Category Archives: 2015

Technology in Malawi

By Kate Newhouse (Bishop’s)

technologyOn Saturday we went into town to do some shopping and to go to the Internet café. We left after lunch and started our hour and a half journey. The walk went by quite quickly as we had lots of people to chat with and we even stopped to enjoy some sugar cane.

As we left after lunch we arrived into town later than we had planned, everything was closed. They kept the Internet café open just for us and we tried to contact home; Many of us for the first time. This Internet café was not what I was expecting and so unlike home, unlike the Western world. I had typed up an email and had it ready to send, but when I sat down I realized the state of these computers. They were so old. I couldn’t believe it. This was almost exactly like our first family computer we got just starting the millennium and here we are 15 years later and I feel like I have gone back in time.

One of my fellow Praxis Malawi peers is studying adult education here and  he took the locals he was working with to the Internet café just the other day. He said for many of them it had been the first time any of them had been to the café and none of them knew what to do with a computer.

While I was reading the Betrayal of Africa I came across this quote, which inspired me to write this blog. “While travel in Africa is both difficult and expensive, communication is not. Email and the Internet have created links that have not been possible in the past. Out of many small groups emerges a large continent-wide, even worldwide movement.” (Gerald Caplan, 2008, p. 118)  I agree that technology and the Internet have helped the problem of communication, but my short experience here has made me believe otherwise. I know that I am in a rural area where poverty is an issue and therefore Internet and even power isn’t a priority by any means, so then how it this helping?

 

References

Caplan, G. (2008). The betrayal of Africa. Toronto, Ontario: Groundwork Books.

Things That You Can Live Without, But You Still Miss

By Kirsten Dobler (Bishop’s)

missJune 11, 2015

Over the past week and a half I have been thinking about the things that I took for granted at home. I’ve compiled a list with the help of some others to express a couple things that I would be able to live without, but still pop into my mind every once in a while.

 

  1. Porcelain: I recently had a little bout of food poisoning (don’t worry mum, I am very okay now) and there were many hours that I wished to feel the smooth cool of a familiar toilet as I lived through cement and a plastic seat. An honor mention to this is flushing. This flushing is in opposition to the general abyss that is our compost toilet.
  2. Tap Water: The drinking water is definitely sufficient, but I have actually dreamt about drinking tap water and never feeling satisfied. There’s something about sticking my head under the faucet that gives me fond memories.
  3. Clean feet: No matter how hard I try there is always red dirt on my feet. Even when I’m wearing socks. I have even given up on dumping out my shoes too often.
  4. Couches: I have this thing where I just love couches. We have a lot of common space, and we totally do not need a couch, but the inner potato in me would love to lounge and make lesson plans. I have discovered that if you push some of our table chairs together you can get a couch like feel, while napping under the table. This is not favorable when people want to be productive at the table.
  5. Useful Junk: It’s so often that we are told ‘one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’, but there isn’t even scraps that are up for grabs. Materials aren’t always in abundance so it gives our term ‘resourceful’ a different meaning.
  6. Google: We have it so lucky. I now understand why people bought encyclopedias.
  7. Blissful Ignorance: This one travels with anyone who has been exposed to any sort of difficult knowledge. Once naïve thoughts are so easily crushed as we face the challenges of self-expansion and worldly understanding. Every day we are challenged with many new things, and ultimately we will grow and prosper.

M’panda Dimba (Our Garden)

By Jessica Fobert (Bishop’s)

our gardenThe Experimental Farm is coming together a lot faster then I was expecting. The women arrive each day at 9am and work strenuously until noon before the sun gets too hot. I am constantly amazed at the hard work that these women engage in on a daily basis. Creating a compost pit and building a garden has been an exhilarating adventure. While I teach the women about composting and experimental farming, they teach me of the diverse ways of gardening here in Malawi. For example, because of the heat from the sun, gardeners cover their garden beds with hay so that the water is not evaporated and the garden remains moist. Also, the women have used trees as poles and tall grass to make a fence to protect it from animals. I have noticed that Malawians are very creative and innovate people; they make use of as many resources as possible. My co-learner said that we needed to purchase a hoe for the garden so that we could construct the garden beds and dig up the ground. When I was given the hoe it was just the metal part with no handle attached. Malawians search for a piece of wood to make their own handle and custom design their tools to their needs.

I am learning new techniques and skills each day that the women return to the garden, and in return I am showing them some interesting and diverse ways of experimental farming. For instance, I gathered the women around me as I took 4 toothpicks and poked the side of an avocado seed and then suspended it over a cup filled with water. The women were amazed at what I was doing, and I informed them that this is a different way of planting an avocado tree. Let’s just hope that it grows! We are also experimenting with growing tomatoes upside down. Yes, you’ve read correctly… upside down. We have placed 4 tomato plants each in a separate bucket and cut a hole at the bottom of the bucket. The rationality is that it prevents bugs from eating the plants and that no sticks are needed to support them. I think just about everyone thinks we’re a little crazy, but we are experimenting and I hope that we achieve some success.

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