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Checking In

September 4, 2010

I realize that so far I’ve been writing mostly about what’s on my mind at the moment, or something I’ve found interesting that I wanted to share. But I know that there’s a number of people who are keeping up with me through the blog, and so now that I’ve been here for a while, it may be a good time to give a little update about what’s going on with me these days.

Mind – My brain is being filled to the brim, which is just the way I like it. My reading list is a mile long. Work is challenging. I’m trying to develop a work plan for myself at the District Water Development Office, and it’s not an easy task. Fitting yourself into a new culture also takes a surprising amount of thought and consideration. Relationships need managing, language needs learning, actions and tasks need remembering (like return the hot water pail to the kitchen for refilling after filling the bath!). There’s not much that’s natural to me at the moment. It all takes a fair amount of conscious programming. Most importantly, the continuous streaming of new things around you, takes a lot of mind power to comprehend and process. It’s definitely been my brain that gets tired out most nights before my body does.

Heart – There’s been a few ups and downs this week. It’s been a little all over the place. After my internet session on Tuesday, where I saw wedding pictures from Susan & Bernard, heard the news about baby Talbot (congrats Dana & Nick!), and sent birthday wishes to my dear old dad, I’d have to say my heart was firmly back in Canadian territory. Even my favourite internet café owner was able to notice my introspective demeanor as I was leaving. On the other hand I’ve started to carve out my place in the office, and at home and feel a bit more settled then I did in my first weeks here. I have moved in with an awesome housemate named Eunice and I’m starting to get to know some people around town (like Edith and Arthur at the internet café, and Flora at the chip restaurant where I often eat lunch), as well as my co-workers, who are a terrific group (I’m sure I’ll be writing more about them soon!). I also just got back from two days in the field, visiting rural communities and learning about their views on water and sanitation. Spending time in these communities, is in my opinion is the best possible way to warm anyone’s heart. I’ve really loved meeting people, and riding on the back of a motorbike through the scenery around here, can’t help but make you happy.

Body – I think I’m finally getting over a cold that’s been plaguing me since I arrived in Mzimba a week and half ago. The fresh air and 2 days in the sun have done me well. I haven’t really looked in a mirror in a week, so I’m not sure what I look like, but I’m feeling pretty good. I think I might even attempt going for a run tomorrow morning, which I’ve only done once since arriving in Malawi. My walk from home to office is short enough that it doesn’t provide for my exercise needs. Overall, I’ve been super healthy, no travel-related issues what so ever.

I’ll leave you with a few things I’ve learned/discovered since arriving in Mzimba:
– I’m a huge fan of the juice from the fruit on baobab trees, which taste surprisingly like rhubarb
– The chitumbuka words for all the main Malawian foods, and most of the greetings (although I can still get tied up if someone throws a curve ball at me and switches something up)
– How to cook nsima (the Malawian staple starch – maize flour cooked with water into a strange soft pasty dough like consistency)
– What’s involved in planning field work at a District water office (for future reference, an important lesson to learn before 5pm the night before you’re supposed to head out)
– I’m not immune to Malawian mosquitos the way I am to Canadian ones – my bites are itchier and last longer.
– There’s countless definitions as to what ‘capacity building’ actually means, and most don’t align with my own version.

I’m sure there’s plenty more, but I’ll leave some for later!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 12:00 am

    thanks for bringing us up to speed. i’m sure that, were you to find a mirror and do some reflecting, you’d see a happy and pretty lady 🙂

    i’m interested: how do folks get their caffeine where you are, or do they?


    • September 6, 2010 12:46 pm

      Most caffeine that I am exposed to comes through instant coffee, or tea (Malawi is well known for their teas). Brewed coffee from what I can tell is fairly rare, however, coffee is also grown in malawi and there is a fine coffee company out of Mzuzu (which is in the North part of my district) which is known for their brews.

      interesting tidbit for you – “robots” in malawi is another name for a stop light!

  2. susaloo permalink
    September 15, 2010 12:04 am

    hello hello!! 🙂 meet me in my email soon! ❤ ❤ ❤

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