Saturday, October 6, 2007

Living in Malawi
US$1 = Malawian Kwacha (MK) 140

1 banana: MK1-3
loaf of sliced bread: MK65
1 cup of "village rice" (with rocks!): MK20
1 muffin: MK25
1 tangerine: MK5
1 mango: MK5-10
minibus round trip, 80 km total, into capital city and back home: MK400
minibus round trip from lilongwe to kasungu: MK960
hitch hiking: FREE!!!!!!
bottle of coke/beer: MK65
1 egg: MK18
1 onion: MK3-7
1 tomato: MK3-7
pack of Dunhill cigarettes: MK225
pack of Safari cigarettes: MK50
pair of flip flops: MK100
2 cups small dried fish covered in flies that my dog loves: MK40
chicken sandwhich with a coke and fries (burger king style): MK820
a whole roasted chicken: MK400
1lb coffee: MK800
monthly salary of night watchman, Lilongwe district: MK2,000-2,500
maid/house worker per visit: MK250-400
monthly electric bill: MK1,000

My monthly stipend: almost MK29,000

Hope that gives some of you who have been asking an idea of how I'm living. I'm certainly not starving, as you can see. I hope this is helpful to anyone who is coming to Malawi and is needing information about the cost of living here. I know I wish I could have found something like this before I arrived!

I just got back from visiting a volunteer in Kasungu, north of Lilongwe. It was a beautiful drive up and back- especially back, as I was able to find a hitch in a pretty nice car and enjoy the scenery! Pretty soon we're all heading back to Dedza for our in-service training and after that, I'm hoping to go on vacation at the lakeshore. I hope all of you are doing well and I'm thinking of you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Its been a while since my last post- I've been quite busy. I come into Lilongwe about once a week to print documents and check or send emails for my organization. Its not so bad coming into town, but it is pricey! I've started using the ambulance at the hospital where I live as transport so I don't have to pay to take a minibus. I've not been having much luck with the minibuses of late anyway- the last three times I took one it overheated (hot season is here!) before I got back home and I had to find a hitch, which isn't really that big of a deal. Its always cool to meet new people. Here are some of the things that I've been working on at my organization this past month: We conducted a leadership and sexual reproductive health training for the leaders of all of our youth clubs; attended a signing ceremony for a grant from PEPFAR and began to implement that project (promoting voluntary HIV counseling and testing among the youths in our community); got the ball rolling on a garden income generating activity-IGA- with one of our women's groups (thank you everyone who sent me seeds- its because of you that we can help these women make a little money! Keep 'em commin'!); began digging up this dry, hard land to make a garden IGA for the organization to help pay the staff a little something; and I conducted private, conficdential interviews with all of the staff members to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the organization in order to come up with an action plan for the way forward and suss out some organizational weaknesses and management issues in particular. So as I said, I've been busy. Comming up at the begining of next month, I think I'm going to visit another volunteer who is working with the government at the district level so I can learn a little bit more about the connection between CBOs and the government here in Malawi. I need to figure out if it is better for us to be registered as a youth organization or a CBO, better in the sense of funding opportunities that is.
Aside from work, I've had the chance to see some pretty cool stuff. A few weeks ago I went to a chieftainship ceremony with traditional dancers called Gule Wamkulu (goo lay wahm koo loo). Their costumes were awesome: they dressed as different animals and gods! The dancers are actually a part of a traditional religion. It is said that spirits inhabit the bodies of the dancers, so I understand. Its pretty cool. Before the dancing I got to eat lunch with a bunch of chiefs from the area. I ate the rice they gave me but couldn't bring myself to eat the chicken entrails (yuck!). On a more somber note, recently a neighbor of mine who was HIV positive died. The funeral was truly moving- an event held for several days. All the women sit seperately from the men and wail and beat their chests in grief. Along the path near their house was the notice of the death: a string of grasses/branches accross the road. When walking by, if you don't stop you must atleast remove your hat, if you have one on. It was really something to see. So different from our culture...
I'm looking forward to traveling. I still haven't seen the lake yet. Its killing me! At the end of October I have my in-service training with all the rest of the volunteers from my group. We'll be back in Dedza for two weeks and then I'm going to take a little vacation to the lake. I can hardly wait!
As always, thank you everyone for sending letters and packages. Grandpa, I'm getting your letters and loving them. Sounds like its pretty hot over there. Its getting to be that way here too. The hot season is just begining and the well by my house is running low. Pretty soon I'm going to have a bit of a walk to get my water. Already we can only draw at night when the water has had a chance to rise. Its better to do that kind of thing at night anyway- its just too hot during the day. Its the worst between 11:30 and 3:00. I just stay at home and rest for those hours. But god I sound like such a baby; I guess the people living near the lake have it ten times as hot! I'm just a wuss with "yankee" blood I suppose.
Dad, I got the dvd player and it is heaven. I can't even describe how awesome it is to have that thing here. I thought coming to Africa with the Peace Corps was going to make me less materialistic and "grasping"- yeah, right. The exact opposite has happened. Its like how I thought that this expeirence would allow me to experience poverty first hand. Instead I've learned what its like to be the richest person in town. Well, you know what they say about assuming things...
So thats what's going on on this side of the ocean. I hope you all are doing well and know that I love you and miss you all and whenever I'm having a bad day, I re-read your letters and your words of encouragement brighten my mood. If one of you reading this could do me the favor of sending a printed copy to Mom so she can make photocopies to send to the family members who don't have access to the internet, that would be great. Thanks!!!! Peace!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Again, at The Pottery in Dedza.
Riding in the Peace Corps van during training.
This photo was taken right before we killed and plucked a chicken- but not before it escaped and we had to chase it through the hills first!
Ali and me hitching in the back of some guy's pick up truck in Dedza. Lovin it!
On our way to the swearing-in ceremony.
At the US Ambassador's house celebrating after swearing-in.

During the ceremony
In Dedza (near where I lived during homestay in the village) at The Pottery- great food and an excellent view.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

So I've now been in country for a little over two months. The time surely flies... I'm finally all moved in to my site and have setteled into my work routine. Here's a day in the life: 6:00 up to make breakfast on my hot plate and boil some water for my bucket bath (its pretty cold here in the mornings!); 8:00 walk five minutes to my CBO's offices by the hospital; 11:30 break for lunch and head back home to cook (ussually potatoes and tomatoes with soya pieces); 2:00 back in to work (often I go travel to neighboring villages in the afternoons to meet with our youth clubs there and do some sexual reproductive health education);4:00/ 4:30 end of the work day!; 6:00 dinner ; 9:00 bedtime! When I have down time I read quite a bit and I'm always listening to the BBC while cooking or cleaning. I love my little house and my new life here, but sometimes I truly miss home. Its the people I miss the most. I find myself missing my mother ALOT! I crave visitors and wait with impatiently for them. As of now, I'm not sure if anyone can come, but I have high hopes for my dad and Matt to come closer to next summer. Well, as always I don't have much time so I've got to keep this short. I finally will be able to get to the internet about once a week now (I think- unless I'm too poor to travel into town!) as I am in town often to mail out proposals and search for new funding sources online for my CBO. I'll try to keep this blog updated. By the way, I've been having trouble with accessing my email for some reason, so if I'm not responding to one you sent, that could be why. I hope to figure it out soon. Well, thats all for now...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

My first real post!

Wow, where do I even begin... I just finished homestay in the village and was incredibly ready and yet saddened to leave. During homestay, I lived in a small rural village in Dedza with a wonderful and loving family. The experience was amazing: living in a mud hut with a grass roof, bathing outside, and cooking over fire. The village is in the mountains and is absolutely beautiful. As much as I loved my time with my family, I am ready to move on to my site. Right now I'm in Lilongwe on my way to visit my site for one week just to check it out. For the next two years I will be staying in Mitundu. Mitundu is a boma (trading center) and my house is quite close to the market- in other words, it will be very diferent from homestay! I'll be working as an advisor for a community based organization (CBO) there. I'm replacing another volunteer and I'll be moving right into her old house. I got a chance to talk to her before she left and she did some great work with the CBO and it sounds like her house is awesome: I have electricity!! Also, being so close to Lilongwe (only 45 minutes away) keeps me close to USAID where I think I'll want to pick a program to evaluate for my field paper. So tomorrow I head off to Mitundu to check it all out- I can't wait. Although, today was pretty amazing; I ate pizza, that's right, pizza! I also took a real shower with hot water and will be sleeping in doors in a bed tonight, which is pretty sweet! All in all, I am truly having the best ime of my life here in Malawi! I love receiving your letters- keep 'em commin'! And if you have a chance, I'd REALLY love a package! Books are good, cheese is better, sausage- even better! I hope to be able to send out some emails soon to individuals but in the meantime, keep checking out this blog. Also, I have a cell phone and my number is on my facebook profile, only viewable by my "friends". I get phone calls and texts for free and there are some pretty great calling cards out there for Africa... Give us a ring! I love you all and I miss you!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I just made this blog!

So, this is my first taste of blog world. I was perusing PCVs from Malawi's blogs and decided to make a blog of my own. This will be the last entry for a long time, as I intend for this blog to be an account of my time in Malawi and I don't leave until May 28. But, now would be an appropriate time to solicite advice from anyone out there who is reading this and has been to Malawi in any capacity. So, anyone know anything I should know?? Thanks.