This is insanity. We have now passed the anniversary of our arrival in Malawi, and since the new group of volunteers is sworn in, we are second-years. I'd like to say that it's flown by.... but it hasn't. Days are still pretty slow, and while it's crazy that we've been here for a whole year, it's also crazy that we've been here for ONLY a year. And we still have a year left!
At site, my projects have taken a few blows. I've had some trouble with robberies, and that means that MK 7000 that was allotted for my borehole project has disappeared (plus a bunch of my own stuff and money). Police have nabbed the culprit (a ten-year-old neighbor) so I hope this is the end of it, but it's still obviously a bummer.
In happier news, I may have been converted on the subject of cats. I have never been much of a cat person, despite interactions with many a fine feline. I have never really understood the appeal. But now a warm lump of fur is sleeping on my pillow every night, and I'm learning. Her name is Gizmo (I did not name her, but it's kind of stuck now). She's a three-month-old calico, still growing, and pretty silly. She jumps around a lot and has a love-hate relationship with the broom. I'm hoping that sometime soon this cold war she's waging on the mice and rats will escalate into armed (pawed?) conflict, but until then, she's getting her usipa (dried fish) for free. I just assume she's rubbing it in the faces of all the sad Malawian cats around.
We're approaching hot season now; the temperature is rising and so is my constant desire to be in the water. I am so lucky to live by the lake. Every time I start to feel a bit overwhelmed, I take my camping chair, my big straw hat, a book, and a Nalgene full of Crystal Light (preferably Green Tea Peach Mango flavor) down to the beach, and everything's better. Unfortunately I'm here allegedly helping people, "volunteering" if you will, so I can't spend all my time at the beach, and I occasionally have to go to school. We just have one class right now, as the national exam results still haven't come out and we don't know who passed Standard 8 and can move on to Form 1. Until then, the Form 2s have to suffer through my history classes alone. On Monday in English class we're going to work on writing summaries by watching the first episode of Lost. This could be a total disaster -- and this kind of thing must be what all teachers deal with in their first years.
Speaking of teaching, I am not a natural teacher, I have decided. Before I came here, teaching seemed like a career possibility -- and after a year of it, I have nothing but respect for the amazing people who taught me. But I'm not doing it. Having passed my year-mark now, I should start thinking of possible jobs/school/travel after Peace Corps -- any and all suggestions are welcome. What do you have to do to become a space cowboy?
Extreme Malawi story compilation:
1.The histories of Islam and Christianity are at the beginning of the Form 2 syllabus. After I explained about Muhammad and Mecca, etc., the students pestered me to tell them who was more important, Muhammad or Jesus. This debate between them (and the pestering) continued for several days.
2. On the bus yesterday (I'm in Mzuzu now), the bus driver and conductor had a very loud discussion about whether or not women should be involved in the church. They agreed that since we say "amen" at the end of a prayer and not "awomen", women were not supposed to pray. I thought about pointing out the failure of this logic when it comes to "menstruation" but kept my mouth shut.
3. Went to the funeral of Will's headmaster last Wednesday. He died very suddenly of unknown causes. An unbelievable number of people showed up from all over the region to the funeral, brought food, sang songs, sat in the sun all day to remember this man. Especially given how difficult and how expensive travel is here, it's truly amazing how communities can come together for these events.
4. Also, everyone thinks he died because of witchcraft.
5. One of the teachers at my school has been transferred (which is Malawian for "fired") but he refuses to leave, so he just keeps showing up to class. Nobody has the guts to just tell him off, and anyway, it's not like we have a replacement. Malawi to the max.
6. Day before yesterday watched a little boy with a sack of beans tied on his back like a baby walking around. He was talking to the beans, cooing, singing, skipping around -- adorable. It made me even more excited to see baby Hal when I get home.
7. A student brought me two pieces of paper for me to correct in English. One was a letter, and one was a set of lyrics. First he handed me the letter. My heart broke as I read it, because he was writing his brother, whom he hasn't seen for eleven years and who now lives in Zimbabwe. His parents sent him to work at a factory there and he never came back. Now my student is hoping to find him again and writing the same letter to all of his last known addresses. I could tell, too, that my student wanted me to help him with his English so that his brother, this Zimbabwean stranger, would be impressed with his little brother's education. I might have started to cry except he handed me the other paper, the lyrics, and asked, "What is this word: paparazzi?"
Lady Gaga has infiltrated even Malawi.
Looking forward to some fun events coming up soon: my birthday, Thanksgiving, the mudslide that is the beginning of rainy season.... Wish me luck at school, and keep me posted!