On the fourth day we climbed to the top of Mount Kasungu. It proved to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. I had imagined that we were going to zigzag up the mountain but no, it was pretty much a straight and steep climb all the way. I am quite proud of myself for having made it all the way to the top because to be honest I was considering quitting at the half way point. I knew though that had I quit I would have been extremely disappointed in myself. The effort in the end was well worth it because the view from the top was spectacular. On the way up we even saw monkeys for the first time, amazing!
Then on the fifth day, Sunday, part of the group decided to attend a church service. That morning I debated whether or not I wanted to go and decided against it in the end. I didn’t feel comfortable going to church here just as I would not feel comfortable attending a church service back home, a matter of personal beliefs. Instead I spoke with Lukas, a young man who is finishing his high school and will be studying at a teachers college next year. Something got lost in translation along our first conversation the day before because I thought I was going to be helping him with his English but it turns out he wanted to help me out with my Chichewa. So in the end it turns out we helped each other with vocabulary in both languages.
On another note, every time I enter my room after the sun has gone down and it is dark, I always look to the right on the wall and feel for a light switch. There is no electricity here, I know that, and yet each time I go to turn on the nonexistent light switch.
One of the most enjoyable times of the day is at night when I go to brush my teeth. It is not the feeling of freshly brushed teeth that make this a wonderful time but the night sky under which I complete this task. At night I go out with a cup of water and my toothbrush (toothpaste included) and as I brush my teeth I look up at the night sky. I have never seen so many stars in the sky. I do not think that the beauty of the starry sky will ever diminish no matter how many times I see it here.
After a long plane ride and a short bus ride we arrived at Makupo village. As the van pulled into the village we were greeted by cheering, singing and clapping women and children. It was a strange feeling, and whatever the emotion, I am still not quite sure, it was certainly overwhelming. It seemed strange to me because they were celebrating our arrival although we had not yet accomplished anything, other than flying an incredibly long distance safely. They did not even know most of us yet either or what we planned to do. The strange feeling of the situation probably comes from realizing that back home, it would seem that we only celebrate projects once they are completed and their success has been measured. The villagers here appeared to be celebrating what was to come in the future.
Since I have arrived I have been trying to get to know the people, language and culture. The people here are making us feel most welcome. On the second day we took a walk to the town of Kasungu. On our walk I noticed how everyone we passed by looked twice at us or at least their head would turn and stay focused on us even as they continued to walk. I am certainly not used to the attention. It made me feel without a doubt like an outsider. As they stared at us I would respond with a smile or sometimes with no expression at all as I attempted to decipher what they may be thinking. Many thoughts crossed my mind of what they may be thinking, some positive and other negative.
In Kasungu we quickly explored the market which I really enjoyed and I am excited to return to again. It was such a new environment and around every corner of the tight maze like pathways between the shops was a new smell or sight. I must say that I have been appreciating all the new experiences no matter how strange or new.
My name is Amy Simpson. I have recently completed my Bachelor in Elementary Education at McGill University. I moved to Montreal seven years ago from a town called Rawdon. I think that growing up in such a small town, fueled my need to get out and see the rest of the world. My love of learning as well as seeing the best and worst in teachers is what drove me into the educational sector. I was always compelled to find a way to make education and learning as fun as possible. My dream as a teacher is that one day students will look forward with anticipation to go to school and learn.
I have traveled within Canada, either by plane, bus or hitch-hiking and I have made it across this great country numerous times. My travels have also taken me into the United States as well as Australia. Although all these wonderful places have a unique culture of their own with so much to offer, going to Malawi is on a whole new scale. I have never immersed myself within a culture where the language and way of life is so different from my own. At the same time, this is what excites me the most.
As for my expectations, without having ever been in a similar situation it is hard to imagine what to expect. What I do hope to get out of this trip is an exchange of ideas and knowledge. I hope to be able to teach and share what I have learned over the years and to come back with new insights and having learned something new which I will then be able to bring into my own classroom in the future.
I have a variety of focuses in mind for this experience. My first is to have a wonderful time and get to know the people and the culture. Secondly comes the educational aspect, and it is not to demean it’s importance by putting it in second place, but I think that it can not be fulfilled without the first. I will be taking part in the curriculum development project. My primary focus is integrating transdisciplinary education and inquiry based learning into the curriculum. Then as a secondary focus, I will be looking into the different teaching strategies. For reasons of resource availability, student and teacher ratios as well as cultural differences I am sure there will be differences in teaching styles/strategies from what I have seen so far.
And in the words of my father, who taught for over 30 years, which he wrote on the first page of my travel journal, ”The world is yours to discover. To be a good teacher you must have the ”gift”. You have the ”gift” and now you must begin to share this gift. Safe Travels.” And this is what I intend on doing with my time in Malawi.
I am a 23-year-old adventurous student who loves traveling around the world. I also have many interests: baking, doll collecting, planting and teaching. I have always wanted to be a teacher and am pursuing the dream at McGill University. I love many things such as good music and food, a comfortable sofa, fantasy novels and my dear old cat; however, once in a while, I leave my comfort and my beloveds behind to try, see, feel, taste, smell, hear, and learn to make new beloved things. So far I have been to more than 10 countries over 4 continents and from each trip I learned about myself and the world around me. Then I realized another joy of traveling; sharing. Sharing my experiences is not only about passing on my knowledge but I, in return, learn from other opinions and knowledge.
Consequently, as I traveled around the world, I paid close attention each country’s early childhood education system, especially in Canada, South Korea, and Kenya. These experiences helped me broaden my view and learn from their advantages and disadvantages. Using this experience and knowledge, I want to study Malawi’s elementary school curriculum. I will focus especially on the science curriculum, incorporating more readily available or easily accessible teaching materials and various hands-on approaches to the subject. I hope my research doesn’t end only in Malawi but will take me to other places as well where I can help students to see a bigger world through better lenses. I hope, through this blog, I get to share what I gained from this trip along with your help on the way.
Nice to meet you! This being my first blog entry in the Praxis Malawi adventure, it would be the least in terms of politeness and logic to present myself. With all due respect, I will however try not to do so. The reasons for trying to adopt the “non-bio” approach here are quite simple, and I hope you appreciate them: 1) No matter what I will try to say, it is often said that it’s the writing itself that shows the real personality of an author. So I suggest that we get to know each other throughout the weeks, through our written exchange of ideas and experiences. 2) I am pretty sure that many points I would make here will either be slightly altered or even obsolete after our time in Malawi. At least, I hope I will learn and change.
But whoever says change also says starting point, which can be summarized in something like this: Corinne Marcoux. 22. Student at McGill University and transitioning into becoming a real elementary school teacher next year. Francophone speaking but also English, and hopefully some Chichewa too by the end of this adventure. Born in LaTuque, Quebec and lives in the world. Former gymnast. Passionate of outdoor activities, travel and discoveries. Lifelong learner. Dreamer. It will be interesting to see what I have done when we come back from Malawi; will I be able to add “curriculum development assistant” or something around those lines?
Is it too simplistic to have that my only expectation for the Praxis Malawi project that to learn? I am more than excited to be part of a very dynamic and generous team working on the development of a curriculum for an alternative school. I will always do my very best to coordinate the project’s various areas of work into a coherent product respectful of the local expectations. This means to communicate as much as possible with the team, both inside and outside of Malawi—so please remind me if I ever miss to do so! What I really want is to keep an open mind and learn both from the experience and from Malawi.