Category Archives: Praxis Malawi

Canadian Time

By Marten Sealy (Bishop’s)

Canadian TimeCanada seems such a distant place already. I’ve been absent in my role as a “westerner” for a week so far, cocooning, preparing to return home a new person. What happens in the cocoon, mind you, is a very active process.

Living on the new Campus, which is still under construction, is a bizarre sort of stark utopia. The hostel in which we are living is at the heart of the Campus, and during the day it is surrounded by locals whom have been hired as cooks, cleaners, carpenters, painters, security, and more. The employees work hard, but it is not uncommon to find several workers taking a break in the shade between jobs. I’ve found it very rewarding to join them and converse about whatever happens to be on my mind. People tend to have uniquely interesting perspectives which surface as soon as you switch off autopilot, and I’m having no trouble at all achieving that. I think people in any setting strive for genuine human interaction, but colourful ads and screens can distract them. People here don’t get distracted.

My co-learner, a phys-ed teacher and football coach at the local secondary school, loves to discuss the differences between his country and Canada. We share a rich dialogue. I practice honesty and modesty, admitting that our wealth can bring comfort to life, but preaching that full bellies and big TVs aren’t the holy grail that they’re built up to be. If there is a life of ultimate quality, then it contains something far more profound.

As a footballer, I’ve had punctuality drilled into my head as a key element of respect. Multiple coaches have reinforced: If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. You can show a coach that you’re worth their time by being well nourished, rested, dressed, warmed up, and otherwise fully prepared both mentally and physically before they even arrive. The attitudes in Malawi are different. My co-learner and I have begun referring to the two mentalities as “African time” and “Canadian time”. When deciding upon a meeting time we make sure to distinguish which mentality will be used. When my co-learner arrives before me, he might tease, “today I was the Canadian and you were the African”. These are obviously massive generalizations, but I laugh and accept the title with pride.

The reason that 1pm can casually turn into 2 or 3 or 4pm is not just due to a lack of clocks and watches. I walked with my co-learner to visit and deliver a message to six villages yesterday, and it was a great chance to practice my greetings and conversational Chechewa. We stopped to chat with villagers somewhere between 50-100 times along the way. Greetings in Chechewa are very thorough. When you run into a group, you often greet each individual separately, and when a group is meeting with another group, the time taken is multiplied.

Even though we had a lot of ground to cover, there wasn’t the faintest sense that we were in a rush. We’ll get there when we get there. We walked for hours in the hot sun, and my legs became tired, but my mind was still fresh. My thoughts were racing the entire time, but distance covered is not what tires the mind. It is the burden of stress that saps the mind of its energy – I vow to be forever weary of accumulating stress after I return to Canada.

On The Topic of Water

By Ryan Moyer (Bishop’s)

On the Topic of WaterThrough my visits to various villages surrounding the Transformational Praxis: Malawi campus, it has come to my attention that access to fresh water is a huge issue for the Kasungu population. The lack of safe drinking water is usually the first issue that comes to light through dialogue. The guilt hits as I sip fresh water from my Nalgene; the upper middle class version of a water bottle.

My water bottle is more outdoorsy than me; for shame. As I walk for hours a day through ferns and plants, and wildlife I’ve never encountered, I am beginning to feel a greater connect with the outside world, with mother earth. Okay hippy! But seriously, moments experienced walking through the Malawian countryside has really calmed me. The more I stay contained in the hostel, the more my thoughts do too, as they seem to flourish as much as the surrounding plants. But…streams are scarce. And in case you have forgotten, as some of my colleagues who wash their clothes every day have, water is important.

Conversing with local community has begun to elucidate the seemingly obvious, yet infrequently considered by some, intersections of the issue of water with other issues. How can one farm produce efficiently if their water is breaking their body down? These conclusions, some coming from visuals of ‘boreholes’, have begun to break me down as well; much faster than last year. I find myself choking back tears as I explain that I cannot provide immediate relief. But who wouldn’t? The Honeymooners![1] Need to work out, can’t start yelling already. I don’t know how Dr. Stonebanks is so relaxed when witnessing laughter instead of anger. I suppose both are powerful and motivating. Who am I to judge? I was emotionally schizophrenic last year.  I wish the first years luck.

This ‘emotional schizophrenia’ has lead me to understand rather than get angry with members of other Praxis Malawi teams who have looked the same villagers in the face after hearing their life threatening issues and promised them wells, boats and boat motors. It is the subsequent travelers that must begin, not with a fresh slate, but with deep trust issues to combat. Trust issues that are amplified due to our Western/European roots. I would be angry too. Seeing anger amongst villagers is refreshing. The local community knows they have been screwed; on both a macro and a micro level; over and over again. How many times can a man be lied to before projecting complete apathy and indifference?

I believe it was the monarch and eloquent philosopher George Bush who publicly proclaimed that “You can fool me once, you can fool me….you can fool me….but I’m…I’m not going to be fooled again!”

References

Pederson, P. (1995). The five Stages of culture shock: critical incidents around the world. Westport, C.T: Greenwood Press.

The Welcome Party

By Taylor Lowery (McGill)

The beauty of Malawi

The beauty of Malawi

The group exits onto the tarmac and breathes in the Malawian air. When we enter the airport, there was lovely jazz playing and a friendly vibe. As we walked out of the scramble of luggage I was frightened as a man grabbed at the cart of bags I was assigned and started walking away with it. From behind I was being yelled at “keep hold of your cart” but I couldn’t understand why. We were following our guide and I thought he must be working for Praxis Malawi. With the yelling still happening directed towards me I grabbed hold with one hand and kept hold until the end. After the short walk to the van, he asked for a tip and of course I had no Malawian currency yet and therefore nothing to give. A minute and a half out of the airport and already my first lesson: In a developing country, kind gestures are not solely purposed for kindness. They simply cannot afford to be.

The 2 hour drive to The Campus was a whirlwind of emotions. The window was down, and the air felt fresh after the cabin air on the flight. The ebb and flow of vans and transport trucks passing each other, the honking, the street walkers and vendors, the bikes holding more people and goods than would be legally allowed in North America.  My stomach was still a little scared from the altercation at the airport but I decided to slowly allow myself to ease into the environment, and to my pleasant surprise began to really see everything in a more beautiful light. The smiles, the fabrics of colourful patterns, the little waving hands and pointing fingers saying “hey, white people!” were even a charming occurrence.  I found each doubled bicycle ride, the balanced baskets and buckets on well trained heads, the gathering of friends and families, and the small babies poking out from behind their mothers or sisters- beautiful. The playing, the laughing, oh it looked like so much fun. Even the extreme amount of responsibility for people of all ages seemed fun. Back home the only thing a 12-year-old would be responsible for is maybe taking their chiwawa for a walk. Here 12 year olds were in charge of whipping their 4 oxen home. How cool is that?

This beautiful collection of people and activities was in the foreground of a splendid backdrop of dried vegetation between tracks of caramel dirt roads. The escarpments in the distance looked like they had gigantic leafy green ants marching across the top and spilling down the sides. Colonies scattered in parts and bunched in others. The horizon displayed a naval brigade in the blue ocean sky. The white, fluffy ships were varying in size and shape, some heavier and more important than others but together commanded a presence- striking fear and awe all in one moment.

We pulled off the pavement and onto the dirt road and we knew we were close. Greeted by running children behind the van, singing woman and cheerful men- the experience was unanimously overwhelming for me and my classmates. We stood there shaking hands, unable to communicate but smiling. One member of the group finally had the idea to bring out a soccer ball and this was greeted by a course of cheers. Together we were entertained, learning names, running around in the most energizing, organized chaos I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Soon the sun started to set and all the Canadian students took a second, looking up at this fantastic purple and pink sky. The children had seen it a million times and were not interested in stopping one second of play to admire the beauty.

I was suddenly overcome with how stereotypical my current state was in the 5 step process of culture shock, outlined and discussed in this course extensively (Pedersen, 1995). I was smack dab in the middle of the honeymoon phase described as a general playful excitement and overall sense of euphoria (Pedersen, 1995). Interestingly I could totally pin-point the exact moment this feeling had evolved. In the van, in the attempts to protect myself from the fear and shock residing in my stomach, I made a deliberate choice to change the fear into positive curiosity. This stage is a defense mechanism.

I suddenly felt unsure of my place, here in the football field, kids looking up at me, the colour of my skin entertaining enough. I stood back and decided to wait my feelings out. Maybe tomorrow I would have a better idea of what I was doing here.

Pedersen. P (1995). The five steps of culture shock: Critical Incidents around the World. Wesport, (Greenwood Press)

Introducing the 2015 Group: Bishop’s

Kirsten Dobler

Kirsten Dobler

My name is Kirsten Dobler and I am a third year Elementary Education Major with a Minor in Music from Bishop’s University. I’ve become very invovled with the School of Education at Bishop’s and I hope that this project will help me to link my learnings to real life. The value of education is something that is very important to me and I hope that by sharing and learning together we can make the world even just a little bit better.

I come from a small town called Powell River, just about as far West Coast as you can get. I ventured east for the first time in 2011 with a volunteer program called Katimavik and soon after I made my way to Bishop’s and I have called it my home ever since. I’ve recently began au pairing in Italy during my time away from school and I have had the pleasure of traveling around Europe on my weekends off. I hope to continue my worldly adventures and making a postitive impact as I do so.

As I mention before I greatly value education, especially in places that have different ideas and ways that we do. I also understand the importance of respecting the people and land that we will be sharing in Malawi. I hope that we can make meaningful connections with the people of Malawi. I am very excited to meet the challenges that we have ahead.

 

Froy Kunaporn

Froy Kunaporn

My name is Natchasiri but everybody calls me Froy or full out Froy Choi! I was raised in a beautiful island au  tropicale Phuket, Thailand. I lived there my whole life, so coming to Canada is a very exciting step for me! I have been here for my second year at Bishop’s University studying Fine Arts and I am having the best time of my life! I grew up in a British school with amazing multicultural background friends, so my favorite thing to do is adapt and learn new things! My interest circles around from photography, painting, writing, cinematography, science, astronomy, to cooking! I joined Praxis Malawi so I can experience a whole new culture that I know very little about and along the way make a difference for the new soon to be friends. I know that my contribution will count in the long run.

My father, who works as a plastic surgeon, always stresses to me that I am the citizen of the world, and compassion and selflessness is what we do best as humans. I am blessed with the lifestyle I have, enough to eat, enough to use. Therefore giving back and sharing is the wisest thing someone could do, whether it’s knowledge or dreams. When I look back and compare Canada to Thailand, or perhaps any countries I visit, I see one obvious similarity that there will always be people that are enthusiastic enough to lend a hand. My purpose for this trip is not to only find myself, but mainly to bring life into the community as much I can, and I can’t wait to discover everything and to share! I also can’t wait to meet my team!! See you soon.

 

Alex Bernier

Alex Bernier

My name is Alexandra (Alex) Bernier and I am a second year Mathematics and a first year Education student at Bishop’s University. I was born and raised in the beautiful green state of Vermont in a French-speaking home. I chose Bishop’s for its small size, because it’s not too far from home and I have dual-citizenship. I enjoy playing volleyball, road biking, and playing the ukulele (even though I have not come close to mastering it yet). This summer, after the Praxis Malawi project, I will be returning to summer camp for the fifth year as a counselor. Camp has been a big part of my growth along with being a personal care aid to a young girl with disabilities during my last year of high school. I am enthusiastic, open-minded, and my friends tell me it is easy to approach me when they need to talk about things. I believe good communication is key for a healthy relationship and a healthy life style. Through my own struggles in life, I have found that inner-peace is really important to find clarity and to be happy. Ways I have found help me are by surrounding myself with people that challenge me and are respectful, being active, doing yoga, listening to music, reflecting, and meditating.

 

Kate Newhouse

Kate Newhouse

My Name is Kate Newhouse. I am a third year Elementary Education Major and Psychology Minor at Bishop’s University. I am from Oakville, Ontario, which is about 8 hours away from Bishop’s. I love to be involved here at Bishop’s and so from first year on I have joined many different clubs and I am now a Dance Club Coordinator, Competitive Dance Team Choreographer and Dancer, Fashion Show Choreographer and Dancer, A part of Big Buddies and a Stage Manager for plays in New Plays and TheatreActiv festivals, I am part of the BU Blog Project as well. I am organized and up for the challenges that this opportunity will surely present.

 

 

Marten Sealy

Marten Sealy

Howdy, My name is Marten. I was born in Ontario, but I’ve never lived there. I was raised on a trapline on the Alaska Hwy, near Whitehorse, Yukon. I’m not scared of bears, but I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable driving on a freeway. A pivotal point on my timeline was at age 5, when I was introduced to soccer. The next landmark was at age 9, when my siblings were born. Since then, my story has been a combination of the great outdoors, soccer, and trying my darndest to be a real role model for each person I meet, particularly the young ones. These days I’m a player/coach/team manager for the Bishop’s Men’s Soccer Club. Bishop’s is treating me well, but it is by no means a final destination for me. I’m really motivated to indulge in this project in Malawi. I know it’s going to be transformative. Hopefully we can contribute to something more long term as well.

 

Vicki Miller

Vicki Miller

My name is Victoria (Vicki) Miller and I am in my 3rd year at Bishop’s studying Elementary Education and minoring in French. I am originally from Holliston Massachusetts, which is about 45 minutes outside of Boston, so as expected I am a die-hard Bruins, Red Sox and Patriots fan. I spent my junior year of high school studying abroad and living with a family in the Alps of France and was able to travel a bit around Western Europe. It was amazing being immersed and learning so much about another culture and life-style. I speak fluent French and it is a huge part of the reason why I am here at Bishop’s and in the province of Quebec. In my free time I like to read, skate, listen to music and practice karate. I love working with kids and meeting new people. In fact, I am going back to a camp in Central Maine for my third summer after our Malawi trip. I am so excited to meet everyone and go on this amazing adventure together!

 

Jessica Fobert

Jessica Fobert

Hello everyone, my name is Jessica Fobert and I am a second year Education student at Bishop’s University. I spent two years studying in my hometown at St. Lawrence College in Cornwall, Ontario. I loved the feeling and opportunities that small schools provide, so I chose to come to Bishop’s University. I have a major in Social Studies (history and geography) with a minor in Psychology. If I could choose, I would continue to add more disciplines because I have a passion for learning. That is one reason why I want to teach is because my students will continuously be providing me with new knowledge and secondly, I am passionate about helping others out. My mother comes from El Salvador, a third world country, and she never got the opportunity to get an education. I want to provide learning experiences for those who do not get that chance. As a future educator, I plan to travel and teach, so that I can learn more about other cultures and how other groups of people live. I plan to share my experiences with my future students so that they can learn about and respect the diverse world we live in.

 

Ryan Moyer

Ryan Moyer

I am very proud to say that I have the privilege of returning to Malawi for a second year. My name is Ryan Moyer and I am attending Concordia University in Montreal to continue my studies in sociology at the graduate level. As last year’s trip was extremely motivating and transformative, I am very excited to return to Malawi and I am looking forward to building on past relationships in order to get things done.

It is really exciting to be returning the year that the new campus is going up, as it seems metaphoric of opportunities for new meaningful change to arise. I am enthusiastically beginning to work in the field with the concept of adult education/life-long learning. University was the most transformational experience of my life thus far, and I would really be honored if I could add any input towards making adult education accessible in Kasungu.

I am looking forward to another journey.