Molly in Africa

Thursday, April 22, 2010

3 months to go...

Yep, that’s right I’m leaving in 3 months and yes, I have very mixed emotions. :)

I’ve felt pretty burnt-out and bitter and I’m working to push past that. When I am conscious of those feelings, I do a lot better job of not letting them affect me as much. I’ve also felt like I’m stuck in a weird limbo of not wanting to start new projects that won’t get finished within 3 months but then being stuck with too much time on my hands, which inevitably leads me to think about home and then I start getting worried about how I’m going to adjust, what I’m going to do, what will be different, yada yada yada.

So to fight that- I am starting two new projects that I will finish before I leave.

1) I’m now teaching at Chaminade Secondary School. This is the all boys boarding school where Matt and Chris (and Kat, Sarah, Emily and Dugan) teach/taught and these are the boys that always come to the door to ask questions or to borrow things. I have been with each of the two Form 4 classes (equivalent to seniors in high school) and I think this will be a fun new challenge. I have a ton of new names to learn and instead of teaching the class with the purpose of just improving the lives of the students (as it is at MIRACLE), these students have to be able to pass their Life Skills test in order to pass their Senior Exams. I hope it continues to be a source of energy and fun for me.

2) When school starts again at MIRACLE next week, I’ll be taking some trips into town to gather information about all the NGOs that are there and what they do. In our social office at MIRACLE, people from the surrounding villages always come to ask for help with different problems. We don’t have the money or resources to assist with most problems but we end up feeling guilty that we don’t help because these people are really in need. So I’m going to find out about all the NGOs in Karonga so that we can accurately recommend where they should go so that they can receive help. It should be a fun project and hopefully it will be helpful long after I’ve left. Or at least for a little while.

That’s life here these days. Thanks to all of you who still read this and send me emails. :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A day in the life...

This is not a typical day, so don’t get excited but this is not a completely abnormal day either. This is just a day in the life for me, right now. Enjoy…

Yesterday morning I went to work early (7:00 instead of my usual arrival around 7:40) because I’m the teacher on duty this week and I had to oversee the class I had assigned “punishment” for. I made the class do weeding for about 15 or 20 minutes and I had a great time joking around with them or mocking them. ☺ Good teacher that I am, right? At 7:30 the rest of the students began their normal cleaning and I spent the next fifteen minutes walking around supervising. At 7:45 the bell rang and students went to classes for morning prayers and attendance and I went to my office where I found a student coming in who wasn’t feeling well. Twenty minutes later the secretary came to me and said the director has assigned me to drive her to the hospital. I drove her and her housemate to the hospital and dropped them off (picking up some people along the way who also wanted a ride in that direction).

When I returned to work it was about 8:30 and before I even made it back to my office, I was told that I had to drive for a funeral for the rest of the day. One of my co-worker’s father-in-law died and we needed to bring his family plus a MIRACLE-made coffin to his home village about 25 km away. At this point, I was vaguely aware that absolutely nothing I had planned to do that day would happen. Such is life.

Highlights of the afternoon included:
- driving through a bushy area with approximately 11 people in the bed of the pick-up truck along with an empty coffin, then getting stuck in the mud and spending the better part of an hour trying to back up- which included backing up down that same bushy path (which I must say was easier to drive forward than in reverse) and breaking one of the side-mirrors off the car because the car couldn’t get out of the mud to get a better angle on the path
- arriving at the funeral and finding an incredibly grateful group of people waiting for the arrival of the coffin
- sitting with all the women (the men and women are separated) and their children as they sang songs and listened to the preachers. I looked around at one point and was just admiring all the colors that everyone was wearing—not only did they wear brightly colored chitenjes (cloths), but they each wore several different (Americans would say “clashing”) chitenjes. Unlike American funerals that are sad and even look sad, Malawians do a MUCH better job of celebrating the life and celebrating God’s infinite support though their songs but also in the colorful ways they dress and dance.
- having my co-workers very adorable daughter fall asleep on my lap
- getting entertained by two choirs that sang beautifully and danced with such enthusiasm- it was amazing… my co-workers were disappointed I didn’t bring my video camera so we could prove to people how impressive it all was!
- taking lunch at about 3:30 at my co-worker’s father’s house and sharing stories with my co-workers; after lunch learning the proper ways to eat sugar cane without a knife… surprisingly easier than I thought
- driving through the tent village where those affected by the chindindindi (earthquake) were being assisted and then driving home- dropping off everyone at their houses on the way home
When I finally arrived home it was about 5:20 and I was late for our guests who we’d invited for dinner. We have three new people working at MIRACLE- a brick-layer, an agriculture teacher and a new attachment program officer- so our house decided to invite them over for dinner to get to know them a bit better. The whole evening was a blast- they’re really fun and younger than most of the other staff members so we could talk more freely with them. We even convinced them that we have a pet lion (still quite young- we said he’s the size of a dog) and when we went to show them after dinner Chris had already stealthily tied a rope around the tree and left an empty dish next to tree and then convinced them that our lion ran away! Hahah, it was pretty funny… and hard to keep a straight face, but we were successful and today I was questioned about whether our lion had returned… “not yet, but we usually feed him in the afternoon so I’m hoping he’ll come back later.” Oh lions… :)

So it was a long day and I’m still tired today—driving takes a lot out of me when we get stuck and I feel a lot of pressure not to ruin the car (which I sort of failed at yesterday). But all in all, it was a really wonderful day and I am grateful for all these random experiences that I’m having while I’m here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Celebrations!

Ok, so I’m a little behind on blogs… I’m working on it though. So to catch you up on the holidays…

THANKSGIVING: We celebrated Thanksgiving this year, similarly to last year. We had over 30 people at our house, wearing pilgrim and Indian headbands and we entertained them with a Thanksgiving play written by one of my housemates, Chris. Our guests ranged in nationalities from American to Malawian, Australian to Kenyan and we even had a Canadian! One thing we did differently this year is we cooked all the food ourselves… it was awesome! A lot of work, but it made the event that much more enjoyable in the end. J

CHRISTMAS: So many of the traditions that we do in the States surrounding Christmas are not common around here. For example, stockings… I’ve never seen anyone do that here. Even Christmas trees… while there are some fake ones sold, it’s not common to have them. While last year we just went with the Malawian flow and didn’t include those traditions in our celebration, this year we did and it was really fun! We all played Santa to one another and filled the stockings and had a fun revealing on Christmas day. For our Christmas tree, we decorated this massive cactus tree right next to our house. Since it’s the rainy season, we had to be creative with how to decorate it but we managed to come up with dyed water in small plastic bags… it worked perfectly! For Christmas dinner, we had the Brothers community over and enjoyed the feast we collectively prepared and the familiar company of one another.

While of course I missed being home for the holidays, I have to say we did a darn good job of making the holidays enjoyable far from home!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Restorative Powers of Nkhata Bay

I've been a little stir-crazy here the past few weeks... feeling bored with my housemates (you try living with a small number of people who are supposed to fill all the roles of housemate, friends, venting partners, people to challenge you, etc without many people outside of that groups and see how hard it is!), bored with myself (I have the same routine so have felt like I just don't have that many interesting things to say) and bored with Karonga (it's just hot- who could be excited about that for long periods of time?).  All of this happened to coincide with Emily and Sarah's last weekend in Malawi (they just left today and I already know I'm going to miss them a ton), for which they requested all of us to join them at one of their favorite Malawian spots- Nkhata Bay.

The weekend was a BLAST... exactly what I needed to feel refreshed and happy. :)  It usually takes about 6 hours to get there by public transport (you have to switch minibuses in Mzuzu), so we took the day off of work on Friday and made our way to Nkhata Bay.  My favorite part about the whole weekend was that we basically never had an agenda.  That meant that we had the chance to take things slow- stopping to look in shops, chat with people (strangers, old students, friends we've made before in Nkhata Bay, etc),  buy some crafts and art work and taste new foods.  Nothing was rushed- we woke up when we wanted to or when the sun came streaming in the window that was right on the bay.  We didn't all stay in the same hotel which meant that I had a good length walk to get over to the group each day and could leave when I wanted.  

Highlights of the weekend included: getting such a beautiful room with a view, getting the song "Low" dedicated to me twice (mose i mose by my 2 favorite DJs-- Sarah and Emily), buying a hammock (looking forward to putting that up... maybe this afternoon!), eating a bean milk shake (yes, you did read that right!), walking so much, having a really nice breakfast with Matt, Sarah and Emily on the last morning and getting a ridiculously sweet ride home (for free! with air conditioning! and good conversation!!!)!

Now it's back to the work week for me.  I'm spending the week driving for home visitation, which stresses me out to no end.  Yesterday I had to just keep reminding myself of how peaceful and happy I had been all weekend.  Today, the driving was much better (mostly town roads... not village roads) but I know tomorrow will be tough again.

Look for another update in a couple weeks... happy November... and happy birthday Stephie! :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Importance of Being Popular

I thought I would share this little nugget of information that my student just told me...

Apparently, it's important to be popular so that when you die there will be a lot of people who contribute to your funeral and everyone will have full bellies.

I didn't expect that to be the end of the sentence either. :)

Life in Karonga continues to carry on.  It's the hot season meaning it's over 110 degrees everyday.  We had a workshop last week for new women's business groups and that went really well.  They received their first loans this week, which was very exciting!  I'm talking to my first year students about Marianists now and that's a fun and interesting topic for me so I'm enjoying that.  The girls' football team continues to meet twice a week and while they're no where near amazing, they do make small improvements every time... and they have a lot of fun, which is the whole point!  I was sick last week- vomiting, fever, etc... it sucked, but my housemates took care of me and I'm fully recovered now, so that's good.

That's all from here for now... thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Prayer, Guests, Interviews and a Kids Party!

Prayer in the Classroom- About two or three weeks ago, there was a change in the morning routine at MIRACLE.  Now we only have school assembly on Monday and Friday, which means that on the other days, class teachers go to their classes a bit early and have prayers with them and then take attendance and have general announcements, as usual.
            I am a class teacher for the second year hotel/catering students and I LOVE this change in format!  We created a schedule and the students are rotating who leads prayer for the class.  Because we’re a smaller group, students are more attentive and in general the reflections seem to be more sincere and simple.  In general, here at MIRACLE, I’ve really enjoyed sharing my faith with the students and staff. 

As I continue my time here I am always questioning what my purpose is here and lately I’ve been more intentional about sharing faith.  Since MIRACLE is a Christian (Marianist) school, all of our students are Christian and faith is not the taboo topic it is in the States.  I’ve been really challenged by my faith here and I definitely don’t live up to my beliefs as often as I’d like, but I think that is what’s great about our faith- it’s always asking more of us- to love more, give more, share more, etc.  Just being here isn’t enough, it’s never enough to just be…

Unexpected Guests- Last weekend we had some unexpected guests staying with us.  They were patrons of the drama club from a school up in Chitipa.  Two male patrons stayed with us while one nun stayed with the students, but took her meals with us.  We were given virtually no warning that we’d be hosting them and that really frustrated me, but we had to move past that and welcome these guests into our house.  I actually really enjoyed the challenge of it and of course, it turned out to be a great weekend. 

On Friday night, Matt and I stayed up pretty late with one of the teachers just chatting about different things.  He’s the girls’ football coach at his school and a BK (Bible Knowledge) teacher, so he had some things in common with us and was a really nice person.  On Saturday night we sat around singing and playing the drums with them and the two Germans.  I continue to be reminded of all that we can learn from simple conversations with other people and since I love to chat, that seems to work out pretty well for me!


Interviews with the Best WBGs- Last week, we invited our best Women’s Business Groups (WBGs) to the office for interviews.  We had four groups come on Friday and we’re expecting another three this week.  The interviews have gone really well so far.  I’m planning to create a short video, using clips from the interviews to share with my boss and our board of directors and maybe (eventually) with donors, etc.  Hearing how the loans our office gives affects these women’s lives really helps to motivate me to work harder and try to make the program better.  If I’m able to create the movie and upload it to youtube I’ll be sure to let you all know!


Kids Party! On Sunday we invited all the children of all the teachers at Chaminade Secondary School to come over for a kids party and it was a BLAST!  We had coloring, football, netball, ping pong, limbo, dancing and singing… it was great!  A lot of fun to play with little kids, fun to get the chance to try out some of our Chitumbuka (although it is still so so so limiting), fun to have all our housemates involved in hosting people at our house and funny to watch these kids.  We had a couple little kids pee themselves before I remembered that we needed to show them where our pit latrine is and then we had a conga line to the toilet with Chris leading us in a wonderful rendition of his first song in Chitumbuka- Chimboozi (that’s how you say toilet here).  We had all the kids singing about the toilet and basically thinking we were nuts… but what else is new?  Other highlight of the afternoon was when they were doing the limbo and one kid (who was too short to need to worry about limboing at all) just fell backward as he attempted to walk under the limbo stick.  I learned a couple more kids names and just had a great afternoon with them all!  I hope we’re able to have another kids party during my time here! :)


So those are the updates from the past two weeks… hope things are going well for all of you!  Again, it’s always great to hear from people so feel free to send an email or a letter!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Language Lessons, a Funeral, the Germans & Football

Lots going on these past two weeks!


Language Lessons: We just completed our language lessons yesterday and they were wonderful.  We hired a language teacher who works with Peace Corps named Shupe to come and live with us for two weeks and give us intensive language lessons.  I was a bit nervous about the lessons and the idea of having another housemate for two weeks but everything went SO WELL!  I’m able to understand more of the language now and I now understand the structure of the language- how to form sentences, add adjectives, etc.  Shupe crammed a TON of information into these two weeks, so it’s been a little mentally draining, but so worthwhile!  In the next week or two, I hope that more of the information we were given will settle into my brain and I’ll be able to sort through it and actually use it!  We’ll see how that goes. :)

            I have to talk about Shupe a little bit now because she was amazing.  Not only was she a great teacher, she stayed so well with us.  I felt comfortable with her almost immediately and when I think back on these past two weeks, I can’t help but smile.  Starting the second day she was with us, Shupe was teaching me songs in vernacular so that we could sing together.  I was better at joining her when the song was really simple so I learned a song sung at weddings, a song that little kids sing about food, a song sung during the harvest time and a song that raises awareness about the benefits of breast-feeding.  Haha, sort of a strange assortment, but it was really fun!  In addition to that, Shupe just added such a great component to our conversations.  Her experience teaching language to foreigners has given her some great insights into the differences and similarities between our cultures and she is really knowledgeable about life in Malawi.  I guess to summarize, I should say- Shupe was great and our community will really miss her.


A Funeral- Two weeks ago, Madam Mwalweni’s father-in-law passed away.  Madam Mwalweni is my co-worker at MIRACLE who works in the Social Office with me.  In Malawi funerals are very important.  In villages, when a funeral is happening, everything else stops- no meetings, no work… nothing happens because everyone is expected to be attending that funeral.  Attending a funeral serve a couple purposes. 1. The obvious: burying the dead. 2. Consoling the family and friends. 3. Somehow proving that you were not connected with the death.  Witchcraft is commonly accepted here and so when people get sick or die, it’s quite normal to ‘blame’ someone for causing that pain.  By showing up at the funeral, it clears suspicions.  4. You’re supposed to go.  It is seen as respectful and proper culturally to attend a funeral for anyone in your family, for anyone in your village, for the family of any of your friends and for the family of any of your co-workers.  For those last two, it actually gives more respect to your friend/co-worker for you to show up.  It is a clear sign to their family and neighbors of how well respected they are and that they have good relationships with people.

            So we all went to the funeral.  We walked the 7 or 8 km to where it was and by the time we got there, he had already been buried.  We stayed for about an hour or two and it was so interesting to see and be a part of it.  I don’t have words to describe the experience right now but shoot me an email if you want to know more- it was really neat.


The Germans- There are two girls from Germany that are working at Lusubilo (an orphan care center in town) that we’ve been hanging out with a lot these past two weeks.  They’re 19 and 20 and we’ve had a lot of fun with them.  One day they came and met us at the lake; another day, they came and joined us for dinner; another day, we had a surprise slumber party with them (there was a message invite so we were surprised when they showed up a day early) and then we had the expected slumber party with them when we actually expected it.  It’s been cool to hear their reactions to the culture here and also just to chat about their lives in Germany.  I’ve learned a lot from them through our conversations.


Football- I finally have gotten off my butt and have started girls’ football (American soccer) at MIRACLE!  We had our first two trainings this past week and the girls are really excited.  After the first training we had a little meeting and I asked when they wanted to play again and they excitedly said, “TOMORROW!”  We’re going to train twice a week and I’m really looking forward to this time with them.  It’s fun to see them learning the new skills and just interacting freely with one another.  We had a scrimmage on Thursday and there were some good moments of passes or good defending, but there were also times when I was doubled over laughing at whatever had just happened! :)  I think they will improve somewhat quickly though because they’ve never been taught anything about how to play before but they are eager to learn. 

It’s also just been really fun to hang out with the girls.  The classes I teach at MIRACLE are predominantly male and the students who are more outgoing and have gotten to know me outside of the classroom are again, predominantly male.  I’ve loved getting to laugh and be silly with these girls and of course to encourage them.