By Barbara Hunting
If this was my first trip to Malawi I would be adjusting to a lack of access to an internet signal or not using a cell phone constantly (as many do in Quebec, Canada). Yes, there is a connectivity issue in the rural area where we all stay. It is hit or miss, yet these issues are part of the everyday life experience. You learn to re-orient the use of your time and the luxury of internet use—is just that. You carry a cell phone, or you share a cell phone to schedule meetings or talk with friends or flash people to get them to call you. Flashing on a cell phone is when you call someone and let it ring once and then hang up—this is a message for the other party to call you. The face-to-face meetings take precedence here. I really don’t mind not being on the internet. I am of the generation that grew up with face-to-face conversations and find the time in Malawi is slipping by rather quickly. I am here to do my doctoral research this year and have begun my research.
Time management is something that a nerdy grad student/educator notices. In any case, let me keep this in the context of a blog—which thankfully does not allow me to over-think this blatant contrast of time management between rural Malawi and rural Quebec, Canada. There is more cooperative living here as in whose turn is it in the shower? (a bucket shower with a cup) or who is using what room for meetings? Traveling with a group of undergrad students is fun and challenging. It appeared to me that there was a bit of technology anxiety—can I send these documents today? Will the internet connection drop before my e-mail gets sent? The adjustments have been met with great enthusiasm and patience. Yes, in Malawi you learn patience; the pace of life in rural areas has a different rhythm. The children in the village come home from school around 2 p.m. and play outside. Volleyball, games of tag and dance breaks are a welcome change-maker late in the afternoon. Many of us write out our documents and cut & paste them into e-mails—a new form of being prepared to take a turn with internet connectivity. Meeting places are not always in a room—they can be under a tree or in a thatch common area. Oh, yes, most of my cameras for my photovoice project are not working—I have become creative and borrowed one from a student (for a backup)! We always need to innovate!
This is my fourth year of travel to Malawi and I enjoy the conversations and change of pace and continue to learn. I am signing off for now! In Malawi some of the people have difficulty pronouncing Rs—so I will use my Malawian name.
BaaBlah, until next time!