10 Things You Now Know About Malawi

My mom has been full of “helpful” suggestions the past few weeks.

“You should cut your long hair before you go. You should try cleaning your room more. You should pack more letter-writing materials.” And of course, “You should just stay here…”

While I don’t agree with all of her propositions, she did also suggest that I post some facts about Malawi for curious readers. Therefore, here are a few basic facts and some interesting tidbits for my followers (~celeb status!~):

  • The country is roughly the size of PA
  • Lake Malawi is roughly the size of NH (<– coincidence that attended college in PA and live in NH…? I think not…)
  • Gained independence from British rule in 1974
  • Current government: Multiparty Democracy
  • Majority of Malawians are Christian (82%)
  • 47% of the population is below the age of 15! Check out the population pyramids below to see the drastic differences in age structure between Malawi and the US. Crazy!

MI_popgraph%202014 US_popgraph%202014

  • The average woman has a baby by age 19 (a number that will hopefully be increased due to a new law banning child marriage)
  • Average life expectancy is 60 years
  • 1 in 10 people are living with HIV/AIDS
  • Agricultural sector employs 80% of the population

Clearly, this isn’t a comprehensive overview of Malawi, but some facts that I found interesting. Most of the info came from the World Factbook  which derives its data from surveys, censuses, etc. Another helpful site that has more culturally-oriented information is Our Africa if you’re interested in learning more!

 

 

 

And a couple GIFs for fun…

When friends & family continually stuff me with my favorite foods:

Winnie-the-Pooh

When I think about arriving in Malawi in less than a week:

Elf

Itinerary

Here is my upcoming schedule and a little info about Pre-Service Training (PST) if you’re curious:

 

Tuesday, March 3rd

7:15am: Leave home for the most exciting trip of my life

9:10am: Depart from Manchester, NH airport

10:40am: Arrive in Philadelphia and head to hotel for Staging

2:00-7:00pm: Staging! (Meeting everyone & learning what to expect, safety basics, etc.)

 

Wednesday, March 4th

2:00am: Check out of hotel & depart to airport  (← Will I sleep that night? Probably not.)

10:40am: Flight from JFK to Johannesburg!

(a quick 15hrs)

 

Thursday, March 5th

8:40am: Arrive in Joburg

10:00am:Depart for MALAWI

12:20pm: Arrive in Lilongwe, Malawi

 

As you can see, it’s going to be a lonnngg couple of days filled with new faces, tons of information and lots of travel time. Upon arrival in Lilongwe, our group will head to a local training facility where we will reside for the first few days. During this time, we’ll discuss the basics of Malawian culture, participate in language lessons and learn about medical & safety issues. After a few days, we will be transported to Kasungu for PST which lasts until the end of April. During this time, I will have no electricity so write to me via snail mail! You can find my address and instructions under the “Contact Me” tab of this site.

 

 

3 Things I’m Pumped for:                                                        3 Things I’m Less Pumped for:

80 degree weather! (we have 2 ½ feet of snow right now)  Inevitably getting sick

Meeting and becoming friends with my host family                 Lack of my favorite snacks

Getting to know the other volunteers                                      Taking malaria pills daily

 

 

15 days till Philly!

Packing My Life Away

What would you pack if you were headed to Africa for two years?

In order to answer this question myself, I have perused many blogs & recommended packing lists. Still, it’s hard to determine which items I will cherish and which ones I will rarely use because everyone values various comfort items and has different experiences abroad. For about a month, I have been slowly gathering items, wondering if I am forgetting anything vital. Will there be enough toilet paper?? Do I need a machete?? How much hand sanitizer is too much??  I have also done quite a bit of shopping for durable clothing, new electronics, kitchen gear, etc).  According to the Peace Corps, we are allowed to bring two 50lb bags, a carry-on bag, and a personal item. However, because I have decided to bring my new guitar (shout out to the Titcomb family for the gift!), it will count as one of the 50lb bags. Therefore, I am left with only one bag under 50lbs, one carry-on backpack and one personal item. So far, this is what I have set aside to pack:

(Yes, everything is classified and labeled!). Right now, I’m feeling pretty good about the amount of stuff I have gathered. While the process has been tedious and challenging, it definitely has allowed me to cleanse my room and closet. Below are all the clothes I donated:

What has surprised me most about my packing is actually the number of electronics I am bringing. Although I probably won’t have electricity, many past & present PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) recommend bringing a laptop, speakers, phone and other small electronics for entertainment purposes. While it may be difficult to safeguard them, I think having these electronics will be very beneficial. When my packing is completed in 18 days, I intend to write a full list of everything I’m bringing which will hopefully be useful to future volunteers.

P.S. If you’re interested in getting an annoying yet informative & humorous song stuck in your head about the downsides of PC life, feel free to check out this video by past PCVs- Poop in a Hole.

Ants in My Pants

Last week, one of my fellow future volunteers articulated exactly how I would describe the past few months: both the fastest and slowest of our lives. With our departure date only 26 days away, time has certainly been eluding me the way it does during a week’s vacation in the tropics. Strangely enough, I’ve been living in cold & snowy New Hampshire but am still feeling the same sensation. The window of opportunity to visit friends one last time, buy gear for my packing list, and practice Chichewa before I depart is quickly shrinking. At the same time, the. days. are. passing. so. slowly. I feel like I’ve read countless Peace Corps blogs, watched hundreds of YouTube videos (like this one styled after the show “MTV Cribs” that made me laugh a little too hard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LtQXUyssu8), and mentally prepared myself as much as possible. Aside from having nothing actually packed and no directions on how to get to my staging event, I AM READY!

For those who are reading this that are future volunteers in my same situation, you may be wondering what I have consumed by time with. My activities include:

  • Visiting friends out-of-state
  • Buying new gear (who knew that moving to Africa could be so expensive!)
  • Learning to play the guitar
  • Working part-time
  • Chilling with my friends who (thank god) are still living in my hometown
  • Transferring music, books and videos to my electronics
  • Practicing Chichewa
  • Packing
  • Consuming all the chocolate, cheese and wine that I can, and of course,
  • Watching Netflix

As for my communication with the Peace Corps, every few weeks, the PC Malawi office sends out an email update and requests certain things such our bicycle size or updated medical information. We also had a short conference call last week to go over any questions we might have had. It was a bit difficult to understand the callers on the other end, but was exciting to hear the voices of my future coworkers. This morning, I received the most exciting email to date, with information regarding our staging event and arrival in Malawi. Although it did not outline the specifics of staging, we learned about our accommodations in Kasungu, what the training schedule will be like, and a few logistical things. To say that I was bouncing off the walls would be an understatement!

*This entry was written on January 29th, but due to a trip to Cincinnati, I am now posting it on February 5th. More updates to follow!