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…


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:

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.



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 


About Ashleigh

All the world is my stage. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Malawi, Africa from 2010-2012 as a Community Health Advisor.
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One Response to Life Lessons: brought to you by Peace Corps

  1. Grandma Pat Blaine says:

    Hum, looks as if you have had a bit of a bad stretch. And so life goes….. I know you can tough it out. Hum…..Rabie shots. I hear they are not so nice but quite necessary in these situations. Are you getting Nzelu rabie vaccination shots? And will you be able to bring Nzelu back home with you? I hope so, though I suspect not. Getting a pet doggie from there to here will likely be quite problamic.
    We are getting into spring here. Am planning on planting a few sweet pepper plants. They are predicted to cost $5 apiece by summer time. I have never been successful with gardening before but mybe this time I will??????(Hope springs eternal.) We’ll see. BTY, did you recieve the last box of “stuff” I sent? It was mailed via 1st class. It contained enough snackie treats to ruin any diet. Even a treat for Nzelu! I think I will begin numbering the boxes of stuff I mail to you. Then I can ask, “Did you get box 4” and I will know that you got my last send if you say “yes”.
    Will write more on snail mail.
    Take care and tons of love and “Stay strong-This too shall pass.”

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