Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crazy Term and questions answered

So in this post I’ll try and answer a few questions that have been left over the last few months. It is crazy that it has been so long since I last did a real update but things have been super busy. We are just finishing third term here and it was a crazy term. This is the term where the form 2 and form four students (sophomores and seniors) take their national exams. The way it works is teachers from each school are selected to invigilate the tests at other schools in the area. That means that they are not at school for lessons. So at one point in the term for about two week it was Tina, myself, and the deputy-headmistress at school. Needless to say it was a bit stressful. On top of that we have had some budget cuts in the Peace Corps program and so the transit house in Mzuzu was closed and they will soon be closing the one in Lilongwe. This has been a big issue here because a lot of volunteers (including Tina and I) took advantage of these as a kind of recharge the batteries (literally and figuratively) place. So they are closing and we are trying to find new ways and places that we can go to get refueled. Then along with that the new group of education volunteers arrived at the end of September, so we came down to the airport to welcome them to Malawi (boy did they looked bushed. When we came in we had a staging time in Philly with 3 nights and a night in Joburg; they had 4 hours of staging, left at 2:30am and had a 3 hour layover in Joburg). I had been working with our boss Dora on some new training ideas and went with the new group for their first week in country while Tina was at site and then Tina went as PCV of the week a couple of weeks ago (basically it is a chance for them to meet some people who have been here for a while and bounce questions and ideas off of them.) THEN we found out that the school calendar was changing. Normally third term ends in November and the new school years begins in January with about 3 weeks between terms (trimesters). But we found out a week or so ago that this year the school term will end on the 20th of November as scheduled but the new school year will begin December 7th. So we have 16 days between to grade exams, make maintenance repairs and prepare for classes. This has caused a number of headaches as well. We will only have one week between each term and the school year will end in September. This will be interesting because that means the following school year will begin in October and we will only be here until December of that school year. So there are still questions on what exactly we will be expected to do. Do we teach for a partial term? Do we focus on secondary and community projects? If we are living in school housing can we stay if we are not actually teaching? And a host of others. Along with all this they have retrofit the intake calendar of volunteers to accommodate being able to teach two full school years. This could mean that if we are wanting a volunteer to replace us we will have a roommate for a couple of months. So there was all of that and now Tina and I are headed back down to the training site to do a bit more work, and answer more questions etc. with the new volunteers before they meet their Malawian counter parts and visit site for the first time. So that is what’s been happening in our lives lately.

Now to answer some questions
Shane—yes please do use the drinking pee episode for your retreat. I could also offer another time when I was life guarding at Bohn Pool and we cleared the pool as a result of some suspicious “droppings" in the deep end. After further examination (a dive mask and rubber gloves) it was concluded that brown was not a good colour for peanut M&Ms. Also Music we like…ummm. I have to admit that I have had a hankering to hear some Petra, but we like a lot of bands. Bare Naked Ladies, Dave Mathews, etc. type stuff is good. Umm I don’t know; really we are old farts and listened to NPR for the last three years before Malawi. DC Talk holds a special spot in my heart along with Newsboys, and living in North Carolina I really enjoyed some worship songs by Israel. So basically I don’t know.
Lets see what else
The most fun thing we have done since being in Malawi is tough; it depends on what kind of ‘fun” you mean. If you mean like job related (interacting with students) we celebrated May Day. I spent about three hours popping pop corn over a fire the day before and filled up a couple of boxes (thanks for all the packages; even the boxes are useful. Of course I like the stuff inside a lot better :)) wrote a note about the first of may being a holiday in America and that they would have to find us to answer more questions, ran up to the classrooms shouted happy may day and ran off into the bush to hide. It took a few seconds before they understood what they needed to do but it was so funny watching 50 students pour out of a classroom trying to figure out what these crazy Americans were doing. I also made Jam with our form 3 students which was cool. And we climbed a mountain with the form 4 students behind our house and went mushroom hunting. It is actually hard to think of what is the most “fun.” Sometime I think that a lot of people back home look at Peace Corps as being a big adventure, and it is, but its not like we are doing a lot of traveling all over the country for fun. We travel when there is training and I have yet to be any further north than our village and hadn’t gone further south from the capitol city Lilongwe until my parents visited. We spend a lot of time at site and do a job just like in America; the adventure part comes in when that job involves finding ways to get around language and cultural barriers. But as far as traveling in Malawi I had a blast with my parents. We went and saw some elephants and hippos and other wildlife at Luande National Park. And we ate some AMAZING FOOD. I had a meal that consisted of 4 different proteins WOW! We also spent some time on an island that I will say was probably the most fun thing I’ve done here. We got to spend time with my parents in a beautiful place and just relax! It was fabulous. I think I have some pictures posted on the picassa site. And it was just nice.

My reed weaving is on hold until the new batch of reeds has grown up so no wicker yet.

As far as 7 foot roaches…ugh…we just started getting rains and I swear the creepy crawly factor has increased by a factor of ten. Tina is afraid of spiders as most of you know, and the other day we were playing a quiet game of pinochle by candle light under a full moon when along the wall crawls this ridiculously ugly looking spider thing. I only got a glimpse of it and Tina didn’t see it but my immediate reaction was to back up away from the thing. I actually downplayed my reaction quite well I thought because I didn’t want to freak Tina out but she realized “Oh if Zeb is backing up that quickly then that means this is a new and rather disturbing creature he has seen” (maybe not those words exactly) and she too backed up. This thing was crazy it moved faster than anything that size should be allowed to move, had 8 legs (which I suppose most spiders do), and two huge pincher things that were bigger than any of the legs. I was scrambling around with the headlamp trying to kill the thing when it turned and headed directly for Tina at an amazing speed. I of course thought this was going to be a horrible thing, but Tina stood there watched it alter course and stomped on it like it had just tried to steal our chocolate cake; I almost felt sorry for the thing. I almost burst with pride that my wife, afraid of spiders, looked this thing in its many eyes and killed it like it was an everyday event…what can I say She’s amazing. But then there have been ants galore, and other bugs, and yeah I wouldn’t be surprised at 7 foot roaches; I’d just introduce them to Tina and she’d take care of them for me.

That's all for now. I have to admit that I am missin fall. (i know it is nearly winter but things move at a different pace around here sorry). I love getting all the letters people have been sending and I have to appologize for not getting letters sent right back but they will be sent. Enjoy the cool weather everyone (130 F yesterday kuno ku Malawi).


Shane & Lane said...


At this point, all I have to say is... What are the chances that you would get my question within a week. I meant it as a joke, figuring it would be several weeks.

And, I know you are not on a vacation over there, it is just so cool that you guys get to experience such a vastly different life.

OK off to read Tina's

Shane & Lane said...

Hey, just in case you would not... make sure you check your email.

Shane & Lane said...

Well it has come and gone, but MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR! And in case I miss this too: happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

I hope you guys had a good Christmas. For New Year's Port Clinton, (the town where we live)does this walleye drop. Port Clinton is famous for walleye fishing so they don't do a ball drop they drop a 8ft walleye. Every year it is like a surprise to see what happens. This year they dropped the thing at like 11:58 then raised it back up just barely in time and dropped it again. Last year or the year before they started the count down at 5 and went up to 10... happy new year.
Amazingly this thing manages to make on some form of national TV or cable.

Hope you are doing well.

OH yeah, yesterday Lane and I went to Levis Commons where we met you two before you left for the PC. Hey I just realized, you guys are in the PC and we live in PC. This is just great. And speaking of where we live, we just bought our first house. It was built in 1850, no type-o. We are in the process of doing some remodeling... replacing plumbing, gas, electric, drywall, carpet, etc. It is fun. Sorry you guys don't have plumbing, gas, or electric. I could run a gas line over to your place but at the 5 foot a day rate I am going it would take me many years.