Update with photos: June-September

Hi all! For those who have been following my adventures, I wanted to provide a quick update and show you some photos of my new home! So yes, I have a new home and a whole new village. It has taken me awhile to write about the change, but in June, I left Maganga and moved to a new district. It was sad to leave my wonderful counterpart, my Rajah baby (who Gift has adopted as one of his sons) and other friends, but I am 100% satisfied with my choice. I won’t get into the details of why I left, but I am in a much better place – literally and figuratively.

 

The past few months have proved to be very busy for me. I have been implementing an after-school club at the primary school twice a week that covers topics such as self esteem, puberty, pregnancy, HIV, healthy sexual choices, goal planning, etc. While attendance hasn’t been great, I have a small group of dedicated students that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and helping them learn. In two weeks, they will finish the 24-lesson program!

 

I have also been visiting a youth group in a very rural village to implement Grass Roots Soccer, a program that combines HIV prevention and soccer. This has been my favorite activity so far, as the youth LOVE the games we play and always ask me to stay longer. Right now, we are planning an HIV Testing Day for all the youth in their area which will encourage

 

Another activity I’ve been doing is building cookstoves. These stoves use less firewood than the typical method of “three stone” cooking (setting a pot on three bricks with an open fire underneath). The rate of deforestation in Malawi is one of the highest in the world so although I’m not an environment volunteer, I was eager to do this secondary project. I’ve been flying solo (counterpart-less) on this one and building them with an awesome female chief in the village next to mine. While the language barrier is still tough, we have slowly become friends by visiting different families and helping them construct the stoves. The chief is very hardworking, caring, and always trying to give me food! I feel lucky that I get to work with her.

 

In between my weekly activities, I occasionally help my counterpart with his health center work, going to outreach clinics or leading health talks. For example, last month we taught women how to make porridge that contains all six Malawian food groups.

 

So, what’s in the works for the future? After the aforementioned HIV Testing Day, the same youth group will have a graduation in which the whole community will be invited to watch them perform about what they have learned the past three months. My counterpart and I would then like to implement the same GRS program with a different group since it has been so successful! I will also be starting a Malaria Outreach Club at a nearby secondary school that I’m really excited about! After some detailed lessons, the plan is for the students to spread malarial knowledge in the community through various mediums (possibly dramas, radio shows, murals, marches, bed net demos, etc). I will be working with a wonderful female teacher who I have been getting to know over the past month and am eager to start. So, that’s my work update!

 

In terms of my personal life, I have been very content since the change of villages. Two other PCVs have previously lived in Kasinje before me so I believe that has really helped integration. Additionally, my neighbors are very kind and the girl who carries my water (the borehole is way too far for me…) has become a good friend. Everyday we check out my garden together, noting any new growth. She also planted a little pumpkin patch in my fence, which we harvested for the first time on Sunday! I’ve been running and doing yoga everyday which has also been great for my mental health. Of course there are challenges (ie HOT SEASON, being even farther away from my boyfriend, living in an NGO-saturated area, drunk men, etc etc), but life here is pretty good! Next month, I will be hiking Mt. Mulanje which I’ve heard is beyond beautiful and in November, I’ll be doing a four-night hike in Nyika National Park for Thanksgiving. I can’t wait!

 

P.S. Only 7 months left of my service!

 

A now some photos while I have wifi:

 

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This is my Harriet, the girl who fetches my water

 

 

 

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Our pumpkin patch

 

 

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Chief Jamu (left) and her sister in front of their newly built cookstove.

 

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My back stoop, where all the cooking takes place! Notice my two little flowers in the bottom right corner which just blossomed this week

 

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Solar panels (how I charge my phone), sweet potatoes growing on the left, and two garden beds in the middle that have okra and zuchini

 

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My bathing area

 

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Selfie in my chim! It’s actually the coolest place to be on my property

 

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One of the women at our cooking demo declaring the peanut butter as “zokoma!” or “delicious!”

 

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Cookstove demonstration… how many azimayi can you fit in a tiny kitchen?

 

 

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My cozy living room. The last two volunteers left a lot of furniture. (Thanks Beccy)

 

 

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My even cozier bedroom. Just enough space for my bed…

 

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My kitchen, fully stocked with spices and utensils from the last volunteers!

 

 

 

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Members of the youth group that I meet with to implement “Grass Roots Soccer”

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Village Runs

​Meeeeeh! Meeeeh-eh-eh-eh!



Akin to the way your eyes adjust when you walk indoors after exploring freshly fallen, blindingly-white snow, my mind begins to make sense of my surroundings. 


Meeeehhh-eh-eh! Meh-eh!



I begin to feel my saggy matress supporting my body, I sense a soft glow of light coming from what must be a window, and I hear a child yelling directly through that window. Meeeehhh-eh-eh! Although my dreams had wistfully carried me back to the US, I realize that I have woken up in Malawi, in the same bed that I have woken up in for the past year and a half. I realize that the child yelling is not a child at all, but the malevolent goat that always seems to be crashing into my gate, eating my tenderly planted vegetables and bleating at the top of its ugly goat lungs. Reality sinks in. I glance at my watch, but it’s too dark to see anything in my cramped, poorly-lit bedroom. I figure it must be around 5:45, according to the amount of light sneaking in. I force myself to get up, rising slowly. 
 
Fifteen minutes later, I walk out of my door wearing long yoga pants, running shorts, a tie-dyed t-shirt that I made in highschool, and running shoes. The same ‘progressive’ outfit that I wear every time I run. The one stinks to high hell and has sweat stains that are more offensive than Donald Trump. I pass the three men who have been building a new house for my neighbor and wave. “Wawa, wawa,” I mumble, still sleepy. Piles of bricks are scattered around the new house’s foundation, encroaching upon the path connecting my house to the main road. When I finally maneuver through the minefield of bricks and reach the wider dirt road, I begin to run. 
 
I first pass the primary school, which is eerily silent now but which will be erupting with energy in a few hours. It’s comprised of about eight brick buildings and has a full sized soccer field next to it. (Which could be more accurately described as a rectangle of uneven dirt.) I tread carefully as to not twist an ankle in one of its many holes.  
 
Next, I pass a handful of amayis chatting unobtrusively and plodding along at a glacial pace. I wonder where they are going this early in the morning and how far they will walk. Their weight shifts momentously from hip to hip as their bodies waddle from side to side. 

The sun has certainly risen, but it remains soft and merciful. It gently reaches down and touches the few farmers that have begun to prepare their fields. The sun’s rays meet with a smokey layer of fog that snakes its way through the farmers’ fields, slithering between leftover tobacco plants and dried corn stalks. Their convergence creates a soft, purpley-blue light and reminds me why it’s worth getting up so early. 
 
I continue on, passing the multitude of houses that line the road. Children squat in circles around small bush fires that they’ve started. They warm their hands while gaping at me. Many of them shout my name or give me the thumbs up as I pass by. Some cower nervously behind their mothers’ legs. Thankfully, they’re still a bit subdued in their sleepy states.  

This interest in my behavoir is not limited to just children. I am stared at, pointed at, waved to and greeted by all ages. The farther away from my village I run, the more intense the reactions become. I witness mothers seeing me and then promptly grabbing their friends or children and pointing in my direction. It’s as if they’ve spotted a moose in their own backyard. Come look, quick! The children drop their chores and run to the road. Everyone in the village turns to see, stunned into silence. (The best reaction I have witnessed so far, however, came from an adorable 80-something year old agogo. When she saw me coming, her face broke out into a huge, genuinely happy smile as she pumped both of her fists in the air to cheer me on. I felt like an Olympic runner.)

 
I keep running, heading back towards my house now. On the right, I pass the local watering hole teeming with life. Women, children and many variously shaped buckets and basins surround the borehole. Babies are strapped to their mothers’ backs in colorful fabrics that contrast the bleak, brown landscape. 
I survey the land around me and indeed, it is bleak. In between each small village or clustering of homes is brown, dessicated farmland. The carefully sculpted rows where maize will be planted have been baked by the sun. The soil is dusty and barren of life. Tall spiky trees dot the landscape, but they are sparse.  
 
As I near my house, I sense a change in energy as the village is now waking up. The roosters have apparently fulfilled their work, evidenced by children playing games in their front yards, mothers starting fires, and goats exiting their pens. Bike taxis begin to pass me more frequently and the road becomes littered with people commuting to the trading center. I dodge a poorly driven an oxcart manned by a group of young boys. I maneuver around a bicycle carrying three bundles of straw. 

The calm feeling that blanketed the village a mere thirty minutes ago is now gone. The fog has dissipated and the colorful sunrise has been muted. I arrive back to my house, mourning the end of a peaceful morning. I start a fire, put on a pot of water, and wait for my bath water to heat. 

 

This is Eunice who joined me on a run the other week and ran two shoeless miles while carrying her blanket! A true sport.