A Badger Abroad

Peace corps adventuretimes in malawi

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CAMP SKY PRESS RELEASE!!!

With Camp Sky, Peace Corps volunteers show Malawian students that the sky is not the limit for their potential

On the sixth of April, eighty academically exceptional students from across the Southern African country of Malawi arrived at Mitundu Secondary School, where a week of advanced subject-specific courses, practical labs, test preparation, and other educational activities focused on health, self-expression, and problem solving, awaited them.

Camp Sky is an education camp focused on Malawi Senior Certificate Examination (MSCE) preparation that has been an annual volunteer initiative for over ten years. It provides outstanding students from all over Malawi a one-of-a-kind experience to learn from Peace Corps teachers, forge connections with other promising students from different areas or backgrounds, and to realize their own potential and strengths in and out of the classroom setting. Over 25 volunteers from the education, environment, and health sectors in Malawi came together to put on the camp.

Throughout the week, campers participated in subject-specific lessons taught by first and second-year education volunteers which focused on problem areas students traditionally encounter on their national MSCE examination. Areas of study included fractions and ratios, vocabulary building and word formation, photosynthesis, and many more. They also participated in labs across multiple subjects, which included composition writing, titration, and graphing, among others. For many students, this was their first experience working in a science laboratory, and their excitement showed.

The classroom lessons were supplemented by many other holistic learning experiences. Volunteers from other sectors came to lead sessions on nutrition, creativity and self-expression, Malaria, gender empowerment, and more. Each day featured a theme focused around being a well-rounded individual in all facets of life. These daily themes all tied-in to the overall theme of the camp, which was: “Sky is not the limit.” To fortify this message that the skills and knowledge students gain at camp should stay with them beyond the week of Camp Sky, Malawian role models and professionals in the fields of journalism, education, tourism, government, and health comprised a panel that presented their educational and job experiences and fielded questions from eager campers. Students likewise participated in engaging events such as a physics egg-drop competition, an HIV scavenger hunt, a variety show, and a viewing of a film-version of Romeo and Juliet, as well as much singing, dancing, chanting, morale-boosting, and friend-making. Based on analysis of completed pre and post-surveys, students improved in all areas of instruction, including classroom subjects as well as health-related questions.

Camp Sky went mobile for one day as staff and students travelled to the John F. Kennedy Information Resource Center located at the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Lilongwe. Here, students were given a presentation about the application process regarding schools and colleges in the U.S., and provided information and resources about how to be attractive candidates when pursuing further education. They also had a hands-on session in the facility’s computer lab, where many students created their first word processing document and performed their first internet topic search.

Concurrent with Camp Sky was Teach Sky, a teacher development training that consisted of twenty teachers from around Malawi interacting with five Teacher Development Facilitators from the education sector. The teachers had workshops on teaching methodologies, gender equity in the classroom, continuous assessment, differentiated learning, and other classroom management strategies. Attendees also observed lessons taught by Peace Corps volunteers, and gave feedback based on their observations of the lesson. Towards the end of the camp, teachers collaborated with volunteers to lead a joint session about study skills and test-taking strategies. Throughout the week, teachers were welcome to attend or participate in any of the camp activities, and also attended the field trip to the U.S. embassy.

All in all, Camp Sky was a major success for all involved. Students enjoyed learning from Peace Corps volunteers, interacting with Malawian professionals, participating in unique labs and activities, discovering how to keep a healthy body and mind, expressing their thoughts and being listened to, and forging lasting connections and friendships. Even in a short week, the growth and leap in confidence in each one of these special students was evident. Malawian teachers gained the experience of collaborating and learning from their colleagues, and of being exposed to new teaching practices. And PCV’s involved accomplished a rewarding and life-lasting week of service. The funding for the camp came from all over the world, as family and friends of those volunteers involved as well as Malawian nationals and expats interested in Malawi’s future contributed to the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) which helps support volunteer projects worldwide. Without their help, the camp would not have been as successful as it was. Not only was this a life-changing experience for the student and teacher Camp Sky-ers, but for all of the Peace Corps Volunteers involved as well. Throughout the week, it was made evident to all involved that Sky is truly not the limit for these aspiring Malawian students.

As Daniel Chakwira, an eighteen-year old student from the Nkhata Bay district, summed up the experience of the week: “The impossible Is becoming possible.”

If you want to read more about what we did at Camp Sky 2014, check out our blog: campskymw.tumblr.com

Or search for us on Facebook!

And stay tuned for more information about how you can help out next year’s camp!


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Filed under campsky malawi peacecorps reachup journalism

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The ABCs of my Peace Corps Service

The sun is setting on my time in Malawi. It’s hard to put the last 2 years of my life into words (or letters?)…..So, let’s do it!


A is for Airtel Autocracy 

You know how in America, there’s a bunch of different phone companies? You can pick a big company, like Verizon or AT&T, pay a monthly bill, get a family plan, rollever minutes, network-to-network free calls, text limits, pay some extra for data, all that kind of stuff? Or spurn the big players and get a pay-as-you-go model like Boost Mobile (are they still a real thing???) and do you that way? Or maybe you’ve had an irrational fear of cell phone technology ever since that movie “Cellular” came out and you’ve shunned the whole  movement for fear that someday a kidnapped lady will call you on your cell and beg for your help and you’ll end up sticking up an electronics store for a charger because your battery is dying and you’re starting to believe her story and you don’t want to lose the connection and why do I remember so much about this crapfest movie? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that, unlike a modern NFL-style offense, you got “options”. Here, we have Airtel. Airtel, an India-based (pretty sure??) company present in many Southern-African countries, is one of only two options for cell phone service in Malawi. The other is TNM, which is Malawi owned, but has poor service in many areas and therefore most people have greater access to Airtel. TNM is basically the Malawi telecommunications provider equivalent of the U.S. vice-president, perpetually second fiddle and its function mostly ceremonial, but it still hangs around. Since most people are already on Airtel and it costs extra to call or text an Airtel phone from a TNM phone, most people choose to go with the Empire, or at least have a SIM card for each. The way Airtel service works, is that you buy service ahead of time (airtime), either electronically or via little scratch offs with PIN codes to dial in for units, and you use them to pay for calls, texts, and Internet bundles. And it’s super overpriced, especially the Internet bundles. And since there isn’t a lot of competition, they seem to be always raising the price of a text. When I got here, if you sent 6 texts a day, at 8 kwacha each, then you got 100 free texts for the rest of the day (basically if you wanna talk to people a lot on a certain day, you get unlimited texts after spending like 50 kwacha). Now the free text thing is totally gone, texts are up to 12 kwacha each, and they can pull BS moves like raising prices abruptly on holidays because they know a bunch of people will be texting anyway. Mabes you’re thinking, “Get a land-line, dum-dum!”? A land line in the village? YOU’RE the dum-dum!
(there is a whole essay in itself that could assess and catalogue how remarkable the introduction of cell phone technology has been for places like here, where land lines are inconceivable and communication was almost non-existent just a few years ago…somebody write that….I’ll read it). Buuuuut I shouldn’t complain. Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi less than 10 years ago might not have had any communication options besides writing letters (who DOES that), and Internet access was still only existent in an Al Gore fever dream. Maybe 10 years from now, all volunteers will be issued Google Glass, whatever that is. For now, we have Airtel, savior and Satan. 


B is for BOOM

When I teach about figurative language,  as a reinforcing activity I like to play songs with good uses of metaphor, simile, etc. and have the kids find examples via listening and looking at the lyrics. I’ve played Bon Iver, TSwift, Adele, Simon and Garfunkel, Green Day’s only good song, The Muppets, Blitzen Trapper, and…. “Firework,” by Katy Perry (we’ll get back to that). 
So my form ones are big fans of onomatopeia. When I introduced it, I talked about how much fun it is to say the word, and made them all say it aloud, which in hindsight may have been a mistake because for the rest of the period at random times students would just blurt out the word and laugh. I also did random things like throw my notebook at the wall, knocked a chair over, and slammed the door and asked them to create an onomatopeia for the sound those actions made (ski-dum, shhhpap, and shlam). They are all about onomatopeia. So in the song “Firework” (told ya), at the end, KP goes “Boom, boom, boom” ….an onomatopoeia for the sound an exploding firework makes…. and they were all over it. And now, oftentimes when I walk past their classroom, or see a form one out and about, they go “Stanley! BOOM BOOM BOOM!” It’s super annoying, but also super great. There’s a big language and culture barrier between my students and I, so having inside jokes like this, no matter how few (or stupid), is something I cherish.


Today the letter C is sponsered by food and drink: 
C is for Chippies, Chipati, Chicken, Chambo, Chombe, Chibuku, Chambiko,  Carlsberg, Cassava, Coca-Cola, CHABWINO!

These are things that I have consumed or seen a lot of. Chippies are like fries, Irish potatoes peeled, sliced into wedges, and fried in oil, and they are the ultimate roadside travel treat. I love me some chippies. Chipati are basically flour tortillas. I’ve been making them a lot at my house lately, which is cool because not only are they delicious but they make me feel accomplished, with all the dough-mixing and rolling-out and what not.  Chicken I like to eat (more on how I feel about their value as individuals later), chambo (a type of fish from Lake Malawi) I do not but it’s very prevalent and popular, especially near the lake. Chombe is a brand of tea and tea time is a ubiquitous tradition that has been passed onto Malawians from their British colonial overlords. Chibuku is a food-beer (see earlier post regarding it’s majesty). Chambiko is pasteurized milk product that I can best describe as “village cheese,” also the name of my renegade cat who ran away because she was afraid of being loved too much (shoutout to Biko, wherever you are. Remember the time it was storming and the thunder scared you and you shat all over me and my bed? Good times. What happened to us!?). Carlsberg is virtually the the only beer available (skip ahead to letter K for more about beer!), which isn’t awesome but it could be worse: we could’ve been stuck with two years of Natty Ice. Cassava, a starchy root, is made into a nsima type thing or also just boiled or fried. It’s not bad. Very popular in my area. And finally, if you think you’ve ever tasted anything more satisfying than an ice cold Coca-Cola from a glass bottle after trudging uphil for several kilometers in the warm African hot-season sun, well…I want to say you’re wrong, but I don’t know you and the things you’ve tasted, but…you’re probably wrong. Probably. 
Bonus word: Chimbudzi, or pit latrine, which a long visit to is necessitated by the consumption of all of these things.

D is for Dawn
 (and Dirt)

Dawn: the English translation for the “Kwacha,” or unit of currency here, of which I always seem to be running out of.
 Dawn: the time that I wake up at in the village.
 Dawn at Lake Malawi: the best sunrises I’ve ever seen in my life. 
Dawn, the soap brand: of which I will need buckets of to clean off the two years of Malawi dirt and grime that have become permanent fixtures of my skin no matter how many times I bathe.  Seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully clean again. But that’s okay, that just means  I have a permanent souvenir of Africa (and a pretty inexpensive one at that!).


E is for Entertainment
(AKA E is for Egotistical and shameless opportunity to showcase the various cool mediums that I consume and interesting things I do, in order to seem just as cool or interesting to you, the reader)

So a little over a year into my service, my laptop died. And while I have had no electricity at my house, I was able to charge it at school everyday on solar power and use it to transfer movie files to my phone to watch after the battery drained. So there went my primary source of entertainment. But it actually wasn’t so bad. I’ve been finally reading as much as I hoped I would of before entering Peace Corps, finishing the entire Dark Tower series and discovering new faves like Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers. I’ve done probably over 500 crossword puzzles, and learned new words doing so (quick, what’s a six letter word that means “Styx ferryman”?). I’ve gotten into podcasts (Comedy Bang Bang, The Moth, Harmontown, B.S. Report, The Bugle all on the reg) and discovered new/old bands (Roxy Music, Afghan Whigs).  I’ve done artsy things like jigsaw puzzles, dusted off my mad stay-in-between-the-lines coloring skills, chalk graffitied my walls, played a lot of ukulele, made a paper Christmas ornament, sewed a patch in my holey jeans, and given myself tattoos (temporary!). I’ve spent more time being available to students and teachers at school, just to chat, shoot hoops on our makeshift (now dead) basketball rim, or whatevs. So even though Charon, that old tough bastard, has chauffeured the soul of my old computer into the afterlife, it’s actually been ok. And I still even got to see how Breaking Bad ends on weekend binge-fests in town. It all good. 
You figure out that crossword clue?


F is for FINE HOW ARE YOU

This is the name of a fun game I like to play with the local iwes, or small village children. Whenever they see me coming or going down the long road between my house and the tarmac, they get excited to greet me in English: 
“HOW AHH YUU!?”
To which I reply with the customary:
“Fine. How are you?”
Here’s where it gets fun. So these kids know virtually no English besides this greeting, and don’t really understand it’s intricacies. So when I ask them this back, they also respond in joint, parrot-like fashion…….
“FINE…….HOW AHH YUU!?”
…….Not realizing that they have just asked the same question twice. 
To which I reply:
“Fine, how are you?”
To which they say: 
“FINE…….HOW AHH YUU!?”
ANNNND you get the picture. So it goes. On and on. At first this got frustrating, like I was trapped inside a twisted Sesame Street children’s spoof of an Abbot and Costello bit, but now it’s turned into a game of wills. Whoever fails to respond “Fine, how are you?” loses. The game goes on until I’m either out of earshot and can’t hear them anymore, which I count as a win, or either they get bored, weirded out, or some combination of the two and stop, which I also consider a win. But even though I pretty much always win, I don’t think there’s ever really a loser no matter the outcome.


G is for Greetings

So I’ve talked before how big a deal greetings are in Africa. When you pass somebody on the road, when you come in to work, when you exit the chim and awkwardly run into your village chief  waiting in line outside it….anytime, it’s customary to greet people. In the morning, all of my coteachers say good morning and ask me how I am…most of them do so in English. Everybody must ask everybody how they are, even if everybody is in the same room and can hear everybody’s responses. One day I decided to conduct a little experiment.  I entered the staff room like any other morning, and found 4 other teachers already in. They each greeted me, “How are you?” And for each of them I gave a different response to see if they would notice or care:
“I’m great!” 
“I’m just okay.” 
“I’m feeling a little tired today.”
“I ninja star bicycle vest.” 
Everybody was within earshot of my various exchanges, but nobody reacted any different than usual (except that last one which generated a surprised eyebrow raise….to which I smoothly followed up with a quick, “I mean, yeah! And how are you?” when they continued to stare at me quizzically). They just thanked me and moved on. I continued the charade for the rest of the morning whenever I met a new person.  I don’t know what I was trying to prove with this little social experiment, but sometimes in the village you have to find ways to keep yourself entertained. Reread letter E for more ideas on how to stay entertained in a village!


H is for Hills

My site, Luwazi, is full of lush, sloping, flowing hills. It’s great…and terrible. I complain a lot about the approximately 3km up and down dirt road it takes to get to a paved one from my house, but really, the scenery of deep green mountains jutting into crystal clear sky is beautiful. The walking sucks, but the view is magical. It takes your breath away in two ways (HEYYYOOOOOO!!!!! JOKES!!!).


I is for Isolation

I live in the bush. It’s at least a thirty minute (grueling, in hot season) walk to get to a paved road. There’s no electricity around except for a few people and my school which has a solar panel hookup, so at least I can charge my phone. There’s one small tuck shop near the school that sells eggs, bread, cooking oil, lukewarm cokes, soap and other small items but other than that there’s no market. I live right next to the school, so its basically just my co-teachers who I have as neighbors. I’m out there. It can be lonely, but it’s quiet. Isolation can be nice. It can allow you to both learn how to play Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” and rock out “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money on your ukulele with no one’s judgment. It gives you the freedom to bump Savage Garden and the soundtrack from “Les Miserables” on your iPod speakers with no feelings of shame. It affords you the distraction-less time to do things you wouldn’t normally do, like practice your free-style rapping or shave your beard into fun styles ….or even things you actually DO have to do like lesson plan or grade exams (I’m always amazed by the amazement my co-teachers have in me after term exams, when I have finished making all of my 120+ exams within a week of the test date. I mean, what else do I have to do? My puzzle ain’t going nowhere). But after a while you realize that isolation also makes you a bit cray, like when you catch yourself building a Fromagical shrine out of care package Cheeto bags,  Kraft Mac & Cheese boxes, and cheez ball tins, or think that killing ants with a makeshift lighter/aerosol-sunscreen-spraycan fire torch apparatus is normal human behavior. You also realize that it kind of turns you into an old person, like when the shrill laughter of a child ruffles your feathers and not being able to solve a crossword puzzle can give you an ulcer the size of a small cosmic body, say Pluto or even it’s smaller satellite Charon. 
Speaking of crosswords, you figure out that 6-letter clue yet?


J is for Joyce Banda

…Because she became President right before I arrived in Malawi, and now has left office right before I leave, which some people may attribute to coincidence, or cashgate, or “term lengths,” or some other type of arbitrary nonsense, but really I know it is because I am her political muse. Here’s to you, Joyce ContraBanda, dynamic mystery wrapped in enigmatic intentions, wrapped in many a chitenje. 


K is for Kuche Kuche

Kuche Kuche is the one Malawi beer you can get that’s not Carlsberg (unless you want to pay twice as much for an import like MGD).  It comes in large bottles but with a lower alcohol percentage, is made from rice grown in Lake Malawi, and it’s name roughly translates to “from sunset to sunrise” (or something). It’s decent, but it has a reserved spot in my heart’s parking lot because that was my family’s drink of choice when they came to visit. I’ll always remember buying the bar out of them when we finally made it to the lake. And after surviving fire, car breakdowns, a speeding ticket, douchebag rastas, extreme cold, and (probs) more, they were well deserved. Plus, the name is so fun. Say it. Now try not to say it again. I bet you did. Sucker.

INTERLUDE: a source of common frustration and amusement for me is the odd way in which Malawians randomly exchange the letters “L” and “R.” It’s so curious and unexplainable how some words will always automatically necessitate a switch between these letters, yet some never do. For example, when I grade essays, students always write “pray football” instead of “play football.” But, for instance, they’ll never say “fluits” instead of “fruits.” It’s cray and weird and wonderful.   So to honor this little quirk, “L” and “R” have exchanged places in my alphabet. That’s why the next letter is


R is for Rasta 

The “Rasta” is a breed of Malawian that fancy themselves true followers of Rastafarian beliefs and disciples of Bob Marley, but are really just Malawians that want an excuse to have dreadlocks and smoke a lot of weed. For example, most (94%) faux-Rastas I’ve met in Malawi drink beer, eat meat, spread their rasta “message” through accosting white people into buying their crappy art and curios, and are just kind of assholes in general. But I’ve met a few legit Rastas. And many that associate themselves with the faux-rasta business curio-culture but are really chill, friendly, interesting to chat up, and sell wares but aren’t bullish and pushy. I enjoy them. One thing all rasta types have in common: they love to talk to me. Mabes it’s my long hair, my easygoing nature, or the difficulty I have in saying no to people (that one), but whenever I’m in Nkhata Bay on the lake, a rasta haunt, I can’t get away from them. Some are cool and I trade with them (in fact, one guy who was closeby visiting his nephews remembered I stay at Luwazi and stopped by to say hi and I ended up swapping my tent for a bunch of wood carvings), but others peddle the same overpriced generic artwork and wood carvings you see all over the country and even though they say they need money to use for medicine for their visibly messed-up foot you know they’ll just use it to buy satchets.  These “Rastas” not a bredda to I. 

Some rasta names I have encountered:
Happy Coconut, Natty Prince, Monkey Dread, Pumpkinhead, Elephant, King Marko, Happiness, Dr. Smiley, Sugarman, Mr. Bamboo, and so many great ones I’ve forgotten. 
Bonus Word: R is for Reggae
Not just popular with the Rastas, it be everywhere mon!


M is for Mefloquine

This is the malaria medication Peace Corps put me on. So far my only side effects have been crazy dreams where I ride a giraffe to a movie premiere (fun!), play a game of knee-walk only paintball with people I went to high school with (weird), or get tickled by clowns (my personal Hell), for example. To read more about Mef, check out this feel-happy article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/opinion/crazy-pills.html

PS-Don’t worry. I’m fine. 


N is for Nineteen

The approximate number of steps that I live from my school/place of work.  It’s nice having all of my responsibilities in a close area, but I can’t help but feel like maybe I’ve missed out a little bit on other things by being so close, like living in a more village-commune community setting, hanging out at these sweet fish ponds/banana groves I happened across this week while out for a stroll with my replacement who was visiting as a part of his pre-service training, or seeing the famous Luwazi waterfall which is apparently a thing (on my Peace Corps bucket list). But, you know what they say: the shorter the commute to work, the happier you are! (that’s a thing people say right?).

Asterisk: Actually… it’s more like 30 steps from my house to the school, but I wanted to write about a word beginning with N that was NOT nsima. I really don’t want to waste any more time thinking about it. 


O is for Observed, as in protocol 

I’ve been to my fair share of staff meetings, trainings, ceremonies, and other public events, and it seems like half of the running time of these things is spent “observing protocol.” What this means, essentially, is that whenever somebody begins to speak at such an “official” event, they first have to address all of the higher-ups and whatnot before launching into what they want to say. This may be as simple as saying, “Through the chair…..” before saying what you want to say at a staff meeting, or say you’re about to give a speech at a Peace Corps volunteer swearing-in ceremony it may go something like: “US ambassador soandso, Peace Corps director soandso, Peace Corps deputy director soandso, Minister of Education soandso, Chief Education Inspector soandso, Member of Parliament soandso, Group Area Chief soandso, Village Headman soandso, Peace Corps volunteers past, present, and future, all invited guests….” It can get long. And every person that would speak would repeat all that. It’s a lot to keep straight. Which is why whenever I talk at a meeting or ceremony or anything I just start with, “All protocol observed.” 



P is for Poultricide 

I doubt this is a real word, but everyday I have to fight my inner poultricidal tendencies. I hate chickens. I hate when roosters crow in the morning. I hate how they come into my yard, the sense of entitlement they have. I hate the way their stupid necks jerk around and their eyes spastically blink.  I hate their smell. I hate when they rudely sneak into my classroom and won’t leave until I chase them out the door. I hate it whenever somebody brings tied up chickens on public transport, especially when a box of them is handed to me to hold. I hate how they hang around in the middle of the road and are too stupid to get out of the way and force my ride to slow down and the second the driver presses the breaks they scurry away while taunting me.  I hate their stupid faces. I hate how much they make me hate them. They are the worst. The only thing I like about them is how they taste, which only makes it harder to stave off the murderous impulses. Lucky for them, I’m too much of a chicken (ha) to actually act on these urges, because the thought of actually killing a chicken by myself or just the act of watching one’s throat being cut freaks me out in a very serious way. Speaking of:


Q is Queasy 

Is a feeling I’ve felt a lot over the past two years. Queasy when on a speeding minibus taking hairpin turns way too fast and just narrowly missing out on swiping the mirror off a semi. Queasy when I use a neglected, particularly noxious chim. Queasy when passing through the fish section of the market and getting a whiff of the usipa thats been sitting out in the sun all day. Queasy whenever I see the Guli Wamkulu perform, tribal dancers from the central region that wear scary masks and dance in a creepy gyrating way and look like clowns and freak me out and give me nightmares and let’s not talk about them anymore. Queasy when I discover that one of my favorite students hasn’t been around this term because she left school after getting pregnant and married. Queasy whenever I have to be around a chicken or pig or something being slaughtered. Queasy whenevs I take a sip oc Chibuku. Queasy when my internet’s not working and I can’t check the score of a Packer game. And currently, I’m feeling queasy about saying goodbye to my life here.


L is for Lake Malawi

My favorite thing about Malawi. Enough said. 


S is for Stars

Away from light pollution and air pollution and buildings, the night sky of rural Malawi is magnificently grandiose. I could never get sick of these stars, and will miss seeing them every night when I’m gone. Lake Malawi itself has garnered the nickname “Lake of Stars,” not for the ones in the sky but the “starlight” of lanterns on fishing boats hung up to attract fish at night. It’s quite a sight to gaze out upon the lake at night, with stars both twinkling in the night sky and bobbing up and down upon the  waves. 


T is for Tonga time!

The region I live in speaks a minority language called Chitonga, and is inhabited by the Tonga tribe. What my co-teachers tell me about Tongas (most of them come from elsewhere in the country) is that Tongas are loud, head-strong, good fisherman, and care too much about the way they dress. The Peace Corps volunteers in Tongaland also associate strongly with the Tonga name, and it is a well-known fact that the Tongas are the coolest Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi (we even have a secret handshake)!  If we were a Game of Thones house, (and whose to say we won’t be in the 7th book), our sigil would be a fish eagle plucking a fish out of Lake Malawi, and our motto: “Hot season is coming…..” because it always is. 


U is for Ujeni

This is by far my favorite Malawian word. It basically means, “whatchamacallit,” or “doohickey,” or “thingamajig,” or whatever. It’s so versatile. Say you come to talk to me and you have leftover mango debris hanging all over your face. I may say, “Hey, you got a little ujeni right there.” Or say somebody needs help carrying a bunch of crap and they’re like: “Are you just gonna sit there or help with this ujeni?!” Or mabes you’re playing a game of pickup basketball and somebody swats a shot into the bleachers with a Muntombo-esque tenacity and snarls, “Get that weak ujeni out of here!” while waving their finger at you. Or say some drunk guy who gets cut off at the bar starts to complain about how the government is taking everything away from him and I ask him like what kind of stuff an he just says, “ujeni.” It can be inserted successfully into so many situations and contexts. It’s like the tofu of words. 


V is for Vula

Vula means rain, and boy has it been a big part of my life. As I’m typing this now, in July, it is STILL raining! (usually rainy season ends in early springtime)… When it rains hard, everything shuts down. Students don’t travel to school, teachers come late, and most people just stay at home. Attendance gets to be more of a problem during term 2, when the rains start. Even if students do make it before heavy rains set in, the intense pattering of the rain against the tin roof of classrooms prevents students (and myself) from hearing anything I say. The pounding rain is harsh, but I actually find it a little relaxing to chill out under the constant humming of a downpour. The force that these African rains can hit with really makes you marvel at the power of nature. This is where I would now make a joke or quip about the song “Africa” by Toto and “I bless the rains….” but I think I have already used them all up.


W is for witchcraft

Many Malawians still put a lot of stock in the powers of dark magic. I think a lot of times, “witches” are easy targets and scapegoats for when something goes wrong, instead of people taking ownership for mistakes. But it is interesting. And hey, it brought back my stolen iPhone to me! Still waiting for my letter to the Malawian version of Hogwarts to arrive via owl. Check out this article, that’s NOT from 100 years ago but now:

http://m.irinnews.org/report/92396/malawi-suspected-witches-jailed#.U7Zsw4lhic0


X is for Xenomania

Back home, when I thought or talked about race, the “colors” that were “different” weren’t my own. I was the norm, the default setting for a middle class male from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  Nobody asked me where I was REALLY from, it was obvious where, from here!, even if my ancestors came from Ireland and Germany and elsewhere. In Malawi, I’m white, but there’s so many places I could be REALLY from. England? Ireland? Australia? South Africa? In Wisconsin, the normal for white is “probably from here,” in Malawi the normal for white is “outsider.” I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve never really though about my race, my whiteness, as much as I have here. I never before have thought that I was different. I blended in.  My skin color wasn’t a target on my back, it was camouflage. 
Here I’m more cognizant of my skin color then I’ve ever been before. I’m not Cam, I’m an azungu, a white person. When I go places, I feel like a celebrity because everybody looks at me and yells excitedly, but it’s not because of anything I’ve done or accomplished or any trace of celebrity I actually possess, it’s only because my skin is white and I’m different. Babies cry when they see me. Grown-ass adults blatantly stare. Shop owners try to sell me things at a higher “azungu price.” It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Don’t get me wrong: I know that just being born white, male, and American in a world affected by hundreds of years of colonialism and racial hierarchy grants me powers and privileges that are unseen of by most here and has put me in the position to be able to come to places like Malawi in order to “make a difference.” I’m not whining, just noting how big of a paradigm shift there is between where I’ve been and where I am now. It’s frustrating, refreshing, eye-opening, and worrying to experience life in this new way and to realize how myopic my view of the world used to be.


Y is for YEWO

Yewo means thank you, and I owe a huge YEWO to all of my students, coteachers, community members, and all the awesome Malawians I’ve met, worked with, and learned from, for making my 2 years here so awesomesauce. I know I gripe a lot about  some people and some of the realities here, but in earnest….Malawians are the most kindhearted, genuine, amusing, loving, confusing, and beautiful people I’ve ever met. My Peace Corps experience could be summed up using so many different words, but the one that comes to mind right now is special…and that’s because of of the people I’ve spent my time with. Malawi: YEWO CHOMENE!!!


Z is for Zebras

Zebras are my new favorite animal. They’re like horses….but cooler! Maybe one day I will adopt a pet zebra. And maybe I will name it Charon. I’ve always liked that name for some reason.

You figure out that crossword clue yet? It’s killing me!

The ABCs of my Peace Corps Service

The sun is setting on my time in Malawi. It’s hard to put the last 2 years of my life into words (or letters?)…..So, let’s do it!


A is for Airtel Autocracy

You know how in America, there’s a bunch of different phone companies? You can pick a big company, like Verizon or AT&T, pay a monthly bill, get a family plan, rollever minutes, network-to-network free calls, text limits, pay some extra for data, all that kind of stuff? Or spurn the big players and get a pay-as-you-go model like Boost Mobile (are they still a real thing???) and do you that way? Or maybe you’ve had an irrational fear of cell phone technology ever since that movie “Cellular” came out and you’ve shunned the whole movement for fear that someday a kidnapped lady will call you on your cell and beg for your help and you’ll end up sticking up an electronics store for a charger because your battery is dying and you’re starting to believe her story and you don’t want to lose the connection and why do I remember so much about this crapfest movie? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that, unlike a modern NFL-style offense, you got “options”. Here, we have Airtel. Airtel, an India-based (pretty sure??) company present in many Southern-African countries, is one of only two options for cell phone service in Malawi. The other is TNM, which is Malawi owned, but has poor service in many areas and therefore most people have greater access to Airtel. TNM is basically the Malawi telecommunications provider equivalent of the U.S. vice-president, perpetually second fiddle and its function mostly ceremonial, but it still hangs around. Since most people are already on Airtel and it costs extra to call or text an Airtel phone from a TNM phone, most people choose to go with the Empire, or at least have a SIM card for each. The way Airtel service works, is that you buy service ahead of time (airtime), either electronically or via little scratch offs with PIN codes to dial in for units, and you use them to pay for calls, texts, and Internet bundles. And it’s super overpriced, especially the Internet bundles. And since there isn’t a lot of competition, they seem to be always raising the price of a text. When I got here, if you sent 6 texts a day, at 8 kwacha each, then you got 100 free texts for the rest of the day (basically if you wanna talk to people a lot on a certain day, you get unlimited texts after spending like 50 kwacha). Now the free text thing is totally gone, texts are up to 12 kwacha each, and they can pull BS moves like raising prices abruptly on holidays because they know a bunch of people will be texting anyway. Mabes you’re thinking, “Get a land-line, dum-dum!”? A land line in the village? YOU’RE the dum-dum!
(there is a whole essay in itself that could assess and catalogue how remarkable the introduction of cell phone technology has been for places like here, where land lines are inconceivable and communication was almost non-existent just a few years ago…somebody write that….I’ll read it). Buuuuut I shouldn’t complain. Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi less than 10 years ago might not have had any communication options besides writing letters (who DOES that), and Internet access was still only existent in an Al Gore fever dream. Maybe 10 years from now, all volunteers will be issued Google Glass, whatever that is. For now, we have Airtel, savior and Satan.


B is for BOOM

When I teach about figurative language, as a reinforcing activity I like to play songs with good uses of metaphor, simile, etc. and have the kids find examples via listening and looking at the lyrics. I’ve played Bon Iver, TSwift, Adele, Simon and Garfunkel, Green Day’s only good song, The Muppets, Blitzen Trapper, and…. “Firework,” by Katy Perry (we’ll get back to that).
So my form ones are big fans of onomatopeia. When I introduced it, I talked about how much fun it is to say the word, and made them all say it aloud, which in hindsight may have been a mistake because for the rest of the period at random times students would just blurt out the word and laugh. I also did random things like throw my notebook at the wall, knocked a chair over, and slammed the door and asked them to create an onomatopeia for the sound those actions made (ski-dum, shhhpap, and shlam). They are all about onomatopeia. So in the song “Firework” (told ya), at the end, KP goes “Boom, boom, boom” ….an onomatopoeia for the sound an exploding firework makes…. and they were all over it. And now, oftentimes when I walk past their classroom, or see a form one out and about, they go “Stanley! BOOM BOOM BOOM!” It’s super annoying, but also super great. There’s a big language and culture barrier between my students and I, so having inside jokes like this, no matter how few (or stupid), is something I cherish.


Today the letter C is sponsered by food and drink:
C is for Chippies, Chipati, Chicken, Chambo, Chombe, Chibuku, Chambiko, Carlsberg, Cassava, Coca-Cola, CHABWINO!

These are things that I have consumed or seen a lot of. Chippies are like fries, Irish potatoes peeled, sliced into wedges, and fried in oil, and they are the ultimate roadside travel treat. I love me some chippies. Chipati are basically flour tortillas. I’ve been making them a lot at my house lately, which is cool because not only are they delicious but they make me feel accomplished, with all the dough-mixing and rolling-out and what not. Chicken I like to eat (more on how I feel about their value as individuals later), chambo (a type of fish from Lake Malawi) I do not but it’s very prevalent and popular, especially near the lake. Chombe is a brand of tea and tea time is a ubiquitous tradition that has been passed onto Malawians from their British colonial overlords. Chibuku is a food-beer (see earlier post regarding it’s majesty). Chambiko is pasteurized milk product that I can best describe as “village cheese,” also the name of my renegade cat who ran away because she was afraid of being loved too much (shoutout to Biko, wherever you are. Remember the time it was storming and the thunder scared you and you shat all over me and my bed? Good times. What happened to us!?). Carlsberg is virtually the the only beer available (skip ahead to letter K for more about beer!), which isn’t awesome but it could be worse: we could’ve been stuck with two years of Natty Ice. Cassava, a starchy root, is made into a nsima type thing or also just boiled or fried. It’s not bad. Very popular in my area. And finally, if you think you’ve ever tasted anything more satisfying than an ice cold Coca-Cola from a glass bottle after trudging uphil for several kilometers in the warm African hot-season sun, well…I want to say you’re wrong, but I don’t know you and the things you’ve tasted, but…you’re probably wrong. Probably.
Bonus word: Chimbudzi, or pit latrine, which a long visit to is necessitated by the consumption of all of these things.

D is for Dawn
(and Dirt)

Dawn: the English translation for the “Kwacha,” or unit of currency here, of which I always seem to be running out of.
Dawn: the time that I wake up at in the village.
Dawn at Lake Malawi: the best sunrises I’ve ever seen in my life.
Dawn, the soap brand: of which I will need buckets of to clean off the two years of Malawi dirt and grime that have become permanent fixtures of my skin no matter how many times I bathe. Seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully clean again. But that’s okay, that just means I have a permanent souvenir of Africa (and a pretty inexpensive one at that!).


E is for Entertainment
(AKA E is for Egotistical and shameless opportunity to showcase the various cool mediums that I consume and interesting things I do, in order to seem just as cool or interesting to you, the reader)

So a little over a year into my service, my laptop died. And while I have had no electricity at my house, I was able to charge it at school everyday on solar power and use it to transfer movie files to my phone to watch after the battery drained. So there went my primary source of entertainment. But it actually wasn’t so bad. I’ve been finally reading as much as I hoped I would of before entering Peace Corps, finishing the entire Dark Tower series and discovering new faves like Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers. I’ve done probably over 500 crossword puzzles, and learned new words doing so (quick, what’s a six letter word that means “Styx ferryman”?). I’ve gotten into podcasts (Comedy Bang Bang, The Moth, Harmontown, B.S. Report, The Bugle all on the reg) and discovered new/old bands (Roxy Music, Afghan Whigs). I’ve done artsy things like jigsaw puzzles, dusted off my mad stay-in-between-the-lines coloring skills, chalk graffitied my walls, played a lot of ukulele, made a paper Christmas ornament, sewed a patch in my holey jeans, and given myself tattoos (temporary!). I’ve spent more time being available to students and teachers at school, just to chat, shoot hoops on our makeshift (now dead) basketball rim, or whatevs. So even though Charon, that old tough bastard, has chauffeured the soul of my old computer into the afterlife, it’s actually been ok. And I still even got to see how Breaking Bad ends on weekend binge-fests in town. It all good.
You figure out that crossword clue?


F is for FINE HOW ARE YOU

This is the name of a fun game I like to play with the local iwes, or small village children. Whenever they see me coming or going down the long road between my house and the tarmac, they get excited to greet me in English:
“HOW AHH YUU!?”
To which I reply with the customary:
“Fine. How are you?”
Here’s where it gets fun. So these kids know virtually no English besides this greeting, and don’t really understand it’s intricacies. So when I ask them this back, they also respond in joint, parrot-like fashion…….
“FINE…….HOW AHH YUU!?”
…….Not realizing that they have just asked the same question twice.
To which I reply:
“Fine, how are you?”
To which they say:
“FINE…….HOW AHH YUU!?”
ANNNND you get the picture. So it goes. On and on. At first this got frustrating, like I was trapped inside a twisted Sesame Street children’s spoof of an Abbot and Costello bit, but now it’s turned into a game of wills. Whoever fails to respond “Fine, how are you?” loses. The game goes on until I’m either out of earshot and can’t hear them anymore, which I count as a win, or either they get bored, weirded out, or some combination of the two and stop, which I also consider a win. But even though I pretty much always win, I don’t think there’s ever really a loser no matter the outcome.


G is for Greetings

So I’ve talked before how big a deal greetings are in Africa. When you pass somebody on the road, when you come in to work, when you exit the chim and awkwardly run into your village chief waiting in line outside it….anytime, it’s customary to greet people. In the morning, all of my coteachers say good morning and ask me how I am…most of them do so in English. Everybody must ask everybody how they are, even if everybody is in the same room and can hear everybody’s responses. One day I decided to conduct a little experiment. I entered the staff room like any other morning, and found 4 other teachers already in. They each greeted me, “How are you?” And for each of them I gave a different response to see if they would notice or care:
“I’m great!”
“I’m just okay.”
“I’m feeling a little tired today.”
“I ninja star bicycle vest.”
Everybody was within earshot of my various exchanges, but nobody reacted any different than usual (except that last one which generated a surprised eyebrow raise….to which I smoothly followed up with a quick, “I mean, yeah! And how are you?” when they continued to stare at me quizzically). They just thanked me and moved on. I continued the charade for the rest of the morning whenever I met a new person. I don’t know what I was trying to prove with this little social experiment, but sometimes in the village you have to find ways to keep yourself entertained. Reread letter E for more ideas on how to stay entertained in a village!


H is for Hills

My site, Luwazi, is full of lush, sloping, flowing hills. It’s great…and terrible. I complain a lot about the approximately 3km up and down dirt road it takes to get to a paved one from my house, but really, the scenery of deep green mountains jutting into crystal clear sky is beautiful. The walking sucks, but the view is magical. It takes your breath away in two ways (HEYYYOOOOOO!!!!! JOKES!!!).


I is for Isolation

I live in the bush. It’s at least a thirty minute (grueling, in hot season) walk to get to a paved road. There’s no electricity around except for a few people and my school which has a solar panel hookup, so at least I can charge my phone. There’s one small tuck shop near the school that sells eggs, bread, cooking oil, lukewarm cokes, soap and other small items but other than that there’s no market. I live right next to the school, so its basically just my co-teachers who I have as neighbors. I’m out there. It can be lonely, but it’s quiet. Isolation can be nice. It can allow you to both learn how to play Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” and rock out “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money on your ukulele with no one’s judgment. It gives you the freedom to bump Savage Garden and the soundtrack from “Les Miserables” on your iPod speakers with no feelings of shame. It affords you the distraction-less time to do things you wouldn’t normally do, like practice your free-style rapping or shave your beard into fun styles ….or even things you actually DO have to do like lesson plan or grade exams (I’m always amazed by the amazement my co-teachers have in me after term exams, when I have finished making all of my 120+ exams within a week of the test date. I mean, what else do I have to do? My puzzle ain’t going nowhere). But after a while you realize that isolation also makes you a bit cray, like when you catch yourself building a Fromagical shrine out of care package Cheeto bags, Kraft Mac & Cheese boxes, and cheez ball tins, or think that killing ants with a makeshift lighter/aerosol-sunscreen-spraycan fire torch apparatus is normal human behavior. You also realize that it kind of turns you into an old person, like when the shrill laughter of a child ruffles your feathers and not being able to solve a crossword puzzle can give you an ulcer the size of a small cosmic body, say Pluto or even it’s smaller satellite Charon.
Speaking of crosswords, you figure out that 6-letter clue yet?


J is for Joyce Banda

…Because she became President right before I arrived in Malawi, and now has left office right before I leave, which some people may attribute to coincidence, or cashgate, or “term lengths,” or some other type of arbitrary nonsense, but really I know it is because I am her political muse. Here’s to you, Joyce ContraBanda, dynamic mystery wrapped in enigmatic intentions, wrapped in many a chitenje.


K is for Kuche Kuche

Kuche Kuche is the one Malawi beer you can get that’s not Carlsberg (unless you want to pay twice as much for an import like MGD). It comes in large bottles but with a lower alcohol percentage, is made from rice grown in Lake Malawi, and it’s name roughly translates to “from sunset to sunrise” (or something). It’s decent, but it has a reserved spot in my heart’s parking lot because that was my family’s drink of choice when they came to visit. I’ll always remember buying the bar out of them when we finally made it to the lake. And after surviving fire, car breakdowns, a speeding ticket, douchebag rastas, extreme cold, and (probs) more, they were well deserved. Plus, the name is so fun. Say it. Now try not to say it again. I bet you did. Sucker.

INTERLUDE: a source of common frustration and amusement for me is the odd way in which Malawians randomly exchange the letters “L” and “R.” It’s so curious and unexplainable how some words will always automatically necessitate a switch between these letters, yet some never do. For example, when I grade essays, students always write “pray football” instead of “play football.” But, for instance, they’ll never say “fluits” instead of “fruits.” It’s cray and weird and wonderful. So to honor this little quirk, “L” and “R” have exchanged places in my alphabet. That’s why the next letter is


R is for Rasta

The “Rasta” is a breed of Malawian that fancy themselves true followers of Rastafarian beliefs and disciples of Bob Marley, but are really just Malawians that want an excuse to have dreadlocks and smoke a lot of weed. For example, most (94%) faux-Rastas I’ve met in Malawi drink beer, eat meat, spread their rasta “message” through accosting white people into buying their crappy art and curios, and are just kind of assholes in general. But I’ve met a few legit Rastas. And many that associate themselves with the faux-rasta business curio-culture but are really chill, friendly, interesting to chat up, and sell wares but aren’t bullish and pushy. I enjoy them. One thing all rasta types have in common: they love to talk to me. Mabes it’s my long hair, my easygoing nature, or the difficulty I have in saying no to people (that one), but whenever I’m in Nkhata Bay on the lake, a rasta haunt, I can’t get away from them. Some are cool and I trade with them (in fact, one guy who was closeby visiting his nephews remembered I stay at Luwazi and stopped by to say hi and I ended up swapping my tent for a bunch of wood carvings), but others peddle the same overpriced generic artwork and wood carvings you see all over the country and even though they say they need money to use for medicine for their visibly messed-up foot you know they’ll just use it to buy satchets. These “Rastas” not a bredda to I.

Some rasta names I have encountered:
Happy Coconut, Natty Prince, Monkey Dread, Pumpkinhead, Elephant, King Marko, Happiness, Dr. Smiley, Sugarman, Mr. Bamboo, and so many great ones I’ve forgotten.
Bonus Word: R is for Reggae
Not just popular with the Rastas, it be everywhere mon!


M is for Mefloquine

This is the malaria medication Peace Corps put me on. So far my only side effects have been crazy dreams where I ride a giraffe to a movie premiere (fun!), play a game of knee-walk only paintball with people I went to high school with (weird), or get tickled by clowns (my personal Hell), for example. To read more about Mef, check out this feel-happy article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/opinion/crazy-pills.html

PS-Don’t worry. I’m fine.


N is for Nineteen

The approximate number of steps that I live from my school/place of work. It’s nice having all of my responsibilities in a close area, but I can’t help but feel like maybe I’ve missed out a little bit on other things by being so close, like living in a more village-commune community setting, hanging out at these sweet fish ponds/banana groves I happened across this week while out for a stroll with my replacement who was visiting as a part of his pre-service training, or seeing the famous Luwazi waterfall which is apparently a thing (on my Peace Corps bucket list). But, you know what they say: the shorter the commute to work, the happier you are! (that’s a thing people say right?).

Asterisk: Actually… it’s more like 30 steps from my house to the school, but I wanted to write about a word beginning with N that was NOT nsima. I really don’t want to waste any more time thinking about it.


O is for Observed, as in protocol

I’ve been to my fair share of staff meetings, trainings, ceremonies, and other public events, and it seems like half of the running time of these things is spent “observing protocol.” What this means, essentially, is that whenever somebody begins to speak at such an “official” event, they first have to address all of the higher-ups and whatnot before launching into what they want to say. This may be as simple as saying, “Through the chair…..” before saying what you want to say at a staff meeting, or say you’re about to give a speech at a Peace Corps volunteer swearing-in ceremony it may go something like: “US ambassador soandso, Peace Corps director soandso, Peace Corps deputy director soandso, Minister of Education soandso, Chief Education Inspector soandso, Member of Parliament soandso, Group Area Chief soandso, Village Headman soandso, Peace Corps volunteers past, present, and future, all invited guests….” It can get long. And every person that would speak would repeat all that. It’s a lot to keep straight. Which is why whenever I talk at a meeting or ceremony or anything I just start with, “All protocol observed.”

P is for Poultricide

I doubt this is a real word, but everyday I have to fight my inner poultricidal tendencies. I hate chickens. I hate when roosters crow in the morning. I hate how they come into my yard, the sense of entitlement they have. I hate the way their stupid necks jerk around and their eyes spastically blink. I hate their smell. I hate when they rudely sneak into my classroom and won’t leave until I chase them out the door. I hate it whenever somebody brings tied up chickens on public transport, especially when a box of them is handed to me to hold. I hate how they hang around in the middle of the road and are too stupid to get out of the way and force my ride to slow down and the second the driver presses the breaks they scurry away while taunting me. I hate their stupid faces. I hate how much they make me hate them. They are the worst. The only thing I like about them is how they taste, which only makes it harder to stave off the murderous impulses. Lucky for them, I’m too much of a chicken (ha) to actually act on these urges, because the thought of actually killing a chicken by myself or just the act of watching one’s throat being cut freaks me out in a very serious way. Speaking of:


Q is Queasy

Is a feeling I’ve felt a lot over the past two years. Queasy when on a speeding minibus taking hairpin turns way too fast and just narrowly missing out on swiping the mirror off a semi. Queasy when I use a neglected, particularly noxious chim. Queasy when passing through the fish section of the market and getting a whiff of the usipa thats been sitting out in the sun all day. Queasy whenever I see the Guli Wamkulu perform, tribal dancers from the central region that wear scary masks and dance in a creepy gyrating way and look like clowns and freak me out and give me nightmares and let’s not talk about them anymore. Queasy when I discover that one of my favorite students hasn’t been around this term because she left school after getting pregnant and married. Queasy whenever I have to be around a chicken or pig or something being slaughtered. Queasy whenevs I take a sip oc Chibuku. Queasy when my internet’s not working and I can’t check the score of a Packer game. And currently, I’m feeling queasy about saying goodbye to my life here.


L is for Lake Malawi

My favorite thing about Malawi. Enough said.


S is for Stars

Away from light pollution and air pollution and buildings, the night sky of rural Malawi is magnificently grandiose. I could never get sick of these stars, and will miss seeing them every night when I’m gone. Lake Malawi itself has garnered the nickname “Lake of Stars,” not for the ones in the sky but the “starlight” of lanterns on fishing boats hung up to attract fish at night. It’s quite a sight to gaze out upon the lake at night, with stars both twinkling in the night sky and bobbing up and down upon the waves.


T is for Tonga time!

The region I live in speaks a minority language called Chitonga, and is inhabited by the Tonga tribe. What my co-teachers tell me about Tongas (most of them come from elsewhere in the country) is that Tongas are loud, head-strong, good fisherman, and care too much about the way they dress. The Peace Corps volunteers in Tongaland also associate strongly with the Tonga name, and it is a well-known fact that the Tongas are the coolest Peace Corps volunteers in Malawi (we even have a secret handshake)! If we were a Game of Thones house, (and whose to say we won’t be in the 7th book), our sigil would be a fish eagle plucking a fish out of Lake Malawi, and our motto: “Hot season is coming…..” because it always is.


U is for Ujeni

This is by far my favorite Malawian word. It basically means, “whatchamacallit,” or “doohickey,” or “thingamajig,” or whatever. It’s so versatile. Say you come to talk to me and you have leftover mango debris hanging all over your face. I may say, “Hey, you got a little ujeni right there.” Or say somebody needs help carrying a bunch of crap and they’re like: “Are you just gonna sit there or help with this ujeni?!” Or mabes you’re playing a game of pickup basketball and somebody swats a shot into the bleachers with a Muntombo-esque tenacity and snarls, “Get that weak ujeni out of here!” while waving their finger at you. Or say some drunk guy who gets cut off at the bar starts to complain about how the government is taking everything away from him and I ask him like what kind of stuff an he just says, “ujeni.” It can be inserted successfully into so many situations and contexts. It’s like the tofu of words.


V is for Vula

Vula means rain, and boy has it been a big part of my life. As I’m typing this now, in July, it is STILL raining! (usually rainy season ends in early springtime)… When it rains hard, everything shuts down. Students don’t travel to school, teachers come late, and most people just stay at home. Attendance gets to be more of a problem during term 2, when the rains start. Even if students do make it before heavy rains set in, the intense pattering of the rain against the tin roof of classrooms prevents students (and myself) from hearing anything I say. The pounding rain is harsh, but I actually find it a little relaxing to chill out under the constant humming of a downpour. The force that these African rains can hit with really makes you marvel at the power of nature. This is where I would now make a joke or quip about the song “Africa” by Toto and “I bless the rains….” but I think I have already used them all up.


W is for witchcraft

Many Malawians still put a lot of stock in the powers of dark magic. I think a lot of times, “witches” are easy targets and scapegoats for when something goes wrong, instead of people taking ownership for mistakes. But it is interesting. And hey, it brought back my stolen iPhone to me! Still waiting for my letter to the Malawian version of Hogwarts to arrive via owl. Check out this article, that’s NOT from 100 years ago but now:

http://m.irinnews.org/report/92396/malawi-suspected-witches-jailed#.U7Zsw4lhic0


X is for Xenomania

Back home, when I thought or talked about race, the “colors” that were “different” weren’t my own. I was the norm, the default setting for a middle class male from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Nobody asked me where I was REALLY from, it was obvious where, from here!, even if my ancestors came from Ireland and Germany and elsewhere. In Malawi, I’m white, but there’s so many places I could be REALLY from. England? Ireland? Australia? South Africa? In Wisconsin, the normal for white is “probably from here,” in Malawi the normal for white is “outsider.” I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve never really though about my race, my whiteness, as much as I have here. I never before have thought that I was different. I blended in. My skin color wasn’t a target on my back, it was camouflage.
Here I’m more cognizant of my skin color then I’ve ever been before. I’m not Cam, I’m an azungu, a white person. When I go places, I feel like a celebrity because everybody looks at me and yells excitedly, but it’s not because of anything I’ve done or accomplished or any trace of celebrity I actually possess, it’s only because my skin is white and I’m different. Babies cry when they see me. Grown-ass adults blatantly stare. Shop owners try to sell me things at a higher “azungu price.” It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Don’t get me wrong: I know that just being born white, male, and American in a world affected by hundreds of years of colonialism and racial hierarchy grants me powers and privileges that are unseen of by most here and has put me in the position to be able to come to places like Malawi in order to “make a difference.” I’m not whining, just noting how big of a paradigm shift there is between where I’ve been and where I am now. It’s frustrating, refreshing, eye-opening, and worrying to experience life in this new way and to realize how myopic my view of the world used to be.


Y is for YEWO

Yewo means thank you, and I owe a huge YEWO to all of my students, coteachers, community members, and all the awesome Malawians I’ve met, worked with, and learned from, for making my 2 years here so awesomesauce. I know I gripe a lot about some people and some of the realities here, but in earnest….Malawians are the most kindhearted, genuine, amusing, loving, confusing, and beautiful people I’ve ever met. My Peace Corps experience could be summed up using so many different words, but the one that comes to mind right now is special…and that’s because of of the people I’ve spent my time with. Malawi: YEWO CHOMENE!!!


Z is for Zebras

Zebras are my new favorite animal. They’re like horses….but cooler! Maybe one day I will adopt a pet zebra. And maybe I will name it Charon. I’ve always liked that name for some reason.

You figure out that crossword clue yet? It’s killing me!

Filed under malawi peacecorps goodbyessuck

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So last Friday, our Form Fours graduated! I didn’t make the ceremony last year, so this was a new thing for me…which is cool cos I don’t have a lot of those anymore. It consisted of chalkboard graffiti, weird paper graduation caps, speeches by the incoming/outgoing head boy and head girl, the guest of honor (a local politician), the village headman, the head teacher (who was rocking his Packer tie!), a few songs, lots of posing for pictures, cheers-ing of cokes, a dinner of rice and beef, presentation of certificates and awards, and a disco!

My fave moment by far, was when food was finally being brought out to the students, a bunch of them getting served first held their bowls up in the air for their colleagues that earned awards like best grades, best attendance, best footballers, neatest, or whatever….so that they could eat first. There’s a pic here with some students holding bowls aloft, that’s when that happened. Super coolio.

Congrats to the Form Fours, my former students, and good luck on your national exams! You got this!

Filed under malawi gradseason shades cheers

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Photos from the past few weeks: Goodbye letter, a peek at the workbook of a gangsta, the primary school, the mighty Luwazi river, Shoprite in the rain (STILL RAINING), the Peace Corps Malawi heirloom panda hat resurfaces and it likes curry, America on TV!?!?, America on me, cheese about to be in me, and many of the 40 students in Form 4 cram into the staff room with its solar-powered TV to watch Romeo and Juliet, which will surely be in a few questions on the literature portion of their national exam next week! But what doth I see? Not alleth the Formular Fourths beith in attendance? I daresay I bite my thumb at thee!!

Filed under usmutantninjaturtles moustache cheese malawi billyshakes MSCE inthecity goodbyessuck savethepandas wwf

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ENTER SANDMAN

Want to know more about Malawi’s new president elect, Professor Metallica? Well…


He has mixed reviews as a professor in America: 

http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=834703


He’s bad at treason (…..or is he super secret sneaky ninja-style good at it?):

http://news.yahoo.com/malawis-mutharika-treason-charge-president-223837825.html

http://en.starafrica.com/news/malawi-president-elect-mutharikas-treason-case-dropped.html


His definition of “olive branch” is not to invite people to things and then criticize them when they don’t show up:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27669753


He has great past leadership experience:

http://africasacountry.com/a-very-short-introduction-to-peter-mutharika-malawis-new-president/


He likes China:

http://www.nyasatimes.com/2014/06/02/mutharika-tells-west-russia-china-will-be-malawis-new-friends


He’s, like, super old:

http://www.thestatesmanonline.com/index.php/world-news/1173-malawi-election-74-year-old-peter-mutharika-sworn-in-as-president
^i just like how the title of this article begins with his age


He lived in America for 39 years: 

http://mwnation.com/peter-mutharika-american-citizen-us-embassy/


He’s not gay:

http://www.malawivoice.com/2014/04/26/peter-finally-speaks-out-on-gay-rumoursim-not-gay-and-only-god-is-my-witnessif-god-willing-i-will-marry-again-soon-just-stay-tuned/


His daughter’s a F. I. ……..I mean living in Illinois!

http://www.faceofmalawi.com/2014/01/meet-peter-mutharikas-daughter-can-she-be-the-reason-he-is-in-the-us/comment-page-1/#sthash.N5edpAXd.dpbs


Not only is he now innocent of those pesky treason charges, but “The constitution gives the president immunity from any criminal prosecution.” Which, as I take it, gives Professor Metallica a License to Kill (movie idea???): 

http://www.nyasatimes.com/2014/06/02/treason-for-mutharika-to-be-dropped-law-experts-say-malawi-president-enjoys-immunity/


You can’t get rid of him that easily!

http://banthutimes.com/peter-mutharika-under-pressure-to-step-down-from-dpp-political-gurus/


So is President Metallica what Malawi needs? 
Has he learned from his past mistakes in leadership roles?
What will it take him to move Malawi, the 9th poorest country in the world, forward? 
Is he going to attempt to link Joyce Banda to cashgate and prosecute her?
Will he turn his back on the West, much like his brother did as President? 
Will Joyce Banda’s lasting legacy be akin to that of a new, heavily hyped but ultimately failed McDonald’s menu specialty item?
Why does Bruce Jenner look like that? Is that what he told his plastic surgeon? Am I off topic?

 I don’t know the answers. I don’t think anybody does. It is rumored that an old man once knew the answers to these prophesies, but he lived high atop a mountain, and now he is dead.

(pictured above: Prez Metallica and an equally old guy)

ENTER SANDMAN

Want to know more about Malawi’s new president elect, Professor Metallica? Well…


He has mixed reviews as a professor in America:

http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=834703


He’s bad at treason (…..or is he super secret sneaky ninja-style good at it?):

http://news.yahoo.com/malawis-mutharika-treason-charge-president-223837825.html

http://en.starafrica.com/news/malawi-president-elect-mutharikas-treason-case-dropped.html


His definition of “olive branch” is not to invite people to things and then criticize them when they don’t show up:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27669753


He has great past leadership experience:

http://africasacountry.com/a-very-short-introduction-to-peter-mutharika-malawis-new-president/


He likes China:

http://www.nyasatimes.com/2014/06/02/mutharika-tells-west-russia-china-will-be-malawis-new-friends


He’s, like, super old:

http://www.thestatesmanonline.com/index.php/world-news/1173-malawi-election-74-year-old-peter-mutharika-sworn-in-as-president
^i just like how the title of this article begins with his age


He lived in America for 39 years:

http://mwnation.com/peter-mutharika-american-citizen-us-embassy/


He’s not gay:

http://www.malawivoice.com/2014/04/26/peter-finally-speaks-out-on-gay-rumoursim-not-gay-and-only-god-is-my-witnessif-god-willing-i-will-marry-again-soon-just-stay-tuned/


His daughter’s a F. I. ……..I mean living in Illinois!

http://www.faceofmalawi.com/2014/01/meet-peter-mutharikas-daughter-can-she-be-the-reason-he-is-in-the-us/comment-page-1/#sthash.N5edpAXd.dpbs


Not only is he now innocent of those pesky treason charges, but “The constitution gives the president immunity from any criminal prosecution.” Which, as I take it, gives Professor Metallica a License to Kill (movie idea???):

http://www.nyasatimes.com/2014/06/02/treason-for-mutharika-to-be-dropped-law-experts-say-malawi-president-enjoys-immunity/


You can’t get rid of him that easily!

http://banthutimes.com/peter-mutharika-under-pressure-to-step-down-from-dpp-political-gurus/


So is President Metallica what Malawi needs?
Has he learned from his past mistakes in leadership roles?
What will it take him to move Malawi, the 9th poorest country in the world, forward?
Is he going to attempt to link Joyce Banda to cashgate and prosecute her?
Will he turn his back on the West, much like his brother did as President?
Will Joyce Banda’s lasting legacy be akin to that of a new, heavily hyped but ultimately failed McDonald’s menu specialty item?
Why does Bruce Jenner look like that? Is that what he told his plastic surgeon? Am I off topic?

I don’t know the answers. I don’t think anybody does. It is rumored that an old man once knew the answers to these prophesies, but he lived high atop a mountain, and now he is dead.

(pictured above: Prez Metallica and an equally old guy)

Filed under metallica malawi treason allinthefamily

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A Probably Biased, Multi-Chaptered, Outsider’s Take on the 2014 Malawi Presidential Elections Saga

PROLOGUE: In Which Fictional Characters Played by Bradley Whitford and Dulé Hill are Used to Set The Scene, Questions, and Puns

Have you ever seen the episode in season 4 of the West Wing, when White House staffer Josh Lyman goes to the polls to vote for his boss, incumbent president Josiartin BartSheen? And as he’s leaving a guy recognizes him and asks if he can ask him a question? And his question is whether or not it’s cool that he voted for Prez Bartlett in two columns on the ballot, once for the Democratic Party and once for the Statehood party? And Josh is like uhhhh no dude, you can’t vote for him in two columns? And the guys like, well I already did? And Josh is like DOH you stupid dumb idiot person now it doesn’t count? And then a bunch of other voters come over and ask other questions about how they did their ballot, and it is revealed that they all did it wrong and their votes will be invalidated? And then it turns out that they are all actually actors (even the easy-to-talk-to cute brunette that chats him up, much to the chagrin of Josh) hired by wily Toby Zeigler to play an election day prank on uptight Josh? And then the first guy is all like, sorry bro that was kinda uncool, how about I go vote for your boy now…just one more question, do I have to be pre-registered or something? And then Josh loses it and screams YESSSS!!!! as he walks out on the joke, metaphorically invisible cartoon puffs of smoke shooting out of his ears? Remember?
Well we just had an election here in Malawi. And now that the craziness and confusion of that has (ostensibly) winded down, this scene keeps getting replaying in my mindhole.

And I feel like Josh Lyman, like somebody’s playing a joke on me.

Or do I feel like Toby, in on the joke and watching from afar as another slowly realizes what’s really going on?

Maybe I even feel like Charlie Young, observing a visibly shaking and tremor-struck President Bartlett attempt to sign some important documents and failing, unwilling to directly address the bigger problem at hand? (haha…puns! Forgive me my crassness Martin Sheen…).

I don’t know exactly how I feel. I guess just call me Aaron Sore-kin.
(if you think that’s the last of the puns, you’re not even a little bit accurate)

CHAPTER 1: (sponsored by Jock Jams, Universal Records, AMC, and Rainbows)

In Which We Get Ready to Rumble, The Sandman Entereth, The Walking Dead Walk, and We Celebrate the Importance of Colors

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m still trying to catch my breath after the whirlwinding squalls of democracy known as the Malawian presidential elections have knocked the air out of me, luckily only figuratively and not physically (more on that laters). You thought the 2000 Florida recount was dramatic….puh leeze. But before we talk about how things went down, let’s meet the candidates that vied to become the world’s most powerful Malawian.

THE CONTENDERS

Incumbent: Dr. Joyce “Contra” Banda, of her self-created People’s Party (orange…party colors are a big deal!). Took over as President after the last one died in office. Opened up a lot of channels for aid and communication from other countries after her predecessor burned a lot of bridges, and gained accolades for her work in female empowerment, stress on education, quasi-support of same-sex marriage, and the selling off of Malawi’s massive private jet to raise funds. Handed out a lot of maize and cows and fertilizer to people, which seems to have been the crux of her campaign strategy, for better or worse (spoiler alert: worse). Her term tarnished near its end by “cashgate,” a massive goverment money-siphoning embezzlement scheme in which it’s unclear if ContraBanda herself was directly involved, but happened under her watch (see earlier cashgate post for more info on that). Refused to participate in any presidential debates. Once hosted me (and the rest of Peace Corps too, I guess) at her presidential palace. Is even shorter in person.

Professor Peter Metallica (Okay….Mutharika is his real last name, but when run through the local accent machine his name comes out sounding like Metallica, which is awesome, and henceforth what he will be awesomely referred to as), repping the Democratic Progressive Party (blue). Brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika who died in office. Was a top official in Bingu’s administration, and attempted to take over power after his brother died instead of obeying the constitutional due process which says the Vice President (Joyce Banda) was next in succession, an act of treason that most people have seemed to conveniently forget/not really care about. Former law professor in the USA who has garnered glowing praise from ratemyprofessors.com such as “BORING BORING,” “very helpful,” “I barely learned anything in his class,” “I hear you are now in malawi?” “One of the best professors.” and “You can’t understand what he’s saying, the lectures are unhelpful, and the exam is completely random. Might as well let a random number generator create all the final grades.” EEEESH. Apparently the jury’s still out (Yup, I did research, and YUP that is a lawyer pun….Told you!). Is very, very old. Has yet to officially state his stance on favorite Metallica album.

Dr. Lazarus (Rev. Zombie) Chakwera, president of the Malawi Congress Party (black, red, and green), also the party of the first president/benevolent dictator of Malawi, Hastings Banda. Former minister and Malawi Assemblies of God president before entering politics. Pre-election, was thought to be ContraBanda’s main competition. I never found out a lot about this guy, but he’s a pastor so he must be nice, and his party’s logo is a chicken. That’s pretty neat!

Atupele Muluzi, head of the United Democratic Front party (yellow). Son of Malawi’s second ever president, Bakili Muluzi. Second youngest Member of Parliament ever in Malawi. Was an outspoken critic of Bingu wa Mutharika, and was even arrested and jailed before a demonstration rally held shortly before Bingu’s death. Never really had any true shot at winning at all, but gets the “Ross Perot Bleeding Heart Award” for hanging in there and going through the motions anyway.

CHAPTER 2: Democracy is Hard: In remembrance of Mad-Eye Moody

Okay. So. This was only Malawi’s fifth ever presidential election in it’s over 50 years of existence as a republic (Hastings Banda declared himself president for life when Malawi became a free-ish nation and he ruled for many years). They were also Malawi’s first tripartite elections, meaning that citizens voted for their local governments, members of parliament, and the president in a single election. Malawi hasn’t had a lot of practice at this sort of thing, so it was fair to assume that everything wouldn’t go exactly according to plan (or even that there was a complete plan….). I mean, look at us-we’ve been doing this whole election-democracy thing for a LOT longer, and yet we still have had huge blemishes in our process, like hanging chads, voter apathy, the fact that the electoral college is still a thing we use, and the re-election of George W. Bush. So before the election, I was excited albeit slightly nervous, to see how it would all play out. Our bwanas at the Peace Corps office were prepared for the worst, and kept us all on high alert. They warned of possible unrest, accusations, recriminations, riots, and at worst, country-wide apocalyptic havoc (luckily, things never got too craycray, or least no more cray than the usual amount of cray, which can be pretty cray). They told us to stay at site, be careful, don’t choose sides, act normal. Constant Vigilance.

CHAPTER 3: Ryan Seacrest presents The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (for multiple reasons)

May 20, election day came. We didn’t have any classes at school-most of the teachers had to travel to other polling places to organize voters, maintain civility, and collect and count ballots. Many polling sites weren’t ready, or hadn’t yet received ballots by election Tuesday, so some polls didn’t even open until the next day, still some the day after. Most stations had no power (like at my primary school). At a few, scofflaws were caught red handed stuffing ballot boxes, but since they were also technically election officials, the people witness could potentially turn them in to would be…them. Some people apparently voted up to three times. Early on, the electronic counting system to be used to relay results to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in Blantyre was down and not functioning, which necessitated the Sisyphean task of counting all the ballots by hand, often by candle light into the wee hours of the night. More than a couple sites ended up with ballot tallies that exceeded the number of registered voters in the constituency. American Idol voting is more credible. People rioted in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue passionate mobs. Angry voters, claiming fraud, set some voting centers on fire. One Member of Parliament in Lilongwe, who was seeing his reelection chances disappear as more “results” came trickling in, actually shot himself with a gun and left behind a mysterious suicide note that said he had been receiving threats, and asked Joyce Banda to pay for his kid’s school fees. On Friday, still without a result, one man was killed. You know, normal election stuff!
These were some terrible things to happen, but in all honesty, things could have gotten a lot worse. Before the elections, Peace Corps told us to have a bag packed in case things swung drastically and they had to pull us out of the country (which I totally did…), so at least things didn’t get to that point. I do have to say though, at least in my community, there were a lot of people that seemed excited and proud to vote. At school that day, it was basically just me hanging around with the groundskeeper of our school, who does not speak a lot of English at all. In the middle of the morning he yells out to me, “Stanley! I am voting now!” and flashes a huge, pleased as punch grin on his face, excited for the act of civic duty he’s about to perform, thrilled to be an agent of action in his country’s history, inspired to make his voice heard. As he turns to leave, I think to myself that his childlike, christmas-morning smile is what I’ll remember most about this whole election experience.


CHAPTER 4: Red Tape, The Incumbent Who Cried Fraud (but Wasn’t Making It Up), Tennis Courts, That Last One Was Another Pun

So, there’s all that. Then stuff gets tricky and bureaucratic. Amid all of these breakdowns, Joyce Banda has been (rightfully) crying fraud. On the Saturday following the elections, she tried to take action. She issued a presidential order nullifying the election on the basis of “serious irregularities.” (Btw, these “serious regularities” had her getting trounced in the results counted so far). She called for fresh elections to happen again in 90 days, but, the kicker, she would not run. Some saw it as conniving, a last attempt to save face for a leader who knows their cow (“one for every family” campaign platform, at least) is cooked. Some saw it as noble, a selfless act of justifying a tainted election, especially in that she would graciously bow out of the proposed runoff. Others saw it as desperate, grasping at any straw she could to keep Metallica out of office, the man that she has been attempting to convict of treason for impeding her path to the presidency, the man that could likewise similarly try to convict her in connection with cashgate. Well, whatever it was, it didn’t work. The Malawi high court shot it down. ContraBanda, ardent constitutional scholar that she is, asserted she had the power to nullify the election results under this section of Malawi’s constitution:
“The President shall provide executive leadership in the interest of national unity in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of the Republic.”
But no dice. Apparently the lawyers and justices of the high court decided to interpret the constitution in a boring, literal, cut-and-dry, legally rigid document sense, as opposed to a looser, more figurative approach one may employ when interpreting a surrealist painting or the prose of Faulkner, as used by Madame Banda. Only hours after Banda’s press conference, Malawi’s High Court set aside Banda’s order that MEC stop counting votes. However, they did acknowledge the anomalies in the numbers, and would do a manual recount. They said it would take less than a month. Settled.
“NO WAIT! We change our minds!” then said the MEC, because apparently someone realized that Malawi’s electoral law requires an announcement of election results no later than eight days after the election. Whoops. A flurry of injunctions and counter-injunctions from each of the main parties bounced back and forth across the judicial system net at the rate of a tennis match. Metallica, in the lead after almost half of the votes counted, said that the law demanded results be released within the time frame. The others all said a new recount had to happen no matter how long it took, you know for justice and stuff. I have no idea what the consequences would be if the results announcement was to go past 8 days, but apparently the MEC thought that fire and brimstone would fall from the sky if it did, and decided they did not have enough time to do a whole recount. The result would be announced without a manual audit or verification. So with this series of decisions, the MEC basically said, “Yeah, this election is so messed up you guys, we really need to do a recount. Buuuutt that does sounds like a lot of time and effort and I’m sure the results are gonna be samezies anyway…. I know we’ve said before that we have the power to do whatever we deem necessary to ensure a fair election and all, but there’s this one arcane rule that says we need a result within 8 days we should probs follow it.” Or something.

CHAPTER 5: In Which a New Era Dawns, The Author Attempts To Seem Smart With a Fleeting Allusion to a Poem by T.S. Eliot, and an Unfair Rhetorical Question is Asked in Hopes to Provide a Dramatic Conclusion

So before midnight, on May 30, (technically within 8 days of when the last poll closed on the 22nd) we finally had a winner: prof. Metallica with 36% of the vote. In second, Rev. Zombie with 28%, third JB with 20%, and 4th Atupele with a Ralph Nader-like percentage. President Peter Metallica was sworn in as President on the morning of 31 May 2014. It’s been quiet since the announcement- a few demonstrations but nothing major. Joyce has congratulated Peter, but continues to refer to the elections as “fraudulent.” We’ll see if he decides to revenge-investigate her in the involvement with cashgate.

So that is how the election ends, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a furrowed brow and a quizzical: “okay???” Having spent so much time abroad, and only entering politics in the near past, it’s hard to tell what type of leader Peter will be. I hope a good one. I see both warning signs and glimmers of hope in him. JB was ahead in most of the polls before the election, but what I think it came down to was that too many Malawian men could not bring themselves to vote for a woman to lead them. Many people, men, talk a big game about gender equality, about progress, about human rights, about not being bogged down by traditions of the past and all that, but I think many are hesitant to walk the big game. I see it in teachers, I see it in politicians, I see it it our own office staff. The fact that people are proud to preach for change and growth, but behind closed doors are reluctant to prove this by, say, voting for a woman who is probs the better candidate, is sad (women were also super under-represented in the parliament and local goverment voting). As a foreigner from a more “advanced” country it’s easy to look at this and say how sad it is that this stigma is still so prevalent in Malawi, but let me ask you this….how many women presidents have there been in America? Malawi 1, U.S., 0.


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27648964

Filed under martinsheen malawi metallica cashgate malawivotes westwing violenceisnottheanswer

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New Chim!

So the rainy season essentially washed away the innner groundearth stuff that my old chim sat atop, meaning that my toilet had become a cement slab balanced over a pit 10-feet deep and filled with almost two years of….yeah. So finally my new chim is finished, and it’s bwana. It has a walkway into it and a roof and everything you could ever want in a bathroom. Check out this virtual tour.

Filed under chimbudzi movinonup peacecorps alleypoop mtvchimz mavi malawi extremebathroommakeover