Monthly Archives: June 2015

Progress and Process

By Natchasiri (Froy) Kunaporn (Bishop’s)

Froy 4Two weeks have passed and the wall is still empty. At noon the wall is hit by the huge African sun and is blasting legit heat waves, it hurts my eyes to even stare. It’s even bigger now with the lime on. When I was painting the top part of the wall, my legs were shaking, one hand with the tray and one with the brush. It was only 5 meters high, but having a phobia for heights, I would say it’s quite an achievement getting myself to even go near that ladder.

The design is nearly ready, with a plot twist at the end when we found out that the wall is not as symmetrical as we thought it would was. The contractor shamed the paint we got, and the roughness of the wall literally devours my pencil when I try to sketch. I realized I couldn’t draw the grids alone, so two of my colleagues and a couple of little Malawian boys were helping me hold the strings and eyeing the straightness; it was fun and rainbows until I realized that the bottom part is also not straight. So I slowly crawl back into my thinking hat to think of a better way to map the design, and probably map my whole plan.

While sitting on the porch of the community center, looking out as the little helpers are playing jump rope with the strings. I would describe the site as rocky, rough, uneven, and full of construction bits and shards. They boys had no shoes on, and every time they land on the ground from jumping there is a huge THUD, THUD, THUD. My initial reaction would be ‘Stop you fools! You’ll all hurt yourself!’ But a part of me was so amazed by the constant laughter and that none of them were bothered by my horrified expression, I just watched. Nothing happened. My background music continued to be laughter’s of Malawian kiddies. As I gazed off at the sunset I realize I need to grow tougher skin, not just on my toes, but everywhere. I must overcome that stupid ladder, but also my mind has to be tougher and more critical.

If I have to describe my approach to art, I would say that I am very stubborn and that I get attached to ideas that lead me being not very open to critics. I take many things to heart and find it hard to believe that there is a ‘better way’. What I need to work on is being very open minded about ideas of others, even the people who are not familiar in my area. I remember having a very strong dislike for abstract art and realizing later that my work has some degree of ‘abstract’ in it.

My obsession with symbols plays a big part in my lack of critical thinking. I get attached to putting symbols in my work without making it come out naturally between my research. It slows me down most of the time. I find that I work the fastest when I see and hear things from other people, not when I try digging in my brain to find something that is not there. During the period of this course, we put a lot of emphasis on the importance of dialogue. Being engaged in deeper conversations will assist our journey in experiential learning. Being ‘searchers’ instead of ‘planners’ will eventually produce a richer result.

This is Malawi

By Amber Fortin (Mount Allison)

This is Malawi

Blue skies

Perseverance

Burdened mothers

Maize fields

Red earth

Broken

This is Malawi

Warm breeze

Life’s struggle

Sweat of the brow

Burning sun

Days of harvest

Barefoot

This is Malawi

Clay bricks

Food scarcity

Strength

Relentless thirst

Tradition

Poverty

This is Malawi

To Plan and to Search

By Kirsten Dobler (Bishop’s)

The sun sets early at the hostel

The sun sets early at the hostel

June 10, 2015

I have had a realization that has led me into many hours of contemplation. I am going to attempt to deconstruct it in this blog post. After many years of blissful ignorance I entered a course and the reality that I am living in a way that has taken away the soft glow that I once believed there to be around the world. Not that I don’t see this in the Western world, because I know it’s there. It’s just that there it is easier to see things as an outsider. This glow that I saw (metaphorically, obviously) occurred because of the goodness in the world. It was a strong glow in which I felt was due to the kindness and compassion of the world. It was people doing the right thing for the right reason. People so often believe that these little lights are enough in life, but not in the world of planners and searchers.

In a recent reading that we read, we learned about planners and searchers. I am going to attempt to break it down. A planner is someone that is told or is shown that a certain location needs light. Planners raise money to get lightbulbs and send the lightbulbs to the locations where they think that they lightbulbs should be. They believe that by providing and sending over the lightbulbs they have contributed enough and all of the happy feelings should be theirs. All of these lightbulbs are sent over in good heart and with good intentions, but when it comes to it, these people are not actually sharing light, they are sharing lightbulbs. Searchers move in ways that allow their light to be shared. A searcher goes beyond sending the lightbulb to the location they bring the light to the location. Searchers go on-site and they move. They work with the locals on the ground to get information and create a charge. With this charge that they have created with the community they become able to make the lights work. Rather than just supplying the light, they have acted as a catalyst and have brought the means to make light.

Okay, now back to the soft glow that I used to believe encompassed the earth. With all of the NGO’s and projects designed to help communities, our society believes that there are lights in the places that we’ve given lightbulbs. Unfortunately, in many, if not all, communities that need light, only have lightbulbs. There are so, so many lightbulbs, but there are few people that are willing to go and to make the changes necessary to get the lightbulbs to work.

I once believed that kindness gave the world a soft glow. With our actions we created ways in which you could soften a heart of stone, or take the green out of a greedy man’s eyes. Maybe many, many years ago this was the case, but as I come to know and learn more about our shared space on earth I am beginning to doubt the possibility of an everlasting glow. Unfortunately, I have no solution or even a hint of one. I know that the work I am doing may help some people, but I don’t know that this will be enough. There is a quote I often think about that goes, ‘Everybody has a little piece of them that wants to save the world. It’s okay if that world is your own.’ If I don’t do everything in my power to save this earth, I don’t know that my own world would be saved either. Now it’s time to get moving.

Size Matters

By Vicki Miller (Bishop’s)

size mattersEven though I have only been here for less than a week, there are a lot of things that I have cut down on or realized have been cut down in order to conserve. The first and most important thing that everyone, everywhere, needs to survive is water, H2O. I found that I use infinitely less water here during my daily life than I do in North America. Daily doings that require water in Malawi: bathing, hand washing, dishwashing, laundry, drinking, cooking and more. At home I use it for all the same things but I am not conscious of the amount that I use.

In Malawi, I use about half a bucket (maybe 6L) to bathe. At home, I let the shower run for at least 10 minutes, enough to fill the entire bathtub! It’s absolutely crazy how when something is so plentiful, you take it for granted.

When it comes to food, it is the same concept in North America in that one should not be wasteful. Here, especially on our Campus, there is always a way to use food if there are leftovers. It can be composted, shared with others or it can be given to the dogs. It is always used in some way, never put to waste. It make me furious when people in North America use the excuse of “there are starving children in Africa” to make you finish your plate. Yes! There are children in Africa who are starving, but there are also children (and adults) EVERYWHERE who are starving. How is me finishing my meal going to help them? It’s not.

Light in our world in North America is essential for everyday living, or so we believe. In fact, light is essential for everyday living everywhere. But we have a burning ball of gas many kilometers away, that rises and sets each and everyday without fail. Here we only use electricity when that thing called the sun is no longer in the sky. Without the sun, we cannot see and we cannot work. During the day there is no need to use electricity because the windows in the hostel let in enough sunlight to work by. It is frankly a waste of energy to use electricity when it is not 100% essential. We also use the sun to power the electrical things we need. Talk about efficiency.

In North America we take having a pair of shoes and a change of clothes for granted. Some of the children have shoes, but the majority of them do not. For them, shoes are not an essential part of their lives. Whereas in North America we throw shoes out and buy the latest styles like they are going out of style, children here get along just fine in their bare feet. They also make very good use of their clothing. They don’t throw it out the moment they don’t like it anymore, they wear it until it has so many holes in it that it can no longer be called a shirt, a dress or shorts. Chetinjes are the most amazing article of clothing around here, but I will go into that another time.

Things to be grateful for: socks, toes, durability

Canadian Critic

By Taylor Lowery (McGill)

Taylor 3The other students and I have a lot of time to chat here. I have found it interesting that many of us have expressed a similar weariness to the idea of returning to our privileged countries, our homes full of amenities, or our jobs serving bratty children with no idea of how much they really have. There is this almost unanimous discontent with our home culture, and a favoured appreciation for the community culture we find here. Although we can look around and see a lot of services that lack initiative/support, it’s hard for myself and the other students to feel anger towards the locals, we do not see them as being anything but gracious for having us here and sharing their time and resources. As Dr. Stonebanks says, nobody wants to be the one to be mean to an African, but at a certain point you need to engage in difficult conversations, ones that encourage locals to speak up, get angry, feel critical, feel passionate towards the development of their own home. What I can recognize for myself at least, is my current tendency to tack my feelings of disappointment onto the inadequacies of my own people.

I don’t want to find fault in the people of Malawi. I think who am I to have any judgment over how the people here conduct their business? About how they participate? The amount of feedback they give? Sure I think to myself it would be nice if the Malawian teachers we are working with would say “Hey Taylor, that idea you just proposed is rotten and here’s a better one;” I would sing out Hallelujiah! To date most of the ideas of us “Azungus” (white people) are only greeted with positivity. This is beginning to unnerve me but not to a point yet where I feel comfortable feeling critical. For now, all I can come up with are some criticisms for the ‘Developed’ areas. Here are some good ol’ fashion poems expressing my frustrations and observations with my own peers and society. These are the things I feel “comfortable” being critical of.

 

Comfort is a Privilege

 To couch yourself from the discomforts of life is a benefit enjoyed by few.

An equilibrium of body and space.

A soft touch, at a safe space.

Comfort is a privilege.

 

When God said let there be light, He forgot to mention the fuse might blow.

Some will be illuminated;

Feel the warmth of being considered individuals in a whole.

Comfort is a privilege.

 

Said the West, “I’m so hot, I am dying of thirst.”

Here the semantic slip ups run deep

When you’re surrounded by those whose reality you actually speak.

Man is comfort a privilege.

 

The time has come to shake the dust.

When the uncomforted ones speak this message at us:

Be quiet. Sometimes your words are better left unsaid.

Just sit. Because your height is already seen.

Please listen. Just listen to the voices around.

 

Your comfort should not matter here.

It is your turn off the couch.

****************************************

Space Fillers

Can’t stop won’t stop to just

S

I

T

Uncomfortable with a pause…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ……………………………………………………………………………………….plans…………………………………………………………………………………schedule ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………plans……………………………………busy..……………………schedule………

(Unnerved with one silent moment in moments)

Must make NOISE, f ill    S   P   A   C   E

Those “umms” kill grace

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ These are my people.

 

*****************************************

If the hills had eyes

 

If the hills had eyes, they would watch till the end.

If the trees had feet they would stay.

Or maybe they would run away from the sounds

of the chainsaws merrily at play.

 

If the stones had ears they would skip

the track where their ripple causes pain,

as the war blew apart the stones from their wall…

if only they had arms to rebuild it again.

 

If water had a heart is would beat for the sun

its passions adding up to a cloud.

Mix in some acid and hazy confusions

and the tears fall back down to the ground.

 

If man had the foresight to look at this Earth

through the eyes of those hills high above,

he might see that his ego has blinded the growth

of humanities worldwide love.