I’ve been at my site now for a month and it’s amazing how one can feel so busy and yet not at the same time. Simple tasks that I used to take advantage of knowing how to do are now novel and the process must be relearned. For example, I had to learn that I could charge my phone at the maize mill in the village closest to me, which is a 15 minute bike ride away. I have no set schedule, but I seem to wake at around 5:30, which is not hard when you turn in at 7:30. There isn’t much to do once it gets dark. I spend my mornings doing dishes, hauling water from the borehole, sweeping with my clump of spindly sticks (I have to constantly remind myself that the floor is dirt and I could sweep forever and still get dust to come up. I’m working on getting a cement floor put in and furniture made so the stuff I’m borrowing from my chief I can return.), reading or studying, watering the plants I have carved into the rock solid, nutrient poor patch of ground, made-so from years of incessant Malawian sweeping, that is my backyard. After that I will usually go out and chat with people. Sometimes it’s groups like those in charge of the local woodlot or people who keep bees, but more often than not it is just aimless wandering trying to learn the surrounding area and where people live on the veining dirt paths. It has provided incredible useful as I always seem to meet someone that proves to be a useful connection. They know someone who uses a triddle pump to irrigate their field in the dry season or are part of a local aid group that meets at the church every week. Sometimes I simply just sit with the women of a household on a bamboo mat, eating boiled sweet potatoes, practicing chewa, learning names, eventually playing games with the kids and always leaving with food of some form or another. For as many people as they say are in the country I’m not sure where they all hide. You can walk away from a compound of houses and go without seeing a soul for hours.
People seem to be genuinely interested in projects and have been pretty proactive about helping me find groups to work with. It appears that I will primarily be working with the establishment of wells, bee keeping, mushroom farming, and techniques of irrigating and dry farming in the dry season and hopefully starting a tree nursery or two. Some of this takes a bit of capital to start and I don’t just want to be handing out money and supplies left and right so I’m trying figure out how to introduce some of these ideas. I don’t feel comfortable enough with the technical aspects of some of these projects to ask people to invest what little money they do have in these ideas of mine. I guess that’s why I’m here though, to help them take risks and be a safety net where they wouldn’t otherwise have one. Maybe I could work out some kind of loaning system so it’s not giving and they will be more likely to take care of it, but if it doesn’t work they won’t starve either.
The most frustrating thing I have encountered so far is what people refer to as Malawian time, which makes mormon time seem punctual. If you say you have a meeting at 9am just expect the meeting to occur at some point within that photo-period. People don’t have clocks and I’m still not used to their daily schedules so it seems to be taking an unnaturally long time to do simple things. For example the carpenter said he would come in the morning to put a lock on my door, so I wait around until 10:30 and I can’t stand it any longer because I seem to suffocate if I stay in my house too long, only to have him show up at 11:00. Or on three separate occasions a packed up my house to have them lay the cement floor only to be stood up, where today and 6am 5 guys show up and whisk all my stuff outside as I looked on in my PJs.
Anyway, at the end of the day I then return home and play Frisbee or cards (they know how to play Uno) with the chief’s kids. After which I cook my dinner over a wood fire, the novelty of which recently worn off with a particularly smoky and retardant batch that I got. My chief gave me a huge stack to begin with, but I’m almost out so I have to figure out where to get more or even better I hope to invest in a paraffin stove here soon. I think I have finally identified the constellation that is the southern cross and scorpio, I can see Hercules and even the big dipper though they are upside and I still can’t seem to figure out the pattern they travel in the night sky.
I marvel at the food here. I have been living off of the scones from a local teahouse with PB & J, and honey that I bought in the larger city, when I was there. I go to market every Friday, a half hour bike ride away, and right now my food choices are bannans, guava (occasionally), eggs, peanuts, cassava, irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, flour, salt, sugar and onions. I live off of beans and rice, but they also sell dried fish and a kind of mustard green, which I can’t seem to be able to stomach. I’ve actually gone to picking stuff they say is edible out of the field to try and see if I can find anything that tastes any better. They eat a lot of pumpkin leaves here.
Kamuzu academy is a half hour bike ride from my village and I’m in the processes of getting permission from the headmaster to use the campus and their internet! Cross your fingers folks, communications may become more regular soon. They have a road along which all the teachers that work here live and it looks so much like a suburban neighborhood that it brought a tear to my eye. They say the first three months at site are the hardest and I’m definitely feeling it. I’ve taken to developing favorite memories of you folks from home and it’s funny how even here where so many things are different things will remind me of you. I even saw a Napoleon Dynamite shirt and found a US penny on the ground. Glad to see some things are the same everywhere. Mom has taken to calling me every Monday and I can’t say how good it is to hear of happenings on the other side. Well I have to start riding my bike home. Until next time take care of yourselves.