Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Malawi Round 4: March 2012

I have been accused of not keeping this blog up to date, and it’s true. I’m not traveling any less; I just find that I have less to say these days, and even less to share. That this is a completely self-centered exercise is not lost on me. But my family keeps insisting and I’ve got some time on my hands, so here you go:

Here is what I want tell you about Malawi:

It’s rainy season. It was just getting started back in December, and I didn’t really face the full brunt of it. But now, oh now: it’s glorious. The world is green, the maize is high. Every day a beautiful cool, sunny morning dawns with large puffy clouds. By noon it is raining grey buckets, so loud against the tin roof of our office building that it is hard to hear so we fall silent, tapping away at our computers. It tapers, and in a few hours the skies clear again. By 5pm I am taking my evening stroll around the block, tracking red spots of clay onto my pant legs and toes. The evening is usually clear, cool. I sleep like child underneath a bright blue bed net, windows, open surrounded by the smell of freshly washed juniper bushes.

This time around I am staying in a two bedroom flat, not bigger than my own condo. It has a little yard with – I just noticed this – two clumps of lettuce and a small tomato plant growing in it. My first three days here I didn’t have electricity from 7-9pm and the TV only got four channels: TV guide, the All Koran-reading Channel, Closed Circuit Chinese Television and South African Mathematics. I also discovered that I mis-packed an important cord for the external CD drive to connect to my computer, so no movies, and the internet was only available by dongle, which my corporate computer wouldn’t let me download the software for. So, I read an entire book and went for two very long walks.

During the week, I get picked up at 8am by the Country Manager who is an ex Seattle-accountant turned Peace Corps volunteer. While I am here I am his front-woman from headquarters, answering questions he would normally put in emails to us, explaining esoteric policies that, while they have purpose, have no defendable logic behind them when dismantled by the agile mind of an adult male.

We work until the work is done, often until about 8pm. It’s nice to feel a sense of accomplishment, and I don’t mind working hard. It’s also nice to work with a Country Manager who enjoys their work so much and is straighforward in his requests and follow ups. I read through and organize the feedback from six people on a 114 page End of Program evaluation in just two days. I get to listen to a radio program (in Chichewa) reminding our farmers to provide clean water to their cows regularly. Plus, each day I get to interact with new and old staff who are such lovely people, working with them is a joy.

Over the course of the week, things started to look up. The electricity stays on from Wednesday onward. Our team goes for margaritas on Friday. I got my variable pay (bonus) notice from HQ. My internet connectivity issue improves. I get better television (I am embarrassed at how much these things mean to me), including TLC - which I don't even get a home! I learn how to “top up” my electric meter (it’s pre-paid!) so that I only have to worry about government blackouts, not self-made ones. I’ve discovered that the key is to stay calm, be patient and ask questions.

Malawi is starting to feel like home.

1 comment:

Rose Connors said...

I too have been gone from the blogosphere for many ages, and am catching up and saying "hello".