Friday, February 10, 2012

Belated Happy New Year!

I realize it has been quite awhile since I have written a real blog, and for that I apologize. I guess even in Malawi you can get lost in the holiday shuffle… or at least that is what I will claim as the reason I have not written. But I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are starting off 2012 awesomely!

I thought it would be harder to miss the holidays then it actually was. Of course, I would have preferred to have been with my family fulfilling all of our family traditions that I am so stringent about each year, but since Christmas is more subdued around here, it wasn’t like I was lost and lonely amongst Christmas cheer. It was kind of just like any other day- except throughout December there were many more goats tied up around my village, which I presume were all consumed for the holiday. Yum!

My friends Ross and Jay came to my house for Christmas- we made delicious food, put our presents around my Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (care of K.E. Angelo, thank you sis!), and watched Batman and Twin Peaks. Christmas morning I retrieved (from a friend’s freezer, thank you Nurse Anna) our ingredients for mimosas, and we opened presents (mostly mine, thank you family) and drank mimosas. We spent the rest of Christmas day swimming in the lake and getting sunburned, and then recovering from our sunburn by not moving for several hours. I should mention that Jay and Ross are MUCH more pale than I, and even I was suffering from some sun pain. Ouch. But we survived, and on Boxing Day we moved our celebration onward to Maji Zuwa, a lodge in Karonga- the owner is a great friend of ours. Here at Maji Zuwa, we proceeded to celebrate CHEESEMAS, as we had pooled our money to buy a giant block of cheese. Our dinner consisted of several courses of cheese-centric food- grilled cheese, mac and cheese, bruschetta, etc. It was amazing, and damn, did my stomach hurt. That night we also decorated the table with fake snow from my parents, and proceeded to play an epic game of beer pong, our first in country. It was a wonderful Cheesemas, and I hope we will all celebrate again next year.

For new years I celebrated by making a short trip to Nkahta Bay where there were TONS of Peace Corps volunteers- volunteers from all over Malawi, and even volunteers from Zambia and Mozambique! (See how alluring Lake Malawi is?? You should come check it out for yourself!!) We did lots of lake swimming and went to a pretty kickin’ DJ’ed new year’s party, where there were actually fireworks!! I don’t even think I’ve been anywhere in my past few new years’ in America where there was fireworks, so yeah, it was pretty cool!

School has started up again, and boy, it is neverending work. I need to say this for the written record- teachers have the hardest job, anywhere in the world- and in no way am I lumping myself under the ‘teacher’ umbrella, since I teach two classes on a subject some might consider ‘fluff’. Teachers everywhere have their work cut out for them and their job is so important! So teachers of the world, I salute you. Anyhoo, most of my students, at least on the Malawi grading scale, passed my exam at the end of last term in December. I am still pretty happy about this- a few of my students even got “Distinction” marks, meaning, pretty flipping good marks. At the same time, I think my students are capable of more, and I’m really pushing them this term to prove it- an effort I do not think they are enjoying, as it has ended with me not being that fun and punishing students who do not comply. Sigh. Tough love I guess, still figuring it all out. It is hard work!

My beekeepers have voiced that they are definitely interested in the training for top bar beekeeping, and I promised I would pay half the training cost if they come up with the rest, so they are working on collecting that money. I hope it works out! Otherwise, here at the health center we have planted 15 plots of moringa seeds. The moringa tree is basically a miracle tree, with numerous benefits to consuming the leaves and other parts of the tree. At the end of an ideal rainy season, our seeds should have grown into small bushes, but our rainy season seems to be not so rainy, so I am a little worried. Nevertheless, I have a million more seeds and we will try try again! An HSA (health surveillance assistant) at my health center, Dennis, is going to be attending natural medicine training with me the first week of March. We are going to learn much more about the uses and benefits of moringa, along with numerous other plants here in Malawi. I am really really excited about what we are going to learn, and I know Dennis is looking forward to learning new things too and sharing them with the community here in Mlowe. My previously mentioned lodge owner friend Matt, is also the head of a non-profit called Determined to Develop, and after we have our training, Dennis and I are going to plan a training thru the non-profit to benefit some of the people in that area, about 50kilometers north of Mlowe. I am so excited that there were will be so many beneficiaries of the training beyond Dennis and I- it’s a beautiful thing about the work we try to do here!

As many of you have heard, Patti the puppy, has had puppies- which I guess means Patti is no longer a puppy, and instead, is a teenage mother. But yes! Patti gave birth to 4 healthy puppies while I was in Lilongwe in January- I left my very pregnant dog on a Wednesday, came home on Tuesday to 4 little pups. They are EXTREMELY cute, and although I know nothing about pups, I think they are pretty fat, which is a feat here for sure. There are two boys and two girls, and both of the boys have already been claimed- meaning, there are two little sweet girl puppies looking for homes people!! Any volunteers (or friends of volunteers) interested in a puppy, you can have one of these grade-A pups FO FREE with FREE DELIVERY!! By me!! What more could you ask for?? If you are interested contact me ASAP!! Pups will be ready beginning in March!!

As many of you know, I will be returning to America for a visit soon soon- I fly out of Malawi on April 24th, arrive back in Malawi on May 21st. For now my for-sure plans include speaking to the sociology department at my alma mater, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and going on a short vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia. I’m also hoping to speak at my old high school. Besides also planning on eating pizza every single day, I hope to see all you people out there!! So please be in touch with me so we can make some awesome plans!! There are so many things I want to do while I am home, people I want to see, and foods I want to eat. It should be a pretty amazing trip.

Hope you all are doing great! Miss you tons!