0 Safari at Liwonde National Park

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Internet is too slow to put them all up - but this is a start!

The Shire River, on which Mvuu Camp was located (Mvuu means "hippo" in Chichewa)

And here they are!

Me and Lisa's cottage, and a new friend

Will have to do these in stages. You can see a couple more on my Picasa Web Album.

It's hard to believe that my time here is winding down. I just have about two weeks of teaching left. This weekend I'm going to the lake for the last time, to a place I haven't been yet, called Kande Beach. It's supposed to be beautiful and I plan on splurging a little bit to go horseback riding on the beach. A few of the Peace Corps volunteers who had birthdays close together in April organized this trip so a ton of people I know will be there. I'm driving down on Friday with Sophie, Bex and Will in Bex and Will's new car - yay for no more minibus!

I feel very torn about leaving - both excited to be home and sad to leave the kids when I know there's so much work that can still be done. Anyway, just trying to enjoy this time as best I can and try not to think too much about how much I'll miss it!

0 Visitor Pictures

Monday, April 19, 2010

Here are a few more photos from the visitors' week in Mzuzu.

Class picture, courtesy of Lisa

We visited a government school, where around 75 students pack into one classroom

"It's a mess," Millie said about the government school conditions. "And the only way to fix it is if Anna runs for President of Malawi." Agreed!

One of my boys wrote this...maybe the sweetest thing I've ever read.

Gina and Meredith before dinner with the Board of Directors

Me, Gina and Lisa at dinner

Meredith and Harrison, Chairman of the Board

Mzuzu Academy Board of Directors - and staff!

Gina and Anna

The safari was incredible and I have a ton of pictures that I'm currently sorting through (235, to be exact). We saw hippos, elephants, monkeys, impala, warthogs, mongoose, and lots more animals. Game aside, the sunsets and stars were so gorgeous that they could have warranted their own trip.

1 Celebrations and visitors

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The rain has been incessant the past few days, but it didn’t stop me from having a solid weekend. On Friday night, Sophie hosted dinner at her house, and our Peace Corps friend, Greg, cooked an awesome jambalaya. On Sophie’s porch, we danced in a circle, surrounding her iPod and its speakers. Then we headed to the Zoo, of course, just a stone’s throw away from her place.

Peace Corps friends: Dawn, Terence, Greg and Andy

Soph and Me

Saturday it rained all morning but cleared up miraculously, as it often does in Mzuzu, for the Mzuzu Academy braii. A braii is basically an African barbeque – smoked meats on an open fire, drinks, drumming, dancing. We also provided a tour of the school. My pride and joy was this bulletin board, for which a handful of my students decorated their best compositions.

Jill giving a talk to prospective parents and students

About one hundred people turned up, and it was a super fun event (maybe aside from the woman who asked if I was pregnant....! Apparently I was wearing the chitenje too high on my waist, where pregnant women wear them so they can protect the baby, but until I learned this my ego was more than slightly bruised!). A lot of my friends showed up, which was awesome, and they were all really impressed by the Academy. The kids and women from Kwithu danced a few times, and they were amazing! I have a few videos but I'm afraid they would take one thousand years to upload on this internet, so maybe those will have to be postponed until I get home.

Vitu, bartender extraordinaire

The girls practicing

Joe and Me

Isaac, drummer friend, Beckham and Walani

Emma, Charity, Vickness, Staphellow and some of the other Kwithu girls before performing

The internet is excruciatingly slow...I have more pictures but it might take me the rest of the day to post them.

This week we have visitors from the U.S. Meredith Brokaw, a friend of Anna's and a great supporter of Maloto, is the team leader. At our fundraiser this past fall, three women bid on the opportunity to visit Malawi with her: Gina, the program director of Maloto, Phlyp, an artist from Australia, and Millie, who works for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. In addition, Lisa is a photographer from my hometown who came to take tons of awesome pictures to be used for the Maloto website and other publicity means (brochures, fundraisers, etc.). Not to mention, John and Marta McGuinness (our headmaster and his wife, who will also be a teacher at the Academy) are back for good now.

They've had a whirlwind tour of Mzuzu, visiting the Academy, Kwithu, and a number of local government (public) schools. We've also had lots of fun dinners together and even went to the Zoo for a drink. Tomorrow we are leaving for the Mvuu Camp at Liwonde National Park, which is south of Lilongwe. My first safari! I'm so excited.

Having all these visitors here has spurred so much discussion about the future of Maloto, Kwithu, and Mzuzu Academy. While everyone has so many amazing ideas, we can only do so much with the limited funds we have. The construction of the school won't be completed until we have more money for cement, and we are also trying to raise more funds to provide scholarships for the children from Kwithu. As of now, we can only afford to send one or two of them to the school. It's heartbreaking to teach these kids day after day, to see how hard they work, and to know how badly they want to go to Mzuzu Academy but how few of them will actually be able to. I will shamelessly ask again - if you have even 5 dollars to give, we are appreciative. You can make donations right on our website. Thanks again, as always, for reading.

0 Easter Trek: Part 2

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The next morning we woke up with the sun, went swimming, and had breakfast.

A fisherman offering his catch to Will (he also told Will that Ruarwe was 2000 kilometers away)

Our humble abodes (Sophie and I stayed in the green tent, and I was hilariously hopeless in helping her put it up and take it down)

We left our little beach around 7:30 and began walking, figuring we'd arrive in Ruarwe around lunch time.

We had to cross lots of rickety bridges that were about twenty feet above the water

Beach and "lunch" break (or finishing the only food we had left - bread and butter)

Some time around mid-afternoon, it began to get really hilly and extremely hot

Thanks for the hat, Mom!

Oink oink

Around 3:30, after about six hours of walking, and an hour with no water and no sign of civilization, morale was extremely low. Every person we passed earlier seemed to think we were a wildly different distance to Ruarwe from the person before - some said 15 kilometers, or 6 hours, or 3 hours, or 95 kilometers, or 12 hours. Basically, we had no idea where we were with no food or water. I suggested asking the next person we saw if they had a boat but the others doubted we would be so lucky.

Finally, at 4 or so, we saw a tiny village just uphill from the walking path. Will took our empty, 2-liter water bottle and ran up the hill. Five minutes later, he came down the hill with the bottle still empty, but with a group of young men walking behind him. "We don't have water," one of the men said, "but we have Fanta and Coke!" We all cheered like little kids and the man led us to a wooden structure further down the hill with a roof but no walls. He told us he was planning to open a lodge there - the bar was already built. We realized then we were not the first mzungus to beg for food and shelter in this little hillside village. The men offered for us to stay there for the night, and said they would cook us rice and chicken for dinner. We drank two sodas each and devoured packets of biscuits and started discussing our options. Sophie wanted to stay and start walking again the next morning, but Will and I were keen on looking into the boat option. Since this was a fishing village, of course there were canoes, and Will asked if one or two of the men would be willing to row us to Ruarwe.

"Yes," the leader said, his eyes wide open with the opportunity for a profit, "but we would ask for something in exchange."

When we asked how much, two of the men stepped aside and whispered to each other for a few minutes. They came back to us announced a price at 2,500 kwacha - twenty dollars between the four of us for a three-hour canoe ride. Of course we agreed, and they practically shouted with joy. Everyone was happy.

Bex and Will

We got into two dug-out canoes - skinny wooden boats used for fishing. Our strapping young fishermen rowed us for about twenty minutes to a village further along the shore. We then moved into a bigger boat that held the four of us, our cruise directors, and all of our bags.

A tight squeeze

The ride was less than comfortable. Within minutes we were sopping wet from the water splashing into the boat. We were sitting in six inches of water, as were our bags, with all our clothes and electronics in them. (Luckily, I was holding my camera, which was in its case.) Our butts fell asleep and when the sun went down we were freezing cold. We did not believe the men when they said it would take two and a half hours to row to Ruarwe, but in fact it took three. As we kept rowing past the lake shore on what seemed to be an endless boat trip, we realized just how far we still would have had to walk. (Later we looked on a map - we had walked 15 kilometers, exactly halfway.) All I could think of was that at that very moment, my family was around the dinner table at my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Fran's house, drinking wine and eating Easter Ham.

When we saw the lights of the lodge, I swear I've never seen a group of people so happy. Unfortunately, all of our clothes were soaking wet when we got there (except Sophie, who had put her clothes in a dry bag...smart girl). My pajamas were on top of my bag and were only slightly damp compared to everything else, so I wore those to dinner. We went to bed extremely early, woke up on the cheerful side of the bed, and spent the day sunning, swimming, and reading. It was well-deserved and much-needed.

Sophie after jumping twenty feet

Everything we brought, drying (my phone was destroyed, but luckily I can buy a new one for about ten dollars)

The Zulunkhuni River Lodge (formerly and aptly named "Wherearewe")

Scrabble at happy hour

The next morning we headed home on the Ilala, a ferry that runs from the top to the bottom of Lake Malawi.

Bye bye, Wherearewe. You were better to us than you'll ever know.

The Ilala

Alive and well, somehow

Thanks for reading! As always, you can see the rest of my pictures here.

0 Easter weekend trek

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hello hello all. I'm home in Mzuzu and somehow alive and well from my trek this weekend. Those of you who know me might not think I'm the "trekking type"... I scoffed at anyone who doubted my abilities and embarked on a four-day hike with Becks, Will and Sophie along the northern shore of Lake Malawi.

We met at the bus depot at 7:30 am, but we didn't leave Mzuzu until nine, since the minibuses won't depart until they are filled to the absolute brim with passengers.

Me and Sophie

We were then stopped at the checkpoint leaving Mzuzu for forty-five minutes because our parking light was broken. (Considering how generally terrible the condition of these minibuses are, it's pretty ridiculous that something as minor as a broken parking light got us pulled over.) The driver had to pay off the officers, as is customary here, and we didn't leave until close to ten. Luckily the drive up to Chiweta was shorter than we thought it would be and we arrived there at noon.

We then had to take a matola (taxi) to Mwale, where the trail starts. Our "taxi" was actually a pick-up truck packed with 22 passengers, three chickens, and a baby. Also, it had to be bump-started every time the truck stopped and started.


Me and Sophie

The beginning of the hike was just lovely. Once we got to Mwale, we walked for a few hours along the trail, which was a mostly flat path along the lake. There were gorgeous views at every turn.

Will at a "tea room"

This trail is not often hiked by mzungus - it's more used as a pathway for locals walking between villages. So, we attracted even more attention than usual at every village we passed. The others take Chitimbuka lessons, luckily for me, so they were able to communicate with the villagers and I was able to pick up some new words and greetings. The kids were always keen on having their pictures taken.

The kids in Malawi always pose for pictures in these Kung Fu positions. We don't really know why.

We walked for about four hours on the first day and called it quits when we found an ideal little beach to camp on.

We had a few visitors who stood and watched while we swam, ate, and pitch our tents. It was funny...we sort of felt like the entertainment for the night even though we weren't doing anything all that interesting (to us).

Will built an excellent fire

We bought cassava (yuca root) and onions from our new friends, though over the ashy fire they were a little less than tasty.

That's all for now! Check back soon for part two of my exciting Easter Trek!