A Badger Abroad

Peace corps adventuretimes in malawi

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Camp Sky

Guys! You NEED to check out what’s going on at Camp Sky!!!! It’s been an amazing week so far, and we’re only halfway through. We’ve got an awesome group of kids, and as each day goes on they’re breaking out of there shells more and more. Thanks to all who donated to our grant fund and made this all happen. Reach up.

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Treegate!


In new “this could only ever happen here!” news: arboreal scandal! Felony fellery! Hacketeering! Leave it to Cleaver! Rogue lumberjacking so sad it would turn Babe the Blue Ox even more blue!  

May contain Game of Thrones spoilers. For some reason.
So. Let me explain.

It all started when I was returning home from a long weekend in Lilongwe, and I noticed that a bunch of the large, beautiful trees that surround Luwazi Community Day Secondary School had been chopped down and left to just sit in front of the school buildings. I was confused, and sad, because those trees provided shade for students learning/studying outside, provide a windbreak during rainyseason storms, and were just really cool, beautiful, majorly climbable trees. Why would the school have done this? Somewhere in nature, a half naked Native American in traditional dress canoeing down a river feels a wet tear slide down his cheek and a sinking sadness in his heart for reasons he couldn’t explain but are all too real.  The  next day, we had an impromptu staff meeting in the middle of the day. Here, my head teacher explained the situation. Apparently some persistent entrepreneur/logger had been repeatedly asking for weeks to buy some of the tree’s on our school’s land to sell as lumber. Which is apparently a thing you can not only do, but do and be normal. Our head teacher explained to us how he had repeatedly refused, citing the reasons I listed above for their usefulness: shade, wind/rain protection, beauty, also that the PTA would never let it happen (ps- these are Blue Gum, or eucalyptus trees and they big). The man even offered a bribe to get my HT to grant permission without consulting the PTA first. But Mr. Kawonga held strong, denying him time after time. He even showed him some trees further away from the school that he could buy, but not to touch these ones at the school. Finally, one day, the trees were just chopped down. He did it anyway. He tried to claim that another teacher told him he could, but that’s a total lie (barking up the wrong tree, mister! Literally!). Anyway, the tree carcasses (RIP) were left on the spot until the police could file a report. Some teachers went in to give statements, and through Law and Order: Malawi justice, the guy didn’t get in trouble but couldn’t take the lumber for himself. So the students spent a day at school carrying wood to people around the community that wanted to buy some. Just another day at Luwazi.

I have no idea what would possess somebody to chop down a bunch of trees he’s repeatedly been told not to. There must be a logical reason for committing such an egregious act of timbercide. So here’s some possible reasons to try to explain this arboreasshole’s thinking: 

1. Maybe he suffers from the disease “sleep-logging?” I looked it up on WebMD, it’s a totes real thing, and cross listed with other tree type maladies such as barkolepsy, timberhands, branch wilt, boughlderdash mouth, loggerhead, copse pox, brain knots, pulp stones, splinter cell anemia, thicket rickets, and foot Bunyans. Huh. 

2. The trees were super rude and condescending towards him. There’s no excuse for that. Boom, ya chopped.

3. Maybe he just scored a sweet old school scimitar from the market, and in a spectacle of Urkle-like proportions he clumsily tripped on a root and accidentally sliced down all the trees before falling and getting caught beneath a rock where he stayed yelling “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” for 13 hours before being discovered and accused of stealing the trees. OR parallel scimitar possibility: while strolling past the school, carrying his sword like any other Saturday afternoon, he was suddenly possessed by a warrior spirit of the ancient orient and the previous owner of the sword which took control of his body and sliced down all the trees in an act of swift Samurai precision. At the police station: “An ancient spirit took control of my body and cut them down!” did not hold up during interrogation, surprisingly not because the police didn’t believe that the story could feasibly have happened, but because a witch doctor was summoned to investigate the scimitar and deemed that it had no magical properties. 

(yeah, so I just learned what a scimitar is and wanted to use it…so what?)!

4. Trees killed his parents.

5.  He really really did not appreciate Peter Jackson’s portrayal of the Ents in the Lord of the Rings movie franchise.

6. It began with a string of dares which were innocent enough at the start but got more and more extreme as time went on, starting with a dare to his friend to chase a monkey up a tree, and ending with his friend daring him to chop down all the monkey homes in the vicinity because monkeys had snuck into his maize field and stole half his crop 2 years ago.

7. THE REDWOOD WEDDING SCENARIO: our hero and his family are invited to a tree wedding ceremony as a gesture of good faith from the elder tree to ensure there is no ill will between the two after his innocent attempt to buy, chop them down, and sell them. As they sit down for the wedding feast of acorns and water, a group of trees encircles the humans. The elder tree pulls up his sleeve to reveal that he is wearing chain mail under his bark as “The Rains of Castermere” begins to play. Our once-potential logger looks on as his entire family is murdered in front of his eyes. The now-dormant lumberjack watches as the decapitated head of his son is affixed to the dead body of his favorite goat which he has brought as a wedding gift. The trees turn towards the man to finish the job and put an exclamation point on the very violent statement they have just made, but he will not go down without a fight. And a fight he gives. He reaches back behind him and brandishes the tomahawk he always carries on his person in case of emergency. Like Slash has so bravely wielded his own axe on countless stages before him, he shreds some major lumber. Once all the trees lay dead on the ground, somebody finally walks past. “Hey man! Watcha do to those trees! Not cool, bro!” (only in the Chitonga equivalent), and instead of trying to explain what just went down he just sighs and drops his axe to the ground. 
So self defense. Long story short.

8. If you don’t know what cashgate is, basically it involves politicians in the Malawian government coupled with money so laundered it could now be considered clothing (see previous post on cashgate). Mabes this dude was in on it or knew privy information, got his cut, and decided to use the remote Luwazi trees of his home village as his own personal piggy bank. Who would suspect? (besides me!). He stuffed the cash down the knotholes at night a few months ago, and now he wanted to cash out and finally buy that speedboat or maize flour processor or whatever. So after trying to reach inside and only coming up woth sappy hands, he chopped down the trees himself while demonically whispering to nobody in particular, “They say money doesn’t grow on trees right? HAHA COUGH YEAH RIGHT! GET SOMEEE!” 

9. He entered a dugout wooden canoe building contest, and went a little overboard (boating pun!).

10. Whenever he tried to fly a kite the tree ate it up, and he finally had had enough. And did it up. And made a nee kite out if it.

11. He’s a tool.

Which do you think it is? I’m gonna go with surprise option 11a: he’s a massive tool. 

People: hold your trees close tonight, and be thankful you have them. Pray they don’t leaf you.

Treegate!


In new “this could only ever happen here!” news: arboreal scandal! Felony fellery! Hacketeering! Leave it to Cleaver! Rogue lumberjacking so sad it would turn Babe the Blue Ox even more blue!

May contain Game of Thrones spoilers. For some reason.

So. Let me explain.

It all started when I was returning home from a long weekend in Lilongwe, and I noticed that a bunch of the large, beautiful trees that surround Luwazi Community Day Secondary School had been chopped down and left to just sit in front of the school buildings. I was confused, and sad, because those trees provided shade for students learning/studying outside, provide a windbreak during rainyseason storms, and were just really cool, beautiful, majorly climbable trees. Why would the school have done this? Somewhere in nature, a half naked Native American in traditional dress canoeing down a river feels a wet tear slide down his cheek and a sinking sadness in his heart for reasons he couldn’t explain but are all too real. The next day, we had an impromptu staff meeting in the middle of the day. Here, my head teacher explained the situation. Apparently some persistent entrepreneur/logger had been repeatedly asking for weeks to buy some of the tree’s on our school’s land to sell as lumber. Which is apparently a thing you can not only do, but do and be normal. Our head teacher explained to us how he had repeatedly refused, citing the reasons I listed above for their usefulness: shade, wind/rain protection, beauty, also that the PTA would never let it happen (ps- these are Blue Gum, or eucalyptus trees and they big). The man even offered a bribe to get my HT to grant permission without consulting the PTA first. But Mr. Kawonga held strong, denying him time after time. He even showed him some trees further away from the school that he could buy, but not to touch these ones at the school. Finally, one day, the trees were just chopped down. He did it anyway. He tried to claim that another teacher told him he could, but that’s a total lie (barking up the wrong tree, mister! Literally!). Anyway, the tree carcasses (RIP) were left on the spot until the police could file a report. Some teachers went in to give statements, and through Law and Order: Malawi justice, the guy didn’t get in trouble but couldn’t take the lumber for himself. So the students spent a day at school carrying wood to people around the community that wanted to buy some. Just another day at Luwazi.

I have no idea what would possess somebody to chop down a bunch of trees he’s repeatedly been told not to. There must be a logical reason for committing such an egregious act of timbercide. So here’s some possible reasons to try to explain this arboreasshole’s thinking:

1. Maybe he suffers from the disease “sleep-logging?” I looked it up on WebMD, it’s a totes real thing, and cross listed with other tree type maladies such as barkolepsy, timberhands, branch wilt, boughlderdash mouth, loggerhead, copse pox, brain knots, pulp stones, splinter cell anemia, thicket rickets, and foot Bunyans. Huh.

2. The trees were super rude and condescending towards him. There’s no excuse for that. Boom, ya chopped.

3. Maybe he just scored a sweet old school scimitar from the market, and in a spectacle of Urkle-like proportions he clumsily tripped on a root and accidentally sliced down all the trees before falling and getting caught beneath a rock where he stayed yelling “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” for 13 hours before being discovered and accused of stealing the trees. OR parallel scimitar possibility: while strolling past the school, carrying his sword like any other Saturday afternoon, he was suddenly possessed by a warrior spirit of the ancient orient and the previous owner of the sword which took control of his body and sliced down all the trees in an act of swift Samurai precision. At the police station: “An ancient spirit took control of my body and cut them down!” did not hold up during interrogation, surprisingly not because the police didn’t believe that the story could feasibly have happened, but because a witch doctor was summoned to investigate the scimitar and deemed that it had no magical properties.

(yeah, so I just learned what a scimitar is and wanted to use it…so what?)!

4. Trees killed his parents.

5. He really really did not appreciate Peter Jackson’s portrayal of the Ents in the Lord of the Rings movie franchise.

6. It began with a string of dares which were innocent enough at the start but got more and more extreme as time went on, starting with a dare to his friend to chase a monkey up a tree, and ending with his friend daring him to chop down all the monkey homes in the vicinity because monkeys had snuck into his maize field and stole half his crop 2 years ago.

7. THE REDWOOD WEDDING SCENARIO: our hero and his family are invited to a tree wedding ceremony as a gesture of good faith from the elder tree to ensure there is no ill will between the two after his innocent attempt to buy, chop them down, and sell them. As they sit down for the wedding feast of acorns and water, a group of trees encircles the humans. The elder tree pulls up his sleeve to reveal that he is wearing chain mail under his bark as “The Rains of Castermere” begins to play. Our once-potential logger looks on as his entire family is murdered in front of his eyes. The now-dormant lumberjack watches as the decapitated head of his son is affixed to the dead body of his favorite goat which he has brought as a wedding gift. The trees turn towards the man to finish the job and put an exclamation point on the very violent statement they have just made, but he will not go down without a fight. And a fight he gives. He reaches back behind him and brandishes the tomahawk he always carries on his person in case of emergency. Like Slash has so bravely wielded his own axe on countless stages before him, he shreds some major lumber. Once all the trees lay dead on the ground, somebody finally walks past. “Hey man! Watcha do to those trees! Not cool, bro!” (only in the Chitonga equivalent), and instead of trying to explain what just went down he just sighs and drops his axe to the ground.
So self defense. Long story short.

8. If you don’t know what cashgate is, basically it involves politicians in the Malawian government coupled with money so laundered it could now be considered clothing (see previous post on cashgate). Mabes this dude was in on it or knew privy information, got his cut, and decided to use the remote Luwazi trees of his home village as his own personal piggy bank. Who would suspect? (besides me!). He stuffed the cash down the knotholes at night a few months ago, and now he wanted to cash out and finally buy that speedboat or maize flour processor or whatever. So after trying to reach inside and only coming up woth sappy hands, he chopped down the trees himself while demonically whispering to nobody in particular, “They say money doesn’t grow on trees right? HAHA COUGH YEAH RIGHT! GET SOMEEE!”

9. He entered a dugout wooden canoe building contest, and went a little overboard (boating pun!).

10. Whenever he tried to fly a kite the tree ate it up, and he finally had had enough. And did it up. And made a nee kite out if it.

11. He’s a tool.

Which do you think it is? I’m gonna go with surprise option 11a: he’s a massive tool.

People: hold your trees close tonight, and be thankful you have them. Pray they don’t leaf you.

Filed under trees malawi peacecorps gameofthrones natures

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A humble plea:

CAMP SKY! CAMP SKY! CAMP. SKYYYY! Now that i got your attention……segue….I know that lots of you out there are thinking, “Man, the world is a messed up place. Syria. Ukraine. Twerking….I wish there was at least something small I could to do to try to better this world.” Well, you can! Some awesome teachers in Peace Corps Malawi (and I) are putting together an education camp for form four (seniors) students in Malawi. It’s called Camp Sky! Their entire futures rest on passing one national exam (you may have heard of the term, “teaching to the test”….X that by 10) and we’re trying to not only get them ready for that, but to give them career advice, encourage their creative sides, and inspire them to dream big! Additionally, some of their teachers will be there to learn from each other how they can better help them to do this. That’s where you come in! “Who me?” you say?! Yes you! We need some help to reach our budget goal, which includes supplies, transportation for students and teachers to the camp, paying for the venue, a field trip to the US embassy, guest speakers, food, etc. Below is a link where you can donate to our cause (100% tax deductible!? Why not do it!). Anything at all will help. Got 5 dollars? Great! Got 2 cents? Also great! Got a billion dollars? Even more great! Let’s help some great kids. Together!


The link:
https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=14-614-002

Also we’ll be live blogging throughout the week, so check out this link to keep tabs on what we be doing and also for more info:
http://campskymw.tumblr.com/

Filed under campsky malawi education peacecorps shamelessplug

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Malawi 101: Bucket Wine

Left: before tasting. “Is it supposed to smell like that?!”

Right: After tasting. “Not the worst!”

As time ticks down for me in Malawi, I’ve been thinking about things that I haven’t done yet that define the quintessential Peace Corps service. So I made a PC bucket list of sorts. First on the list-make homeade bucket wine (HOW’S THAT FOR A SEGUE)! A popular pastime of PCVs errwhere, brewing bucket wine combines 3 of our fave things: cost effectiveness, hooch, and just having something to do besides sitting around watching chickens. I decided to undertake a first attempt at creating my own fine vintage a couple weeks ago. Here was my process:
Ingredients: 3 kilos of sugar, 3 packets of brewer’s yeast, tea, Sobo juice, 20 bananas, and 20 liter bucket of water…I mean fermenting chamber (vintner lingo?!).
I dissolved the sugar in the water first. Then I added some tea bags to pique the tannins and threw in some Sobo juice concentrate as a preserving agent (does it sound like I know what I’m talking about? I have no idea why I did that but it seemed like something people do). Then came the fruit. Based on a lot of research and interviews, I decided that bananas would be the simplest thing to try first (they were the first fruit I walked past in the market). So I sliced up about 20 nanners and just threw them in the concoction. Then I sprinkled in the packets of yeast, stirred it up and covered it. Easy enough. I had to travel to Lilongwe for a few days, and on my return I found my elixir effervescent and foamy. I drained out the fruit and particles with a chitenje, and covered it back up to sit another week. 8 days later, I decided to try it out, and you know what? It wasn’t terrible! Some rave reviews:
“Hey! Tastes wine-y!!”
“If I was a prison inmate, I’d totes make this in a toilet… if there were no other options.”
“Drinking this makes me feel like the opposite of Paul Giamatti in Sideways but I’m kind of okay with that.”
“This better not give me phossy jaw…”
“Not as big a disaster as the Challenger explosion.”
(focus group: me)

So it’s not the greatest, but it’s still decent ersatz wine. I probs won’t try it again here because getting the stuff to my remote house was kinda a pain, but maybe someday I’ll give it another go in the first world.

You may be wondering: did I use a secret ingredient? Heck yes! But I’m not telling you, it’s classified and I’ll take It to my grave! (also it’s highly illegal and only found in one place on Earth, and I can’t rat on my suppliers in Madagascar…whoops…I mean somewhere else). I ain’t no snitch! Omertà!


And here’s a cool article that pretty much explains why I’m a hero for making banana wine in Malawi:

http://www.churchnewspaper.com/33141/archives

Just kidding, but that story’s pretty cool.

Filed under bucketwine malawi pcvlife vintner hooch bananas

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Malawi 101: Initiation Ceremonies

Read the article. Sad but true. It’s not really present here in the North at all from what I gather, but I remember hearing loud drums one night during our homestay stage of pre-service training in the village of Katsekaminga (which was in the central region), and my host father telling me that it was the call for boys to enter the woods for initiation ceremonies. I also remember hearing stories about the “hyenas” during training from our trainers. A common overarching theme in Malawi is the schism that often appears between traditional and modern values, and this is just another example of the problems that can come with blindly living in the past because “that’s how it’s always been done.” While I greatly respect and admire the culture and traditions here in Malawi, this potentially dangerous mindset is used too much as an excuse to curb progress. Hopefully brave students like Grace can continue to show their fellow youth that it is possible to both celebrate the past and embrace the change necessary to evolve and grow as a people. On Malawi!

Filed under malawi hyenasarebadjustwatchlionking peacecorps shinegirlshine forward