December 15, 2008
It’s my first Monday at site and what a whirlwind of a couple of days. I have no idea where to start so here’s a mishmash of events.
Wednesday-Monday at site:
Being dropped off at site: I was hungry. I was scared. I was not ready to decorate this mammoth of a house, but I was ready to FINALLY unpack. That was the most exciting part of the day. I was greeted by the PTA members who were all smiles. I bet they’re just as scared of what I am going to do with Nambuma as I am. Mr. Benjamin, my current counterpart, greeted me and let me know that when I need something (even if I don’t want help), I need to ask him. This man is incredibly helpful and thoughtful. When he found out that I don’t make tea everyday (mostly because I suck at lighting charcoal right now and I don’t want to be a bad volunteer using charcoal whenever I want), he told me, “Oh, this is no good. You need tea to be strong. Oh, I am very surprised at you. You must make tea everyday and I will make sure you are strong. You cannot get thin. You must eat a lot and not get thin.” Interesting, no? Well, the food aspect comes up later, so be prepared for that.
The reverend (with many many many children…he’s buana “rich” by Malawian standards…the more children, the richer! Guess I better get on that…kidding, dad!) came to visit me. He lives right next to me along side the CCAP church (oh, more stories on that). He offered to find me a puppy for January, to find trustworthy people to interview to work for me, and he offered his kids as helpers. His twin daughters, about 18 years old, tend to always see me on my way to the borehole and they always insist on helping me. I carried my water on my head once and got laughed at a plenty, which was fine with me, but not Maria and Martha. I think they’ve taken it upon themselves to make sure I never have to do that again, though I’ve been sneaky and doing it when they aren’t home.
My daily food intake varies depending on the rains. The torrential downpours during the day make it hard to go to the market on some days. The food only keeps about a day and a half so going to market is necessary. The lowest of the low for me right now was taking the mold of my bread and making a hot sauce sandwich. I promised myself it would never get to that point again. I am mastering the mbeula, the charcoal stove, but I am hoping that with electricity I can replace it with a hot plate. I have little girls helping me everyday to light the charcoal so I can at least boil water…Stella, a seven year old, has taken a liking to me, so she comes almost everyday. I have been using soup mix to make my meals more interesting. I have a lot of eggs, masamba (greens), and tomatoes in various ways. Beans are very expensive right now, but that will soon change. And hopefully as the rainy season continues I will get a wider array of vegetables in my diet. The gardening has been put on hold right now. Being an “example” house and being new in the community, I have been advised to not do much to the front of my house. I also have been told that lately there has been some thieving in this village so having a garden away from my house will be hard. I am just hoping that they’ll change their minds soon so I can save money and grow some food!
The rains last night destroyed the road to my house and when I asked my friend Chimwemwe (Mr. Benjamin’s daughter) why that happened she said that the workers constructing my school did not use all the cement they brought. They sold half of it to make profit. hmmmm
I got to talk to Arianne, the rents, & Victoria this weekend. Those phone calls are hard, but really good. I think I am going to sign up for a call-back service so I can start calling some people. Realizing my life here for two years will be pretty lonely, I’ve also decided to get a kitten and a puppy (names have been decided, but not disclosed until a later date). I haven’t decided on boarders yet, but that will come with time. I think I like having my privacy and having girl students here could very well destroy that.
So I went to the CCAP church yesterday with Mrs. Benjamin (also a teacher at my school) to integrate myself some more. Come to find out, sitting with Mrs. Benjamin was a good idea if I wanted to integrate. I am now a proud new member of one of the women’s choirs in the church. By member, I am required to sit with them, do the dances, mumble the words, and pick out the different harmonies I can tag along with these older women. They surrounded me yesterday with handshakes and smiles after I obligingly stood up during one of their songs and danced with them. Now I just have to work on finding the words somewhere other than these women’s memories…
After church, my school staff had a meeting. My deputy was allotting the classes and responsibilities to each of the teachers…I am still gawking at this list, but I already have turned down some responsibilities to make this list lighter…
English Forms 1 & 3, five periods each/week
Chemistry Form 3, three periods/week
Math Form 2, seven periods/week
Life Skills Form 4, two periods/week
Department Head of Languages (Chichewa & English)
Head Librarian (guess I need to learn some library science and find some books to fill our reading room!)
Sports Mistress (I’m learning netball! And going to games around Malawi)
Sanitation Committee (making the school look pretty inside and out)
Examination Committee (I’m teaching the teachers how to use the computer/scanner and possibly writing exams)
Entertainment Committee (I make activities for the students on weekends)
Wildlife Club Assistant (I get to go on fieldtrips to the parks!)
SCOM Assistant (Student Christian Organization of Malawi…the deputy saw me at church…uh oh)
Our new school has tons of textbooks in contrast to 99% of Malawian schools, but our reading room is completely empty. We have no books these students can just take out for pleasure or research. Priority #1 with these responsibilities is organizing the library’s textbooks, creating a system to keep track of them during the year, and filling that reading room.
I think with SCOM, I won’t be able to help much in reference to bible knowledge, etc, but I can head up different community service projects. I’m thinking with this group we can fundraise money for the nursery school roof, or start a tutoring program with the primary school students, or maybe get the primary school some desks/windows/books/materials for teachers.
I must start my schemes of work and lesson plans right now…or maybe I should start my charcoal…either way I should do something productive. This Saturday I am meeting Meagan in Lilongwe, hanging out for a few days (mail & internet!), then going to Senga Bay with the Central and Southerners of my group. I am wicked excited to see everyone after our first couple of weeks at site. Being with them on Christmas and just relaxing will be nice. And it’s Natalie’s birthday Christmas Eve. Though I would rather be spending it at Aunty Cindy’s with the fam and Arianne and eating something other than hot sauce sandwiches, I think we’ll make it a fun week.
I send my love.