As homestay wraps up (holy guacamoly where has the time gone?), I thought that writing a post with future volunteers in mind would be useful. I know that I perused countless PCV blogs for a glimpse of what the first few months were like, so here’s my two cents if there are any future volunteers reading this.
Most useful/nicest thing I had at homestay:
Multivitamins & probiotics
Long skirts (chitenjes get old fast)
Music player & speakers
Super absorbent little towel
Worst parts of homestay:
If you can’t tell by the food items on the previous list, I found the worst part of homestay to be the food. Or rather, lack of nutritious food. Although some families can afford to feed their PCT a slightly more varied diet, a lot of volunteers are served nsima (a dish made with corn flour and water) and some type of protein. Luckily, my amayi cooks rice for me often, but eating rice/nsima + eggs/soy pieces/chicken doesn’t cut it. Not getting enough fruit and veggies has definitely taken a toll on my body; I feel much weaker and have less energy. So pack multivitamins! They’ve helped a bit.
Another major challenge has been a lack of privacy/personal space. My family is great about respecting my room as a private spot, but once I leave, I feel like I am always in the spotlight and can’t step out of it. There are literally children EVERYWHERE. You can’t escape them. The “iwes” (kids) run rampant here and are apparently too interested in us to sacrifice leaving us alone for even a minute. I like children, but it’d be nice to sit under a tree and read a book without someone reading it over my shoulder or without someone announcing to the other children every time I take a drink from my water bottle…
The last part of PST (Pre-Service Training) that I’ll complain about is a complete lack of time we seem to have. It’s improved slightly since site visits but during the first month and a half, we had such busy schedules with countless sector sessions, group activities and language lessons. After school we then needed to bathe, eat, chat with our families and sometimes do homework. By the time 8:00 rolled around, I was more than ready for bed. Although I anticipated having free time for reading, practicing guitar, or drawing, that extraneous time did not exist. If I did happen to have some spare time, I always felt like I should have been spending it with my family or socializing with other PCTs. Looking back however, the memories I made with others was much more important than reading a book or improving on the guitar.
And now… BEST PARTS OF HOMESTAY:
The #1 spot goes to cooking mandasi under the stars with my host family. For some reason, everyone is always in such a silly mood during mandasi time, which makes it easier for me to try to make jokes in Chichewa. Although they’re probably laughing at me, (and not at my jokes), I love seeing my amayi and siblings crack up. They’re a great audience because they will literally laugh at anything. Another perk: my amayi lets me eat one or two of the hot, fresh mandasis before storing them and they are DELICIOUS. I once ate 5. (After eating dinner too).
Another thing I love about homestay is that everyone here knows my name. (#Celebstatus). Although the iwes can be overbearing at times, hearing them shout “Chri-tee-na!” in their cute little accents as they run towards me never fails to improve my mood. Being greeted by other amayis in the community, who I don’t even recognize, has made me feel like even more welcomed here.
The last thing I’ll mention is simply getting to know my host family. It amazes me that when I arrived, we spoke two completely different languages. However, I now know them on a personal level. I feel connected. They’ve let me into their lives, taken a great interest in mine, and shared with me what little they had. It’s really hard to put this experience into words, but I guess that the sensation of truly connecting with people who have grown up in a completely different culture on the opposite side of the world, is what’s so special. It’s been wonderful.
All in all, living in Chisazima has been great and I really don’t want to leave my family and the community I’ve grown to love. Tomorrow is Village Appreciation where we’ll thank the village (and perform a choreographed dance to Thriller!) and then Thursday is our Swearing-In Ceremony in Lilongwe. I was chosen to give a short speech in Chichewa so I’ve been practicing my pronunciation and trying to make the speech as fluid as possible. The ceremony takes place at the Ambassador’s house, which is pretty exciting! Finally, on Friday we head to our respective sites. Ahh! How did this happen? Its completely overwhelming and so sad to leave the awesome friends I’ve made, but on to the next chapter of this journey I guess?
Playing uno with the fam