Sunday, July 10, 2011

Goodbyes from my favorite boy

This is Watson! He is 12 years old and a student in 6th grade! He was hands down my favorite. He has a energy like you wouldn't believe. He always lead the group in song and dance. He has a certain twinkle in his eyes and is just a gift. I miss him already!

Notice my skirt-- its a chitenji! Our teacher gave Katlin and I them as a present! Aren't they beautiful?

Watson is wearing my "ugly" shoes as we used to call them in the States. Watson thinks they are "so cool." I gave it to him on the second to last day of school because it was his birthday! And because I was going to give them to him anyway! He came in the next day wearing them. It was such a joy to see him putting them to good use! :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Everything is going well in Malawi. We are finishing up our last week in Zomba. School is winding down and the kids are ready to be done. On Tuesday, July 5, 2011 we taught our kids how to write letters and their activity was to practice what they learned and write us one. This is a sample of what I received:

Thank you for teach us different things. I’m glad because of you. I will miss you but I will not forget you because love always brings happiness and I beg you don’t forget that. Love always, Edwin

Although the English is not perfect and it doesn’t make complete sense, it is sweet. I really believe we’ve brought these children happiness, even if it was brief. This experience has 110% solidified what I want to do every single day: dream with children.

Tomorrow we have an end of the year celebration with our teachers, so we are all looking forward to that.

On Sunday, we travel to Lake Malawi. There we will stay at a resort and enjoy our last two days before we travel home on Tuesday morning. The flight home is 4 hours longer and the total travel time is about 22 hours. So prayers needed, please! Can’t wait to see you all back in the States soon!

Lots and lots of love,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fast forward a bit... SAFARI!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We left at 8:30 this morning for Mvuu Camp. The drive wasn’t too bad until we turned left on a dirt road. We traveled through the bush for 45 minutes and we went right through villages. Children stormed the bus. They were screaming (I mean loudly) for money (they kept saying only $1), water bottles, etc. It was so disheartening and it went on for almost an hour. Some of the children even started getting very angry when we did not give anything. They even threw sticks at bus! It was almost uncomfortable. I wanted to help these children but this isn’t the way. It just shows how much Malawi is a country of beggars. They want a quick fix but with that, the cycle of poverty just continues. It’s really sad.

We arrived at the parking lot of the National Park and took small boats over to Mvuu camp across the Shire River (Grandpop, if you are reading—I seriously felt like I was in the movie “African Queen”—the boat structure and scenery was identical!). The camp was luxurious, at least for Africa. It is one of Malawi’s few tourist attractions and for good reason. We ate a delicious lunch upon our arrival and after our debriefing from our head tour guide George. We were then given the keys to our Chalets after that. Katlin and I roomed with Kelsey and Katie. The Chalets were really beautiful and quaint. They lined the camp and were waterfront on the Shire River.

3:00 Land Safari. This was awesome. We walked out and I saw an open jeep that seated 10 people. I don’t think a car has ever brought me that much excitement.  It was exactly what I had always imagined an Africa safari jeep to look like. The usual eight of us piled in (Kelsey, Katie, Bebe, Ashley, Alison, Lindsay, Katlin and myself) along with Dr. Kelly and Dr. Sharon (from A&T). Jimmy was our driver and Patrick was his wonderful assistant. Patrick did most of the “looking” on our behalf! They were the most wonderful tour guides. It was obvious they put forth their best effort to find us every animal possible. Their kindness and work ethic resembled the Malawians I thought I would meet more often. These men were genuine and really wanted to do their best for us. They earned what they received and loved doing it. I guess it’s hard to put into words. But these men I could have put in my back pocket and taken them home. They were the soft older men that could be your second dad/third grandpa. Make sense? On our amazing safari we saw warthogs, kubu, sabels, waterbucks, impalas, zebras, and elephants (adult and baby). When we first saw the elephants, I thought I was on a ride in Disney world. They were HUGE and looked mechanical.  I have no other words to describe it. It was an incredible meeting. The pictures we “captured” do not even do these animals justice!! This safari was definitely my favorite thing we’ve done in Africa (besides meet my kids). I am surprised with myself that I wasn’t more nervous. But the experience was breathtaking, liberating and so thrilling!!! I just loved it.

We met the rest of the group in the savannah to watch the sunset. The guides brought wine and we all enjoyed cocktails as the sun went down. How awesome is that? I was almost brought to tears as the sun was setting. The open savannah was melting into the horizon and I was there to witness it? Unreal. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted Dave beside me at this moment (well, all moments but especially this one. I miss you Pooh!) After a nice buzz, we packed back in our perfect safari jeep for our night drive. Jimmy drove again but this time Patrick sat in a seat that was built into the front hood of the car. He had to provide the extra lighting for the drive, plus he was in charge of finding our nocturnal animals! And then, I got to sit shotgun! We saw white tailed mongooses, porcupines, some birds and hippos!! The hippos come out at night for grazing on the ground! To say they were huge is an understatement. Male hippos weigh about 4 tons and females come in at about 3.5 tons, according to Jimmy. There was a sweet male and female hippo grazing along together. Date night! It was really sweet.

After a wonderful day, we retreated to our Chalet (once again, so cool!) It was freezing. We were basically sleeping in a glorified tent. All bundled up, we attempted sleep only to be woken up every few hours to the sounds of elephants, hippos and some even claim lions!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

5:15 wake up call! Ahh!! We started off the day with our morning walking safari with Patrick. We learned a lot about the savannah. We saw some unique trees such as the Baobob tree. They live for thousands of years and they are the only tree that can survive that long in Africa. They are made purely of fiber and are not used for wood or lumber so they serve no purpose to the people. Plus, I don’t think anyone could cut down these trees! They are so huge! Patrick said people used to make loincloths out of the fibers from the tree though. We also saw a Manpoli tree that has butterfly shaped leaves!

Next was the boat safari (after our ridiculously good breakfast consisting of a ham and cheese omelet! First time having meat other than chicken! Yay!).  Jimmy took us our on the same boats we arrived in! It was so like the African Queen. I couldn’t get over it! We saw tons of hippos. Mvuu Camp claims that have about 1350 hippos and about 700 elephants!! We also saw crocodiles, birds and monkeys and elephants on the shore. It was great!!

We left Mvuu Camp around 11:30 and traveled to a local school about a mile out. The school was beautiful. A few years ago, a family from the USA was staying at Mvuu Camp and wanted to see the surrounding area. They were so saddened by the school that was barely getting by. So upon their return to the States, they started the H.E.L.P Malawi Foundation. It stands for Help, Educate, Love and Protect. The foundation supports this school and has helped it to be the most effective school in Malawi. We’ve visited about 6 schools at this point and the difference is incredible. They also sustain themselves with projects like growing vegetables, carpentry, and jewelry making. The children do all the labor and learn how to make a profession out of what they have. All the funds benefit the school further. It was inspirational to see. Out of all the poverty in this country, and I mean extreme poverty, there are little niches of people really working hard to make their lives better.

Our next stop on our journey back to Zomba was Liwonde. This is the center for woodcarvings, jewelry making, paintings, etc—basically where all the souvenirs are made. So we shopped our little hearts out! It felt so good! 

Monday, July 1, 2011

Today was frustrating. My kids are just so ready to be done school. They finished exams this week and now it’s just the last “fluff” week. They are so antsy. And it’s been getting frustrating to teach sometimes because they just want to be done. But overall, they make me smile and laugh everyday. I can’t believe this gets to be my job in the future!!!

After school, Teresa invited us to have lunch at her house. We went over and were greeted by two of her daughters, Bridget and Omega. “You are most welcome”—a common saying by the people here. They served us lunch and I nearly died. It consisted of nsima (cooked corn meal) with cooked spinach and peas. I was thankful that the vegetables were cooked because then I could at least try them but yuck! It was nasty. When we got our plates, Katlin and I grinned and bared it together. I put the littlest bit in my mouth and chugged my water!! HAHA!  I think her daughters could tell I was struggling because they kept giggling. Oops!

After lunch, the girls brought us some “snaps” (pictures). We learned that Teresa has 5 total children and is a widow. Her husband died in 2008 from cancer (but Dr. Kelly thinks it was AIDS). Can you imagine raising 5 children by yourself in AFRICA? Omega is her youngest and she is 8 years old. Her oldest children are in college. What a span! It was a good experience to see her house and how the “middle class” of Malawi lives. Although the food was awful, I’m glad we did it! J

Friday, June 24, 2011


The end of the first week!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Today was a day of mixed emotions. In the morning, we had doctoral students from Malawi Institute of Education come and teach a lesson to our class.  Our visiting teacher taught a health lesson on prevention of HIV and AIDS. During his lesson, he passed out condoms, male and female. My thoughts—it was one thing to teach the symptoms and good prevention practices but to hand them a condom?  Aren’t you almost encouraging these kids? The kids knew exactly what the condoms were. This broke my heart.  These children are between the ages of 10-14. Are they really sexually active? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Africa needs to educate their people about the risks and symptoms of HIV/AIDS, but I know these kids; they are too young for this. It made me wonder if any of them sitting in the room had the disease. I couldn’t even imagine that. I cried a bit, and then shook it off.

When our visitor left and it was our turn to teach, we livened things up a bit! We did math with beads and used them as a tool for addition, subtraction and multiplication. Then, we let the children use them to make bracelets! It was such a hit! They held the beads as if they were jewels. They were happy and to me, that was all that mattered. We finished up the day with an art activity and a story!

As we left today, the children gave us a bag of goodies- oranges, bananas, potatoes and sugar cane! It was so thoughtful. These children have nothing and still wanted to thank us. It was such a beautiful gesture.

Peace and Love,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sammy set up for us to go to the Muslim Information Center in Zomba today to learn about his religion. Islam is the religion of about half the Malawi people. The other half are Christian. We met with the director of the center and his assistant. They provided great knowledge about Islamic practices and beliefs.  We learned that the word “Islam” means two things—“Peace” and “To submit to God’s will.” The director touched on the tragedy of 9/11 and stated “I know the people that did that called themselves ‘Muslims’ but they are not the Muslims that I know. Anyone who believes and follows Islam would never do something like that. We are peaceful.” I was taken back at first by his decision to talk about 9/11 but I think it was something we all benefitted from hearing.  He also explained that we wanted to come to USA to study and receive his maters degree but it was in the year 2001, so he was advised by his family not to travel because he was Muslim.

Next, they allowed us to travel into town and go inside a mosque. It was an interesting experience. The mosque was divided by a wall, as they all are, to separate the men and women. We took off our shoes and waked into a plain room. It was bare with nothing on the walls or the floor with the exception of a few sheets. We listened to the men praying in the room in front of us for a few minutes before we left. – Definitely not what any of us expected.

After, many people outside greeted us (but not really). It was as if they heard white people were at the mosque and needed to see it for themselves. Katlin said it perfectly, “It was as if we had crossed the railroad tracks.” The people outside the mosque were starring at us like we were awful, scary and ignorant. The children were not warm. Rather, they yelled at us to give them money. It kind of irked us a bit. I can understand it though. We are seen as a walking bank to these people. They cannot even afford the basic things we take for granted every single day. It’s very sad and definitely puts things into perspective.

Tomorrow we will finish up our first full week at the school. I can’t believe we have been there for a week! It’s flown by. The children are really starting to love on us. I got so many hugs when I walked in the classroom this morning. They are really looking forward to school every day. Teresa, the teacher of our classroom was recording all the lessons we were teaching today in the composition book we gave her. She said she couldn’t wait for next year to use this material. It’s awesome to be helping her as well. The children sent Katlin and I home with another bag full of fruit.

Wishing I could upload pictures for you all! But I will in 20 days!!!

Love you all!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Today marks the completion of our first full week of school. I am absolutely in love with children. I honestly could take a few of them home!! (Pleaseeee Dave!!!) Katlin and I work really well together in the classroom and the time seems to get away from us. I sometimes find myself straying from instruction and just wanting to make them laugh. I introduced the “fishy face” this week. (Liz, you’d be so proud. I’ve got pictures of the kids and I doing it too!) Sometimes the littlest thing we now find silly/dumb, they adore.

Tonight we had a weird experience. Eight of us were sitting in the restaurant in the hotel eating dinner. Of course, we were being loud, obnoxious Americans. Our waiter came to our table and told us to be quiet. The news was on and President Mutarika of Malawi was making an address. Our waiter starred intently at the screen. Sammy (local Malawian, works on the black market and friend of Dr. Kelly of many years, if you don’t remember) came by after dinner and we asked him if he’d seen the news. He said the President has lowered the kwacha rate to 140 for every $1 (We are exchanging for 180 on the black market). Sammy said Mutarika is becoming more and more of a dictator and that he couldn’t talk about it anymore or he could be put in jail. Mutarika is trying to silence the people of Malawi. Dr. Kelly explained later that, he is single handily ruining the economy and more and more people are dying because of his presidency.  As if Malawi doesn’t have enough problems…

Tomorrow we leave at 8am for our hike on Mt. Mulanje—the third largest mountain in Africa. The drive is somewhere between 2-3 hours (due to the amount of police checkpoints. They always stop us because we are white and we have money).  I’m looking forward to it. Apparently there are some beautiful views!!

The Internet is being funky again. It comes and goes every few days. So hopefully I can post again soon! Missing you all! Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The first two days of teaching!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I was so anxious when I woke up this morning. This was my first official day as a teacher. It. Was. Awesome!!!!!!!!!

We had so many goodies for the children! The notebooks we gave out were a hit! Pens, nametags, stickers! The kids went nuts. It was really awesome to see all of the kid have something to write with. It really helped with class participation.

Our lesson was “the world.” We explained things such as the 7 continents, major oceans, different countries, the cardinal directions, etc. The kids really caught on! They are really smart. They each came up to the board and placed stickers on the map on the places we talked about.  It was really cool.  WE showed them where we were from and talked about the different modes of transportation and which one we used, etc! What a great day!

After school, we went into town and got fabric! $4 for 4 yards!! We took it to a local seamstress who is making us our own Africa garbs! So cool! I can’t wait to get mine!

I’m really enjoying Africa and making many new friends! The only down side—the food!! It is the same thing over and over again. And we are all so sick of it, already! I ate peanut butter crackers and a granola bar for dinner tonight! I don’t know how much larger I can last…

Eat a cheeseburger for me please,

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As we pulled up to the school today, the children ran to our bus. They started chanting “azungu” which means “white people” in Chechew. HAHA!! In our class today, we taught new English and Math concepts! These children are really eager to learn and are really are curious about us. We reviewed the world today and the children knew everything! They could name the continents, the major oceans, etc! It was so awesome to see they understood us.

After school, we had our first drum lesson. We will have them every Tuesday from now on. Innocent, the standard seven teacher at the Melemia School taught us all for an hour! We had to walk to their school from ours—about 3 miles! I hope I’m getting skinny! It was a very neat experience. Everyone really seemed to enjoy it and I know the people of Malawi appreciated when we dive into their culture.

I love it but I am missing home,