This afternoon we went to see the Gule Wamkulu dance. This dance cannot be performed on missionary land; therefore we had to walk to non-missionary land to watch the dance. A bunch of the local villagers walked with us to watch the dance. The costumes were really detailed and colorful. We ended up waiting for over an hour and a half for the dancers to start. This is another example of “Malawian time.” Even though it took a while for the dancers to start and the dance was unorganized, because they did not have drums to dance to, it was an interesting experience to watch the dance of this tribe.
Trying sugar cane
People here do not usually brush their teeth; they use sugar cane as a substitute. People walk and chew on the branch and then spit it out. A bunch of us have been interested in trying it, but we had to be careful not to get a hard piece because we could break out teeth. Sugar cane was very interesting, it wasn’t the taste that was bad but it was the texture, it felt like you were going to get splinters in your mouth. The curiosity of this item made me keep eating it. I really enjoyed trying something that was common here but that we do not do back at home.
I was supposed to go to the Changkanga School to watch their after school sports program, however something came up and I was not able to go. Because I had promised everyone that I would go pick up their “happy pants” in town, I still went. I ended up going alone with Francis. It felt strange being the only white person walking through the market. I normally have the comfort of others around me but today I was all-alone. I felt the stares of the people around me. Although I did not hear the normal shouting of people saying “Azungu” I could tell people were wondering why I was there.
Construction of the school
Later that night all of us took a walk to where the new school is being built. It is coming along. There were bricks that had been placed which were around 2 feet high. I could really get a sense of the classroom and how the work that we were doing was going to come together into this classroom.
We got up early like we normally do when we are headed on our weekend adventures. This weekend we are headed to Livingstonia, which is a village at the top of a mountain. In general I try and sleep as much as I can during our road trips. Today was no different, until we hit the bottom of the mountain and our bus was going to start to climb. I don’t think anyone expected what was yet to come. The road was filled with stones; the bus ride was very bumpy as it went side to side all the way up the hill. At times, the bus was so close to the edge, all I could picture was the bus tumbling all the way down the hill where the bottom was nowhere in site. Although there were near death experiences, our driver was really good and controlled the bus very well. When we were almost at the top, the bus stalled at a steep point. My heart started racing and I saw my life flash in front of me. We all had to get out of the bus and Dr. Stonebanks and Arshad gave the bus a little push and it was able to climb up the rest of the mountain without difficultly.
Excited from our long trek up the mountain, we got out of the bus and explored this remarkable man-made lodge. I was lucky enough to land myself a spot in one of the lodges, while the others camped out in tents. The lodge hung-over the mountain and had an amazing view of the landscapes from the deck. A few times I stopped to take everything in and reflect on the scenery my eyes were seeing. After we got settled in, we had the most incredible dinner on this trip so far. Everything was fresh from their garden. We ate salad, steak, potatoes, bean salad, and a really good tomato sauce. With each bite we would taste new flavours and we all ate until our stomach hurt. After our amazing meal, we all sat by the campfire and got warmed by the heat. It was a lot colder at the top of this mountain.
I was curious if any animals come into the lodges while people are sleeping. Right before bed the owner (Ukwe) explained to me that bush babies, which are little monkeys, look for food at night and may come into the lodges, but he said not to worry because I would not even know they were there. My second irrational fear is Bush Babies coming into my lodge in the middle of the night and climbing on me.
I woke up all cozy in my bed, not wanting to get out. I headed to a wonderful breakfast, which consisted of fried eggs, homemade toast and tea. We had a relaxed morning, which I think all of us needed before heading higher up the mountain to see the village of Livingstonia.
Today was not a very good day for me. My stomach was throbbing and climbing up the mountain did not help as it maybe even made my stomach hurt more. However, I still tried to enjoy the views and scenery as much as I could. The pain in my stomach was worse at some points than others. When the path was only steps away from falling to a horrible death, that’s when the pain in my stomach was the worst. The fainting and dizziness sensation came over me and I had to focus hard to not slip and fall. I could not turn back, I was determined, this was a once in a lifetime experience and it was something I was not going to give up for a stomach ache. I tried to grasp certain moments as much as I could, which made me appreciate them even more.
Garden at Lukwe Lodge
After our day of hiking we explored the enormous garden the owners had created. Everything looked so fresh and well maintained. The owners did an incredible job creating this magical garden. While exploring this never ending garden of fresh fruits and vegetables, all I could think of was how much my mom would love this garden.
6 am sunrise
I am not an early riser, however I could not miss the opportunity to see the sun rising over the scenery. The sunrise was very beautiful and I was glad I forced myself out of bed to see it.
Instead of risking our lives and having a heart attack every second by taking the bus down the mountain, all of us decided to walk. It was a nice walk down the mountain, and I feel I could appreciate the views much better without being scared for my life. Once I got down, I figured that I should go to the bathroom because I did not know when we would stop next. I got pointed in the direction of the bathroom, which was a shack at the end of an alley with a lock on it. I had used bathrooms like this a few times; I wasn’t expecting much and was just going to use it and get out. I unlocked the door to find a hole in the ground but as I tried to lock the door behind me, it sprung open. I was going to try and figure out a way to lock the door but then a cockroach crawled out of the hole. I took a deep breath and I told myself I could still use this bathroom. The next thing I knew, I shook my head, I could not do it and I got out of there. This was the first instance where I could not do something that was out of my comfort zone here in Africa. I felt embarrassed, I could not use this bathroom which is normal to the people who live here.
Linden and I at Livingstonia
The rest of the bus ride, I kept to myself, reflecting on all the amazing trips we were taking and how each day I am learning new things about the country I am living in. We drove by different villages, some with satellite dishes on every roof while other villages had houses that were barely standing. I listened to my familiar music while my eyes explored the unfamiliar countryside.
The days are getting colder and colder, however I never thought that I would be cold in Africa. Normally the sun is shinning but today there were clouds in the sky.
With each day I am learning so many new ideas. I feel like the timing of this experience is really beneficial to me because I am entering my third field experience in the fall. I am learning how to put all these theories into practice which will help me be prepared for my upcoming stage in the fall.
I am taking in all the ideas everyone is coming up with and all the units we have created; however another one of my interests is sports and after school sports. I want to explore the ways in which the after school sports run here in Malawi. In order for me to do so I have to push myself and be willing to explore on my own.
I asked Francis if I could go see the after school sports at Chilanga elementary. After talking to the head master he said that the school had no balls to play with so they could not have after school sports. With excitement I screamed, “ I have some soccer balls!” Francis ran back to tell the headmaster. Tomorrow I will have my first experience with an after school sports program at Chilanga elementary.
Day 17: After school sports at Chilanga
As it got closer to the time I was going to leave to go for the after school program, I got really nervous. I did not know what to expect as I wasn’t sure how involved they wanted me to be. I collected 10 soccer balls in a bag and walked over to the school, just Francis and I.
The headmaster was so appreciative of what I was doing and how involved in his school I was getting. He explained that the school did not have a lot of resources for their after school sports program. As I talked with the principal, I saw a group of kids crowding outside of his office. I thought that those must be the students staying for the sports program. I got introduced to the lady who was going to help me lead the after school sports. As we walked towards the field the lady asked me “What kind of games are you going to play?” I had all sorts of activities and drills in my head for potential activities I could do with the students. As we tuned the corner I saw tons and tons of students outside. I thought maybe they were outside before going home. I thought wrong. All of the students were here for the after school program. I got all nervous and over whelmed. All the activities I had planned went right down the drain. I didn’t even know if I could play soccer with this many children. At one point the teacher even said to me “So what are you going to do?” I started to freak out. I said put the students in groups. It took a while to get the students organized and to finally start the games of soccer and one game of netball. Even though there were still too many students playing soccer, the game got under way and was somewhat organized. The teacher told me to blow the whistle as I had to get the students attention if the ball went out. I had brought my whistle not expecting to use it. I am guessing my role was the referee. Every time I blew the whistle I kind of laughed to myself as I had never used a whistle before to be in charge of this many students.
I talked to the teacher a bit, trying to get a sense of the program. I have come to realize that they didn’t really have a sports program implemented which could be because of the lack of resources. The teacher also explained that the students are hungry after school because they have not eaten lunch yet. After explaining this the teacher asked me “How long does this activity go for?” I realized that this activities was in my control and I got to choose what game to play and how long it lasted. I wanted the children to go home and eat their lunch so I ended the activity not long after. I think that overall the games of soccer went well even if they were a bit disorganized in the beginning.
This was an eye opening experience for me. I was not prepared for all of those students. It was amazing to see how into the games the students were and how they did not hold back even though they were not even wearing shoes. As I walked back exhausted from this experience, I asked Francis how many students he thought were at the activity and he said around 250-300 students. I am proud of myself for trying and for the activity having gone so well.
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?
We got up earlier this morning to start our road trip to Lake Malawi. Once we were en route I went back to sleep; I wanted to try and sleep as long as I could to pass the time. However as we got closer to Cape Maclear the roads going windey and my concentration drifted towards watching the roads so we didn’t tumble down the mountain. We were zig-zagging the whole way down. Although the scenery was so pretty it was hard to focus on it because of the bumpy road and I tend to get carsick.
We got to Cape Maclear after driving along bumpy dirt roads that kept getting narrower. We got to our lodge, which was called Fat Monkeys. I was amazed to find that our rooms were only steps from the water. I was not expecting this view of the water and mountains in the background. A bunch of us got into our bathing suits and soaked up the afternoon sun and even got in a little swim. The sunset was so nice and as it changed it got even prettier. We all hung out at the bar and relaxed. This was a setting we were not used to. The place we were staying was a bit touristy to what our normal routine is. As we were chilling at the bar I heard the sound of familiar music. I am not normally a person who listens to music on a regular basis but the familiarity of these songs gave me a comfortable feeling.
During our trip we discussed irrational fears. The majority of the people were only afraid of what bites them like bugs and mosquitoes. My irrational fear are the geckos that live in the hostel with us. It is an animal that doesn’t even harm humans. I am afraid of them crawling on me when I am curled up in my sleeping bag at night. At Lake Malawi the geckos are even bigger but I found out that they are actually lizards, which are even worse to me. When I went to bed both nights, there were two on the walls right night to my bed. I made sure to tuck in my mosquito net very tightly, not for the mosquitoes but for the lizards and geckos.
Today was a day of adventures. We got up and had a wonderful breakfast, which was pancakes, contrary to what we were used to. We got our bathing suits on and got ready for our day of swimming in the parasite-infested water. We hopped on a boat and headed to a near by island. On our way to the island we stopped in the middle of the lake to buy fish for our lunch. The boat was a tree trunk that was shaped like a banana; I am guessing it was a banana boat. We anchored the boat on some rocks and jumped out of the boat with excitement because it was a nice day to spend out in the sun. The water was incredible; it was a bright blue color. From the rocks, the water faded as it went deeper. It went from the rocks, which are dark brown, then tan, light blue, and then to a darker blue, it was an unbelievable image. Everyone was eager to get in the water because it was such a nice day out, hardly any clouds in the sky. I love to swim and could not wait to get in this fresh water. However I did get in slowly, taking in every moment. I put my goggles on and jumped in and to my astonishment there was a whole new world under this fresh water. The fish were indescribable; they were all different colors and when the sun would hit them their color would shine even more iridescently. At the moment I did not care if there were parasites in the water, this was a instant I would never get to see again. Even though I was not able to get a picture of what my eyes were seeing, that is an image that will undoubtedly stay in my head.
For lunch the men had cooked us the fish that had just been caught. The freshness of the fish is something I had never tasted before, it was the best tasting fish I had ever had. Another thing that I tried for the first time was the local beer, which is fermented flour, yeast and water. It was a weird consistency, even though just the look of it was not appealing, I had to taste it. The look of it said it all; it was not a very good taste.
Layers of the lake
After dinner we watched the local men play drums for us. The people’s enthusiasm and passion was entertaining in itself. The young boys of the village came and showed their skills, these boys were so young yet knew exactly what to play. I was really glad that we were able to watch local people play their local music.
Overall I think that we had a great weekend full of activities but I think we were all ready to go back to Makupo. We had the luxury of having bathrooms and even showers but when we took our showers they were cold. We realized that we wanted our shower buckets back home in Makupo.
We did a lot of touristy shopping in the morning, buying wood carved pieces and trying to bargain for the best price. After we did our shopping, we got in the bus for our long drive back. However we did not foresee how long the trip was actually going to take. I closed my eyes as we got on the bus and after only an hour of driving I was rudely awaken by the bus breaking down in the middle of the road. We were told we were going to wait for 3 hours for a new bus to come. We slowly started to entertain ourselves but we got bored pretty fast. Linden and Corinne climbed a tree, which was amusing for around 20 minutes; a bunch of us talked before it got dark. 3 hours passed, 4 hours passed, 5 hours passed and I was convinced we were going to spend the night out there. We tried to entertain ourselves by telling stories, which eventually led to killing all the mosquitoes in the bus. It gets really dark here at night. With each passing headlight, with excitement we would say “Is this the bus?” I got tired hoping that the next car would be our bus so I decided to try and sleep for a bit. I curled myself up and closed my eyes. Only seconds after falling asleep, everyone screamed “It’s here!” I jumped up with excitement then I heard “Wait no. It is not” but then the bus slowed down and finally after 6 hours the bus arrived.
I have come to realize that 3 hours is going to be more like 6 hours “Malawian time.” Time is a lot slower here; the people are more relaxed. If someone is late we now refer to it as “Malawian time.”