Tag Archives: patience

It Matters

By Megan Blair (Bishop’s)

Pangono pangono

Pangono pangono

The first time I ever travelled to a developing country to do humanitarian work, I was told not to expect to change the lives of millions of people. It is important to keep that in mind when doing this type of work due to the fact that it is often a long and difficult process that requires a grand amount of time, patience and dedication. Thinking back on what this individual had told me, I am reminded of a story I had once heard that has stuck with me over the years…

The story features an old man and how every morning at low tide he would walk the sandy beaches of his hometown. One by one he would throw in the starfish that had washed up on the shore overnight. One morning, another man happened to be walking those same beaches around the same time. He watched curiously as the older man picked up the starfish one by one and threw them back into the ocean. This went on for a few minutes. Moments later, the man walked up to the older gentleman and asked “Sir, what are you doing, if I may ask?” “Why I am throwing the washed up starfish back into the ocean. If they remain on the beach they will dry up and die”, he answered. The younger man stared at him with a confused look then responded “You do realize that there are hundreds of thousands of starfish along this beach, right? You won’t be able to save them all.” There was a moment of silence and the older gentleman replied “Yes, I am aware. But it matters to that starfish.”

Now, you may be wondering the relevance of this story and how it ties into my time and work in Malawi. Well, it’s easy to lose focus when conducting humanitarian work, in a context of extreme poverty. It’s easy to get discouraged and it is quite common to start questioning your work, as well as the results of the work that you are conducting. We often forget to take a step back and remind ourselves of the bigger picture. Furthermore, we have a tendency to expect immediate results because as Westerners, most of us are used to instant gratification. In the case of humanitarian work, results are gradual and often cannot be perceived in early stages.

There are times on this trip that I have struggled with this. In my case, I will not see the effects of my work until further down the road. The reason for this is that I am creating a pamphlet that will provide a detailed description of the different projects of the campus as well as allow potential donors to get a complete picture of the different project needs. In the long run, this document will help raise awareness of Praxis Malawi, more specifically the Campus Approach, and how all the different projects are crucial to the campus, as well as how they will benefit the people of the Chilanga region. If I am able to properly portray the importance of the different projects, the hope is that people will see the importance of donating to the organization.

In the moments I feel discouraged, I think back on that story and remind myself that, I may not be able to change the lives of millions of people, but to the few people whose lives I can have a positive impact on, it matters to them. On another note, even if the results of my work are not easily perceived at first, small things such as making someone smile because you took the time to sit and chat, and show an interest in their lives, is extremely rewarding. We meet so many people along the way that it is so important to take the time to appreciate those moments, as small as they may be.

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!