Tag Archives: Barbara

The Lions and Giraffes are Amazing; our Safari in Zambia and the Freedom to Travel

By Barbara Hunting

Thornicroft giraffes

Thornicroft giraffes

Our 26-seater coaster bus gives us freedom to travel great distances and explore Africa.  You notice in rural Malawi, that many people walk, very few can afford cars, or transportation. This past week, we took our weekend in the middle of the week in order to get a better deal at Zikomo Safari Lodge (in Zambia).  Victoria and her son Damien planned a few unforgettable days in Zambia; thanks go to Dr. C. Stonebanks for negotiating this experience (as well as bringing Praxis Malawi into being).  We went to South Luangwa Game Park and had several jeep (photo) Safari tours in the park.  I cannot express in words the awe at being a short distance away from wild animals and the care and valuable knowledge that the guides provided to us during these excursions.  You simply need to experience it for yourselves!

Our adventures are sometimes produced by getting lost.  Yes, well—we have also discovered that when roads are under construction sometimes what we would call a detour is referred to as a road deviation; yet parts of the road redirection may be incomplete.  It all adds to the spice of the day.  One more thing, going into a small village with a 26-seater coaster bus is not the wisest thing either, yes, we did get stuck; sand is similar to snow (tires need a stable surface), in that respect, the sun goes down at 5:45 p.m. and then it is dark; yet everyone from the small village was more than helpful…some planks, some student and village strength to PUSH out of the soft sand to the path or road that is hard-packed and we were on our way.

I enclose a few pictures this time—and I cannot repeat enough the awesome feeling of seeing an elephant size you up while you are in an open jeep. Let me explain the jeeps, they are special touring jeeps with three tiers of seats added; one was covered, with a tarp, the other was open. Lucky me, my party got to ride in the covered jeep! The guides were very knowledgeable and explained how we should behave around the animals (the animals see us as one large object, unless someone does something to change that).  We saw wart hogs, baboons, Thornicroft giraffes (indigenous to Zambia), different types of colourful birds, pods of hippos, a few different prides of lions, one pride of lions had killed a water buffalo during the night and we saw the younger lions gorging themselves on the carcass; it was like we were in a wild-life documentary. On the second day we encountered a group of seven elephants of various sizes walking across the road not far from us; the guide stopped the jeep and we sat quietly as instructed, took pictures and watched the reactions of the elephants, they smelled us, and stopped and looked at us, and one of the mid-size ones walked to the left of us and turned and waved her ears at us—really amazing—it was like she was saying goodbye as they walked off into the bush.  At one point that same day, we saw nearly every animal at the watering hole; the most amazing were the group of fifteen giraffes and a herd of buffaloes who ran behind them—it was like being part of a National Geographic documentary! Amy leaned over at one point and said, “Pinch me; I don’t believe that I am seeing all of these animals together!”

Victoria and Damien fed us well with a bar-b-q on the second evening—what a treat!  We slept in tents and the second night we could hear lions and hippos calling to each other across the water.  We were snug in our tents and there were night watchman; no worries. Presently it is the dry season in Zambia and it was noticeable how few mosquitoes there were.

That is the touristy stuff that we allowed ourselves to do; we came out of our mosquito netted beds in Makupo Village and stayed in eight person tents, roomy and snug—and appointed a tent watch person to be sure the tents were closed up snuggly. Although we travel outside of Makupo Village, we are always happy to return to Makupo Village, as our second home. All of our excursions are complete now, one group has left today to return home—yes, it has been a month since we arrived—hard to imagine. Yet, we have all come out of our comfort zones moving through various experiences. Fear of insects, and we discovered white frogs in the women’s showers in Zambia; they harmonize with the colour of their surroundings (really cool). I was concerned about tenting—we took a few of the mattresses with us strapped to the roof of the bus and this was a great comfort; others had air mattresses.  Once again, the wonder of a shower on weekend excursions was experienced—it is the little things that make the difference (we have bucket showers in Makupo Village, check out other blogs).

Zambia action theatre group

Zambia action theatre group

One more event that we experienced that was truly exceptional was a local company of people came to the lodge in Zambia and put on a play entitled “The Bush” that was a collection of vignettes of local actions, animals, a parody of tourists (picture taking safari tourists) and a young girls’ struggle to understand her developing identity.  This type of theatre is ‘action theatre’ and this troupe is very good at making and using props to enact short scenes and narratives.  It was very impressive and they perform plays about the prevention of HIV and AIDS, Malaria prevention and alcohol abuse. We hope to see them again and invite them to the new school in Malawi!

Our freedom to travel and experience new places has not been overlooked by this member of Praxis Malawi.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Baablah (Barbara Hunting)

Research Journey

By Barbara Hunting

Naomi June 13

It’s all about education

First something to tickle your funny bone; experiential learning (life) happens. Let me share an amusing event from this morning, I woke up and as usual I went to leave my room and the door would not open. (Wed. June, 12, 2013) I am staying with a villager and her daughter and her daughter and I attempted to open the door; the door would not open. I went to the window and saw no one as it was early. I went back to the door and rattled the handle some more. Ruth heard me! She asked me to drop the key and pass it under the door; I told her the door was not locked. We both laughed.  I asked her to try the handle and she did; it opened.  The mechanism on the inside of the door had worn out.  I did have a moment of panic because the windows have bars on them, so there was no escape route.  I have found that an essential part of field work is humor.

Research journey; I am impressed with my research participants!  I am using photovoice technique (participants take pictures, then interpret the pictures) [see C. Wang, 1999, C. Mitchell, 2011] while co-constructing a health policy dialogue with the research participants in the Kasungu region of Malawi.  What excites me about using photovoice technique is that the participants become empowered to narrate their health concerns and issues.

Without revealing too many details, I can explain that in this rural area of Malawi there are many concerns related to health and this year, while doing my doctoral research, I have the opportunity to take the community health concerns to the next level and begin to co-construct a health policy dialogue.  It is a request that has been made by the community. I have worked with senior and junior populations (in Canada) to bring them together around creating awareness about HIV and AIDS.  I came to this project due to my interest in experiential learning and collaborative classroom projects.

Discussions around themes of health concerns lead to the challenge of representing ideas through pictures.  I arrived with a collaborative project and the participants have enhanced my abilities of interpretation. These participants continue to amaze me.

Dialogues emerge from the photos that are taken in workshops, then pictures are chosen by the group and then a focus group discussion begins.  After this focus group session, there are separate interviews to capture any concerns that could be more personal and not shared within a group.  The groups are all asked to reflect on a space to hold a photovoice exhibit where all the groups will see all of the photos and captions.  The main focus is to examine and capture health concerns and create awareness possibly to new audiences and co-construct a greater awareness about health in the everyday.

That’s it for now!  More from the field soon!

BaaBlah (Barbara Hunting)

Bus Breakdown: More Malawi Time Adjustments

By Barbara Hunting

Cape Maclear sunset

Cape Maclear sunset

Part of experiential learning is adjusting to a different way of ‘doing’ things. As a group, we take excursions on the weekend(s) outside of the rural village where we work on our various experiential learning projects.  Yesterday while driving back from Cap Maclear, our bus broke down—oh yes, life happens here too!  The bus broke down at approximately 1:30 p.m. As it coasted to a stop; this was ‘the unexpected’ part of the trip.  After much discussion and some people trying different ways to get the bus going again, the driver made a phone call to his company and was told that we could expect a replacement bus in three hours.  Six and half hours later, 8 p.m. we were on the road again (remember Malawi time). Luckily, one of the Professors had bought 2 huge bunches of bananas to take back to the village for us and people had water for drinking.  As well, as luck would have it, we broke down on a straight-a-way near a bore-hole (well with pump).

Half of us went across the road to sit under the shade of a tree; some climbed the tree!  Others read and journaled and had curriculum development discussions (the importance of play or the development of the space in a classroom). I have a colleague who has studied this aspect of classroom development known as ‘the third space’ where you can develop changeable spaces using readily available toys, or using big boxes to create theaters for puppet shows and these can change every two-three weeks, depending on your focus. Time slipped away quite quickly, it got quite chilly and the mosquitoes were hungry after dark—the bug spray and sweaters came out of our luggage.

Our breakdown was a positive space of learning about our patience barometer.  We are learning more about waiting; there is no CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) in Malawi.  As it turned out, the bus was fixed within forty minutes; it was an electrical problem. We boarded another bus and were on our way back to Makupo Village at 8:05 p.m.

Now, I have left out many adventures of this day but I am sure that the students will blog about their Sunday afternoon adventure! (I have limited pictures to share for this blog as my camera is malfunctioning and I only brought one on the weekend trip) I enclose one sunset picture taken at Lake Malawi on Saturday evening; enjoy!

Signing off for now!

Barbara Hunting (BaaBlah)

Malawi Time and Technological Adjustments

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!

I climbed Mount Kasungu!

By Barbara Hunting

Azalea bush in Makupo Village

Azalea bush in Makupo Village

Why is this exciting?  Well, first let me give you a little bit of background about myself…My professional responsibility as an educator is to be a gardener of life experience; conversation, walking, talking and collaborative learning are significant forms of dialectical learning. I am a proud member of Praxis Malawi, believing that social justice and developing praxis (connecting practice and theory into ‘doing’) are part of knowledge creation.  My teaching in Gender Equity Studies has led me to explore HIV/AIDS Awareness through creating alliances and building social agency in a classroom/community collaboration model of Participatory Action Research (PAR).  In 2011, I became a PhD Candidate at McGill University in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education.  I have been traveling to Malawi as part of the Praxis Malawi team with undergrad students for four years now and the last two years have laid the groundwork for my doctoral studies of encouraging co-construction of a health policy initiative.  I am a visual sociologist/educator who uses the technique of photovoice (picture taking & interpretation) to express personal narratives about everyday life in rural Malawi. Experiential Learning is a valuable stepping stone that encourages students to develop field research skills while examining knowledge transfer within multiple frameworks.

I am not your typical doctoral student. I have come to my education later in life and have combined experiential learning, and bringing two populations of people together (youth and seniors) to dialogue about their health concerns surrounding HIV and AIDS.  I also enjoy working with undergraduate students to encourage them to enter the research field.

I have some significant mentors who have been instrumental in helping me figure out my learning trajectory.  Therefore it is not unusual that I would do the same for the students who travel and research here in Malawi each year.

Now that you know a little more about me…back to the mountain experience. I attempted to climb Mount Kasungu on a previous trip and only made it one third of the way.  The view was magnificent but I was not able to surpass my mental and physical challenges; the altitude is a challenge from a breathing standpoint. So, this year, June 1st, 2013 I and ten students as well as many people from the rural village where we are staying, climbed Mount Kasungu.  There is a plateau where we ate lunch; whole wheat bread, lovely sweet bananas (nothing like them at home in Quebec) and peanut butter. A bit more water and a bit of a rest and up we all went to the final summit where the view was/is fabulous!!  I will leave you there at the summit only to say that it was worth the four hour trek…and yes, I brought up the rear with the Chief of the village.  So Google Mount Kasungu and check out Malawi!