Tag Archives: interviewing

I Cannot Find Anything To Blog About…

By Emily Parker (Bishop’s)

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

Or can I? Here goes! Since our road trip (for those driving from Montreal to Toronto) to our arrival in Malawi, many ridiculously funny, weird, sweet, awkward, and unforgettable memories have been made.

However, this blog will not discuss those memories specifically, it will be more focused on the thought that came to me while I was sitting in the out-house this afternoon… (too much information?) The thought that struck me was: “It’s easier not to be educated”. This thought was inspired by the visits we had in two near-by schools this morning. Initially, we were supposed to simply be visiting the schools and learning more about them individually, although they ended up being to some extent, tense conversations and questioning of our project; mainly the development of the grade 2 curriculum. I do not think many of us felt 100 percent comfortable answering some of the questions. This was most likely due to the fact most of the queries were making us question last year’s progress as well as our current pre-determined research focus (even though both Dr. Stonebanks and Melanie Stonebanks have made it clear nothing is set in stone).

That being said, if I take you back to the thought that came to me in the out-house which was that: “It’s easier not to be educated”, it was my direct reaction to what we went through during the discussions in the schools and how it made me question ourselves and the work we were about to embark on, but it made me question myself even more. Considering how the principals and teachers were bringing up many points that I hadn’t considered, I wondered if I was prepared enough to contribute to this project. It made me realize that the more I know, the bigger my responsibilities become because I am aware of more “bad things” and I am unable to live in “denial” or disconsciousness.

A personal example of this has been my choice to turn to vegetarianism. I could not bare to harm the animals, our planet or my health any longer and I feel like this example applies well here too. The more I know about the education system in Malawi, the more I want to help and hopefully make positive changes. The problem with the school visits were the questions brought up that really affected me, and my confidence in being a valuable asset to the team. It made me feel that if I was not educated (and made aware of all this new information) life would be easier. In reality though, this is exactly where I want to be and I might just be scared.

This challenge is one of the biggest, most significant and dearest to me. I know my time here is very limited, but I hope to be a part of a valuable change while emerging myself completely in the experience. These are my thoughts for now, I am certain they will change over and over again during the next 4 weeks.

Finally, to end with a quote from the book, The Betrayal of Africa, “while a conspiracy indeed exists, it’s not a secret to those who want to see”, which refers to the relationship between the government and Western policies. I found it relevant seeing how virtually all Westerners know what is going on in Africa, but for a multitude of reasons close their eyes or choose not to do anything about it and go about their regular lives.

I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore

By Elise Brown-Dussault

District church

District church

The scene opens in Makupo village. The date is Tuesday, June 11th, and the time is 8 am. The three explorers, their eyes bleary with sleep and sun, leave behind the community’s thatched houses and boisterous roosters and trudge across the road with their heavy equipment. It’s a short walk to the Reverend’s house. The two Canadian girls have seen it before—daunted by its incredible size and by the three satellite dishes decorating the roof—but they’ve never been inside. The Reverend, a young man of surprisingly short stature, leads them inside. The three adventurers are quickly swallowed up by the house’s colossal frame.

I don’t know where to look. I know I’m supposed to feel impressed, but I can’t help but think that the several stereo systems and 24-inch TV screen in the living room serve primarily as a means to intimidate rather than to entertain. Considering that a large majority of Malawians live without electricity or running water, it strikes me as largely excessive.

Whether or not to interview the local Reverend has called for a few days of debate. While we don’t want to display any kind of religious bias, we also want to show the region in its most natural context. As religion plays an important role for the greater part of the population, we are left with little choice but to concur that omitting the Reverend would leave a significant dearth in our footage.

After customary greetings and introductions, we get right down to business. The Reverend’s English is excellent, so Lonjezo can circumvent his usual tedious translation job and slips behind the camera. Roxy and I stand behind him, questions in hand, battle stance on.

His answers are concise and interesting, but I find it difficult to concentrate. My eyes shift from the tennis trophies to the crocheted covers on the couches. There are four of us, and six couches. I feel as if a whirlwind has carried us right out of Malawi and left us in the parlor of some ornery old American grandmother. It’s difficult for me not to think about the world we’ve just left behind—I’d gladly trade the Reverend’s luxuries for a single smile from the village toddlers, even if their toothy grins suggest that they’ve been eating dirt in their spare time.

“What life lessons do you wish to pass on to your children?” The interview is almost over, and this question has proven to be effective as a wrap-up. Lonjezo zooms onto his face, and a short pause hangs in the air.

“I want to teach them to fear God,” he finally answers, looking straight into the lens. “Children these days are severely lacking in direction—they have too much freedom, and they’re all over the place.”

A chill navigates through the room, and all of a sudden I wish I’d brought a sweater. Roxy and I meet eyes, but we don’t need words to assert that we’re thinking the same thing. Based on his country’s current situation, it was the last thing I had expected to hear.

The three adventurers are quiet as they walk out of the house into the balmy sunshine. They stand around and blink a bit, as whirlwind survivors are wont to do, but they recover quickly. The scene fades as they pick up their equipment and lug it back to the village, where genteel faces and modest houses feel most welcome.

June 5th: The Chicken Coop

By Naomi Crisp

Wow, what an intense day! Tension has started to rise as our first full week in Makupo arrives. As always, I awoke to the rooster and lay in bed until I heard Corinne’s alarm go for 6 am. I then did my usual work in contacting Mel and checking LEARN. Everyone was up a little earlier because we had to do a fair walk to Kapiri Primary School to observe a Standard 1 and 2 class. It was interesting to see and I am glad we went but at the same time I am feeling the pressure of getting the curriculum at least part way done. What I thought would be a day of advance work has turned into a week. I appreciate the opportunity to see so many primary schools but I am really keen to dive into unit planning. After our visit to the school we went back to the building ground to another nearby village. We talked to a group of villagers who again gave us similar answers as the other interviews. At this point, I think we have a very clear idea of the questions and concerns of the people in the surrounding area.

After lunch we began our brainstorming for another unit. It has been a very slow process so far in the curriculum development and one that has caused many struggles. This in turn lead to an intense culture shock and work related meeting. Emotions were high and stress was getting the best of people. Tears fell and walks were taken before we could regroup for dinner. Things have been getting really emotional around here these days but when I was talking with Barbara in the evening about it, I expressed how this must be a pretty good group if it took us this long to reach this point. For a group that is literally spending 24/7 together through work and play, I feel confident that we will get through this and will be ready again soon. I am glad there isn’t any bitterness between us, just frustration and exhaustion. It feels wrong to be upset with such a wonderful backdrop, although it does help to look out onto the fields and let time pass.

At night we had a bonfire with some people in Makupo where we shared dances and songs. It was so much fun to relax and laugh, and ultimately make a fool out of ourselves. Day after day we experience something new and even though they are not always fun and dances they are helping us develop individually and as a group. I am so thankful I had this opportunity to grow!

Things That Need to be Mentioned

By Rebecca Clement

Advance work: visiting local schools

Advance work: visiting local schools

Here’s a list of the great things that have happened here since you last heard from me.

1.  We started doing our research and things are going very well. For the first week of our research, our mornings have been spent on what everyone has been referring to as advance work.  Basically, what we have been doing is community research which will be further clarified in point 2 of this blog post. What I wanted to discuss right now though was the amazing group dynamics of our curriculum meetings.  Pretty much this is a great group of people and I’m looking forward to moving forward with them as a group.  I find that the way we work is extremely productive and fun at the same time.  We’ve managed to stay professional, culture shock or not, and we’ve been really good with staying on topic. However our curriculum development meetings have only been 1-2 hours and the atmosphere might change with an increase of frustration and fatigue that comes with longer hours of work (which will come when the advance work is finished).  Regardless though, I feel the need to say it, these girls are great.

2.  Interviewing the surrounding villages and the nearby schools.  Our advance work was based on collecting information about the schools and communities that are surrounding the construction site for the school.  For the villagers, we wanted to know what they thought about a school being built on that plot of land since some of them used the land for farming purposes.  All the villagers we interviewed were happy with the prospect of receiving a school that would be closer, especially the women who feared for the safety of their children and grandchildren.  Right now the children would either need to cross a street with fast moving cars or cross a bridge that gets flooded and dangerous during the rainy season.  Interviewing the people was a big moment for me since it was the first time that I felt I was doing something important and relevant to education.  Though I couldn’t do anything for them about the land they would need to cultivate elsewhere, I was able to talk with them about the education of their children and ask them questions relevant to such a topic.  It was also the first time I felt anything about being in Africa.  I remember thinking “wow this is awesome” and actually felt it. For the schools that we visited (3 in total), we got to interview three head masters and observe classrooms in progress.  In total I got to observe 2 standard 1 (grade 1) classrooms and 2 standard 2 (grade 2) classrooms and at least one per school.  Since we’ve arrived, people have been telling us about the over packed classrooms of 100+ students.  What I’ve learnt from my visits is that yes that each classroom has an approximation of 100 students but from what I saw, only 60-70 of these students are actually attending.

Dancing around the fire

Dancing around the fire

3.  The dance around the fire with the local women.  This was also a big moment for me since for one it was simply amazing and because it was the first time I was able to connect with the women of the village on a fun level.  On the most part our interactions have been me testing out my Chichewa through passing greetings and simple requests (pretty much just asking for bath water).  At the beginning, it was mostly the children who were dancing while they sang along with their mothers but then the entire thing turned into a dance circle where we would be pulled into the circled or singled out and made to come into the circle and dance.  After a while, we tried including some of our own songs but found it difficult to find a good dancing song that we could all sing.  Pretty much all we had to sing as a group was songs by The Spice Girls and “The One That I Want” from Grease.  The women were amazing about it too.  They encouraged us to share and were supportive when we faltered and failed.  They even started singing “This time for Africa”.  Over all it was a night of fun and laughter.  For once, the girls stayed up past nine o’clock with me and I wasn’t the last one to go to bed.

Side note

Normally I can be content in any surroundings given to me since I’m pretty flexible and able to adapt well.  However during the process of writing this blog I’ve realized one aspect I find hard about these living conditions.  I am missing the alone time that I would use to just break out into song.  As I type I’m listening to the soundtrack of Rent and am finding it extremely hard to hold back.  This feeling of restraint is making me quite frustrated actually and I’ve come to realize that my downtime activity is not reading or drawing but singing.  Even if I’m not that much of an accomplished singer, I love making a fool of myself in front of my dog by singing and dancing like a maniac.  Though I’m sure many would find it amusing at first, I’m sure they wouldn’t have the same patience as my Bitsy baby has with me.