Molly in Africa

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nkwiza Pachoko Pachoko

"I'm coming slowly by slowly," I say in vernacular as the women in the market laugh at my ever improving Chitumbuka language skills.  I walk away from their wooden table where they sell oranges (that are green in color of course) with a smile on my face as I realize that even in the past three weeks my comprehension and speaking ability has really increased.
We're now having regular language lessons (twice a week) with a woman named Sarah who is a primary school teacher close to our house.  She teaches standard one (first graders) and that's perfect since that's our level when it comes to Chitumbuka! :) She's a really nice lady and just having someone to give us lists of verbs & nouns and help us practice has been wonderful.
I'm trying to find more and more people to practice with- after all, practice makes perfect- and my list is growing each day, which is cool.
  • John: At the start of this year, one of the cooks at the Brothers' house next door agreed that he would help me get better at the language by only speaking to me in Chitumbuka.  So each time I'm over at the Brothers (which is at least three or four times a week), I always make sure to stop in the kitchen and greet him and chat a bit.
  • Clifford: Right in front of our house there is a garage where the maintenance workers from Chaminade hang out during the day when they have dead time.  Recently one of them has picked up on the fact that I'm getting better at speaking vernacular and he always calls out to me, "Mauka uli, alongosi?" (How's the morning, sister?) One huge perk of talking to him each day is that he has now antagonized one of the Brothers (Adoka) and told him that I'm going to be better at Chitumbuka than Adoka, which has created a friendly competition.  Adoka is far far better at Chitumbuka but it's fun ot have a goal in mind!
  • My students: Technically if you speak in vernacular at school, you are considered a law breaker and are punished with manual work at the end of the day.  I say technically because this term I've decided not to support that rule at MIRACLE and have gone into classrooms and encouraged them to talk to me in vernacular so I can practice.  Just being forced into it sometimes (never in class of course) has really helped.  After greetings, the phrase I probably say the most these days is, "Chonde muyowoye pachoko pachoko" (Please speak slowly) which allows me to at least recognize separate words and pick up the gist of what someone is saying.
  • WEP members: Women who come into the office are always good to practice on.  The other day I was most impressed with myself because three women came in (they're all in the same business group) and I greeted them all separately in different languages.  One knows English well, so I started with her.  Then I greeted the second woman in Chitumbuka and she responded and I turned to the third woman and she greeted me in Nkhonde.  I'm pretty sure they just like testing me, but I passed this test with flying colors and I was really proud. :)
So the language is coming along.  I hope to continue gaining more and more skills there so that I can communicate more easily with the WEP members and also with the children that I see on my way home from work each day.  I also am secretly looking forward to really impressing my family (Mum, Pops, Dave and Maryjoy) when they come to visit in July!

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Sorry I haven't written for a whole month- to put it briefly, I was overwhelmed, overworked and tired for most of January.  There were a lot of contributing factors but that's why I didn't write.  I just finished a phenomenal week and that's where I want to start this blog post:

My position at MIRACLE has been shifting a little lately and I am now working more with the attachment program.  Attachment here is basically an internship at the end of their two year schooling in a specific trade.  Students go out for six months and work within their field (carpentry, electrical installation, tailoring or hotel & catering) with different companies, businesses and contractors all over the country.  Most of our electrical students and some of our hotel and catering students are in Lilongwe, Malawi's capital city.  I had to go down to visit them to smooth out some miscommunications and just check in on the rest of the students.  

I left last Monday in the back of the MIRACLE pick-up truck with Matt, Sarah and Emily- Bro. John and Beams were in the cab.  It was a great ride down- Mum, you'd be happy because we DID sing a song- 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall... all the way til the wall was empty. :) And had lots of other fun times on our 8 hour journey.  The Brothers were staying somewhere else, but the four volunteers all stayed at a little backpackers place.  It was nice to just get to relax and spend some quality time with my housemates.

On Tuesday, I spent the whole day with my third year students that are on attachment.  I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but I totally do and I got to see all of them which was AWESOME.  Most of them were doing really well and it was wonderful for me to get a whole day full of smiles and good times with them.  In spending the day so happily with them, I was aware that I really haven't felt that free all month and I am actively making some changes in my daily life here to make more time for students and just chatting.  As I've realized in thinking about it, not only does that give me energy and life, it also supports the students and helps to encourage them.  Win-win situation if you ask me. :)

I arrived back in Karonga on Wednesday night and have been taking it easy ever since.  I'll try to write another blog post in these next two weeks... I have some funny inauguration day stories that I'd love to share too!

I hope all of you are doing well.  Sorry that I'm not great at keeping in touch- please continue to write emails- I will do my best to respond soon!