Bas, Ndapita

“Bas, ndapita” = (literally) “Enough, I’m gone” = “Goodbye”

Wah-wah!

Well people, I won’t beat around the bush about this, so I’ll just come right out and say it…

I’ve decided to early terminate (ET) my service. 

They tell us that when we start thinking of ETing that we should take at least 2 weeks to REALLY think it through and give things time to level back out. I have been thinking about this for about 3 weeks now (my mom can attest to this) so it is not a decision I made rashly.

Even from my last update it was obvious I was not exactly happy about my current situation. Things didn’t improve since then and even got a little worse when I tried to really press my work supervisor on what exactly I was supposed to be doing and he basically said my job was to ensure things ran smoothly on the ground and literally said, “For example, if Esther is delaying on submitting her reports, remind her of the due date.”  uhhh… say what? Yeah. And you know? I didn’t come to Africa, I didn’t join the Peace Corps to sit around an office making sure other people are doing their jobs. Especially people who have already been doing this job for a while, like who am I to come in, this young American girl, and start bossing them around?

Now some of you may be thinking that I could probably just do my own thing and just act like it’s under that organization, or push harder for something to do. Both valid points; however, part of the whole reason I moved in the first place was so I didn’t have to do either of those things. I specifically told my PC supervisor that I didn’t want to go to a new village becasue I didn’t want to start over, I wanted an NGO job that I could just go to everyday, do and feel like I was doing something. Needless to say, this job does not meet those standards. I mean, I’ve already spent the last year creating my own job, pushing people and not really getting anywhere, why would I want to do that for another year when, on top of that, I’m also a lot more lonely and bored than before. Living in a “town” there is not the same tight-knit village community; no one coming to my house everyday wanting to go to the gardens or shuck maize; no one inviting me over every day for meals; not even random children wanting to just sit outside my house or play with my toys. I spent whole days alone, laying around watching TV and movies, eating single meals, sleeping, reading, and way too much time with my own thoughts. I was drowning. And being so unhappy makes everything else worse. Small cultural things that normally would be easy to shrug off suddenly drove me insane or really upset me. All things combined created a very miserable Ashleigh.

But guess what? I don’t have to be miserable, I realized. I don’t have to continue torturing myself for another 7 months for what? What could I really get out of the next 7 months that I haven’t already? And even if I decided to stick it out to try and make it work, how long would it even take to make this site better, to be happy? Would it even be worth it at that point? Why sit around here, bored and miserable, wasting what I have to offer when I could have a job back home where I left each day feeling like I did something?
Ok, yes, I have a lot of amazing friends here, but time spent with them is a very minimal percent of my service and at the end we will be parting ways regardless. We still have Facebook and Skype! And road trips to look forward to ku America! :)

It simply came down to a simple pros and cons and the pros of going home greatly outweigh the pros of staying, and I just can’t justifying staying anoymore. Especially when I think about being home with my family and friends for Christmas, for Thanksgiving, Halloween, birthdays,  and weddings. And of course FOOD and having my own car again! Is there even a contest at this point? Nah.

Now, going back to when I said “having a job back home.. yadda yadda,” I have even applied for a job at my dream agency! I interned for a year at this non-profit organization called Youth Services of Tulsa for my practicum for my bachelor’s degree and am smitten. The place rocks! And ever since then have made it my mission to work there. So, how convenient that a job opportunity should arise there to do something I’m not only qualified to do but is right up my alley, could be used for my master’s degree practicum and would be fun and working along side the same people I worked with before? Uh, awesomely convenient, that’s how!
“What’s the job Ashleigh?” You may be wondering! The job is to be the LGBTQ specialist! (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning).  I would be working with local area high school GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) on getting started and networking them with resources to keep going, and running a weekly gay and lesbian youth support group. There’s more to the job, but that’s the gist. Perfect for me or what? When I was working there before I even helped out with the support group often so I’m already familiar with how it’s run. I already know everyone in the department (2 of whom are close friends of mine) and the director said it would be ok if I emailed him an application (since normally they only accept them via fax or mail) and even without receiving it yet asked how soon I could come in for an interview!! I’d hate to get my hopes too high, buuuuuut… I’m thinking I’m may be a shoe in :) So fingers crossed everyone!

I’ve also already started shopping for cars on craigslist! I decided to use my readjustment money to just straight up buy an older car, instead of using it to make a down payment on a newer car. I canNOT wait to have my own car again and be able to want to go somewhere and, oh hey! I can just get in my car and go there! Magic.

Obviously leaving Malawi is very bitter-sweet. You can probably tell I’m much happier now and totally excited about going home, but I would be lying if I didn’t say leaving came with its own heartbreak… This place has been my home for the last 14 months! The people are incredible and it’s such a different, crazy place than anything I’ve ever known. It saddens me that things are coming to an end here and I will miss everyone (Americans and Malawians alike), but I AM happy about my decision and I believe it’s time. I’m ready for the next stage of my life and I won’t look back with any regrets.

I’m sure you all are now wondering, “ok, ok, but WHEN are you coming home then?”

Well…..

SATURDAY!! 

I leave Friday at 1:15 from Lilongwe to Johannesburg, SA, from Joburg to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Tulsa, landing at 12:03pm on Saturday!

Crazy huh? One thing Peace Corps is mildly efficient on is getting you out when you say so. Now I’m busy busy filling out lots of paper work, writing my final report and Description of Service (DOS), and (TMI…..) gathering stool samples for medical clearance! hahahaha!

Things are a little erratic though because today is the planned day for another demonstration, so I’m on “lock-down” at a lodge, not able to leave for the whole day! Luckily this place has free wi-fi and PC is paying full board which means 3 meals a day! So I can’t really complain too much. I hope, if the demonstrations even happen, that they don’t get out of control, but the day is still young so we shall see how it all progresses.

I think that’s all I have to say for now and will leave you at this. I plan on writing at least one more post once I’ve returned home, reflecting on my service, but sadly my dear readers our time together is reaching a close. Thanks for sticking with me and look out for my final post.

See you state-side! *happy dance*

Tiwonana!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

My Jacaranda Journey

I’m on a life long journey
an inner self voyage
a mission to discover
the deep inner workings of
me.
See, I’m never quite sure
exactly how to define
refining the basic meaning
what it means to live this
life.
Everyday is an impossible chore
another building block
another lost sock
in this dryer, this tumbling
mess.
We all strive to find the grand
purpose, something to admire
to aspire to. A life with no
regrets and in the end find
rest.
I’m filled with questions
never to be answered
trying to find someone to
ride my tandem with, solving this
conundrum.
Like the termites’ endless munching
I am never satisfied,
I’ll forever be the jacaranda bloom
never settling in the changing
breeze.
With the passing seasons
I grow, I am fluid motion,
emotion, overflowing always
just wanting an outlet to
express.
My house with its skeleton key
hang heavy around my neck
while my head throbs
and the sun sets into a claustrophobic
fog.
I must admit at times
I feel trapped, like I’m running
low in time, however endless,
to leave my mark on this
world.

To leave my mark on this
world.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

America the Awesome, Camp GLOW, MST and Other Stories…

Well hello, hello!

Long time no see, huh? Sorry ‘bout that! After hitting Malawian soil I’ve been none stop crazy busy. But I’m finally taking sometime to update the world on the ongoings of mine.

Let me first begin with my “vacation” home…

My “Vacation” Home

As you all know (from my last post and maybe seeing me recently) I just took a 3 week trip to the states from July 4 – July 27. Here is a quasi-brief overview of how it went:

After 34 total hours of travel time, I landed in Tulsa around 4 pm on the 4th of July, making it possible to spend the holiday with my family. We went to Craig’s house and I pigged out on steak, salmon, sausages, baked potatoes, grilled veggies and beans. Yep, I ate all of that! It was glorious! We set off fireworks in the street and enjoyed many laughs and hugs. Needless to say it was a perfect first day home.

Sadly, after such a simplistic diet in Malawi, gorging myself on massive amount of protein did not sit well and I spent the first week mildly sick and appetite-less. This particularly sucked because the first week was when everyone wanted to take me out to all my favorite restaurants and buy my lots of my favorite snack foods (like Ben & Jerry’s, Fish Food!), but I powered through and by the end of the first week was back in the game!

The first weekend I had a party with all my friends and family. It was a lot of fun and the first time I’d seen many of them in a year! It was so surreal that just a year prior we were doing the same thing to say good-bye to me and that so much time had passed, yet here we all were, back at my house eating cake and burgers all over again as though nothing had changed. I want to say THANK YOU to any of my readers that attended my party, it was wonderful to see everyone and spend some time catching up!

The second weekend I went with my family to the Lake (can’t remember which one tho ha!). We rented a cabin over looking the water and for 2 days rented a pontoon boat. We stayed from Thursday to Monday morning. It was a blast! Sure, lots of close family time resulted in thinly spread tempers every so often, but overall it was a great time and I’d do it all over again if I could. The place we stayed at was awesome too, offering crafts, ping-pong, nature trails and a nature center.

Monday after the lake we headed home just in time for….. HARRY POTTER and THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2!!!! In IMAX 3-freaking-D!!!
*clears throat* I was excited…
And for good reason, because IT. WAS. AWESOME!!!! By far the best Harry Potter of the whole lot if you ask me. It was the only movie I went and saw twice while I was home too. *sigh* soooooo good….

On the last weekend home I went with my family on a float trip down the Illinois River. It was the perfect day too, cloudy and even rained at one point, so it wasn’t unbearably hot. The river was packed with other families and crazy young people getting trashed. Music was blaring, people were laughing, and all-in-all it was a wonderful day. I didn’t even get sun burned! Hehehe

Other highlights of my time home:
- Karaoke twice with my lovely friend Katie! No I didn’t sing, that place we went was for serious singers only! One guy didn’t even need the lyrics as he walked around the audience like he was a real rock star!
- Movie nights with “the gang” (Megan, Brad, Erik, and Brent)
- TWO pedicures (yup!)
- Seeing a grand total of 7 movies in the theater
- Eating steak 3 times, sushi once, and ice cream more times that I can count
- Visiting the Juvenile Detention Center (where I used to do classes for Youth Services with the girls there every week) and talked to the girls about Peace Corps and Malawi. It was amazing. The girls were all on the edge of their seats hanging on my every word. Hopefully I inspired just one of them to clean their act up and go to school.
- Seeing all my friends that I’ve missed so so much!!
- Laser Quest!
- Buying new clothes, like my first pair of Gap jeans, to bring back with me
- Sleeping in my old bed in my room… Awesome.

Regrettably, my incredible time home had to come to an end and at 6 pm on July 27th, I boarded a plane heading to Washington DC. Eventually I landed in Malawi on July 29th at noon.
I admit, regardless of how amazing my time was, sometimes I wonder if I should have gone. I do not regret it by any means; however, coming back to Malawi was really tough and being here even more so. It has been a roller coaster of emotions since coming back. Being relieved to be back and even happy, yet hit by these debilitating waves of homesickness.

It’s strange when you can honestly call two very different places “home.” And that’s how I feel about Tulsa and Malawi. When I went to Tulsa, I kept thinking, I’m home… Did I really just spend the last year in Africa? Did that really happen? Yet, when I returned to Malawi I had similar thoughts, I’m home… Did I really just go to America??

Luckily, when I first returned, to help keep me occupied physically, mentally and emotionally, I had Camp GLOW….

CAMP GLOW

Camp Girls Leading Our World (GLOW)

Camp Glow is a week long girls empowerment camp, put on by Peace Corps Health Volunteers, every year. Each health group gets a chance to put it all together and this year was my group’s turn.
I wasn’t part of the coordinating committee, though, I was a camp counselor! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a coordinator or anything, it was that I’d rather be with the girls and a part of the camp, not just the behind-the-scenes. And that’s what I did!

There were 60 secondary school aged (13-19) girls from all over Malawi. They we’re broken up into 6 groups of 10. Each group had a trio counseling team. A PCV counselor, a counter-part counselor and a junior counselor. The counter-part counselors were younger, strong Malawian women who had overcome a lot of challenges in their life and were now successful women in Malawi. The junior counselors were girls who attended Camp Glow last year.

My group was me, Assiatu (counter-part) and Tizgowera (pronounced “tee-zo-way-ra”, junior). Our 10 girls were: Ruth, Ulemu, Juliah, Martha, Martha, Mina, Pilirani, Zidyawa, Enelyce, and Chimwemwe.

The theme for the week was “Take Charge!” And each day a sub-theme: Take Charge of My Body, Take Charge of My Future, My Choices, My Heritage, Myself, and Our Future.

How can I sum up Camp Glow in one sentence?

BEST WEEK OF MALAWI EVER!

Yup. No contest.

This one week spent with these 60 girls from all over the country, getting to know them, teaching them, learning from them, playing with them, and helping them, was the pentacle of my service. The climax, the apex, the ultimate. If I had ever questioned why I was here, Camp Glow was the answer.

For more information, visit our website:
http://www.campglowmalawi.com
And I did the recent updates to the website, f.y.i!

Camp Glow being so incredible, of course, has made the time since merely gray and bland in comparison…

Mid-Service Training

Right after Camp Glow we returned to Dedza for 4 days for Mid-Service Training (MST). MST marks being a volunteer for one year and, although called “training” isn’t really much of a training, but serves as a way for each group to re-connect and plan for the last year of service.

It was fun being all together again as a group since IST last December. We had movie nights and parties and ate lots of tasty food. We talked about our service thus far and reviewed grants, project ideas and our Emergency Action Plan.

However, all was not fun and games. This was when we got the news…

As many of you know, we have been expecting to go home early. The whole issue with the change in intake group timing, and such… However! Apparently they have decided to not replace us this next round of health PCVs so that we will have to finish our full service until August 2012. Yeah… So basically all of us who are being replaced, our sites will be empty for SIX months until the next-next group comes in. Regardless of how annoyed and disappointed I am, this plan is ridiculous. Leaving our sites vacant for 6 months is stupid, plus my *coughincompetentcough* boss wasn’t able to secure 10 new sites adequately for this last group, seriously, half of them didn’t have a house when they moved to their sites! And now he has to secure 25 new sites! Yeah, that’s gonna happen…

*sigh*

I’m sure many of you are shouting “No!” to your computers right now and believe me, I feel ya. I think I was hit the hardest with this news because as some of you may recall from my time home, I have been feeling a little less than satisfied with my service. Even to the point that I set deadlines for things when I came back. Like, if I didn’t have a house by mid-September, I was out. (Spoiler: I have a house now!). But when I returned I thought to myself, I can do this. I do love Malawi, and it’s only 7 more months. I had decided to push through, only to be shot down by this news.
I know what you may be thinking, But Ashleigh, isn’t August 2012 what you signed up for? Well, yes, this is true. And a valid point. But honestly, I’m not that same girl who signed up for Peace Corps two years ago. I’m not sure how I feel about 3rd world development work anymore. And my service has felt like a failure to me. Aside from Glow, I have no major projects or accomplishments that define my service or make me proud. I feel like my service has been one big vacation, like college all over again. And even though I wouldn’t change coming here for the world and have no regrets about it, when you think that I could be getting my Master’s degree, making change and feeling satisfied with a job in America, seeing my friends and family and eating awesome food…. Well is there even a comparison?

I had hopes that maybe once I moved and started my new job at an actual NGO, where I’d have an actual job, things would start looking up. Which leads me to my new site….

New Site, New Job, New Life…

Before I left for the states, I moved out of my old village. I put all my things in a storage unit at the Peace Corps office and hopped on a plane. So, once all was said and done with Camp Glow and MST, it was time to move on. Amazingly enough my supervisor actually did his job while I was gone and found me a house and had it approved by the security director.

Right after MST, I spent a couple of days in Lilongwe completing my Mid-Service medical. I went to the dentist (no cavities!), had a physical (healthy!) and even went to the eye doctor for new glasses (prescription change!). Once all that was finished, Friday morning August 12, I loaded my things in a Peace Corps pick-up truck and headed south to my new site in Ntcheu.

Ntcheu, pronounced “In-chey-oo”, is about 2.5 hours south of Lilongwe on the M1 (the major “highway” that runs north to south in Malawi). It’s about directly half way between Lilongwe and Blantyre. It’s towards the end of the Dedza mountains, but still in them enough that it’s a lot cooler temperature than most places in Malawi. *happy dance* Plus I’m surrounded by mountains! It’s gorgeous here!

The House:

We went to the Catholic Health Commission office (who I’ll be working for) and met Esther, my neighbor. She got in the truck with us and directed us to my new house. As we pulled toward the plot, she explained that there was a minor hiccup and the house I was supposed to get, the previous tenant didn’t move out, so they had to find something else. So they rented this behemoth of a house on the other side of Esther’s house. And when I say behemoth, I mean it! Even Esther refused to move into it and let me have her house because she thought it was too big!

The house has 3 bedrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen, TWO toilets and TWO showers! Yup. And I live there, all.by.my.self. I guess I can’t really complain, who ever thought I’d think my house was too big? It is awesome having running water and electricity and plenty of room for people to stay with me when they visit. And hopefully I’ll have many visitors since I’m a 5 minute walk of the main road.

The one thing that does really suck is I have no furniture. Because of the small car I used to move my things out of my other site, I wasn’t able to get any of my old furniture. So piece by piece I’m having to slowly furnish this giant, empty house. So far I’ve obtained a bed frame, a table and 2 chairs! And this week I’m picking up a book shelf. Yay!

I also got really creative and “made” a table in my kitchen using a door, sewing machine base, and bricks. I took down the door that was between my living room and dining room, because when will I ever shut that? Then when Amy came over the first weekend I was here she helped me drag in a crap-ton of brinks from a pile outside. We built up a wall on one side and the other side we used the base of a sewing machine Amy discovered in the corner of the kitchen. (Sewing machines here are big, antique things with wrought iron bases and pedals). When we first tried setting the door on top of our make-shift table stand, we realized the brick wall wasn’t wide enough. When we went to take the door off, we accidentally didn’t pick it up high enough thus pulling the bricks over… On to my foot. Ow is right! It bruised my big toe in a matter of seconds and skinned off the top of my “ring” toe. But I was a trooper and after rinsing it off, bandaging it and sitting for a minute to recover, I was back in the game! We completed the wall and voila! Sturdy, gigantic table in my kitchen! I also put a sheet over it to make it look a little nicer. It’s perfect. I think next month I’ll have a sofa frame built (like the one at my old house) and a coffee table!

The Job:

I am now working for Ntcheu Catholic Health Commission through Dedza Diocese on their IMPACT Program. I can’t remember right now what IMPACT stands for, but basically it’s a program trying to improve the health and lives of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). My job is to help with monitoring and evaluation of this program, to do data entry when needed and supervise field work.

What all that translates into so far is…. Nothing. I’ve been here for almost 2 full weeks and I’m still not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing. For example, I’m writing this entry up on Word right now on my lap top at the office and no one else is here expect me and the assistant lady who is just sitting and reading a Children’s Bible. Everyone else took off around 9am without saying a word to me about where they were going or if and when they’d be back. It’s now 10:30am.

The last couple of days have been a little more eventful. Our health centers were sponsoring these “Tsiku la Umoyo” or “Days of Health”, where at various areas there would be a gathering of people: the health staff in the area, volunteers, support groups and chiefs. They would perform skits and sing songs about healthy life practices and give nutritional talks and demos. It was one of those kinda fun but kinda boring things. At least it was something to do, but all I did was sit there and watch it all. And the whole thing was in Chichewa and therefore mostly lost on me. I was then forced to entertain myself while trying to not get a sunburn, by texting other volunteers, playing games and reading on my phone. The only nice thing was I got a free coke and 1000mk lunch allowance for just being there. Which was nice since we didn’t get any chance to eat lunch all day. But now those events are finished and we’re back to hanging around the office not doing much of anything.

It’s rather annoying actually. Having to get up early and be here everyday just to do nothing. And here I had had high hopes for what working at an NGO would entail. Sadly, it seems to be the trend around Malawi for volunteers working with Malawian NGOs. After starting here I have been in contact with other volunteers working with various Malawian NGOs and everyone has the same issues. Not much of a job description, not much to do, not much of feeling needed.

But I have to think that I’m wanted here. Even if there’s not much for me to do. They’ve already paid for my house for the year. They pay for me to have a night watchman. And now they’re paying for me to have a fence built. So I have to think they want me here, I guess I just wished they showed it more in the office and not where my house was concerned.

I’m trying really hard not to feel disappointed and sad, but it’s difficult. I’m going to give it some more time before I really let it get me down because I want this work out, I want to be here, but I just don’t know if I can put up with this for another year…

I’ll keep you posted on how things go here for sure.

Life Now:

*sigh*

I almost feel like I should apologize to everyone that my exciting Peace Corps adventure is turning out to be rather a drag. And I’m sorry if this post sucks because of how melancholy I am about everything. I am trying to stay positive and hopeful, but I also want to be honest.

And honestly, I am happy to be here still. I do love Malawi and my Peace Corps family. I just want to feel like me being here has a purpose, that I’m actually accomplishing something by spending two years of my life here, ya know?

Right now I’m just trying to focus on the positive:
• That I have this awesome new house with electricity and running water.
• That I live in an area that is still pretty cool even as we move into hot season.
• That I have access to lots of things now that I live in a town.
• That I have many good friends here.
• That I live in freaking Africa!
• That I have a few trips to look forward to, like Chitipa Halloween and other trips to the Lake.
• That I’m having this crazy experience of my life, that I’ve grown so much since coming here and that I’ll will never be the same again.
• That I’m planning on helping with the Large Mammal Count at Liwonde National Park in October!

So don’t feel too bad for me. I know things are crazy here and can still feel like a roller coaster sometimes, but I’m looking ahead and feeling hopeful.

OH! Can’t forget! I have a new address!

Ashley Stafford
Catholic Health Commission
PO Box 75
Ntcheu, Malawi

So now if/when you send me letters or packages send them to this address k? That way I don’t have to travel all the way to Lilongwe just to check my mail! But if you send them to the old address, I’ll still get them because that’s the Peace Corps address and won’t ever change.

Well, my lovely readers, thanks for sticking with me for the past year and all my shenanigans and stories!

I hope I’ll have more stories to entertain you with in the future.

I miss you all!
Till next time,
Tiwonana!

Posted in life, update | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Attention Passengers: Please Prepare for Reverse Culture Shock

T-minus 29 hours until I am on my way to AMERICA!

We have just lost cabin pressure.

Today I am attempting to mentally prepare for my holiday ku America. But let us rewind to the events of my Malawian life that have led up to this moment…

*   *   *

As I previously mentioned I am transferring sites to Ntcheu. About a week and a half ago my assistant manager, Eliza, tells me to, “Go home and pack and say your good-byes!” So I did. I packed up my entire house and informed everyone of my impending departure THEN Eliza calls me a few days later to tell me the house I was supposed to move into has been rented out to someone else…. Say what?

Then she tells me that I need to just “hang out” at site till after I get back from America then we’ll figure it out. Uh no. I love being here and in Peace Corps, but my experience thus far has told me that while I’m gone nothing will happen towards getting my situation dealt with and I really did not want to leave all my stuff in a house that already thinks I’m moving out AND the security director said I needed to leave.

So with some minor fit throwing, and by that I mean, asserting my wants to my main supervisor, Cornelius, finally I got approval to move out of my house and keep all my belongings in storage at the office while I go to America. However, Malawi is in serous fuel crisis right now, cars lining the streets in line all day for petrol and diesel, and therefore I had to find my own way to get all my things to the office. Luckily I have friends in high places who have cars and found a guy who was willing to pick me up here in Lilongwe, take me all the way out to my village to pack up my things, load them in his car, and then drive me back here! Yes, I had to pay him but still! Ah-mazing.

CIMG4137He was such a sport too, because I wasn’t 100% packed and he had to wait for me to finish up, and it was quite a chaotic experience. There was a group of amayis helping me pack and move things out, and when I announced that whatever was left was up for grabs, all hell broke loose. The women began fighting over my left over CIMG4139things, including empty bottles and plastic bags. I even had to kind of shout at them to stop. It. was. insane. Eventually though, we got everything packed and loaded into the car, even strapping CIMG4136my 3 mattresses to the top. I hugged everyone and some of the ladies even sang a good-bye song, and left Katchale. It was surreal driving away knowing I may not come back. But I had to tell myself that I would visit again to see Helen before my service is over. It was hard to say good-bye to her, but I’m excited about my new job and location and am ready to move on. Ntcheu, here I come!

So now all my things are safely packed away in storage here at the Peace Corps office and I can relax and get ready for my long long trip home. And hopefully when I return there will be a house for me to move into and I can get settled and start my new job! *happy dance*

OH! I’m guessing you’re thinking, “Uh, Ashleigh! What about Nzelu?!” Well! I was planning to give him to another volunteer Adam, yesterday, bring him with me to Lilongwe and then Adam would take him to his house while I’m gone and potentially for good, BUT Nzelu was no where to be found. He was off gallivanting with ouher dogs and I couldn’t find him. Now the plan is that Dre, my site mate, is going to handle is for me (THANKS DRE!). She’s going to get ahold of him and then bring him to Lilongwe next weekend to pass him on to Adam. So fingers crossed that it works out and my pup will be safe and in a new home. It is kind of sad, but I will be living in the BOMA of Ntcheu, which is the main town and that means I’ll be pretty close to the M1, the main “highway” of Malawi, and I worry it would be a matter of days before something awful would happen, so I had to make a hard decision in his interest and safety. *sigh*

Any hoo…

Let’s talk about AMERICA! *hyperventilates*

I leave from Malawi tomorrow! TOMORROW! TOMORROW!! Oh. My. God.

It’s so surreal, amazing, exciting, scary, nerve-wracking and above all AWESOME! It’s scary because I don’t think I’ll realize how much I’ve acclimated to Malawian culture until I’m back in the thralls of American culture. After living such a simple life, America is daunting. I kind of fear the moment of freak-out which I’m sure will happen, but that’s expected. And all the good things I’m looking forward too trump any anxiety I feel. I canNOT wait to see everyone, especially my family. To eat good, affordable food: sushi, ice cream, qdoba, Italian food, and BEER ON TAP! Ohmygoodness… OPTIONS! I can’t get over all the options there will be awaiting me, like the cereal isle! *shudders* OK ok ok, got to stop imagining food. I can’t wait to have clean clothes that are fully intact and CLEAN FEET!

I’m not excited at all, obviously. Hahaha!

Oh home… Open-mouthed smile

*   *   *

Midnight Sun Over Malawi

CIMG4060 A few weeks ago Malawi witnessed a lunar eclipse! I was at my house, laying out on my back patio, bundle up due to the cold, watching the magic happen. CIMG4079It was pretty incredible, the night sky here is so unreal. I tried to take pictures but to get a good photo I had to set it to long exposure, but couldn’t hold still to be able to get a good shot, so I finally figured out a way to set the camera on a bucket and managed to get two seriously wickedly awesome shots. Beautiful. The funniest part of it all way the following day when neighbors we asking me about the “sun rising at night” and whether is was the sign of the on coming apocalypse. hehehe CIMG4081

 

*   *   *

Well that’s all for now! Expect my next update probably before I leave America to return to Malawi. I’ll have bomb internet so I may try to post a video or two! Yay!

For those of you devoted readers whom are my family and friends… see you soon! Smile 

Tiwonana!

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These Times They are a Changing…

Good day mates!

Long time no see! Sorry it’s been a while since my last post but things have been a little crazy and I just haven’t had the time. But now I do! So here’s what’s been going on in the crazy African life of Ashleigh…

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Puppy Update

CIMG3933I’m now 100% puppy free! Sadly one died while I was away, but the other 2 I ended up giving to two of the new PCVs who just swore in. The remaining two lived at my house for about a week and a half before I took them to their new mommas, so that was kind of crazy, but 2 is much easier to handle than 5! Plus I think Nzelu CIMG3910really liked having playmates for a while. He actually hung around the house ALL day and would play with them. I was a little sad for him when he was back to being all alone, but no way do I want another puppy and having those puppies for just a short time reinforced that!

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When I traveled with them one got car sick and puked all over me in the back of a truck, lol. I knew dogs could get car sick but for it to actually happen was pretty crazy. I also toted them around town strapped to me with a chitenje, which got lots of laughter, funny looks, pointing and “ah-ah!”s. I met one volunteer here in Lilongwe and then with one puppy continued on to Salima. I got a ride with a really nice Malawian who didn’t care that I had a puppy which was nice.

IMG_0171[1]In Salima, after delivering the puppy,  stayed the night with my friend Annette and her, another PCV and I made burritos! Using Velveeta we made queso with tomatoes and onions. We made rice and wheat tortillas. Then I diced up soya pieces and we cooked them in a taco sauce. We piled our ingredients in the tortillas and lost ourselves in delicious bliss! Annette’s guard even ate with us and had 4! Smile  It was a fun time and the next day I made my way back to Lilongwe.

 

 

New Baby in da Hood

IMG_0147In my last entry I mentioned that Gladys had her baby while I was gone the last time around so when I returned home I got to meet the newest member of the Mwamvani family, baby Yankho! Yankho means “Answer” and it’s just pronounced “yawn-ko”. She is so dang cute! She’s now about 5 weeks old and 12 lbs, chubby and adorable! IMG_0140

It’s really cute to see George with her, he always called her “Mamma!” or “My girl” and he kisses on her face and sings to her. She’s added a whole new dynamic to the house but it’s a lot of fun and I’m happy she’s finally here! She’s a fairly mild mannered baby, although IMG_0149George claims she’s her fussiest during the night so obviously I can’t attest to that but she seems like a pretty chill baby to me!

I have also had the esteemed privilege of being peed on by her twice now! lol Normally they’re pretty good about keeping “nappy”s on her (cloth diapers) but one day she was lying on the couch andIMG_0156 started crying and George had left to the hospital and Gladys was busy outside so I picked her up and to try and soothe her and she was not wearing a nappy. And sure enough after about 5 minutes of being calmed by me she let loose the great Hoover dam of pee on me! It was an outrageous amount of pee too! I was sitting so it soaked all the way through my skirt, my leggings and even my underwear! Yeah. Gross. I also stood up quickly and a good amount ran down my leg. For a moment I was confused on who exactly wet themselves! hahaha

 

IMG_0198The other day I accompanied Gladys and George’s sister, Liness, to their groundnut garden. There were already a few ladies there working on harvesting the groundnuts and Gladys started helping too. I of course, IMG_0205helped a little, but I’m not a huge fan of getting that dirty when I’m in the middle of nowhere, Africa. So I just kind of hung out with the ladies for a bit. Nzelu had followed us too so I played around with him and fed him groundnuts since they’re his favorite snack.

I also got to carry Yankho around on my back in the traditional way women carry babies here. It was a lot of fun but she’s insanely tiny and for the first 15 IMG_0216minutes I had her on me I was staying really still and kept checking to make sure her little bottom was still snug in the sling, paranoid the whole time she was going to slip out. The ladies all thought I was looking pretty fly with Yankho on my back, and I told them that was how I planned to carry my own babies in the states, to which I received an earsplitting collective amayi laugh to. And by that I mean the way women laugh all together and do this odd little thing where they go “hahahahaha, eeeeeeeee!” I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but it’s hysterical, and they do it all together right on queue!

 

 

More Drama from da Hood and My Upcoming Move

Some of you know about this already but a few things have been going on at my site which have accumulated to provide reason enough for me to have a site change.

For starters, as I’ve mentioned/complained about before, my relationship with my counterpart isn’t so great and our productiveness is less that satisfactory. All I have to show for 9 months at site is a girls group that –I- started and ONE day going out to do net monitoring because Samuel always bails on me. And the girls group he’s mad at me for and tells me to stop because he thinks I’m neglecting the boys. *sigh* So I’ve been struggling a lot with not feeling productive and useful in my community. Not to mention two project ideas I’ve had are now being under taken by NGOs (borehole drilling and ARVs at the clinic). Plus sometimes I don’t really feel that supported by the rest of the health staff or even the community. I mean I think everyone likes that I’m there, but I don’t think the health staff take me seriously.

On top of all that, recently a “bar” opened by my house. And by “bar” I mean a persons house where they sell homemade wine and alcohol called Kichasu and play loud, terrible music all night. Drunk people wander around my house at night yelling drunken nonsense and make a lot of noise and the whole thing just has made me really uncomfortable. The PC security director came out to check things out and didn’t think it was THAT close to pose any serious security threat; however, he agreed if I don’t feel safe, that’s a problem.

Now the biggest whammy of them all… George and Gladys have moved away! George got a transfer to move to Mitundu and work at the hospital, which will be great for them, he’ll get paid more and they’ll have a much nicer house and be closer to Lilongwe, but what about me?! As much craziness that goes on over there, the truth is they’re my best friends here and my family. I eat 2 meals a day with them and we watch movies everyday on my little laptop.

All of this is why I am in town now. I needed to just get away for a bit, especially since my neighbors are gone, I’m feeling down… But after all this, I’ve spoken with the security director and my supervisor and they both agreed that a site change would be the best thing for me.

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I’ve been talking with Cornelius (my supervisor) Wednesday and yesterday and it looks like I’ll be taking a job with this organization Catholic Relief Services (CRS) which is religiously affiliated but it’s funded by USAID and I’ll be doing HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention work with orphans and young children. It’s located in Ntechu (Yellow area, #7), which is a small district right below Dedza. I’ll also be working in the BOMA (the main township) which means I’ll have a pretty nice house with electricity AND running water. I’ll also be right on the main M1 road that runs up to Lilongwe or down to Blantyre about half way to either one. I’m getting really excited about this opportunity! It’ll be a nice change of pace and a lot more structured and focus on what I’d like to be doing, not to mention the sweet house.

We still have to work out the details of whether or not its 100% but the house is ready and the organization really wants a volunteer so I should be good to go soon and hopefully I can move asap! I’ll keep you all update on what’s going on as soon as I know more ok?

 

And in Other News…

I’m coming home!!!! July 4-27th I’m hitting t-town for a 3 week vacation in beautiful amazing America! I’m so excited! We already have my plane ticket and everything! I can’t wait *happy dance* Open-mouthed smile I can’t wait to see my family and all my friends, eat lots of delicious food and get new clothes! It’s gonna be good.

Well, I think that’s it for my update now. Hope you all are doing well and until next time…

Tiwonana!

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Beware of Hippos

What up gang? Ashleigh here. I’m in Lilongwe after yet another long stretch of time away from site and going home today. But I thought I give you all an update before I disappear for a while…

Now for the tale of hippos, travel, lake shore, and puppies galore!

The Monday before last my friends who are serving in PC Rwanda, Sarah and Jarod Ring (the married couple who kinda started all of this for me) came to Malawi to visit while they were on vacation. We went South to Chloe’s site for a couple of days. I was worried they wouldn’t think it wasn’t that exciting, but our little trip to Liwonde was a lot more exciting than I expected!

First we had to take bike taxis into Chloe’s village and it was the IMG_0074IMG_0072first time they rode on those. Since Chloe lives about 5km from Liwonde National Park, so the next morning we took more bike taxis into the Park and the ride was so beautiful. We arrived at the park and passed through giant, looming palms with trampled foliage from the Elephants scattered on the forest floor. We watched baboons leap from tree to tree and large water birds swarm near the Shire river.

IMG_0067To get to the main park you have to cross the Shire, so we IMG_0077waited at the docks for a boat and while waiting we were privy to seeing a crocodile swim around near us. The boat arrived and ferried us across to Mvuu Camp (Mvuu means Hippo). The river and the scenery surrounding it was gorgeous.

IMG_0081We arrived at the camp, greeted by ancient towering baobab IMG_0086trees and a cool breeze. We visited the main welcome center of the camp, perusing the gift shop and such, ordering lunch for later and making our way to pool. We had a couple hours before lunch so we just spent the rest of the morning lounging around a sparkling blue pool, swimming and enjoying the beautiful day. IMG_0069

IMG_0097After a delicious lunch of layered tuna club sandwiches and cold fantas, we spent a little more time at the pool, mainly sun bathing and reading, listening to music and chatting. We had to kill time because the boat going back across didn’t leave until 3. On our way back out of the camp we spotted a group of warthogs munching on the grass outside the main camp center.

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IMG_0068Normally Chloe rides the staff boat, which is a dinky tin boat, back and forth but since there were so many of us they offered to take us across on one of the tour boats (with a covers and nice seats). As we were making our way across the man driving the boat pointed out of brown lumps on the the water surface in the distance identifying them as hippos. Naturally we were all excited and wanted to take pictures, so the man guided the boat out of the way past the hippos floating the the water. The only camera I had tho was my iPhone and so you can’t see them that great,  but it was so much fun! And you want to know what this whole adventure cost us? PALIBE! which means NOTHING! Well ok, we bought lunch, but we didn’t have to pay to enter the park, swim or get a mini boat safari and it was ah-mazing!

Over all it was a nice little trip and it was great to see Sarah and Jarod again and have them see what Malawian villages and PC is like. On Thursday morning they left to head up North to Nkhata Bay while Chloe and I hung out at her house for another day. It was actually a lot of fun because we gave a health talk at her health center to some ladies who recently gave birth. We ate lunch with one of her friends and met lots of her neighbors.

On Friday we headed up to Cape Maclear for the Easter weekend. We hitched up to Mangochi, where my jeans ripped as I was climbing out of the back of a pick-up, but luckily there was a tailor near by and I was wearing my chitenje, cuz otherwise my bum would’ve hanging out. I showed a lady at the tailor the problem and she quickly grabbed me and pulled me into a room to remove my pants. The guy patched up the giant rip with a piece of denim in about 10 minutes and it only cost 100mk! It was great and you can hardly even tell they ripped!

IMG_0116We finally made it to the Cape and set up our tent on the beach since we were camping to save money. A couple other friends were there and we all ate lots of awesome, giant fish, swam, sun bathed and relaxed.

One of the days we went into the Park Reserve nearby to this place called Otter Point which was a small lagoon with giant boulder to climb around on and beautiful green, clear water to swim in hundred of cichlids. The walk to the Point was awesome. There were tons of baboons and monkeys just walking around like it was no big deal. They’d saunter across the path or pick through trash pits near by, pause and watch us pass and scurry about chasing each other in play. One baboon even had a tiny baby baboon riding piggy-back on its mother. It was incredible.

basketheadwaterWhile we were at the lake my friend Briana wanted us to do a “Chitenje Photo Shoot” for a spread in the PC Malawi 50th Anniversary coffee table book. There’s going be be a spread with 100 uses of a chitenje with pictures she took for it while we were there. I don’t have all the pictures she took, but my favorite on of me is with a chitenje as a pad for a basket with my face half 216255_1839644265037_1058432545_2022639_1377700_nunder the water. It’s a wicked shot! This other photo isn’t for the book, but it’s my friends Daniel lounging on the bench we stuck in the water after the shoot was over. It was a lot of fun, I felt like a real model lol!

And speaking of the 50th book, aside from lovely photo shoot, I will also have a poem of mine featured on the back cover of the book! I’m pumped Smile It’ll be like I’m getting published for the first time! *happy dance* Very cool.

 

Puppies, Puppies and More Puppies…

Monday, this week, I returned to Lilongwe and on Tuesday attended the new volunteer’s Swearing-In Ceremony. I can’t believe they’re already official PCVs! It feels just like yesterday we were greeting them at the airport and spending their first week of homestay with them. I’m excited tho and CONGRATULATIONS all of you!

The rest of this week has been spent doing some work and spending time with the health volunteers before me who are all COSing and heading back to America. It’s been a crazy week and kind of sad and I’m not sure it’s really sunk in yet that they’re all gone.

So, right, puppies!

Right before I left to go to Chloe’s with Sarah and Jarod, 5 tiny puppies wandered into my life. Quite literally.

One day I started seeing puppies hanging around by my house and they’re so young and cute and I had no idea where they came from but they were just around. One morning I hear one crying a solemn bay, lost in the maize behind my house. I thought if I could just catch him and put him back out in the open he’d be ok, but after chasing him for 30 mins, I gave up. But around 5:30 I could still hear him crying and decided I couldn’t just let him wander, lost all night. So I went and hunted him down and actually caught him this time.

He was so cute and tiny and scared. I took him home that night and gave him some food and water and a warm bed to sleep in. The next morning I let him go with a heavy heart, knowing I at least saved him that one night…

An hour later he came back.

CIMG3889Without making this story too long I’ll give you the main highlights. I took the puppy to the owner (who turned out to be the same people I got Nzelu from) and the woman explains that the reason they were by my house was because the mother moved them to a banana tree behind my house, that they actually thought maybe they all were killed because no one knew what happened to them. She then begs me to take it at no cost and any others I want too.

Great.

CIMG3873Well within the next 3 days after that my one puppy multiplied into 5. They kept showing up one by one, even once one left and returned with another. I was suddenly the proud and annoyed owner of 5 6 week old puppies. Yes they were cute and loving and amazing, but no way in hell could I care or manage SIX dogs. So in a rushed, insane attempt to rescue them all from a stray, terrible village life, I decided to fine them new homes!

CIMG3908For the last week they’ve been living at Helen’s but I found new homes for 3 of them with the new volunteers and the other 2 I gave to the SPCA yesterday. I knew that they’d get vaccines, spay/neutering and good food, and since they’re so young I know they’ll probably get adopt quickly since people usually go for puppies. The lady even said I could touch base with them and find out what has happened to them later if I want.

it’s been really crazy, but I know it’s for the best and I’ll feel better about it when it’s all over. It’s just been a crazy puppy extravaganza!

Now that the week is over, I’m not going back to site finally. I miss Nzelu and Gladys had he baby the day I left so I have yet to meet the new baby! Whom is a healthy baby girl! *happ dance*

Life seems to only even out, just to get more complicated, just to do it all over again. Viva la Malawi Smile

Till next time… Tiwonana!

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Thunder Tease

Thunder tease,

don’t you know you’re supposed to bring ease,

appease the parched foliage,

force the clouds to release?

I realize now it’s merely a game

the same thing every day

but this lack of rain is a shame.

Don’t you know it’s rainy season?

that reason should be enough

for Zeus may try you for treason.

My pulse races at each clash,

a rash upbeat hope for the quench

yet you bring nothing, not even a dash.

I watch your gloomy hosts saunter by,

sky high, they ebb and flow

the rolling clouds and their echoing cry.

But thunder tease, osadandaula iwe,

pray the witch doctors will,

for I know you will deliver one day.

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Tsiku pa Ndinabadwa ndi Nchito!

Tsiku pa ndinabadwa, is “the day I was born.” Birthday cake

March 30 was my 24th birthday and I celebrated it here in my village. I did go out with my friends in Lilongwe on Sunday night to celebrate while I was still in town. I first went to lunch and had a cheese burger and ice cream sundae, complete with sprinkles (yup!). Then that evening we went to a Jazz bar with a live band and hookah and enjoyed two bowls of hookah, rose and apple flavored and some beers, and of course live music. On the minibus to the bar, 6 of us were crammed in with about 10 other Malawians, practically sitting on top of each other and this was the venue everyone decided to sing “happy birthday” to me. It was comical to say the least. The Malawians were looking at us like we were all nuts and the entire bus was cracking up. After jazz and hookah we went to dinner for pizza and finished the night relaxing at the bar in our lodge having beers.

My birthday spent in the village was neither as exciting nor relaxing. It was mainly stressful because I thought it was going to be much more than it was. My birthday was the talk of the town, since I only told 2 people of course. There was talk of rice and goat meat, music and dancing and Dre (my site mate) was told to bring her guitar. I didn’t know what to expect. As far as I was concerned, Malawians don’t even really celebrate their birthday since most people aren’t even sure when it is. All I knew I wanted to do was have Dre come over, make no-bake oatmeal peanut butter cookies and relax.

What actually happened was this:

First, I was woken up at half six by a phone call from home, from Matt who was the first to wish me happy birthday. This was a wonderful way to start the day and it’s always great to hear his voice Send a kiss

The night before, my counterpart, Samuel, insisted I accompany him to his outreach clinic in a nearby village, to which I failed to say no to. After talking to Matt I started thinking, “the last thing I want to do today is sit in some strange village for hours doing nothing, being bored and stared at on my birthday.” So I dressed and went and told Samuel sorry, but I wasn’t going. He took it well and I retired to my home to do nothing. It was splendid.

I started my day by doing a small work out routine, eating morevit with fresh bananas and then vegging out watching movies I hadn’t seen yet, like cute rom-coms, The Accidental Husband.

I also got up and made no-bake oatmeal cookies
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which were amazing. Dre showed up around noon and we went next door for lunch. After lunch, Helen shows up at my house to inform me she’s coming over with nsima. I told her I just ate, but she said, “That’s ok, we’ll just have left overs!” Shortly there after she arrived back with 5 other ladies and a small child, bearing food, who all began to sing “happy birthday” to me (in English) and danced around my house. Sadly this event was not recorded since it surprised me.

This is me and my birthday “dinch” party:
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He and the lovely Helen:
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Helen trying to play guitar and singing about cooking okra with baking soda:
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Me and my gifts!
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The coke and gold rosary are from my village “boyfriend” Aristo. And the hand carved and painted birds are from Helen.
P.S. Yes I got a hair cut! Like it? My friend Chelsea did it Smile 

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I also got a beautiful chitenje from Dre as well as homemade cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate (not pictures lol).

The rest of the day passed with ease. Dre left around 4:30 and I went next door to eat dinner and watch a movie like usual. All in all it was a pretty good birthday to have been spent in the village. Smile

 

Nchito Yanga

My work Computer

Slowly but surely I will become an active Peace Corps volunteer!

Main things I’m working on now:

  • Mosquito Net Monitoring Program – We’re going to go around to every house, starting in our village and moving out, and find out if they have nets, how many, how they’re being used, how many people live in the house, if there are any “at-risk” people (pregnant or under 5), and develop data of our area of who has nets and how they’re being used.
  • Sister to Sister – a weekly girls youth group for young women in my area to meet with me and my site mate Dre and have a safe environment to talk, practice their English, learn about HIV/AIDS and other STDs, boy friends, family planning, their bodies, life, whatever! Smile 

This week Dre and I had our first Sister to Sister meeting and 20 girls showed up! It was awesome! I was only expecting 5 or 6 and I imagine even more will be there next week. I’m just excited that something I want to do and am passionate about is finally working out. I’ll keep you all posted on how it continues but I have high hopes for the group, even if all we do is sit around and talk about nonsense in English, at least it’s a safe place for the girls to be and actually talk aloud. Working with Dre on this is great too because she already knows the girls and has experience teaching Malawians. *happy dance!* Open-mouthed smile 

I still haven’t quite started the net monitoring program, mainly because my counterpart Samuel is turning out to be rather unreliable. *sigh* but I will do this one way or another and Helen has agreed to help if worse comes to worse.

Things are finally looking up and I am beginning to actually feel like a real PCV.

All-in-all, life is good.

Now I’m in Lilongwe, yet again, preparing to welcome the new trainees who will be living in the Central Region here in Lilongwe to give them a orientation of the city. I’m excited but it sucks being away so much, especially from Mr. Nzelu! He so rotten and I love him so so much! Dog face

That’s all for now folks! Till next time…

Tiwonana

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Life Lessons: brought to you by Peace Corps

I’m beginning to notice a trend here aren’t you? I am not at site that often. Ok, well I am at site often, but there have been several trips I’ve made that have lasted over a week, which is a long time to be gone from site, but oh well. One thing I’m learning about being a successful PCV is sometimes you have to put yourself first and do something that makes you happy. Which is a really interesting thing to be learning in such an altruistic position.

I have recently returned home (site) from being away for 2 1/2 weeks. It’s Friday and I came back on Tuesday. I had planned on coming back last Saturday, but we got back to Lilongwe pretty late in the afternoon from Dedza so I decided to stay the night and try to leave on Monday, since Sunday is impossible transport wise. Well Saturday I went out dancing with a group of friends and sadly my phone was stolen… yup… and it was my iPhone too… *sigh* Needless to say it’s been a bad week/end. I had been drinking but I’m pretty sure it was taken out of my back pocket.

The phone incident resulted in me spending my Monday dealing with getting a new phone and my old number back and not going home. But I found out that our nurse and one of the PCMOs were doing a site visit at my site the next day, so I decided I’d rather deal with getting a new phone and have some form of communication and get a ride with them in the morning on Tuesday.

I went phone shopping to see my options and it was either POSs or fancy, way-over-my-budget phones. I thought about it for a while and even though Matt offered to send me his older iPhone, I realized it would take a month or two before it would arrive and after having access to Facebook and email at site and then returning without it would result in my utter misery. I know it’s awful and not very “peace corps” but my happiness was at stake and no one would benefit from an unhappy Ashleigh.

Therefore, I splurged. I spent way too much money on a nice phone that’s specs offered internet, including email, Facebook, and Skype! Skype was really what sold me, since I talk every day to Matt. I bought the phone and went to the customer service desk to get a new SIM card with my old number, just to discover their system was down. The man told me to try back that afternoon. That afternoon he told me to try back the next day… The next day, he told me to try back that afternoon, however, there was no “that afternoon” for me in Lilongwe because my ride home was leaving shortly thereafter. The man, feeling pity for me gave me a blank SIM card and wrote down my number and the serial code on the SIM and told me he would deal with it for me as soon as the system was back up.

I left resting faith on a Malawian to help me and of course was let down…

By that following evening I used George’s phone to call customer service and talk to 3 different people, thanks to dropped calls, and then finally to be told “within 24 hours” it would be activated. 24 hours later, nothing. I call again. This time a person tells me their system that activates SIMs had been out for nearly a week so they’re backed up and to wait 2 days. Yup… *sigh* so for nearly 6 days I was completely outta touch with everyone. It sucked. But thankfully the 2 days was exactly that and by Friday evening I had service on my phone.

However, now, I’m kinda annoyed about my new phone, which I mentioned splurged on specifically because it advertised Skype capabilities, and in fact does NOT. Nor does anything else really work on it: like email, or computer to phone connection, and the games are only trial demos that you have to pay for. Not worth what I paid… blah. Oh well..

 

My Week at PST 2011

As I mentioned in my previous post the new group of Trainees are here! I was privileged to spend a week with them during their first week of homestay. This meant that I too stayed with a strange Malawian family for a week, being doted upon and treated like a child once again. However, as awful as that is when you first arrive in country, after fending for yourself for some months, having a friendly amayi heat your bath water, wash your clothes and shoes, and cook for you it’s actually kind of nice. PLUS now I can actually talk with the family and I understand their customs and such so homestay the second time around was much more enjoyable.

The new trainees are awesome! I was in the village Mkomeko, with 14 health trainees. Everyone seemed pumped to be here and in relatively high spirits. No crazy sicknesses (yet) and all around good attitudes. This group is a combined Environment and Health group, with most women in health and men in environment, but over all the group is very varied in ages.

They had quite an exciting first week at homestay, including a football (soccer) match in which a fight broke out among a few villagers, a funeral with Gule Wankulu dancers, and of course lots of rain. We also had a village meeting with quite a few community members to do community assessment tools, like village mapping. And everyone is enjoying the massive small children dance parties. Smile

I’m very excited about the new group and can’t wait for them to be officially part of our Peace Corps family!

 

One Week at Site, Dog Bite, and Back to Lilongwe…

Zimachatika.

Shit happens.

Almost a week to the day of being back at site, in a daring yet slightly foolish attempt to rescue my puppy from an onslaught of a pack of village dogs, I was bitten.

Nzelu and I were walking to the market and past a house we often walk by, that I do know has many dogs, but they’re not always around. We were not even that close to the house when all 8 dogs come tearing out of their gate, snarling, gnashing their teeth, charging at us full on. My maternal instinct took over and I scooped Nzelu in my arms to prevent him from getting mauled, knowing he was their target. This resulted in the two of us being circled by the 8 dogs all jumping and snapping their toothy jaws at us, all the while their owner screaming and yelling at them “IWE! CHOKA!” and throwing rocks at them. And in the scuffle one of the dogs got a good chomp on my thigh.

Here’s the result:
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The yellow is iodine and the strange series of purple marks is the result of a band-aid that crinkled in the night and the blood pooled in the wrinkles. But it’s still pretty gnarly with puncture holes and everything. And yes, it hurts.

Sadly, after my one week back at site, I was forced to return to Lilongwe for post-exposure Rabies shots. I received the first one yesterday and have to wait till Friday for the second before I can go home.

I tell ya what, if there’s one thing I’m learning from Peace Corps, it is to be flexible. And Nzelu is ok, and like I told the doc, I’d rather me be hurt than him because I’m much easier to deal with and treat than a dog in the village.

I’m trying to make the most of my forced Lilongwe time and actually being rather productive in the means of work and other things Peace Corps related.

VSV (Volunteers Supporting Volunteers) will be hosting Orientation Gatherings for the new trainees right before they visit their sites in their regional hubs, ie. North – Mzuzu, Central – Lilongwe, and South – Blantyre. We’ll give them tours of the main city, show them the market, banks, stores, post office, internet, etc. We just got the go-ahead from the office for it to be an official aspect of training, so we’re all pretty excited. So today, I sat with one of our Staff making reservations with lodges for everyone and getting things set and ready.

The only draw back to getting dates set for things coming up soon is it all means more time away from site. Not to mention my birthday is in SEVEN days! *happy dance* I’m going to be 24! So weird, I must say. And my little sissy is gong to be 21. I’m bummed I’m missing out an such a momentous birthday for her.

I LOVE YOU MADDI! Smile

 

Now I’m just trying to relax and be as productive as possible so that hopefully when I do go back to site I can be there for a little while and hopefully be productive while in the village.

I also have to admit I’m feeling a little lost at site. I’ve decided that I do not like that I’ve replaced 2 other volunteers. Even though my personality leans well to my community integration my projects or lack-there-of are constantly being compared and scrutinized against the former volunteers by the community.

For example, I want to start a youth club, but the other day everyone starts telling me about the volunteer before me and her youth club and how if I implement one it won’t be a new idea, and how what I should focus on is getting jersey for the football team if I really want to help.

Blah.. I just don’t know. I’m trying to do things and make them my own and sustainable, but it’s difficult. *sigh*

I will persevere!

* * *

Well folks, I think that’s all for now.. More updates later!

Tiwonana! Smile 

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The Black Hole Known as Lilongwe

BAH! this is kind of a rant.

Can I just say, I very much dislike Lilongwe. Even more so when I’ve been stuck here for over an entire week…

 

It all started last Wednesday. I waited for 2 and a half hours for NO truck to pass by my village and was then forced to take a bike taxi the hour and half muddy, bumpy road to Mitundu then a minibus to Lilongwe. It was not a good travel day. But while I was waiting in my village I got to watch these guys prepping tobacco for whole sale and thought it was pretty neat, here are some photos:
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First they make this giant pile of the dried tobacco and wrap it in this large cloth.

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Then they weigh it.

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Then they drag it over to this pressing contraption thing

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They lay the pile on this square thing, place another piece of fabric on top, then set of 4 walls around it. They lay a flat log on top and line it up with this drill looking thing. Then 4-5 guys move the drill round and round till it’s compacted the tobacco into a tight cube.

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They sew up the sides to keep it together and voila! Whole sale tobacco.

Pretty neat huh?

 

The reason I came to Lilongwe was for a two day training for VSV (Volunteers Supporting Volunteers). Which I am now the Coordinator for, by the way. Open-mouthed smile I was definitely committed till Saturday, but the new group of volunteers were arriving on Sunday, so I decided to stay to see them arrive.

Thursday night we had dinner at our staff liaison’s house, where I and a couple others made lasagna from scratch. And lemme just say, it was da domb:
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Then Friday night we had a Gods & Goddess themed birthday party for another volunteer. I was Gaia, goddess of the earth! It was a lot of fun, and here are a few pics:
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Chloe, me and Briana

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Me and Briana, some sexy looked goddesses! Smile 

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Briana and Jake. Jake and my other friend Brian were Cupids, they had bows and arrows and all!

Sunday was actually a lot of fun because we all went to the air port and there is a balcony area that over looks the landing strip so we all crowded the balcony and yelled, screams and clapped ad the new trainees landed and exited the airplane. Then we got to have a short meet-n-greet with them before they headed to Dedza to begin their training.

Here’s the new group:
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They all looked exhausted but were obviously still pumped to be here Smile 

 

So after all that craziness, I was going to go home on Monday. My friend Daniel was going to come site visit me since he has the week off school and wanted to see the Youth Center in my area to get ideas to start a youth club. We set out to find a ride back around 2:30 and discover that because of the rains there were NO trucks that day. Lame. So we headed back to the lodge and stayed for anther night. I decided the next day (yesterday) that we should go around 12:30 or 1 to make sure we find a ride. We lug are stuff all the way to the truck area again, to first find out trucks going my way wont be around till 3. So we waited and waited. THEN we find out the one truck going my way isn’t taking the road by my village, and once again I was SOL. I managed to sweet talk the VSV staff liaison into letting me and Daniel stay and her house last night so at least we didn’t have to pay which was really nice of her.

I thought that maybe since I have to be back here this Saturday to go to Dedza for the new training to be a Resource Volunteer that maybe they’d let me come down early, but no matter what I said they weren’t having it. It looked like I was either having to try again for a ride or just cough up the dough to stay here. I decided before I left though I needed to ask the PC doc about this cough I’ve had ever since having bronchitis in January. The doc said my lungs sounded clear but I needed a chest x-ray just to be safe. So that meant putting me on med hold for the night so I could get the x-ray this afternoon.

Thankfully it’s all clear. But the doc still isn’t sure about the cough, so he gave me a cough expectorant syrup and said if in a week it’s not any better he wants to give me an inhaler.

*sigh*

Now I’m definitely stuck here, because at this point going home tomorrow would be stay in the village 2 nights just to turn around and come back. No thanks! Plus if transport’s been this bad going there this week that means it’s not been going coming from there and NO way am I riding a bike taxi again! Nope. No way, no how. No sir-ee bob!

It looks like I’m gonna be gone from the village and my poor puppy for a whole 2 1/2 weeks! Blah..

Oh well, c’est la vie right? And at least I have hot showers and good food while I’m here. Too bad it’s just so much dang money to stay here so long!

Well thanks for listening to my kind of rant. Hopefully it was mildly entertaining Smile

Tiwonana!

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