Molly in Africa

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. 

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Highlights for June, July & August

Haven’t written on here in a long time, so I’ll try to do an entry of highlights from the past three months:


My birthday- My birthday fell on a Wednesday this year and that’s our community’s night to have guests over so I got to do the inviting.  We had three of my co-workers from MIRACLE and it was really nice.  The Brothers community came over bringing a cake and singing to me and Alick and Vicki had made a cake too—although they hadn’t originally presented it or anything so after I gave them a hard time they sang and danced and were pretty ridiculous about it, which made me laugh REALLY hard.


Kujimanya- Retreat at Chaminade that Sarah, Matt and I helped to organize/chaperone.  We took about 55 students (including 18 leaders)—all form 3 and form 4 (juniors and seniors) in secondary school—on this retreat and it went really well.  I actually enjoyed the preparation more than the retreat itself because it gave me the chance to get to know some of the Chaminade students.


Family coming to visit- Wonderful time for me to just be myself, laugh, sing, play games, tell stories and have my family understand my day-to-day experience better here.  There also is a great story of our encounter with elephants that, if you know my mum, pops, David or Maryjoy, you should ask them to share with you.  If you don’t have the privilege of knowing my family, shoot me an email and I’ll explain.


Mid-service/Closing Retreat in Nairobi- Our community from the first year had our closing of community retreat in Nairobi with Br. Jack (an American Brother from the States who was in Nairobi for the Marianist Lay Communities international meeting).  I really enjoyed the retreat and came away from it with new energy for a new community and to jump back into work with the Women’s Empowerment Program.


Activities since Alyson and Chris (my two new community members) have arrived:

Malepenga dancing- This is one of the traditional dances here and I’ve been wanting to see it for the past year and we finally went to go!  The dances were in Alick’s home village which is about 45 minutes away if you take the most direct route.  The walk was fun because we had to cross the river, which was easy since it’s STILL the dry season so the water was only at the middle of our shins, so we just took off our sandals and walked across.  This dance is done primarily by men, but they put on earrings and women’s wigs and even some make-up.  The dancing was fun (very energetic), but I enjoyed getting to see Alick’s house in the village more and where he will be constructing his house in this next year.  On the way home it took us about an hour and a half, but by this time it was dark and we walked on the main road, which was a little less direct.  All in all, that was a great day!


Borehole trip- The next day, we had to get water for ourselves and for Chaminade Secondary School (we’ve been without water coming out of the taps in the day time for the past two weeks).  So we piled into the Chaminade truck with the big green tank and went to the borehole for a little water adventure.  We provided some entertainment to the women and children who were there by drumming on our huge tank in between dumping buckets of water in it, drenching Chris with a bucket of water, following Alyson’s directions and “just dumping it” on her when she was washing her hair and then pretending we were on a water ride at an amusement park as we drove back to Chaminade and tried to avoid getting splashed by the water, falling out of the truck or letting the big tank fall out.


Giving Medicine to the Chicks- Our chickens have all been dying since the beginning of August and it’s because of some disease called New Castle.  I rode our bike into town one day this week to go to the bank for work, but before I left, I stopped by the Vet’s office and talked about the chicken problem.  This morning, Matt and I spoon fed a vaccine to the chicks that haven’t yet been affected by the disease (we hope).  I had never caught a chick before and I got pretty good at it after the first couple tries. :)  Also, just an update- our ducks had ducklings!  Two have hatched so far and we still have six more eggs… very exciting!



Tonight we’re celebrating the official welcoming of Alyson and Chris at Chaminade and probably making a visit to our favorite/only dance club in Karonga—Planet K.A with some of the teachers.  We start language lessons on Monday with a woman named Shupe who teaches the Peace Corps volunteers so I’ve very excited, hopeful and now (as the lessons draw nearer) I’m getting a bit nervous.  So please, keep me in your prayers that I can push through the awkward moments of all the mistakes and embarrassments that I’m sure I’ll experience as I try to practice out in the village. 


As I hope you can tell in this post, I’m doing really well.  I’m happy and I’m getting back in the groove of things here.  I miss people from home still and I still get lonely here, so keep sending those emails and letters… I love hearing from you all!  Quick shout out to my Wellspring Community- it was WONDERFUL to hear your voices just now!  :) :)


Lots of love,

Molly :)