Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Finally, an Update

I've neglected my blog for quite a while now, so I'll attempt to give a brief overview of what's been going on in our lives for the past 5 months.

Just after Shane left, while still in Lilongwe, our camera was stolen. This was bad partly because it was the most valuable possession we have here, but on top of that it had pictures from Shane's trip. Fortunately I had posted some of them already, and also shane had a lot of pics on his camera, but is still sucks. It also explains the lack of recent pics.
Then we went back to Kacheche to resume teaching. As expected, the school calendar change caused students and teachers to miss school as they were planting corn and other crops.
We had a nice Christmas at home with lots of guests (other PC volunteers) stopping by as they traveled by our village. We had a fantastic Christmas dinner with an actual ham, fresh off the pig, and green bean casserole. I even bought food coloring with the intention of making and decorating actual Christmas cookies. However, after two attempt of making cookies and having them disappear before I could make the icing, I gave up.

January was busy, starting with our mid-service training, which we were able to bring a Malawian counterpart teacher to. It was helpful, but it was also a week of staying in a room with electricity and hot showers, and with meals (every one including meat!) prepared for us, which was welcomed.
We left training full of ideas and motivation. I finally started working with Girl Guides (which is the international branch of Girl scouts) which has been lots of fun. We also did a mud stove building demonstration at the primary school, which was well received. Mud stoves save a whole lot of firewood when cooking over fires, so the stoves save money for Malawians and trees for Malawi.

This was also busy with teaching. With the new school calendar each term has been shortened by 3-4 weeks. On top of that we missed school for training, planting in December, and we planned a trip to America which would cause us to miss another 3 weeks of school. So Jan and Feb were spent doing alot of teaching extra classes.
We also put a lot of work into drafting building plans and a grant proposal for a science lab at the school.

March was a crazy month. We wrapped up the term at school. I went down to Nkata Bay (on the lake) to celebrate Margaret's birthday. Then we went down to Lilongwe to get some office work done. And then we went to America for a little vacation!
In America, we first went to Florida to see my grandparents, which was really nice. And it turned out that my good friend RaeAnn was also on vacation in Tampa the same week, so we got to hang out on the beach together.
Then we headed up to Michigan. On the trip north we were assaulted by all of the choices of things to eat at each road stop we made. In Michigan we got to see some family. It worked out perfectly that Ashley (Zeb's sister) was home on spring break and Abby (also Zeb's sister) flew in from Honduras, so we got to all be together.
We also ate some good food, drank real wine (instead of homemade mango wine) and got some school supplies to take back. We also broke down and bought one of those fancy new netbooks, so we can do work and watch movies in the village.

After 3 weeks in the US we headed back. We had a small bit of adventure here. On the trip back our flight out of Washington DC was delayed for fog, causing us to miss our connecting flight from Ethiopia to Malawi. Unfortunately there wasn't another flight scheduled for that day. Ethiopian airlines was really helpful and put us up in a decent hotel with free meals, and we got to see a little bit of Addis Ababa. The next day we boarded our flight, and as the plane is taxiing away and preparing for takeoff, they announce, "welcome to flight 843, with service to Harare, Zimbabwe via Lusaka, Zambia." Of course, we want to go to Lilongwe, Malawi, not either of those places. We frantically wave down a flight attendant and ask if this flight also goes to Lilongwe, and she gets a worried look on her face and asks to see our ticket stubs. Our tickets do in fact say flight 843 to Lilongwe, but she tells us she is not aware of a stop there. She goes to talk to the pilots as they are getting into position on the runway. After a few minutes she returns, still looking a bit uncertain, and says that she thinks that a new flight crew will take over in Harare, and from there we will go on to Lilongwe. So we take off, stop in Lusaka, and still no mention of Lilongwe in the flight announcements. Finally, after the stop in Harare, they announce the flight as going to back to Addis Ababa via Lilongwe. Now we feel better. So we go on, we stop in Lilongwe, get off the plane. At the Lilongwe airport you have to take a bus from the plane to the airport building, so we wait for the bus and see our bags come off the plane (yay! they didn't get lost!). We wait for others to get off the plane, but nobody does. As we arrive at the building the plane begins to move back to the runway without picking anyone up either. We were the only ones to get on or off the plane in Lilongwe. So, it turned out that when we missed our flight, the next one to Lilongwe was several days later. Rather than paying to put us up for a few extra nights in Ethiopia, the airline simply swung by Lilongwe on the way back from Zimbabwe, just for us. We claim this as our ultimate hitchhiking experience.

We returned to a whole lot of drama in our village. I'll try to summarize it briefly. Zeb's blog will probably have a more detailed account.
So, basically, our inkhosana (who is the head chief in our area, over about 1000 people) is related to our head teacher, and does not like him because he is financially responsible and therefore has more money. He has been leading an attempt to get our head teacher fired for the last 6 months or more. We did not realize this until now. He made accusations of embezzlement of school funds, poor school management, and other things, which didn't hold up. Then while we were away, a cousin of the head teacher died and our headteacher was accused of murdering him through witchcraft. (the guy also had TB, but that didn't kill him, a curse did.) A witchdoctor was brought in and "proved" this true. After spending a few days in jail, he was transferred to another school and moved away. Fortunately, the education office recognized that he was doing a good job as headteacher and sent him to a nicer school, still as head teacher.

Now we're trying to put things back together with a new head teacher. Its hard not to have bad feelings toward the people who were leading the witch hunt, but most of them were just following their chief (because you don't question authority here). Also, we are realizing that you can't change deep rooted beliefs like witchcraft in a few months or even years, and its not really our job to do that anyway. So we're trying to move on and still be productive. We've been putting a lot of time into teaching once again, but that's also been difficult because school pretty much came to a stop during the witchcraft fiasco.
But things are still ok. One of our former students has started teaching at a new nursery school in the area, so we might start helping with that. (By the way, if anyone wants to send stuff to us, we could use toys for young children, ie blocks, shapes that you put in the right hole, childrens books, etc.) I'm also working with Allyssa and Margaret on a camp for girls, which I'm super excited about. Zeb has been working on plans to help out with training of the new education group.

So all in all, things have been busy, interesting, frustrating, disappointing, good, exciting, and many other things. Hopefully all of you are doing well and have had a good 5 months also.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

One more quick update

Camp Sky
Two weeks ago we started Camp Sky, a sort of summer school/camp here in Lilongwe. Each Peace Corps education volunteer sent one or two deserving students to get an experience a little different than what they get in the villages. Although it was riddled with hitches and potential disasters, it turned out to be a big success. It was originally supposed to be two weeks, then with the school calender change it was shortened to one week. Then the Minister of Education told us that students are too busy over their shortened break so we were not permitted to run the camp. After some negotiations he comprimised that it must be cut back to 5 days. So 2 weeks before the camp started we were still scrambling to fit two weeks of fun and learning into 5 days. But in the end the kids had a blast and we did too. For most it was the first time in the capital city (or in any city or large town) so just being there was exciting. There were also toilets and showers, which many kids were using for the first time. In the mornings we had academic classes, and in the afternoons there were fun classes, like tae kwan do, salsa dancing, astronomy, and goat dissections. Zeb played the MC at meals and assembly, and played lots of silly games and repeat after me songs which the kids absolutly loved. It was a long, stressful, sleep deprived week, but it was awesome.
Shane's visit
Immediately after camp sky, my brother Shane flew into Lilongwe for a visit. We were a bit worried because Malawi is having a fuel sshortage right now, and we hired a car to get us around fort he week. Sometimes there is a 8 hour wait just to get diesel or petrol, but we were very fortunate and hit the filling stations at all the right times and never got held up by it. We took off from the airport strait to our site, and the next day went on to Nyika National Park. The park is ont he Nyika plateau, which is only about 60 km north of our house, but since the road there is so out of the way and bumpy, it was a 4-5 hour trip. Nyika was absolutly amazing. I think it now ties the Grand Canyon for my favorite place in the world. After a year in Malawi, I was amazed by the landscape and atmosphere there so different from anywhere else in country. It has cool temps, uninhabited rolling green hills for as far as you can see, and herds of grazing animals on most hillsides. We saw zebra, bushbucks, reedbucks, roan antelopes, and elands. We also saw a few warthogs, almost saw a leopard (our guide pointed it out just as it went over a hilltop), and I saw a hyena. We also saw a massive herd of buffalo that almost charged our car. Unfortunately, the elephants were dispersed to other water sources since the rains have started, so we didn't see them.
An interesting experience that we had while here stems from the fact that we stay at the edge of the Great Rift Valley. In the last year, Zeb and I have felt 3 very small earthquakes (more like slight tremors) at Kacheche. But last week there was an earthquake (I heard 5.9, but haven't comfirmed it) centered in Karonga, which is at the north end of the country. We were eating dinner with our guide at Nyika when it began, and he got a slightly worried look on his face, then ran out the door. The three of us quickly followed, after which I turned to Shane and told him, "oh yeah, we have earthquakes here." It wasn't enough to do any damage around where we were (although in Karonga was a different story. I haven't heard details of the damage yet, but at least one death and several buildings down. Non-reinforced, mud mortared brick houses and earthquakes don't do well together.) but it was a significant rumble still. Throughout the next two days there were about 12-15 more smaller aftershocks.
After Nyika we went back to site. We had a ceremony with village headman and cheifs, teachers, students, and other community members. Shane was given a chicken (which I may or may not butcher and cook myself when we get back) and everyone gave speaches and drank soda.
Then it was onto the beach, where we swam and ate for two days. Shane and Zeb learned a valuable lesson only too late, that a t-shirt does not block the uv rays of the intense Malawian summer sun. Then it was back to Lilongwe and back to Michigan for Shane. It was a great time, and it was great to get to hang out with my brother after more than a year.
And now Zeb and I are headed back to our house, ready to buckle down for another school term. After all the travelling we've done this last term, I'm looking forward to seeing our students again, settling back into a routine, and getting our garden planted.
Merry Christmas to everyone, and be sure to check out more pics at:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One Year In

Well, we are now more that halfway through our Peace Corps service. We have completed one year of teaching, and in a few weeks the new trainees will swear in, officially making us "second year volunteers."
We've had a crazy last term, staying very busy. In August Zeb's parents came to visit over our term break. That was adventurous but still overall fun. To summerize, we had a car accident in Mzuzu (north end of the country) on the day we were supposed to be heading down to Lilongwe (central Malawi) and on to the beach at Cape MacClear and Liwonde Nat.Park (southern Malawi). It was a crazy, stressful, horrible day. But somehow we found someone to fix the car that day (thanks mostly to Alfred, who works as the grounds manager of the PC transit house in Mzuzu and is AWESOME), and by 3AM we left Mzuzu, and by 10AM we'd gotten a different car in Lilongwe and were on our way to the beach. 30 hours after the accident we were sitting on a gorgeous, quiet island beach at the other end of the country. From there everything went smoothly. We went to Liwonde National park and saw elephants, hippos, elands, roan antelope, bushbuck, warthogs, baboons, and other fun animals. (Zeb has pic on his picassa site, find the link at
It was sad to see them go but the week before they came, Shane (my brother) bought his ticket to come in December. So since then we've had his visit to look forward to.

After John and MArie went home we went back home and back to classes again. The weather throughout the "winter" months had been pretty chilly. Lows around 50, highs in 70s. But just after school started up again in September we abruptly moved from cold season onto hot, dry season, and the temperature has been rising ever since. Just before coming to Lilongwe this week our thermometer topped out at something over 130F. (Granted, that is with the thermometer sitting in the sun, but I'm also sitting in the sun washing dishes or doing laundry or walking to a grocery.) We moved our dinner table (which is a desk from school) outside because its cooler than outside, and several of our candles that we eat by have melted inthe sun. Every afternoon we typically nap for a couple hours because thats about all you can do. We've been moving our mattress and mosquito net outside every night and sleeping on our porch under the stars, which has been pretty nice actually.
Then, last weekend, we got up on saturday, dreading doing chores in the heat. By 9 AM the thermometer was over 120. But then, some glorious big dark clouds showed up, moving our direction. (keep in mind that we have only seen rain twice since April, and then only sprinkles. I'd been dreaming of this first rain for months!) By 9:30, the temperature had dropped to 70 and a few minutes later it was pouring. It was fabulous! I stood shivering in the rain until I couldn't take it anymore, then we started a fire and made hot soup for lunch! Since then we have had rain showers almost daily, here in Lilongwe too. So now we are officially in hot, rainy season.

In late September, the new Peace Corps education trainees arrived in Malawi. We greeted them at the airport, and then Zeb spent a couple weeks in Dedza helping with training. A couple weeks after he got back to site, I went down to Dedza for a week to help out as well. The new trainees are a great bunch, and it was fun and a little strange to work with them, when it seems like only a short time ago we were there as trainees. Now we are in Lilongwe on our way down to Dedza again, this time together.
Aside from our trips to Dedza, we've been continuing to teach at site. The form 2's and 4's (sophomores and seniors) took their national exams during the beginning-middle of the term. That was somewhat nice for us but also problematic. When the national exams are given, each school sends two teachers to envigilate (supervise) the exams at another school. Also, several of our teachers were retaking their exams, our headmaster was taking exams for a correspondance diploma, and another teacher was helping to mark the exams. So during test time, we were generally very short on teachers. There were days where there was only Zeb and I runnnig the school, or us and one other teacher. But once the form 4's finished their exams, I was done with half of my classload, since I'm only teaching forms 3 and 4. And add into that the fact that is the equivilant to May of the American school year, so the form 1 and 3's were ready to be done (as were we).
We've also been continuing to look options of building a laboratory at our school. We were asked to help to try and find funding for a laboratory last spring. For the national exams, the biology and physical science tests have two parts-- a theory and a lab test. but without lab equipment, its hard to prepare students for the lab tests ( or even give the lab tests for that matter). And, without a lab building with proper security and storage space, its difficult to buy lab supplies. There are other villages around ours where there have formerly been PC volunteer teachers. A couple got grants to have buildings built, such as libraries or laboratories. I thing that this kind of set up the expectation that when a community gets a PCV, they get something cool and expensive built. Well, as we've been researching grants and building plans and material quotes, we have realized that most of the other PC building projects have been done 5-10 years ago. In that time, the amount of money available from most grants has stayed the same, while the cost of building materials here in Malawi has tripled or even quadrupled. So we've been trynig to determine a feasable way to build some sort of structure that will function as a laboratory. Teh long term plan is, if we can get it built and stocked, for me to work on compiling some sort of general laboratory manual. We are lucky to have a really good Malawian science teacher at our school, so we would then try to organise a lab training workshop for other science teachers in the area, as most have never even used basic lab equipment or chemicals. The idea is that then after we leave, and even if our other science teacher gets transfered to anotherschool (which happens very often here in Malawi, at the whim of the ministry of education), we can keep a pool of trained science teachers in the area, who could hopefully continue the anual trainings. We would also share resources with other schools who don't have labs. But first, we have to build the lab. I'll keep y'all updated as the issue either progresses or utterly fails.
And finally we've been working on preparing for Camp SKY. (okay, I haven't been doing much other than looking forward to it. other wonderful PCVs have been doing the work.) As I think I've mentioned before, it is a summer camp that our training group is putting on, and each volunteer brings his best students for a couple weeks of classes, field trips, and lots of fun stuff. We have also been planning for Shanes visit in December.

We've also had some shake ups in the last few months. In late August we were informed that the Peace Corps transit houses would be closing due to budget issues. So the place where we once could go and bake in a real oven and use flush toilets and take showers and watch DVDs was to be no more. the house in Mzuzu (closest to us) closed in September, and the house in Lilongwe willclose in January. We'll still have access to computers/inernet at the PC office in Lilongwe, but we'll just have to find our own lodging. It is a big adjustment, and a little sad to lose the houses, but overall I think its for the best. I didn't expect to have that luxury when I came here, so we'll do fine without it. I also think it was too easy to spend a little too much time there instead of at site, so Ithink this will help people to better integrate into their villages.
The second big news we recieved only a few weeks ago, when the ministry announced that they are shifting the school year from starting in January to starting in September (lke the US schools). To achieve this, they declared that the new school year this year would start on December 7th, just two weeks after the current term ends. All term breaks have been shortened from three weeks to one, and next "summer vacation" will also likely be only two weeks, so that the following year can start in Sept. So basically the students (and teachers) will have three years without a summer break, or any break of more than 2 weeks at a time. Crazy!
This of course has many frustrating implications. Firstly, camp Sky. We've had to shorten it from two weeks to only one. And, we'll have to go directly from teaching at camp to starting the new termthe following monday. Lots of volunteers had travel plans for Christmas-- we have Shane comingto visit-- which means missing the first week of class. The bigger problem though is that December is planting season. So with most of our students coming from families of sustanance farmers, they'll all be in the fields and not in class anyway. We're still just thinking out all of the implications of this change, but we can't do much other that go with it and make the best of it.

Well, that sums up the last three months of our lives. I hope that everyone is doing well. Feel free to make a post or send an email and let us know what is new with all of you. We're always curious to hear news from our friends and family back home. I hope you all have a great thanksgiving! Eat some turkey and cranberry sauce for me!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

We are in Lilongwe for the 4th July. We'll be in town until the 5th. We are working this week on finding funding for the laboratory/clinic that our school is trying to build. We're also meeting with other volunteers to work on planning Camp Sky, a summer camp in November for exceptional kids from our schools. It will be really exciting because most of our students have never traveled more than a few km's from home and they'll get to go to Lilongwe for 2 weeks, go on field trips, and meet other students from aroud the country. And of course this week we'll also hang out and catch up with other volunteers that we havent seen in a while, and we'll go to the Ambassador's house on the 4th for a party wth other Americans-- ex-pats, missionaries, volunteers, etc. It should be fun. I've included below an entry that I typed up last week while staying in Mzuzu. Also, I'm updating photos, so check those out too.
23 June 2009

Well, we're almost through with our second term. School is going well. We're getting to know the students more and very much enjoying working with them. This term I dropped my form one (freshman) classes and picked up form 4 (senior) math and biology. I find myself having to brush up on a lot of old math topics that I've just about forgotten, but it is really rewarding. The form 4's are so motivated, they keep me on my toes. We usually meet a couple evenings a week and sometimes on Saturdays to cover all of the material.
We are now into cold season. When we first came here I thought that the "cold season" was just a myth-- some fictitious time to look ahead to during the long hot season. Well, it turns out there is a cold season. We have seen the temperature down in the low 50's on some early mornings, which feels very cold when you have to walk to the bathroom at night or bath outside in the morning. We're even considering buying a second blanket. However, just because it is cold season does not mean that it doesn't still get hot. There are still some days were the thermometer is well over 100 in the sun. We are definitely getting into dry season as well. It's been over a month since we've seen any rain and the landscape is turning from green to brown.
We've just started a dry season garden. It took a pick axe to dig up the soil, but then we mixed in a lot of compost and good moist soil, and also installed a drip irrigation system. We just planted last week, so we'll see in a few weeks how it works.
All in all, I feel like we're adjusting pretty well. In fact it almost feels like we are so adjusted that it is hard to think of interesting thinks to talk about that would sound different to all of you back home. I realised this when I mentioned to my parents that a guy had come through the village selling pork. They asked what exactly that meant, so I said that a guy had apparently butchered a pig recently (probably that morning or the day before), and he was carrying parts of the carcass around in the basket on his bike, with a machete to hack off chunks to sell to people. That’s just how you buy meat in the village. Then I realised how crazy that is. So, over the last couple of months we've been compiling a list of "things we've adjusted to--" things that seem normal to us now that when we stop and think about it, aren't normal in America. So, here it is:
Things We've Adjusted To
1. Guys "coming by" selling pork
2. 70 degrees is cold (it was a month ago, but now 50 degrees is really cold)
3. Dirt doesn't mean dirty
4. Noisy dogs, chicken, and children all the time
5. Washing my hair and shaving my legs is a luxury that I occasionally indulge in
6. Children shouting and chanting, "Azungu! A-Zu-Ngu! A-Zu-Ngu!" (Azungu means stranger or white/rich person)
7. Bugs in food mean added protein and texture
8. I'm aware of the phases of the moon because it determines whether or not I need a light to walk to the bathroom at night.
9. "Night" begins at 6pm
10. Chewing with caution! Rocks and stones are common food additives
11. Full stops, oestrogen, foetus, colour, practise, diarrhea, zed, etc, (British English)
12. Zebu-- either refers to a common breed of cattle or my husband
13. The ground can double as counter space when cooking
14. Squatting to do everything
15. students squatting at your feet to show respect
16. Surrendering all control of indoor temperatures to nature
17. Chickens
17.5. Lizards
18. Not being embarrassed by pit stains
19. Trash cannot be magically thrown away. You have to put it somewhere
20. Showing skin on the hips or legs is scandalous, as is the silhouette of legs in pants or a very slightly see-through skirt. But breasts are a functional body part thus are not.
21. The various scents of the human body
22. Personal space is community property and can be invaded at any time
23. Spiders (yes, me, learning to live with spiders)
24. Preheating the "stovetop" takes at least 20 minutes
25. Candle-light dinners are more mundane than romantic

26. When crossing a busy street (in town of course), look right-left-right instead of left-right-left

Thursday, April 2, 2009

End of 1st Term

We have now been in Malawi for more than 6 months. Sometimes its hard to believe that its already been 6 months, and other times it seems like working in Adrian was so long ago. Either way, we are doing well and very pleased with how things are going at our site. We have just finished our first term of school (we have trimesters) and now are back in the city to get some errands run and then next week we return to Dedza college to do more training. So, let me tell you about our first term.
School was scheduled to start on Janurary 5th. However, at that time the ministry of Education had not yet released placements of form 1 and 3 students. (In the Malawian school system, you test after 8th and 10th grade. To continue on you must pass. The students are then placed into secondary schools based on their performances. The top students get placed in fully funded government schools, the lower end of the passing students go to community day secondary schools, which is what our school is.) So the students didn't know if and where they had been placed, so they didn't actually start school until a week later. However, once they did start we had pretty good turnout of students and even got 2 more teachers, pushing us up to 8.
So a week late we started teaching, and it was rough. The form 1 students didn't understand a thing we said and there are 60 of them crammed into a hot classroom, so form 1 physical science and biology were dreaded classes for me. The form 3 students understood a little more but were very shy and did not like participating. We were very frustrated. Then Thursday of the second week of classes was a holiday, so wednesday evening when I was talking about class for the next day I was told, "Oh, we forgot to mention, but there is no school tomorrow." So we decided thatwe would celebrate Martyrs Day by cooking a really nice meal and eating good food. We headed into Rumphi the next morning (our closest "town," a little over an hour bikeride away) to buy groceries, and of course the only grocery store was closed for inventory. So we went to the market to see what creative meal we could come up with from there. We went with potatoes and eggs and headed home. We cooked up what might have been the best fried eggs and hashbrowns I've ever had. And for dessert, we had some freezedried blueberries and cranberries that my parents had sent for Thangsgiving, so we made ourselves a blueberry/cranberry pie. It was amazing, really. Check out the pictures and see for yourself. It tasted even beetter than it looked.
It turns out good food can really lift your spirit. We went back to school feeling a little better, determined to keep plugging away trying to make a smidget of progress. From then on, each week got a little better. The form 1's made (very) slow improvement in their comprehension, and the for 3's started to open up a bit. Zeb dropped math since new teachers had come in and picked up physical education (which I occasionally would assist with). He taught the students kickball, ultimate frisbee, and crab soccer, and attemped capture the flag (that one needs some work). We learned that playing with the kids is an amazing way to get to know (and like) students despite the language barrier. The students that are so frustrating in a classroom turnout to be fun, cooperative (well, not all, but many), willing to learn, and many of the upper classmen turn out to be great leaders. We've even taught the other teachers to through a frisbee, which helped to bond wtih them too.
We also started working with the form 4 students after school several evenings a week. They have better English skills and are just a fun, outgoing group, so that has turned out to be a lot of fun. We took them on a "nature hike" on a nearby mountain, which ended up as them guiding us in hunting mushrooms.
So by the end of the term, things had improved greatly. However, our garden has been quite the opposite. Just 4 weeks after planting we were picking radishes. After 5 weeks we had summer squash and zucchini, and 6-7 weeks green beans, romaine lettuce, acorn squash, cucumbers. For a good month we were eating fresh veggies every night and handding out surplus to our neighbors, who were quite impressed with the summer and acorn squash especially. Then the zucchini started to die off, then the green beans. Within the last couple weeks everything else has followed suit. We've asked around our neighbors and other volunteers but still don't know if its a disease or other pest or the heat or what. We had tomatoes and peppers planted later in a different spot that were just starting to produce when we left but seemed to be doing well, so we may try to replant when we return. So, for a while our garden was quite a success, unfortunately it didn't last. But overall I'm still happy with how it turned out. It was still worth the effort for sure.
Between the pie and the garden, we were culinarily (is that a word?) inspired and since have eaten pretty well. We've had some pretty good stir fries and salads. We've made lots of pickles and it turn that Tastefully Simple dip mixes made awesome pickling spices as well (thank you Aunt Linda!) And we even rigged up a nifty little oven. We've got a big pot wtih a metal lid and a smaller pot that fits inside. we set a few rocks int he big pot, put the small pot in, and put fire on top and bottom. It actually works quite well. We even baked bread that turned out as good as from a bread machine. We have also become soup connosoirs. Whenever we have leftovers, we can't exactly through them in th fridge for tomorrow, so we leave them out and the next evening add water and boil the heck out of it and have soup. It is also kind of interesting on how our perspective of food safety has changed. If something falls on the ground (and i mean ground, not floor), I think "well, its probably already been on the ground before I bought it," and pop it in my mouth. Everything has at least a little dirt mixed in it, and we've learned to chew carefully to find stones in the rice. A common exchange we have at home is
"Do you think this food is still good?"
"I don't know"
"Hm. I guess I'll find out in a few hours."
My favorite was a couple weeks ago I was eating a guava (they're in season now and they're everywhere). I took a big bite and then saw that there were worms in it. I thought, "hmm, there are probably worms in the bite thats in my mouth now, too," and then swallowed the bite. (I did throw the rest out though). Then that evening I told Zeb about it and he said "I did the same exact thing today." However, after the first week, we have super careful to NEVER drink water that isn't treated and filtered.
So anyway, we finished up the term in good spirits. Zeb is teaching some more english classes and lifeskills next term and is also going to try doing some teacher development work in our area because they just introduced literature into the english syllabus. I ended up shifting my classload around because nobody wanted to teach upper level math (including me! I can do math but I cannot teach it, so I'm one of those horrible teachers that just does the problems on the board and says just do it like this.) So I ended up conceding that I would take up form 4 math if I could lighten my load a biit, and now I'll be teaching biology and math for forms 3 and 4 (11th and 12th grade), as well as introducing a library period for each form. I'm looking forward to getting back and starting next term.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas Again!

If you haven't checked it out yet, we have pictures posted!! I've got an album at
and Zeb has some different pics at

I hope everyone has had a great Christmas. Ours didn't go quite as expected, but it was still pretty nice. We had planned to be back at our site for Christmas after our quick trip into the city. Zeb was having a rash checked out by the doctor that has been getting worse for the past month. But by Wednesday morning it had spread further, including to his face, which looked like he'd been punched in the eye. The Dr. said it was an allergic reaction, although we can't figure out what to, and put Zeb on "med hold" (meaning he has to stay in Lilongwe) until Monday, dec 29. The good thing about that is that because this is now a medical trip he'll get reimbursed for travel costs, and since it is Christmas they're going to cover mine too.
So, we spent our Christmas at the Peace Corps transit house in Lilongwe. At first we thought that we'd be the only ones there for Christmas, then two others from our training group, Erika and Meagan, showed up. However, they're reason for being stuck at the house was far more interesting than ours. They were at the beach and saw a cute little monkey sitting on a bench smelling a flower. Erika decided that it was too cute to pass up and took a picture. The monkey kindly stayed put until she got the perfect picture, and then proceded to drop the flower and jump onto her leg biting and scratching. Not such a cute monkey after all. Luckily the monkey was pretty small and only left a bruise and a few scratches, but since it drew blood she had to come in for rabies shots, and Meagan was a good friend and came with her.
So the four of us had a nice Christmas Eve dinner of steak kabobs on the grill with garlic mashed potatoes and homemade toffee for dessert. Then Christmas Morning we made french toast, zucchini bread, and christmas cookies. It was amazing. Aside from the food, it was still a nice, relaxing day. I even took a nice long bath. (Of course, I had to spend a good hour bleaching and scrubbing the bathtub first since this house is about as clean as a frat house, but it was worth it.) And then on Saturday I even went clothes shopping-- Malawian style. Here in LL there is a giant used clothes market, where there are probably hundreds of vendors with piles and piles of used clothing (most sent here from Britain or the States). If you dig hard and long enough you can find some sweet deals on some nice clothes. Its kinda like Goodwill on steroids. So even though our plans were completely turned around, it worked out alright. Christmas was still tough though, just because it would be so nice to be able to be with our families. This has probably been the most homesick since we've been in country, but it has been really nice to at least be in the city with email access so can have more communication than we'd have had at site.
So the plan for now is to finish up what we need to do here tomorrow morning and then head back to site, although it may not be until Tuesday that we actually make it there. The worst part about this whole week is that we are supposed to have a staff meeting at school Tuesday morning and turn in our Schemes and Records (rough weekly outline of lessons) for the first term of school then too. We left without bringing all of the books we need to finish them since we thought we'd be back Wed or Thurs, so now we don't know if we'll get them in on time (or at least have the time to a decent job) and we might not even get back in time for the meeting. I know there wasn't much we could do about it and our headmaster understands that, but I still feel bad about it. Plus, that's just that much less time to get things around before school starts next monday. It will be a busy week for us coming up anyway, and probably even busier the week after that. I am looking forward to starting classes, getting to know the students, starting up the library, and just finally settling into a routine. We've been moving around so much since we got in country that it will be a welcome (I think) change to be staying in the same place doing the same thing for a while.
Well, I will wrap up here. Thank you to everyone for your emails! It is so nice to hear from home. I expect that it will probably be April before I update again. We have a term break and have another week of training. But then, plans change often here so we will see. I hope everyone is doing well and having a great holiday, and I wish everyone a happy New Year!!