Author Archives: ncrisp

May 30th: The Warm Heart of Africa

By Naomi Crisp

My new family

My new family

After tucking my bug net into the mattress I was out for the night until the sound of the rooster woke me. It was still dark outside so I went back to sleep. At 6am I heard people in the main room so I joined them. To my relief there was already tea on the table, one cup later and I was social. The women had made some delicious doughnuts along with fruit for breakfast. A while later Themba gave us a short language lesson (Chichawe) and a detailed tour of the village. Everyone in Makupo is family and it seems like a wonderful system of ownership alongside community collaboration (a value to consider in curriculum development). After the tour we had time to ourselves in which I went and took some pictures because I know Mum would want to see everything from a mango tree to the toilet.

We had some lunch and the Themba took us on a tour of the surrounding villages. I found this interesting as the villages are all so different yet the same. Some were bigger, spread out, smaller houses, more banana trees or fewer people, each village was their own. We learned a lot along the way about lifestyle and culture, which made it very clear how important these few days of discovery are in order to create a school that is appropriate for the area.

We did a loop which took us to the schools which gave us a great idea of what they look like here. The system felt very British in nature but the class sizes were about 70 per grade (called standards here). At the primary school there are about 31 teachers and 2000 students, a lot bigger class sizes than we are used to. Students don’t start school until the age of six as play is an important role in a child’s growing up process. Close to the secondary and primary school was the Chilanga School for the Blind where we found the children singing, an absolute pleasure to watch.

The tour was incredibly informative from how bananas grow to the procedure of burial services. Longjezo was great at answering every question I came up with in that nature. When we got back from the walk I went straight outside to meet Gift. He taught me all kinds of general knowledge information, such as, the wind stops in the hot season, they play netball and soccer, mangos grow in the wet season, popcorn is popular, soy is used a lot, there are 3 months off of school but spread out throughout the year, as the students age their subjects go from general to specific, and the rain feels neutral but the wind is HOT.

After a few hours and the sun was fading, I went to have a shower, and by shower I mean a bucket. I thought it would be a negative experience but I was so happy just to be clean! Just before dinner I suddenly felt really sick and had to run outside to throw up. I was worried that this was the start of a long train of foreign sicknesses but in all honesty it was just the adjustment to the heat, I was fine from then on. We sat on the couches for the remainder of the evening discussing topics that naturally lead to education being a room full of teachers. I found today that the heat and new environment must be respected and my body needs its rest.

May 27, 28, 29: This Time for Africa

By Naomi Crisp

First thoughts of Malawi

First thoughts of Malawi

Right now I am sitting under a mango tree in Makupo, Malawi… Africa! I am being blessed with a warm sun and needed breeze. I am facing 10 village children dancing with their fuchsia flowers and digging their feet into the copper dirt. It has been an incredibly long 3 days but I have arrived to the place I have heard so much about and worked hard to get to.

My travels started on Monday night as Dr. Stonebanks collected me from my apartment at 9:30pm and then Elise on the way up to their house. We rested there until 1am and then the adventure began. Dr. Di Mascio was kind enough to drive Dr. Stonebanks, Arshad, Roxy, Elise and I to Montreal airport. As our Praxis Malawi group was signing our luggage through, the chaos began. One of the girls happened to bring her old passport rather than the new one. Barbra’s husband and Mel came to the rescue at 4 am retrieving the passport and getting it to the airport. Needless to say, the stress levels were very high and the race was on. The passport arrived but she had to get the next flight to Toronto. When everyone was back together again in the Toronto airport the stress died down and our crew began our 3 hour wait for the next flight to Ethiopia.

This flight was the big one, 12 hour on a busy airplane across the ocean. We all tried to sleep but it seemed impossible due to crying children, stale air and airport seating. Even though I can honestly say the flight was far from wonderful it did not dismay me in any way as I knew this was the flight that took me to Africa. As we flew over Atbarah at about 2 am (May 28th), I saw the most amazing sunset out of the window. The bright reds and contrasting blacks and blues were a sight I will never forget, it gave a strange feeling of understanding… though I don’t know of what it was directed towards.

The flight went on as the day broke and my cold that I had been fighting off came back for a visit, making the flight that much more enjoyable. A few airplane meals later we landed in Ethiopia. A rush of excitement came over me in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I was so close to being in Malawi (a place I could only dream of being) doing a project I now have the maturity and knowledge to complete. Ethiopia gave me drive (no matter how tired my body was). With a short lay over in a busy airport we were on board the plane heading to Lilongwe, our destination. Due to the pure exhaustion of traveling, the flight was a 3 hour confusing mix of reality, dream and chicken curry.The plane landed and I could see nothing but dirt and trees on both sides, confusing me even more so, but around the corner was the airport and our bus to take us home to Makupo. An easy transition of plane to bus put us on the road to the village.

It was difficult for everyone to stay awake on the drive as the sun was so hot and the wind blowing through the window so magnificently and people faded off until we slowed to enter the village. We awoke to the screams of excitement from the children as they chased the bus along the dirt road. Turning the corner, the children were joined by the adults singing a choir of such joy and welcoming. That moment was one of love and family.

We got out of the bus and were individually welcomed and introduced in both English and Chichawe to everyone and set up things in the hostel. This was all a bit overwhelming but appreciated nonetheless. The chief gave a beautiful welcoming speech that came from the heart and was expressed through his eyes. Dr. Stonebanks replied in an equally loving statement. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing with children and walking around the village, talking to people and starting to allow ourselves to accept this amazing land as our own.

The air is cooling now, the children gone and my friends inside so I will leave this blog by expressing the peace that is felt in this moment.