Thursday, August 6, 2009

The last couple of days at WR and Leaving Embangweni and Malawi

I left WR on Thursday with Deborah, the Child Development coordinator for Lilongwe. Originally I had hoped to leave on Friday (didn't want to spend 2 days doing nothing, waiting to fly out of Malawi), but that wasn't possible, so we left Embangweni and the training in Mtuzuzu on Thursday and went to Nkotakota, by Lake Malawi, and Salima on Friday. It turned out to be an ok thing, because I got to do some shopping for my family, but still sad to say goodbye to my friends!

The night before I left we had a goodbye get together at Mr.Nyirongo's house with all of the WR staff (all three and Abraham) and their families. It was nice to see everyone and eat together the usual feast of (drum roll please) the basic carbs - nsima, rice, chips (my fave), spaghetti**, then chicken, beef, some other meat, vegetables, more... And then for dessert, I made a surprise chocolate cake(I used a boxed mix a wonderful thing to bring abroad for long stays abroad btw, if you tend to miss sweets)which went over well. AND the highlight of my evening/end of my Malawi experience was when I was presented with a traditional Malawian outfit as my going away gift from the office! I love it and it was so sweet of them to chip and buy something so special! Ask me whenever, I will show you, the outfit is a top and a skirt, bright green and blue design with flowers. Nothing could be better and it will remind me so well of my time in Malawi. Mr.Nyirongo, Mr.Kaunda, Mr.Tembo, Owen, and Abraham, were wonderful friends and the best colleagues one could ask for in a workplace, so friendly and they helped me so much over the summer. Even if I couldn't speak Tumbuka or understand what they were saying all of the time, seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter (which was 99% of our time in the office) always made my day amazing. I could go on about how I loved the people I met in Malawi, but you'll have to just ask me sometime. Overall, I was where I was supposed to be and was very blessed to have this experience. I have learned so much and don't it for granted that I was given the opportunity to go to Malawi and do all that I did. Thanks for reading, I hope that it has been meaningful, interesting, and/or entertaining! Bye for now, friends : )


*After leaving Embangweni, I did visit the lake and go back to Lilongwe for the last couple of days. In Lilongwe, I stayed with the same family I stayed with at the beginning of my trip - the Lumunga's - which was wonderful, before leaving on Sunday. My flight from Malawi to Ethiopia and then to Washington DC went smoothly, and I arrived home safely Monday morning.

**The spaghetti was cooked in my honor, it's my comfort food you could say, and I told them that it was the only thing that I could cook back home, so we always had it during our dinners : )

The last two weeks at WR

If Monday was any indication of the rest of the week (which it was) than both Owen and I were in trouble. The training of the new caregivers was being facilitated by the government, or people from the Mzimba district, so WR was basically just managing the logistics and making sure everything ran smoothly, aka doing nothing. Was it frustrated to do nothing for my last two weeks at WR? Yes. But, at least it was Owen AND me doing nothing, so I got to spend quality time with him. Over the summer, Owen and I grew to be very close friends, talking about pretty much anything and everything very openly, so I enjoyed his company a lot. It's good to like a person when you work with them just about every day from 2 and a half months.

Back to Monday. We were at the office early because it takes about an hour to get to Mtuzuzu, where the last training and this training were to take place. Well, we ended up sitting at the office (or more specifically outside of the office, on the grass) for more than 2 hours, doing nothing. Talking, complaining, and doing nothing, while waiting for the district people and knowing that the caregivers at Mtuzuzu would be waiting for over 3 hours. What would you do if you were waiting for something for 3 hours? LEAVE? Yes, we (Americans) would probably leave after a half hour of waiting for a meeting, and then come back maybe. Oh my goodness, so frustrating. But Owen and I chatted, which was what we did mostly for the two weeks of us not really working. We were both frustrated about waiting and the boredom of the whole two weeks, but at least we were spending it together in boredom, gaining quality time before I had to leave. So by the end of the week, we were a little more lackadaisical about timing, letting the trainers go ahead of us, catching up eventually...etc. Training was also taking place in Embangweni, but the trainers there were even more boring! So Owen and I stayed at Mtuzuzu for most of the 2nd week. AND training also took place on Saturday and Sunday all day. I was surprised that the caregivers actually showed up on Sunday, they came all of the 10 days with no pay. By the end of the two weeks and the former training, I was pretty familiar with all of the caregivers at Mtuzuzu, and at least we were spending the boring days with friends in Malawi. Better than being bored anywhere else I guess. But it was good, despite the boredom and lack of work, I would not trade spending time with friends for much!

The Weekend (July 18th - 19th)

So...I didn't end up going to the bridal shower. Over the weekend I visited the homes and villages of two of my friends from World Relief. On Saturday, I went to the village of Van'galala, a village about an hour away (driving) from the town of Embangweni, meaning Mr.Tembo, the security guard at WR, has to walk more than an hour every day to work. Owen drove and dropped me off. The day was a very cold and cloudy one, so I think that kind of put me in a down mood. I got the feeling that I was being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, and was hoping not to stay too long that day because I was tired and "eh" feeling. You know, the kind of day you just want to spend doing nothing instead of meeting new people and being outgoing, even that sounds horrible of me to say when I have gone to a whole new country, so of course I am going to be meeting new people.

The morning went ok, we had chips (fried potatoes) and tea for breakfast and talked and I met the kids, one, Rabbi, who persisted to run away every time I got near (so of course I chased after him just to make myself more scary) and the other, a girl, who went silent every time I was in close proximity. : ) But it was fun. I ended up staying over Mr.Tembo's house until 5pm. Owen came around 12pm to check in, and I was kind of surprised when he left me there for another 5 hours, but looking back it was a really nice afternoon, we made fresh popcorn and the best donuts I think I had in Malawi. The day showed how important it is to try and change your mindset and enjoy the day, even if you would much rather be doing something else. I wish my disposition on this day had been easier to change, but still it was good, and so kind of the family to open up their home to me. It's a big deal because even though the family cannot afford much, they are still so generous to guests and welcoming, so I am very thankful that they opened their home to me, and hope I was able to show that.

Sunday, I went with my other friend at WR (who is also a security guard)to his village, which was closer by. His name is Abraham Ziba, and I don't know if I have mentioned this in a former post, but he has basically kept me sane on the days in the office when I have had nothing to do. Because he usually has nothing to do either, besides guarding the office, which in mid-day, means nothing but sitting and listening to music and talking to whoever is nearby. This summer that was me. So to keep ourselves busy we basically talked about everything under the sun, especially "muzungus," which was mostly laughter, and other issues, like cultural differences, differences between black and white people...etc. I think I may have broke the mold for Abraham's vision of white people, I have no idea why, besides that I walked places (apparently muzungus rarely do, they drive) and talked to Malawians, or didn't mind visiting the villages. He was a funny guy and besides or with Owen, he was the guy I could just about any question to, regarding culture or other issues, and not feel awkward. A very chill and fun guy, I will miss his friendship in the US.

Anyway, I visited Abrahams's house, which was basically two rooms, together making up about the size of my kitchen at home, or the dorms at Furman, maybe smaller. No chairs, just one stool. Puts things into perspective, yes? I met his wife and 6 month old son, the cutest little boy ever! I have never seen him once stop laughing or smiling, no kidding. No crying or crankiness, just smiling and laughter. His name is innocent. I then met Abraham's brother, and uncles, father, cousins (they all live in the same village) and then visited their garden, where I was given some fresh maize and sugar cane. Sugar cane = amazing, but I am somewhat incapable of managing it. I get impatient with peeling off the layers to get the sugary part, and am somewhat uncomfortable with the whole chewing it and then spitting it back out...but it is good! Anything that is pure sugar cannot be bad in my book :)

Tomorrow begins the training for new caregivers. Two weeks of doing nothing to be discussed next.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The week continued (mid-July)

Tuesday – today was to be another day of doing nothing, but instead of sitting around the office, I ended up going to Embangweni Community of Christ nursery school to observe the class and well, do something other besides sit around the office. This nursery school was the first I visited in Malawi, and in my mind it is one of the most difficult, because it is without a chalkboard and the kids can almost perfectly recite their letters and numbers, but can not recognize them in written form. The kids even recited the 12 months of the year, yet they are only repeating what the teacher says, so even though it is impressive, it’s not like they actually are understanding or comprehending what they are saying. But they used some good songs and even used the toys they had really well, so A+ for that.

Wednesday – today we managed to visit two nursery schools and teach the caregivers how to use the new teaching resources (play toys) they will be receiving soon from the US group. They will be getting a bag of puzzles, a bag of building blocks, and a bag with balls, a pump (very in-demand), puppets, a hula hoop, and a book that is translated into Tumbuka from English, something which does not exist here, since school is taught in English or Chichewa, Tumbuka is mostly spoken, even though they have a Bible in Tumbuka and most business letters or written words in the field are in Tumbuka as well. It’s really cool that the centers are getting all this stuff, I only hope that the caregivers will use them and have fun with them, because it truly is a different way of teaching than they are used to. It takes some doing to go from just rote teaching – stand up, recite such and such, sit down, etc. – to using toys and teaching things to kids’ different learning styles and interacting with them on a completely different level. Even reading a book to kids, making sure that they are participating, takes some effort. But yeah, it was a good day I thought, we had to rush back to the office because someone was selling life insurance, something that rarely Malawian people have, and at first I was skeptical that it was legitimate, but after Mr. Nyirongo confirmed it, I thought it was cool that everyone was able to have that chance for their kids and such. Then, when we went to run errands at a print shop, I was invited to a bridal shower for a friend of a friend this Saturday, so I’ve been debating about going...since I don’t really have a good gift, and I really have no idea what I am getting into, but we’ll see! It would probably be a good experience, and worth the possible awkwardness, since she was kind enough to give me an invitation and all : )

The Week-End (July 10th-13th)

After saying goodbye to the caregivers on Friday, the next event was a goodbye ceremony/dinner for the US group/Malawi WR staff. It was nice, the US group gave the WR staff gave gifts to the US guests and in turn, the US group gave gifts to the WR staff, and I got a pack of Hershey’s chocolate which should be lasting longer than it is : ) it’s a pack of 6 bars and after 3 days, there’s only 2 bars left, but to be fair, I’ve given 2 away. For someone who doesn’t like too much chocolate, being in a foreign country gives you a certain appreciation for anything remotely sweet or chocolate-y. I’ve also taken to eat bananas, which I usually don’t eat in the States, though they are much fresher here. Back to the dinner, one of the best parts of the meal, I thought, was that we were all eating together, the US group, the WR staff from both Lilongwe and Mzimba, and of course, me. I like being around the staff from Lilongwe in addition to the staff here in Mzimba, everyone is really nice.

Then on Saturday morning, we said goodbye to the US group and Lilongwe staff and I chilled for the rest of the morning until I met up with Owen and we played some games throughout the afternoon and then went to his house for some sweet potatoes, one of my favorite things to eat in Malawi : ) The US group left some board games for the after school clubs, including games like Monopoly Junior, Checkers/Chess, Chutes and Ladders, Set, and UNO, all of which I have to teach Owen, which really means that we get to play a lot of games in the next couple weeks when we have time. On Monday, the games also served to be much of my entertainment for the day. I had nothing to do, so Abraham, who works as the security guard at the WR office, and is possibly the only other person who gets as bored as me at the office, and I basically played every game that is stashed in the closet. So yeah, good day Saturday.

Sunday = a good church service, a friend preached John 17, a passage I have been very interested in, and there was some great singing. After church I went to a youth forum group with a friend, and loved the meeting, it was good fellowship and I loved the more casual atmosphere this week. Later in the evening, 3 friends (Fiona, Divina, and Matt) and I decided to go for a hike to Kalanguru, a mountain which is a little ways away, the trip takes about 3 hours walking, and usually is done by driving there and then climbing the mountain (more of a big hill actually) and then driving back, or walking with a guide....we did neither. We decided just to go for it at about 4pm, ended up walking through a couple of fields, on small foot paths through trees (Matt climbed one), which we hoped were in the general direction of the mountain. Every now and then we caught a glimpse of the mountain, which gave us a good boost of confidence, though most of the time, we weren’t convinced we were getting any closer even though we were walking at quite a pace. The sun sets here at about 6, and once it starts to set, about 4:45pm, it starts going down rather fast. BUT, despite us not really knowing where it was, or having a real path to get there, we made it, climbed Kalanguru, saw a beautiful sunset, and climbed back down, and ended up in a completely different place than we started from, lol. So we started walking again, kind of guessing, kind of knowing the general direction....and it kept getting darker and darker...but eventually, after turning around once and catching glimpse of the cell phone tower lights in Embangweni, we found a man who was heading in the same direction, and led us the rest of the way. Lucky for us because it was pitch black (no moon either) at the time! And it was only 6:30pm. Malawians can walk in complete darkness and know where they are going, we all had flash lights. The power was off all day at the guest house, but the second we stepped onto the porch, the lights came on! (angelic singing taking place) And at 6:45pm we sat down for a hot dinner, completely on schedule. How worried we were (I was maybe) about getting lost by the end, and how nice of an adventure it was! Happy end of the weekend : )

Monday: played games at the office all day, left off early, absolutely nothing to do tomorrow, sigh...back to being bored!

Mission Week Summary (1st week of July)

So I slacked majorly about writing journals during mission week. I was going to try and write one every day or at least try to recap each day, but I realize now that at this point the days have begin to blend and doing a summary might be much more feasible. So summary it is. In the beginning of the week, it was a bit of an adjustment getting used to being with a larger group for most of the day, and I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like the week. I didn’t do much besides observe and take part in minor activities, like leading a game or passing out papers, fun fun! I was not doing much of anything, yet Owen, the other WR staff, and the US group were working very hard. I was even tired by the end of the week even though I didn’t do near as much! But it turned out to be alright and a good experience. The highlights were in the middle of the day when we (all the WR staff, US people, and caregivers) all went outside and played games and sang songs, and danced the day away... :) All the caregivers and staff would join together and play games like Red Light, Green Light, Duck Duck Goose, and Simon Says. These three games were my absolute favorite because everybody (all of them adults) participated and had an amazing time. Mothers with babies on their backs were chasing eachother around the circle in duck duck goose and in simon says everyone loved being tricked into following a wrong direction. I led red light, green light, and it was so fun seeing all the adults race towards the finish line, though kinda scary when you think of thirty adults all charging in your direction lol. After learning these games, the caregivers would lead us in Malawian songs and dances, most of which I actually participated in! The singing is beautiful here, and everyone sings in wonderful and perfect harmony. Seriously, what was remarkable about this group was that the caregivers neither the staff, including WR and the US people, nor the caregivers, all knew eachother, we all just came together this week and had fun. All, or most, of the caregivers came from centers that were far apart from eachother. Some caregivers got up at 5 am to walk the 4 hours to get to the meeting place, others rode their bike for 2 hours. Serious dedication, 4 hours is a long time....especially when the women are in charge of cooking and taking care of the home, and some are caring babies on their backs!

One of the Malawian dances was a version of the limbo, with a much better song (beeko, beeko, beekoko...) which Owen loved, and then a line dance where you hop across with one foot hooked across another person’s, and then circle dances, where people sing and call out your name to come and dance, with amazing songs that tell you to come and “shake it.” Great fun, except my love for being in the middle of circles has not grown in the least I would say :) Loved the singing and dancing and playing games together, great memories, and great pictures of people running all over the place. Also, at the end of the week the caregivers all sang to us, “we will never forget you...” and added all our names, singing we will meet again, and it was so beautiful and wonderful, and all the adults were touched, if not crying. : )

It was also a fun week because all of the caregivers got a chance to play with the toys which they were learning how to use and practice using more activity-based and engaging teaching methods. So they got to play with hand puppets, building blocks, read stories, and play with puzzles in small groups. Again, that was a lot of fun. The lessons that the US group to the caregivers were about forming relationships with children and caring for them, setting up lesson plans and structuring a class, teaching kids according to their developmental level, different learning styles, and discipline, all very important subjects and the caregivers seemed to be soaking it up, all very appreciative of the information they were getting, so it was a very worthwhile and great week all around.

Day 1 of mission week (July 6th)

Today the US group arrived in Embangweni. They pulled up to the guest house in about 5 SUVs, nicer than the majority of vehicles in all of Embangweni I would say, so I don’t think we will be riding the motorbike as much this week : ) There are about 20 people, including some staff from WR Malawi, so it’s nice to see some familiar faces from the office as well. First thing to happen when they arrived was to unload the luggage, but no room for their stuff, room it was! Seriously, the luggage of 20 people in my room, it was a little overcrowded lol

The people I have gotten to know so far are the 3 that are working with the child development program here, or who I will be around for most of the week. Owen, Deborah, and a couple other WR people are also in the bunch, so we’ll be together for training the caregivers. Today we just observed at the childcare center at Mtuzuzu, one of the nicer and well-equipped centers that WR works with. It was different getting there in a car, a very packed car, than on a motorbike, seemed to go a bit slower, but it was fun to get to know people and spend a little more time looking around : ) but overall I would say I prefer the motorbike out of the two. When we finally arrived at Mtuzuzu class hadn’t started yet, so we spent some time playing with all the kids and talking. After that we observed the class and returned to the guest house with the other group members. This week there are four groups – our childcare group, a group working on building a pig house, a pastor’s training group, and a bible study group. I think our group is one of the best : ) of course. Reflecting on this day, I was a bit skeptical about the week, but through God’s grace it has been absolutely wonderful and a great learning opportunity and time for fellowship. Now onto day 2!