Sunday, December 25, 2005
It's hot, humid, and rainy so it must be the Christmas season. I guess it doesn't really seem like Christmas but it'll do. I was a sheperd for Chirstmas Eve mass which means I dressed up in ratty old clothes and did an African shuffle up the isle with a big stick along side a bunch of other sheperds and angels. It didn't take much to get in the group other than ask. They were pretty excited that I wanted to. I think they have an Azungu quota they need to meet since last year there was also one white guy. While other Christmas services are content you to use fake animals here in Balaka we use real goats. I hope everyone has a Happy Christmas season, cold weather, and lots of snow.
Monday, December 19, 2005
I believe that Girlie may have been sent to Malawi on a secret mission. I don't have any solid proof yet, but I think her objective is to use her cooking skills to fatten us up. I became suspicious when we were talking one day when she said, "Sr. Pat sent me here to fatten you up." She may have inadvertently revealed further details of her diabolical plot in that same conversation, however, I was eating a Malaysian desert that could only have been made using black magic or some other-worldly form of confectionery procurement so I distracted. I will continue to investigate after we finish our debate on which dictionary to use when playing scrabble: American-English or British-English.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Into the Village
Last weekend, I went into the village with Ewa to bring some food to a few homes of elderly or sick people without. Mr. Kulapa went with Gary and Ewa first to be show them where the houses were and to introduce them to the people that needed the most help. The type of village we were heading to is the type of place where electricity, indoor plumbing, and any hope that the people speak English ends. In order to get to this particular village we exited our gate on to the dirt road and instead of turning right which normally brings us to the parish, the town, or the market, we turned left.
The first house we stopped at was only about a 10 to 15 minute bike ride away. Some clarification is needed concerning the word "house" since my definition has changed slightly. Now when I refer to a house, it only means that there are walls, a roof, and some sort of hole or space as an entrance. This is all that can be assumed by the word "house". Anything less than this such as walls but no roof or an obvious space where there should be a wall doesn't quite qualify, and while it might soon be a house or is still being used as one, it is still at the very best, an incomplete house. Now if a house has glass windows, concrete floors, or a tin roof instead of grass then I would probably say it was a "nice house". Anything extra such as electricity, plumbing, or perimeter walls usually bumps it up to a "really nice house".
The house we came to first was just a "house". It had all of the necessary walls and a grass roof, but that's about it. I remember it as having concrete floors, but now that I think about it we were sitting on mats so that probably distracted me enough to not realize the floors were dirt. There were also a couple of windows, but they were lacking the common window characteristic of having some sort of barrier (glass, screens, bars, curtains, or chicken wire) that prevents just anything from entering through them. Not much distguished these windows with just holes in the wall other than there distinct rectangular shape. I suppose the mats could have been used to prevent rain from coming in, but as it was the greater portion of a row of bricks in the places that weren't holding up the roof were missing so the rain would probably have entered anyways. Despite some of its drawbacks, it was a house and the situation could have been worse so let's not start complaining about what we have.
The first woman we visited was named Maria. I have a difficult time judging ages, but I would say she was in her 40's or 50's. This judgment is also likely affected by the fact that this woman probably had AIDS. We went in and found her resting on a mat so we sat on the mat beside her. We were followed in by a group of children that were probably not hers, but they might have been relatives or neighbors curious about the visitors. We talked with her for awhile with the little Chichewa that we know, myself understanding the main point that she did not want us to forget about her. We then filled a basket with corn flour brought to us by a girl with a look that she took care of things and prayed the Our Father with them. We said goodbye shaking her hand and those of all the children that were not too shy or afraid to touch us and went to the next house.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
So we were looking at our community of three Americans and two girls from Polish all in our twenties and decided that we just weren't diverse enough. So we traded one American girl and one Polish girl for a Malaysian with an Indian background. And to deversify our age range a little bit, she is in her 40's. If only we could get 90 year old man from South America and a decent short stop, then we'd really have something. Anyways, the new volunteer is Girlie. Nope, not a description, that is her name. I think a more accurate description would be to say she is confidently feminine. She was a secretary starting at the age of 19 and then moved on to business administration for 9 years before coming here. Her parents, whom she was helping care for passed away last year, and she decided to do something for herself and quite her job. Ironically, this eventually led to her doing something for a lot of other people. She spent some time in the UK with her sister and began a search for a volunteer position bringing her to the Canossians and to us in Malawi. She is still waiting for her official assignment, even though nothing is ever really official here, but we anticiapate that she will be working in the secondary office, teaching English for Business Communications in the College, and possibly Bible Knowledge for the secondary. She is a master of the Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian culinary arts and is rumoured to be good at giving foot messages. We're pretty excited to have her here.
Friday, December 02, 2005
Return of Ngumbi
The first really big rain of the year means that the Ngumbi have returned. We were sitting in our living room at night and heard some strange sounds on the porch. We finally checked it out to find massive flying termites around the light and crawling on the screens. In the morning, it was cloudy and rainy and there were Ngumbi flying around everywhere. At one point there were so many in the air it looked like it was snowing. Granted, it was big brown snow that never really fell to the ground, but it still like snow. Everyone around is collecting the Ngumbi as they fly around the lights at night and sweeping them up from the rain gutters. The sisters collected about 10 full buckets and plan on frying them later today.
We've celebrated a few birthdays in the past few months. Mine was in October, Gary's was in November, and so was Ewa's. Thanks to an article in the paper placed by my mom, I was inundated with cards and letters which was really cool. One, because it was good to hear from so many people and two, because it made the other volunteers jealous. So thanks to everyone thinking of us here in Malawi. We celebrated the birthdays like most birthdays are celebrated, I think. We invited the priests teaching at the local seminary over to say mass in our living room and then they joined us for dinner followed by a rowdy game of Uno...that's normal, right? I think I am losing all concept of reality. Anyways, we managed to make cake and have a few drinks and it was a really good time.
Kateri and Gabi
Kateri and Gaby have left Balaka. Kateri departed a few days ago for her new job in Nsanama. She will be living with the sisters there working as a nutritionist and in the dispensory, whatever that means. She's not that far away so she plans on visiting every couple of weeks because she'll miss us of course and not just to check her email. It also means that I get her old room. HA HA! It really isn't much better than mine, but I welcome the change. Anything different is good. Gabi left for Rome yesterday. She will spend about a week there decompressing from two years in Africa and then she'll be on her way to Poland. We just found out last night that her flight to Nairobi was delayed and she had to catch a later flight to Rome so she spent the night in the Nairobi which could be very boring unless she paid the $50 visa fee to actually leave the airport.