First 2 Weeks!

3/13:

 

3 things I have accomplished in the past 12 hours:

Peed in a bucket

Pooped in a hole

Puked in a cornfield

 

Impressive, right? Last night I experienced my first case of African food poisoning, which I believe was due to some chimanga (corn) that I ate which wasn’t boiled. While it certainly wasn’t fun, the response from my family was amazing and perfectly depicts just how much the community cares for us. When I walked out of the chim (outhouse), I was swiftly greeted by a neighbor who had heard me getting sick. She lead me back to my house and when I walked inside, my entire family (of six) was awake in the main room, awaiting my return. My amayi (mother) then followed me into my bedroom, holding a bucket each time I got sick. She sat in silence and didn’t leave until I had fallen asleep. This morning, it seemed like the entire village knew what happened and I was asked by strangers about my stomach numerous times. The whole experience was so comforting and really revealed the kindness of the people here. I couldn’t believe they cared so much, even though they’ve only known me for a few days.

 

My apologies for starting with such a graphic story but I felt it would mimic the way we were abruptly exposed to the local culture (and to the local parasites…) As I mentioned, I’m living with a mother and her five children, aged 5-23. I’m not sure if she has a husband yet and don’t have the language skills to ask yet. There are about a million other questions I have too, but those will have to wait. My family is slowly teaching me a vocab like body parts, plants and foods. The two youngest children are pretty shy, but I think they’re warming up to me. I’ve played my guitar, taught them the macarena and tried to follow along with the songs they sing. I also invited one of my brothers to a PC (Peace Corps) community event on Saturday, where we will be constructing a map of the village. So far, I’m adjusting pretty well to rural village life. I haven’t minded taking bucket baths, eating on the ground (we have no furniture) and using the outhouse. The hardest part is just the language. Life moves pretty slow here but it’s a nice change in pace and overall, I’m very happy.

 

 

3/23:

 

Life in Chizasima seems to be getting more normal with each day that passes. Sleeping on the ground, cooking over open fires and not looking into a mirror for days on end is old news. The stares and small mobs of children that follow me EVERYWHERE are more than expected. I’ve really grown to love my host family and feel like I’ve known then for a lot longer than two weeks. They are all so sweet! For example, after not owning a brush for the past two weeks (don’t ask how my hair has looked), my brother Fatsani saw me borrowing a friend’s brush yesterday. This afternoon, he magically produced a comb that he scrounged up from somewhere and proudly presented it to me. It was such a thoughtful gesture and I am now SO excited to undread my hair. (PS dreads are strongly associated with drug culture here so unfortunately I will be sticking with my old ‘do). Along with the comb, my siblings have also given me lollipops when I’ve been sick. The people here don’t have much of anything (literally all the food that my family owns is stored on one small table), but they are so willing to share anything that they can. The idea of taking what you absolutely need & sharing the rest is really strong here. It makes me question my American values and feel guilty about all of the items I have in my room.

 

To describe what I’ve been doing the past few weeks, here’s a normal day:

 

5:30 – Wake up, run, bucket bath, breakfast with the fam

8:00 – Language class

10:30 – Technical classes, safety training, etc

12:00 – Lunch with the FAM

1:30 – More classes

5:00-8:00 – Hang out with volunteers and family, cook/eat dinner, practice Chichewa, go to SLEEP (So tired at this point)

 

This weekends are free and this past one was particularly awesome. We were issued bikes on Friday, went to a small city on Saturday, and then went hiking up a little mountain on Sunday. The views on top of were gorgeous and we could see as far as Mozambique! Joining us on the hike, of course, were about 20 “Iwe’s” or village kids. It was so nice to be hiking in the woods again, even with a 60+ group. That’s all for now! Comment with questions and hopefully I’ll get to answer them when I have internet next! Miss you all.

Long Way to Lilongwe: My First Week In Africa

Although today marks the 5th day we’ve been in Malawi, it feels as though it’s been a month (in a good way!) The past week or so we’ve been learning health & safety skills, some survival Chichewa and tidbits about the culture. We’ve been staying in the Malawian Institute of Management where we have our own rooms, running water and spotty wifi- what a luxury! Getting to know everyone has honestly been the best part. The other volunteers are friendly, non-judging, personal, invested, and willing to make friends that they may not have gravitated towards in the States. It’s refreshing. We’ve had a good amount of time to get to know each other through volleyball games, tea times, games of Cards Against Humanity and working on projects together.

So although I’ve learned so much about Malawi via the PC (Peace Corps) staff, I thought I’d share just one cultural difference with you. As someone who loves photography, I found it interesting that Malawians think that taking pictures of nature is ludicrous. Instead of capturing the nature that surrounds them everyday, they think it’s more interesting to take pictures of other people. Therefore, they might jump in your photo… I haven’t taken many pictures in the compound but am excited to start snapping pictures when we arrive in Kasungu- whether or not I get some stares.

Yesterday we found out which language we’ll be learning which was so exciting because it gave us a hint about where our final sites will be! There are three languages that our group will be learning which correspond to the Northern, Lakeside, and Central/Southern part of the country. I was assigned Chichewa so I’ll be located in the Central or Southern region- yay! All Malawians learns Chichewa as a base language so I’ll be able to communicate with people all over the country. I’ll also get some good practice during homestay because the majority of families in Kasungu speak Chichewa.

All of us are ecstatic to finally meet our amayis (mothers) and abambos (fathers) tomorrow. The people of the village (saying village people sounds weird) are apparently super excited to meet us and have been prepping their houses for a long time. Word “spreads like bushfire” here so the villages around the one we are going to have been getting excited as well. I find it pretty comical that the whole area has been gossiping about the arrival of a army of azungus (white people). Tomorrow we head to town to do some shopping and then arrive in Kasungu in the afternoon. I literally can’t wait.

I wish I could write more but my cellphone time is limited. In short, I’m so happy that I’m here and know that Peace Corps was a great decision for me. Tiwonana! (See ya later!)

Some pics of a meal, the compound, the dining hall and the auditorium.

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Final Packing List

The past couple of days have been quite the whirlwind with my going away party, a trip to Boston for the Celtics game and a last sushi dinner with the fam. Thanks to everyone who has said goodbye! There have been plenty of sad farewells but I am ecstatic for tomorrow morning. Here is my final packing list! (Although I may try to stuff a few more things in between now and 6am).

Clothing & Accessories
1 raincoat
3 skirts
3 long-sleeve collared shirts
1 under armour hiking shirt
4 basic tanks
6 basic v-necks
3 sleep/workout tees
2 sleeveless collared shirts
3 blouses
1 blazer
5 pairs of leggings
1 pair of spanx
2 gaucho pants
2 long dresses
2 “culturally inappropriate” dresses
1 hoodie
1 fleece
3 sports bras
3 bandeaus
7 pairs of durable sport undies
4 pairs of favorite undies
8 pairs of socks
1 pair of thick hiking socks
1 one-piece bathing suit
2 pairs of sunglasses
1 red sox cap and 1 Nantucket cap
5 headbands
1 money belt

Footwear
1 pair of hiking boots
1 pair of crocs
1 pair of flats
1 pair of tevas
1 pair of Nike flip-flops

Hobby stuff
1 harmonica
1 watercolor set w/ paintbrushes
1 set of charcoal pencils
1 set of colored pencils
1 mechanical pencil & lead
8 pens
5 drawing pens
1 game of Boggle
1 game of “Would Your Rather”
2 stationary sets with envelopes
1 guitar w/beginner’s book
1 Snapfish book of college pictures
1 NatGeo magazine
1 notebook
1 journal
1 drawing pad
1 pack of crayons
3 sharpies
1 fat marker

Household things/random
1 roll of tape
1 poster
2 world maps
1 NH map
1 calendar of New England
1 painting for wall decor
2 tapestries for wall decor
1 string of pennants for wall decor
1 pack of clothespins, safety pins, push pins
1 pair of scissors
1 pi phi arrow
1 can opener
10 packs of seeds (squash, chives, cilantro, pepper, basil, cucumbers, tomatoes)

Food
2 gatorade flavoring squirters
1 pack of peanut m&m’s
1lb of trail mix
2lbs of raisins
1 pint of homemade NH syrup!

Health
110 probiotic capsules
1 pack of stool softeners
1 pack of flossers
3 months of feminine products

Rugged stuff
1 survival strap bracelet
1 bandana
1 super absorbent towel
1 utility knife
1 roll of duct tape
1 leatherman
1 whistle and carabiner
1 bungee cord
1 compass
1 Go Girl (Shout out to my BFF for this quite interesting product)
2 expandable water bottles
1 tent
1 sleeping bag
$800 cash

Electronics & related accessories
2 Luci lights
1 bug light
1 rechargeable headlamp
3 pairs of cheap earbuds
8 extra earbud covers
1 battery powered alarm clock
1 watch
1 electronics cleaning cloth
1 pack screen protectors
1 Droid Maxx & Otterbox case
1 old iphone 4s as a backup
1 little Netbook
1 kindle
1 Canon Rebel t3i with lenses, camera bag, SD cards, accessories
1 Rockout Rechargeable speaker
1 Goal Zero Guide 10 Solar Kit
1 SanDisk Clip Sport mp3
1 external hard drive

Toiletries
1 bottle of my favorite lotion
3 month supply of shampoo & conditioner
1 bottle dry shampoo
1 bottle face wash
1 container of Tums
2 little bottles of hand sanitizer
1 bottle of moisturizer
8 months supply of BC
1 mini mirror
1 pack of hair elastics
1 pair of nail clippers
2 sticks of deodorant
4 disposable razors
1 reusable razor and extra blade
1 stick of lipstick
1 mirror

Me carrying all my luggage and literally dying while my dad figures out how to function my camera…


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Another luggage shot:

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Photobomb! Courtesy of Chris Baum.

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Luggage update!!

Unfortunately I had to check my guitar to Philly and am praying that the hard case I bought will provide sufficient protection. Side note: one of my strings broke last night and I forgot to buy extras so that is a reaaall bummer. Thankfully, my mom has offered to send me some tomorrow, meaning they might arrive in a month. Guess my journey to becoming a rock star will have to be postponed.

Also..

My checked bag was 1lb over. Although the pound of candy immediately flashed before my eyes as an easy way to reduce weight, I couldn’t bear to part with my M&M’s so I took out a hiking boot and tied it to my carry-on. The bag already has toothbrushes, watercolors and maybe even some underwear sticking out of it, so what’s a random boot to it?

Now, I’m waiting in the Manchester airport, trying to tame my excitement over the upcoming staging event. Saying goodbye to everyone has been so sad (especially my family), but it’s more of a “see you soon” than a true goodbye, right?