After one month and two weeks in Malawi, I’m finally getting to see where I’ll be living and working for the next two years. But let me take a few minutes to brief you all on what’s been going on for the last six weeks.
I’ve been living in a PRIMITIVE African village with a wonderful family who has taught me how to build fire, cook nsima (a thick corn porridge-Malawi’s staple food), draw water and carry it on my head, and basically just function day to day without electricity or running water. But more importantly they’ve taken me into their family without compensation and shown me more love and support than I could have Imagined. And we can barely even speak to each other!
I’ve also furiously been learning Chichewa, which is RIDICULOUS! But I’m making progress.
The highlight of PST (pre service training), however, has been the friendships I’ve forged with my fellow trainees. There are 37 of us (half health volunteers and half environment) from all over the U.S. with backgrounds in everything from nutrition to art to forestry, but we really have become a family. I’ve also gotten to meet a lot of current volunteers who are absolutely inspiring. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and an adventure already, but this week things are getting real!
I’ll be living in a village called Kasinje in the southern part of the Central region of Malawi. It’s a big village populated by a tribe that likes “beer, meat, and.women”. This means I can drink a beer and it won’t be assumed I’m a prostitute – score!!! I’ve spent the past 48 hours getting to know my neighbors, all employees at the health center here in the village. They’re all incredibly welcoming and excited to have me here.
The need in this area is great, and I certainly have my work cut out for me. A few weeks ago I was wondering what I could possibly do for the next two years, but now I’m wondering if two years will be enough!
Malaria is a HUGE problem; I’ve already seen an infant convulsing from malaria-related fever, and my neighbor tested positive while we were eating dinner last night. Maternal and child nutrition, family planning, natural medicine for people living with HIV/AIDS, hand hygiene, and youth friendly HIV prevention programs are all potential project areas. I am most excited about the possibilty of working diabetes education. I met a type 1 diabetic today who is relatively young but already facing an amputation secondary to uncontrolled blood sugars. As we talked, I learned that diabetic knowledge in this country is limited. No one ever taught this man about a diet for diabetes or how to monitor his blood sugar to properly dose his insulin. Well! What a coincidence! I used to do that in America. PROJECT! (And for those of you who don’t know, my older brother has type 1 diabetes, so it is very near and dear to my heart.)
On a lighter note, there is never a dull moment living in Africa. No matter what I do, whether it’s going for a run or just sitting down to eat an African doughnut, I’m stared at and potentially followed by a crowd of children and usually various livestock. The roaming animals are quite possibly the most amusing part of life here. Yesterday morning a goat walked into my house, and last night I had to fight with three young chickens who refused to leave my bafa (outdoor stall where I take my bucket baths).
Well I will write again soon with more, and hopefully pictures of my future home, but right now I’m typing on a phone and it’s getting old! I just wanted to give a quick update. Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a wonderful week!