Tag Archives: Rebecca

It’s the Climb

By Rebecca Clement

Making our way down - my moment of redemption

Making our way down – my moment of redemption

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 with kids at the bottom of the mountain

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.

Days 1-5: Contemplations of Culture Shock

By Rebecca Clement

Since the moment we arrived at the Trudeau Elliott airport in Montreal, I started having technical difficulties which got me thinking that some higher power was trying to keep me from going on this trip.  I started to imagine myself as a character from a famous children’s book as everything seemed to go wrong for me while we were traveling to our destination.   Let’s call it “Rebecca in Herland” (I would have gone with Wonderland but didn’t know if that would be considered copy right infringement). I won’t bore you with all the details but understand that not only did my seat on the 12 hour airplane ride have a broken television screen and a broken flight attendant call button (which kept the light on at all times – This meant that I constantly had people leaning over me to try and turn off my button, even when I was asleep), but I was denied access to Ethiopia in Air Canada’s system.  They simply were not allowed to issue my last two boarding passes and said that I was blocked in the system and that I would need to get them in Toronto.  This meant that I needed to go out of the gate area and then come back in though security.  I’m extremely thankful actually that Dr. Taseen came through with me because had I done it alone the whole experience probably would have had me in a fit of stress tears.   In summary, Ethiopian airlines had trouble as well but ended up fixing it by putting me on “Standby” which meant that I would get a seat on the flight only if there was a seat left over.  This left me in a silent anxious state during our 2 hour lay-over.  So, to put your minds at ease, since I know you’re anxiously anticipating what happened, I did get on the plane and made it to Malawi with the rest of my group.  Do you see though why I had this urge to flee and run?

Aside from this fleeting thought, I really wasn’t feeling anything post and prior to the trip. It still hadn’t completely hit me that I was in Africa.  On the bus ride from Lilongwe to Makupo, I actually turned to Annabelle and said “Hey Annabelle want to hear something cool? We’re in Africa”.  I’m still waiting for the honey moon stage of culture shock but have a feeling that at this point it has already passed me by.  I somewhat feel like I’ve been overly prepared for the experience….which is not a bad thing.  An example of this would be that prior to the trip, while describing to us the first stage of culture shock, Dr. Stonebanks told us about the scenery (canopy tree) and that we would be greeted at the village with a song from the local women.  This I think is why I didn’t feel any shock when we got to Malawi.  I’m actually convinced that I won’t go through the stages of culture shock, or if I do they won’t be as obvious as I expected them to be.

There are two things that I think may be considered as culture shock though.  The first would be the feeling of being seen as a tourist. I’ve never liked the idea of being a tourist and so I’m having difficulty with taking pictures and having people stare at me.  I get it. I stand out. But it is honestly making me feel uncomfortable.  Today actually (01-06-13) I was signaled out when walking to the Airtel store with Annabelle (just the two of us) and a guy actually said to me “Hey pretty lady, let’s go” which if you think about it could, would and has, happened while walking in downtown Montreal.   But the whole being signaled out because I was not from there made me feel uncomfortable.  The second thing that I’m having trouble with is having discussions with the local people.  On both my first and second day here I entered into a conversation with a man named Frazer.  The worst of the two encounters however was when I had woken up at 5:30 am on the second day and went to watch the sun rise.  I was soon joined by Frazer who is one of the night time security guards.  I had difficulty coming up with questions to ask him.  Aside from the language barrier I had trouble selecting questions since I didn’t know if there were some questions that were considered inappropriate so a lot of our time was spent in silence.  These two aspects of the conversations I’ve had with Malawians have led me to feel uncomfortable with an urge to run back to my rabbit hole and hide.

Introducing the 2013 Group: McGill University

Linden Parker

Linden Parker

I was born in rural Nova Scotia and love being Canadian, but having moved with my parents and two older sisters to a suburb of Portland, Oregon at the age of five, I also consider myself a true Oregonian. After high school I spent a year traveling with a friend around North America in a van, exploring National Parks and visiting friends and family. I then moved to Montreal, Quebec to attend McGill University. I received my first degree from McGill in 2007 with a major in Environment and Development and a minor in English Theatre. In 2009 I married my husband, Darren Reynolds in San Francisco. We now enjoy an active life in our vibrant downtown apartment with our cat. We spend our free time reading, camping, skiing, playing volleyball and picnicking in the park. Now that I am well into my second degree at McGill I find we’re busier than ever. I am beyond excited that in one year I will graduate with a degree in Kindergarten & Elementary Education and will be able to teach the following fall. I truly enjoy working with children and cannot wait to meet the diverse group of students whom I will be responsible for inspiring to love learning.

Praxis Malawi presents an incredible opportunity for me to work with peers and professors from Quebec and Malawi to develop a grade one curriculum for an alternative school being built in the Chillanga region of Kasunga. This project allows me to participate in the creation of a curriculum that incorporates local knowledge and resources into the framework of the Quebec Education Program. I am thrilled to have the chance to apply my environment & development background and my emerging understanding of education. Through collaborative efforts, I hope to identify what is most relevant to students in the local community. As a concurrent initiative is being planned to build a garden for the school, I will focus on finding ways of integrating it into the curriculum. Exploring local farming and food practices will be particularly important.

I foresee this being an incredibly challenging, yet rewarding experience. With just over a month to learn curriculum development and understand the community’s expectations and hopes for this new school, I am mentally preparing for some intense collaboration and field research. Such an extensive and evolving project requires the involvement of many knowledgeable individuals from Quebec and Malawi, both in person and online – we encourage input! I am honoured to be part of this project and am excited to witness how it progresses. I’m sure I will also have copious pictures to share of us in the town and on our travels throughout the region. Lions and travels and learning – oh my!


Louisa Niedermann

Louisa Niedermann

I am Louisa Niedermann. I am originally from the States but grew up in Montreal. I just finished my second year in Education at McGill University.  I love traveling and learning about different cultures and the way others live. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to travel to Africa and I feel so grateful to have this opportunity to go to Malawi, learn, give what I can and receive in ways I can only imagine.

For my time in Malawi I am looking into the relevance of play in young children.  For very young children, play is their work–how they learn to take turns, follow directions and pay attention.  It is often the relief and release of physical activity that allows children to return to tasks at hand with greater ability to make the most of what is presented.  Whether it be at recess, after school or during classes, I will look at if play is recognized as an important value in the learning process of young children in Malawi, and if not, how to begin to introduce the importance of play by teaching playground games and physical activities for the in-between times of academic learning and work to be done at home.


Rebecca Clement

Rebecca Clement

I was going to do something corny like start this piece by saying I’m a twenty one year old female that likes sad movies, romantic dinners, long walks on the beach, and puppies, and was then going to turn it around and be like “Nahhh, I’m just messing with you”.  This is what I wanted to do but couldn’t think of enough corny things that I didn’t actually like.  So here’s the truth, I really do like all those things, except of course the walks on the beach.  I could never understand how people could tolerate the presence of sand in their shoes.  I hate sand.  As for the rest, I love all movies, I love going out for dinner and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love puppies?  I’m a big movie fan, I especially enjoy musicals.  Maybe once I warm up to everybody on the trip there might be the occasional performance of me bursting out into song and dance.  Also, fair warning to all the other participants, if I say something weird, it was most likely a movie reference that I took a chance at you knowing and/or appreciating.

I’m a quiet person on the most part and it takes me time to warm up to people.  I’m better in a one on one situation where it’s more give and take than in a large group discussion where everyone has something to say.  I’m a listener in conversations and will only impose myself in larger group discussions if I feel the conversation will benefit greatly from my contribution.  I’m more interested in what others have to say to be honest and am completely content with watching, listening, and thinking.  I already know what I’m thinking, but I want to know what’s going on in everyone else’s mind.  This interest in knowing what others are thinking stems from my fascination with perception.  It is what got me to study psychology in CEGEP, which got me interested in child development, and then what got me thinking about education.  My only reservation about being this way is the fear that people think I chose not to contribute because I either don’t care or am not intelligent enough to participate.  I have a fear of being seen as unintelligent, which is actually the basis of my worries for this experience.   Another way of looking at it is my hesitation for this trip stems from my worries of not succeeding by having nothing useful to contribute to the group.  Though I have some fears of the educational aspect of the trip I’m not worried about the living conditions.  On the most part I can adapt quite easily to my environment and/or situation.  It’s this aspect of myself actually that allows me to get along well with most people.

For my individual research topic I will be looking at Natural Sciences since it is my primary educational focus at McGill University within the B.Ed kindergarten/elementary program.  This topic choice worries me some since I have no idea what to expect, though this must be true for the other participants and their choices as well.  I have no idea what sorts of materials they will have available or what scientific principles will be useful in their culture.  What worries me also is the class sizes and finding activities for all students to be engaged in considering the lack of materials.  In all I’m nervous about not being prepared for the trip but am looking forward to the challenge ahead and most of all the amazing experiences that come with living and experiencing a culture first hand.