Saturday, October 21, 2006
Eva's computer is having some problems and it will likely be more difficult to post as a result so I'm not sure if I'll get to post as much as I wanted before leaving...in a month.
I think in the classroom the Form 1 students are the most difficult. Probably because there are so many 12 year old girls and I am teaching them math which they have a lot of trouble with. I am currently trying to teach them algebra while even the idea of negative numbers is still beyond there comprehension. Rita helped my grade their homework on negative numbers when she was here ask her. Outside of class, however, I get along with the Form 1's the best which I think has to do with me being on about the same maturity level as them. While the upper classes are usually too cool for anything I do the Form 1's are more likely to play along. One form 4 students is named Cecilia so I would at random times say "Cecilia, you're breaking my heart" to her much concern and confusion. Then I finally sang the actual song for them and now the form 1's are always asking me to sing the "Cecilia" song. One afternoon when I was feeling particularly immature I got a group of form 1 students singing the chorus of the song in the corridor replacing "Cecilia" with the name of whoever happened to be walking by. Of course, other form 1 students thought it was hilarious, but eventually the form 4 students walked around to avoid us.
One of the workers came to Gary this week asking for a loan of 100 Kwacha (less than a dollar). While it isn't uncommon for people to ask us for money this particular situation was. He said that before he went to sleep, he tied his goat to a tree near his house. The next morning he woke up and the goat was missing. A note left near the tree said that if he wanted his goat back he would have to pay K100. He went to the police, but they could not or perhaps just would not help so he came to us since he didn't have the money. We don't normally give money away, but since this was such a good story and he only wanted a loan it was worth it this time.
Now that the Form 4 students have had their graduation they get to take the government certification exams. These take place over a five week period with a one two hour test each day. They can take as many of the tests as they want or are able to pay (there is a fee per subject, but are required to pass English and five other subjects in order to receive a certificate. There are a few subjects, like Home Science that are girls won't be taking so they get a few days off. They've been taking them for over a week now and I ask the girls how the tests are going only to get a lot of groans, sighs, and "very difficult".
Monday, October 16, 2006
Yes, it is as glorious as it sounds. The first time we stumbled upon Burgerland in Lilongwe the clouds parted and rays of the sun shined on the entrance. A chorus of angels could be heard while the proprietors walked around in flowing white robes...well, sort of but I'm getting ahead of myself. A few weeks, months, or some other time span of which I no longer have any concept of ago, it was absolutely necessary for the men of Bakhita to be somewhere else. While I think we would be justified in leaving for only the sake of being anywhere else, it wasn't difficult to find another legitimate reason for a weekend trip to Lilongwe. We had an open invitation from Br. Walter, the principal of the Don Bosco Technical College, to stay for a weekend and we thought it would be useful to see how their computer classes were set up. We also had a list of various parts that we need to get from computer stores in Lilongwe. The Don Bosco Technical College is a school run by the Salesians and is combined with the local parish. In the compound, they have courts for Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis, and netball, two soccer fields and a playground. They are currently building a new church so the masses are held in the Youth Center Hall. The college has courses for Accounting, Auto Mechanics, Carpentry, Brick Laying, and Tailoring. One of the major appeals of staying there was the big comfy couches made by their students. Good enough to sit down and stay there for the rest of your life. After seeing the school, we had time to go to the city center where we found a comptuer store a little off the main road in a cluster of electronics/stationary stores. He had very few things on the shelves, but Gary managed to buy a CD burner and place an order for some Network parts which were later delivered to Bakhita buy the owner himself. I think he was desperate for customers. Around the corner from the computer store we found Burgerland (Clouds parting, Angels Singing, etc.). It was even sharing space with Pizzaland, but it was not open yet. Burgland was run by a Muslim who looked to be in his forties. I can't be sure of his age because I am terrible about that sort of thing and while he never actually said that he was Muslim, he was wearing the Muslim uniform: Long beard, white hat, very comfortable looking long white robe-like shirt. We asked about the Burgland Special which we ordered immediately after hearing it was double cheeseburger. While waiting for our order, he asked where we were working and how long we've been in the country. He wasn't familiar with the Canossians, but talked about the Catholic Sisters he knew growing up. It turns out that he was something like fifth generation in Malawi from India and he mentioned some of the problems Indians in Malawi had getting pushed around in the past. He was very friendly and when our order was ready he threw in some chips and drinks for free. The burgers were good...on nearly the same level as when God created earth and it was good.. We ate, watched the TV for a while (watersports or something), and talked with the owner a little while longer. All this and no one was accused anyone of being and infidel or a terrorist. It was a perfect cultural exchange all based on the preparing, selling, buying, and consuming of cheeseburgers...is there anything they can't do.
Something I Won't Miss
Mosquitoes. I really can't stand them. A good way to express how much you don't like something is to compare it to something else that is commonly disliked and say that you dislike it more than that. I really can't think of anything approaching the level of which I don't like mosquitoes so I'll say that I detest them more than whatever it is that would make you think "Wow! Really! More than THAT!" I guess as far as mosquitoes go they really aren't that bad. They are small and when they bite it only itches for an hour or so. Even here in Balaka there aren't nearly as many as you might find around the lake and people from countries with jungles would probably come to Malawi for a break from mosquitoes. Coming from a country with an actual winter the problem comes from them being around all year. And the worst of it isn't when there are ten, fifty, or a hundred mosquitoes, but when there is a single mosquito that insists on buzzing around my head at night. If it is outside of the net it jars me awake and I sleep uneasy until I am certain that it is outside the net. If I see one flying inside the net, It sets off a reaction of flailing hands around trying to crush it. If it manages to escape the first onslaught (they usually do), then I am forced to thoroughly search the entire net/bed area with the aid of my desk lamp while cursing their general existence. Usually, very little sleep follows.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I was looking at the calendar the other day, which I do occasionally only find out a month or two went by without knowing it, only to realize this time that I only have two months left before I am back home. With everything I still feel I have to finish and everything I'll have to figure out when I get back is a lot for my overloaded brain to deal with and only results in my eyes crossing and incoherent mumbling. There are a lot of things I won't mind getting away from, but there are a lot of people I'd rather not say goodbye to forever. I guess that's how these things usually work though. Anywho, as for what to do when I get back, after hiding under the bed for a few weeks, if anyone has any ideas that I might be interested in let me know. I mean, that is, if you see an ad for someone with an engineering degree and experience living in Africa, maybe you could save it for me.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Friends and Neighbours
A few months after Girlie arrived in Malawi, she was made aware that she had a few relatives through marraige here. They stopped by to visit briefly, but invited us to stay at their house in Blantyre if we ever wanted to get away. So a couple weeks ago we finally managed a trip. The plan was initially to visit Jane, the cousin of Girlie's sister-in-law. Her family imigrated from India and she was born here in Malawi. Her husband, who recently passed away, was originally from Sri Lanka and had a business. She was now busy running a nursery school in Blantyre and her kids are married and living in the UK. Confused yet? Hang on tight. We also had dinner with another of Girlie's cousin-in-laws (through the same in-law) who was born in Malawi, moved to India when she was six and moved backed to Malawi briefly before moving to New Zealand. She was also neighbour of Girlie's brother who lives New Zealand and mentioned a couple of times how she can see the roof of his house from her patio. She was in town for a few months helping her mother who still lives in Malawi and is having some health problems. They were really great and very welcoming to people they have never met before. When I met Joyce, I went right in for the respectful Malawian handshake and she went right for the hug. Joyce could talk with the best of them and had many good things to say about the joys of New Zealand and Microwaves. The conversation was made even more interesting by her background since it gave her an Indian/Malawian/New Zealand accent that was pretty trippy at times. We stayed at Jane's house for the night where she provided us with various types of meats, beverages, and Sportscenter. It was defininetly one of those bizarre "Where exaclty am I" momments.