Every morning we walk to the secondary school across the street where we have a classroom in which we do all our curriculum development work. As we walk to the secondary school we have to walk past the elementary school where the children are normally outside playing. The children are always fascinated by us and scream “azungu” (white people). The word “azungu” never gets old to these children. The children have such surprised yet happy faces when they see us each and every morning. There is always a parade of children following us towards the secondary school.
We started working this week intensely on curriculum development. As we work I have so many ideas for lesson plans. I am excited to continue our work and see how the year unfolds. This is great practice for me to learn about curriculum development as well as ideas I can bring to my own classroom.
When we walked back to the village the children all screamed from far “Louisa, Louisa, Louisa” I found it adorable that these young children can say my name. Then I heard “Mwadauka Louisa” from a lady named Irene. I felt so special that all these people knew my name and were calling me out of the group. Some girls even started making jokes about how it was boosting my ego. I like to play with the children at night, whether it be playing net ball or soccer or jut hanging out.
Day 15: Culture shock?
I have been trying to wrap my brain around culture shock and if I am going through it. After reflecting on my weekend and the past few week, I can say how lucky I am to be staying in this welcoming village. I was not expecting to be this well treated. Firstly the hostel is a lot bigger than I imagined and although the food does get a bit repetitive it is not bad. After taking a cold shower on the weekend, most of us would prefer our shower buckets back at Makupo.
I am so welcomed by all the villagers and children everyday. What more can I ask for? I am in Africa! Should I feel this secure and well taken care of? There are people who are hungry, people whose houses are falling apart who are living in the neighboring villagers. Why are these people giving me priority over themselves and their families?
I think that since I’ve arrived in Malawi I’ve had the tendency to over analyse everything around me. I believe this to be my way of protecting myself from the disintegration stage of culture shock. This is the stage where you start internalizing bad feelings due to the extreme change in environments. From what I’ve understood, an example would be seeing a malnourished child and thinking to one’s self “what am I doing developing curriculum when I should be helping to get the child better nourished?” In other words, the visitor starts blaming themselves for the hardships of the host environment and takes it out on themselves. In “Rebecca in Herland” (https://blogs.learnquebec.ca/praxismalawi/days-1-5contemplations-of-culture-shock/) I actually thought about bringing one of the children home with me. I was staring at the child while we were all sitting under a tree and I thought to myself “wow what a happy kid I want to help him and bring him home with me to take care of him”. I immediately felt bad and ashamed about the thought and then reflected on how I’m not one to judge and take him away from his mom and his way of life just because I think my way of life is better. I’ve also realized that this is not something that I would do if I saw a really happy kid back in Montreal. Of course if the child was ill-treated then yes, but who ever heard of a child getting taken away from his parents because he was too happy? This sort of internal reasoning actually is why I think I haven’t been feeling extremely sad about things here. I could have looked at the child and started thinking about how sad it was that he was so happy but has so little, that he should be given more, and that I felt that I should be giving more and that it’s still not enough and and and, spiral down into a deep dark depression. I could do that. Or I could think about it, and while thinking about it, lose all emotional connection to it. Though this way of looking at things is protecting me from the effects of culture shock (temporarily according to Dr. Stonebanks) I feel cold at times since I’m not feeling sad for things that are sad.
My analytical thoughts actually are self-defeating when it comes to analyzing myself and sometimes the people around me. It’s causing me to feel bad because I’m drifting away from the person I want to be. I’ve always wanted to be the type of carefree person that doesn’t let little things in life bother her. However I find that being in a position where I’m constantly analyzing I find myself trying to make sense and explain the things that I’m seeing. This is forcing me to become bothered by little things because I’m looking too deep into them. However after the meeting we had with Dr. Stonebanks about culture shock I was reminded to re-prioritize and focus solely on myself. Be happy and carefree and you will be happy and carefree.
On the 1st of the month we climbed Mount. Kasungu. I almost didn’t make it to the top. I was under the impression that half of the group was going to turn around two-thirds of the way up when we would stop on a plateau for lunch. Half way up the mountain I decided I would not be able to continue and declared I would be making my way down with the others. My initial plan was to make it to the top but I was “lied to” about the difficulty of the climb by one of the men in the village. This man turned out to be one of our guides up the mountain. What he had told us was that the climb was not steep at all. It turned out that it was extremely steep and extremely rigorous since it was not a simple incline but rough terrain all the way up. We had to pick our way up like a bunch of mountain goats. The whole way up, the other stragglers and myself would joke about never listening to our guide again, so even when he would say he couldn’t sing we would laugh and claim that he probably has the voice of an angel. In the end, I made it to the top but only because I was coerced by Dr. Stonebanks. I’m glad I made it however and for the support I received. The climb down was hard too but not as hard as the way up. At least that time I was able to breath. The muscles in my legs took a beating but they could handle it.
Non-verbal games at the bottom of the mountain
As we waited at the bottom of the mountain for the others to complete their climb down, we were joined by children from a nearby village. At first they were really shy and I think we were too tired to engage them so they just watched us from a distance. Then their group went from five children to about twenty and it was hard to let them just stand there so we started speaking with them. We exchanged a few words in Chichewa (pretty much the only ones we knew- Muli Bwanji: How are you, Ndili Bwino kya inu: I’m well and you, Dzina Lako Dani: What is your name, and Dzina Langa Dine: My name is) and it quickly became clear that they did not speak English. We then started playing non-verbal games with them. It was my first interaction with children outside of the Makupo village and through it, it became obvious to me how the poverty in Malawi has such a huge effect on the people, especially the children.