Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hello Everyone!

The more I spend time with Patti, the more she reminds me of Bernard - which is a little strange, since they are completely different kinds of dogs, and different genders. They remind me of each other because they are A) weird B) they love me. Patti has decided that she wants a bed (how does she even know that dog beds exist?) so she tries to lay on mine. However, mine is surrounded by a mosquito net, and going under the mosquito net continues to elude Patti. Therefore, she lays on top of the net, on the bed. It is extremely silly. She still sleeps outside, but occasionally I let her in the bed during naptime (naptimes are important in Malawi). If anyone wants to send a bed to Patti, she would really appreciate it. Thank you to Mary Ann & Rich for sending Patti some treats, flea meds, and bones!

In other news, the last day I was in Mzuzu after the end of GAD camp, I shaved my head. I had been thinking about it for awhile, and was [maybe] planning to wait until IST (there is a girl in my group w/a shaved head so I figured hey, leave it to the experts) but my hair was driving me crazy all week at camp so I finally committed. It cost me $2. I have pictures but my phone network hasn't been working, but as soon as they do, they'll be online. I have to say that it looks really good, and it is way easier to manage- especially considering that I bathe in a river.

My first three months are over! So now I am an even more real volunteer. I feel like I am about to get really busy... I have been meeting with community based organizations in my village, and other various committees. I am on the Board of Trustees of the East Rumphi Youth Network (which is going to be AMAZING) and there is going to be a lot of work to get it off the ground. And one of my environment volunteer friends should be visiting my site soon so we can get my health center's garden underway. Then IST (in-service training) with my counterpart, and it will be great to see my training group again and make a 6 month action plan with Laston. I am really excited with how things are going. I will keep you in the loop everytime I have internet access!

Thanks to everyone whom I have received letters and packages from recently, you have no idea how much they mean to me!! My post office is so small (smaller than my house) that sometimes I suspect that I am the only person getting mail there, but whatever it takes to give Isaac (the postmaster) a job. We both thank you!! Keep in touch!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quick Pic & Wishlist

I just updated my wishlist- I am receiving packages at my site address in Mlowe which is under my "Keep in Touch" page and is on my facebook. Thank you in advance :)

My friend Kathi just posted this amazing picture of GAD camp- we were playing BINGO which teh kids were insanely into, and I was in charge of giving out the prizes (glowsticks I brought from America) and getting the crowd pumped!!

Blog Post for GAD!!!

Greetings friends and family from home! In a short time I will be hitting the 5 month mark in Malawi, which I can hardly believe. I feel like hitting the 5 month mark is significant since that is the longest amount of time I have spent away from USA. I’m so happy to have the support system I do here in Malawi and to know that I have all you guys at home. I hope you know that I think about you a lot, and appreciate you reading this and being in touch with me.

As I have previously mentioned, I was recently elected as the new president of the Gender and Development Committee (GAD) for Peace Corps Malawi. However, I am just the president-elect because the old executive board is still here, and hosting the first major project by the committee right now in Mzuzu. We are hosting our first camp in Mzuzu for 25 secondary school students. The students come from all over the northern region, and spending the week in Mzuzu shadowing Malawian professionals to get a glimpse of the possibilities for them once they are beyond secondary school.

Each morning the students spend 4 hours with a Malawian professional- doctor, nurse, mechanic, businessman, businesswoman, legal aid, broadcaster, etc, of their own gender. It is quite the opportunity for them, and it is wonderful seeing the students inspired by the potential opportunities that await them through hard work. I have been dropping three boys off every morning at the mechanic, and it is so rewarding to hear from them how much they are enjoying it and seeing that they are trying to learn as much as possible from the experience.

In the afternoon we PCVs host the activities- we have been playing tons of classic camp games that have gone over really well with the students. We all definitely love to have fun and are laughing a lot. Before we start a game sometimes we wonder if it will translate, over culture and language boundaries, but they have enjoyed every game so much (and so have we volunteers). It’s so neat to see kids play these games for the first time and really enjoy them- camp is not an average opportunity here in Malawi (unlike in America, where many of us have served as camp counselors) so it’s so fun to play with them. We played BINGO one night and I wish I could explain how exciting it was for them to play- even to play before they realized there were prizes (glowsticks, which I brought… they are a hit). My BFF Kathi has some great pictures of game time which I will hopefully share on my facebook wall or here.

One day we were able to take an afternoon field trip to the courthouse where we met the chief judge of Mzuzu. He was incredibly inspiring and talked with the kids for a long time. The kids had some really wonderful questions as well, which was exciting for us to know that they are taking advantage of the experience. I think us volunteers were equally if not more inspired by the judge as well- maybe a law career isn’t totally ruled out for my future.

Since this is the first time that a camp like this has been hosted by the GAD committee, we are working thru a few kinks and it’s a great experience to be here to see what works and what might not be working so well. Myself and the rest of the executive board and committee members are really excited to see what we can do for GAD camp next year. There is so much potential for a project like this and I am really excited to see where we will be able to take the GAD committee over the course of the next year. I am hoping that when I go to America next year that I will be able to raise some funds to supplement the camp funds and other future activities of GAD.

I think I previously mentioned that I am hoping to write a proposal to fund a penpal program between the students in my Life Skills class and the youth center I worked at in America. Two of the goals in Peace Corps relate to educating the people of our host country about Americans, and to educate Americans about the people of our host country. This project would address both and I think it would be a wonderful experience for the youth on both ends. It’s hard to try to do this without reliable electricity and costly access to internet, but I am hoping to get it done before the fall term of school starts. I will keep you posted!

I am looking forward to spending some time in village until further notice since I have been travelling a lot since the beginning of July. Oh I forgot to talk about my amazing holiday! My friend Christian hooked about 15 of us up with a deal to spend a few days in Nkhata Bay, which is a more “touristy” area of Malawi, and incredibly beautiful. We were at a lodge right on the lake, and spend the weekend swimming, dancing, and eating wonderful wonderful food! My BFFs Kathi & Stacey made a pin the tail on the donkey game for my birthday, and a homemade piƱata!! Yes, they are incredibly resourceful! The lodge provided free chocolate cake for my birthday, which we all shared around a big bonfire that night. On the 4th of July we spent a lot of time hanging out on a big rock in lake, and just before evening set in Stacey, Meredith, Trason & I set off some small fireworks (like roman candles & such) off the rock, just as a little tribute to America. We had amazing BBQ food for dinner and danced the night away. It was an incredible holiday.

We were all thinking about what our friends and families were doing in America and I was definitely thinking of home. I was so happy to talk to my family and BFF Kdo on my birthday, thank you for calling!! The next big holiday for Peace Corps Malawi is Halloween, when we will be attending the traditional PC celebration in Chitipa district. My friends and I already have our Halloween costume idea worked out so I am really excited about it.

Come mid-September my heath sector training group will be heading back to Dedza for In-Service Training. We will spend a week with just the trainers and the next week our counterparts will come so we can make an action plan. My counterpart is named Laston, he is a Health Surveillance Assistant at my health center and he is awesome. I feel like there is a lot of potential in my village with the help of Laston, so I am looking forward to our work over the next two years. And I know he will gain as much as I from the experience, so he will be a valuable asset to our community even when I am eventually gone.

Anyway, life is good. Patti is awesome. She traveled with me to my birthday and was a total champ- I'm sure you have the image in your head of African women tying babies to their back and such? To travel with Patt I tied Patti in a sling around me like the mamas do around here. We were quite the sight. People were constantly talking about us as we passed by. My favorite thing that was said to me was "That is not a baby, that is a dog!" (in Chitumbuka). Haha. All the PCVs loved Patti and she had a great time on the holiday as well. She is not at GAD camp, but at home being taken care of by Laston. I miss her!

Well I miss you all and hope to continue to be in touch with you all thru here, facebook, phone, and letters! Thank you for being in touch, and I look forward to your support as my work and projects come to be!