the inseam of your pants is 28 inches, 28km seems pretty far away. I also live with 10 household families in my village with a small trading center/market about 2 km away. The trading center has about 3 concrete structure stores and 3-5 roadside stalls that sell soap, batteries, Fanta, biscuits, oil…and Bas (Done). A larger trading center is about 5km away, about an hour’s walk there and an hour’s walk back, it’s not too far if I feel like I need a small taste of civilization (and chigumu, a type of banana bread) on market days.


I’ve been doing well in the village, I feel that everyone’s treating me very well and generally looking out for me which is great. With everyone that I’ve met so far, they’ve all said, Zikomo kwambili (Thank you very much) or Ndathokoza (I’m grateful) for staying with us in our community. I’ve also started appreciating the feeling that everywhere I go, everyone knows my name and they’ve been really friendly and helpful too sometimes when I’m walking, someone will offer me a ride on the back of their bicycle. I usually decline because it’s not like I’m in a mad rush to go or to be anywhere.


However, like I mentioned, it’s pretty secluded. I have great cell phone coverage (perfect reception) but there’s a problem with my batteries always becoming flat after a couple days and it’ll take a couple days to recharge depending on the generator at the nearest market and/or my counterpart and/or the bottle store (cold drinks anyone) that’s 5km away. It’s pretty lonely sometimes, not being able to communicate with the community on a deeper level, delving into deep conversations about religion, life, culture, politics, and having jokes that are lost in translation. It’s also pretty lonely when you realize that if the world ended today, you wouldn’t receive the news of that event until about 3 weeks later… I’m feeling slightly disconnected from a lot of people too, family and friends in Canada, office mates from TLC, sometimes EWB (although there’s good support from the other volunteers who are here). But usually, just a slight sense of disconnectedness from the outside world, which is expected. I suppose only visiting the city for internet access once every 3 weeks doesn’t help my sense of isolation so far, which is why I intended to come to Lilongwe a little more often to a) spend more time with the TLC head office, understanding their operations in relation to my direct field experience and b) to check my email for important documents and updates from all of you back home (or halfway around the world)!


I’m finding pleasure in being able walk down the road at my own pace and greeting everyone at the market and trying to chat with neighbouring villages by playing a very complex game of charades. I’m enjoying the natural sounds of the environment, at night, I hear the crickets, in the morning I hear the cocks, throughout the day, I hear the goats, pigs, chickens, children. The children are amazing and I’m really grateful to have them here with me. They’ve accepted me in their family, we play a simple game of the mzungu chases the kids, or stare at the mzungu while she studies Chichewa.

So this is what Anne has been working on and this is what Anne should be working on..

23 06 2007

I distinctly remember before I left the jokes about adopting Malawian babies and sitting on the beach by the lakeshore and tanning everyday, but let me paint you a picture of my work and the work that TLC does. Despite the time that I spend waiting, work is actually picking up fast because the dry winter season, the season for land conservation before planting next year’s crops has started. There is an ongoing swarm of activities that are being implemented in the field as well as surveys to relate the input to the output/impact of TLC’s projects.


In the past couple weeks, I have attended and participated in village awareness meetings where my partner, Llewellyn, through a series of very animated speech and actions, presents the importance of land conservation to the villagers. The villages are then responsible for forming a club and setting a date for our follow up (usually we start with certain activities such as contour ridging as a soil conservation farming technique). At these follow ups, Llewellyn and I demonstrate how to conduct line level surveying and make contour ridges and then we stay to supervise the village’s progress in creating these ridges. My record is creating 11 ridges about 700m long in 3 gardens in one day. We have also demonstrated how to create mudstoves that reduces the use of timber in cooking nsima and relishes.


I like to be hands on sometimes because sitting in the shade and watching them work isn’t very stimulating for me. This one time, I was pounding the clayey soil with optimal moisture content (seriously, I did the worm test and it was awesome) and the head of the household, the father asked me why I was doing this work when the children could do it. I just looked at him, looked at the chair, looked at the children staring at me while I was pounding and decided to take a step back. He’s partially right, my job here is not to provide technologies like the mudstove, my job here is to help him, the children, the women understand how to build their own mud stoves so that when I leave, they can remain in the area and help others build the mudstoves as well.


What I’m suppose to be working on is monitoring and evaluating TLC’s activities within the Mwansambo region. However, I’ve been busy with implementing these activities instead and am unsure of what this means, to Monitor and Evaluate. How do you measure the impact? How do you monitor the projects from an office that’s about 3-8 hours of travelling away? How do you correlate the inputs with the impact? What are some of the inputs? How many factors do you have to consider that affect the impact of the project?


Let me demonstrate my ambiguity with an example. This week, TLC staff from Lilongwe conducted rice surveys with farmers in the Chia region. The aim was to measure the yield of the rice that was provided on a loan basis 1 year ago. But what are some of the factors that affect the yield? I’d like to leave that an open ended question and provide what measures TLC conducted at a later date, or if you’re dieing to find out, just send me an email and I’ll let you know.


I’ve been pretty isolated from a lot of people, including TLC due to my location, but I’m taking measures to change this isolation. I feel that in the next two months, I should be exposed more in the office, but how does this affect the perception that mzungus have a lot of money in the community that I live in. I mean, most of the people there have not been outside of the Mwansambo region, and some will not see Lilongwe in their lifetime, some will not have the opportunity to leave the area of a radius of however far they can walk. But I do feel that my role should be spent in the office a little bit more, you know, just in case the head office forgets that I’m here, or worse, why I’m here.

Environment, Development, living together in harmony

23 06 2007

I want to speak from my personal perspective about this issue that’s based on my observations here in Malawi. But first, I want to share my personal perspective on the impact of the environment and development.


Here in Malawi, 90% of the population lives in rural areas. I’ve described my home village and the area that I lived in (please scroll down to read more about it) and have seen how the people live directly off the land. For instance, my sister and I went sweet potatoe digging to make some relish for dinner one night (batata in Chichewa) and all livestock is kept on a free range system (sometimes, I chase them to prevent them from eating the groundnuts that I shelled and roasted..mmmm) The main livelihood of Malawians is also based on agriculture which is based off the land. So what role does the environment have to play in the field of development, of giving the main beneficiaries a hand up onto the first rung of the development ladder?


First, on the ground impact of the practicing environmental sustainability has a direct impact on the farmesr. For instance, farmers here usually cannot afford the high costs of fertilization for their fields and have to rely on natural fertilizers such as compost, nitrogen fixing crops and the use of crop residues to improve the fertility of their fields. When they complete these tasks (amongst many other tasks) there’s an improvement on the yield which is evident this year in their grainaries. Second, by practicing crop rotation, the farmers have a chance to maximize the impacts of growing crops like cotton, peanuts and maize. Peanuts improve the soil fertility where the maize is grown in the subsequent year.


Secondly, on a more global perspective, environmental sustainability has an indirect impact on the farmers. In terms of global warming (whether you agree or disagree with it’s existence), affects the weather patterns of this country, particularly the rain patterns. Rain patterns have a huge impact on the crop yields, too much rain and the rice garden may flood or wash out, too little rain and the rice patties would dry up and there would be 0 yield. So my question is how much global implication does the environment and global warming and how our actions from 1/2 way across the world affect the rural livelihoods of Malawians?


I’m beginning to see that Malawians, observed from my community, are doing everything that they can to improve their livelihoods through environmentally sustainable means. But I can’t shake off the nagging feeling of, what exactly then, are Canadians who live in one of the most developed countries in the world doing to conserve the environment?

Funny Story No. 2

23 06 2007

After working part-time at a certain ‘R us establishment, I have grown to have an unpleasant taste in being around children (if you’ve spent more than 1 hour in the establishment, you would know what I mean). I’m not particularly fond of children, but here in the village, they’re actually quite alright (I like them, really!).


One of my neighbours has a 5 month old daughter, Stella. She’s quite adorable and I enjoy playing with her because everytime that she sees me, she smiles. I was sitting by the kitchen area one day and the mother handed Stella to me to free up her hands to do some prep work. I held Stella and she was ridiculously happy, like borderline laughing when I was just holding her, facing me, while she was standing up. The mother finished her work and I handed Stella back to her, only to feel something wet, soaking through my Chitenje and my skirt.


Lo and behold, the happy baby had relieved herself all over my lap! I stood up and having just watched a movie about a Cholera outbreak in China on the plane, I had a small but controlled hissyfit. Aye Ya! Everyone around me thought that was hilarious when I was doing the yucky dance “yucky! There’s pee all over my lap!”


I didn’t learn my lesson and it happened to me twice.


The moral of the story: Beware of happy babies!