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,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A picture says a thousand words...

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Sunday, June 19, 2011

7:30am wake up call. Thank Goodness Katlin and I went to bed at 10:30! I tell ya, there is no sleeping in here. Everyone is up at the crack of dawn, hoping for a better day then next. When I got out of bed this morning, goodness was I sore! It was mostly my back. That horseback riding killed me!

Katlin and I spent most of last night organizing our school supplies and putting together notebooks for the children. We didn’t have enough pounds to spare in our luggage to carry over 100 notebooks for the children but we did decide to use what we have to make them. We folded a piece of construction paper in half and placed 5 folded pieces of paper inside. We hole punched and tied yarn into small notebooks. These actually look similar to the ones a few children already use. We wrote their names on the front and we put a new pen in each! We also have name tags for the first day so we can get to know the children each. Boy, some of their names are hard to say! Fingers crossed I can get that one down!!

After breakfast, we walked into town for church. The mass was at a Presbyterian Church that started at 9:00. It was in English, which was nice, and it was very similar to Presbyterian Church at home (at least that what the girls said who are Presbyterian).  For the offering of the gift, they called individuals by district to come to the alter and present their gifts. Lastly, they called visitors. We were the only twenty some white folks so they all starred at us. We walked to the alter and offered some gifts. I noticed that there were large bags of maze that people offered to the church instead of kwacha. I thought that was interesting. Dr. Kelly explained that people let the church sell their crops, so the church can use the money to sustain itself.  The priest was shocked by our presence and asked a “representative of the visitors” to come up and introduce the group. Dr. Kelly ran up and explained to the people who we were, for how long and why. Everyone was so curious! Some asked questions and she answered. After mass we were welcomed by many parishners with big smiles and we were even invited to the priest’s house later in the month! These people are so nice.

The rest of today was meant for rest. Nothing was really open and Malawians take their religion very seriously. We had class with Dr. Kelly in the afternoon to learn more about the culture and prepare for school in the morning. Some interesting things I gathered:
-       Nsima (good corn maze) is considered a major part of the Malawian diet. They feel like they must have it everyday. Most considered that they haven’t eaten (even if they have) if they don’t have nsima.  But the way they grind it up and cook it here sucks out most of the nutritional value. Therefore, its not even benefitting the people a great deal.
-       Children are considered orphans when their mother dies, regardless if their father is living or not.
-       Rape is extremely prevalent in Malawi. It is part of their culture and considered normal. At a certain age, young girls are de-flowered by the chief of their villages. The chief believes that all the young girls are his.
-       The major highway throughout Malawi spread AIDS throughout the small country.
-       There is a myth that HIV and AIDS will be cured if you sleep with a virgin. That is why most young children are infected here.
-       Africa has over 2000 languages and Malawi has about 17. It is so hard to organize people in Malawi because of this. The way most people connect is through dance and song.
-       Lucius Banda is a famous musician that fought politicians and injustice through his music. His song speak of the poverty and unequal opportunities for the people of Malawi along with the corruption of the government.
I hope you all enjoyed a little culture J I know it was random (When I write fast I have an unorganized train of thought).

I am excited for our first day of teaching tomorrow, but nervous at the same time though! Please say some prayers for us.

I would post pictures but with limited Internet, it’s just takes too long! I promise to share them with you all when I get back. Although, the pictures I have do not fully allow you to experience the children of Malawi. The pictures do not show the holes in their over worn clothes. They do not show that most children have swollen stomachs because they are malnourished. They do not show that most do not have shoes on their feet. These pictures just show their smiles and the light in their eyes. Think about if we all had this attitude.

Love to all,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Internet is back!!!! The past four days...

June 15, 2011

Today was a long day to say the least. We woke up and had eggs (for the third day in a row) and began our trip to Zomba which is where we will be living and teaching for the rest of our stay in Malawi. We piled into a bus, literally. 27 people in a bus made for probably 15 and attached was a trailer with our luggage. I would guess the average speed throughout our journey was 35 mph. Did I mention the drive was about 3.5 hours in a car? So our journey total was about 7.5 hours. I had my bookbag on my lap and souvenirs by my feet. Everyone was miserable. BUT, I did get to watch 3 episodes of Hawaii 5-0 (Did you hear that Buns?)

We did have two stops on our trip. The first was in a town called Deadza. It had its own pottery shop and restaurant/lodge. The pottery shop was built and started a few years ago by a Peace Corps member who wanted to give the people something to sustain themselves. And it worked! The pottery is now one of the most known in Malawi. It was beautiful! I got a lovely present for my parents! J We had lunch in the outdoor restaurant where we got to meet some other white folks! Dad, I asked if they heard of anything important on CNN! (Another side note for you Dad, I’ve been looking at the gas prices here in Malawi and its 570 kwacha for one gallon of gas aka $3.08, knew you’d be interested!)

Our next stop on our very long and tragic journey (hehe) to Zomba was market the boarder of Malawi and Mozambique.  A soon as we pulled up, the bus was surrounded (Ah, white people!). The venders were trying to get us to buy everything and anything. Needless to say, I bought nothing (I don’t have a shopping problem after all!!). We finally arrived in Zomba at 7:30 Malawian time. We had dinner, some tears (thanks for the pep talk Mom!) and then bed! On to another day in our African journey…

Peace& Love,

June 16, 2011

We get to meet the children today!! I woke up this morning so anxious. I had no idea what to expect and I really wanted them to like me. Each of the colleges on the trip are assigned to a school. But today, we had an “orientation” to all the schools, which was great for comparison.

We first stopped at Radford’s school, the Malemia Primary School. It was a school built within the past five years in the middle of a village. The school is the smallest of the three and each class had between 50-100 kids in each. The size of the classroom decreases as the grades increase, which makes sense. This school is also the poorest of the three. The Chibali project started by our three universities in 2007 provides money for a feeding program at the Malemia Primary School. The children are dismissed by standard (grade) from youngest to oldest. This was a request made by our professors. Traditionally in the Malawian home, the father eats first, the mother next and the children get whatever is left over. So our professors wanted to set a different standard for the children and say the youngest should get their food first. Interesting, huh? For the feeding program, the children each have a cup (that they have to bring from home if they can) and that’s all they get. If they don’t have a cup, they don’t get any food. They received nsima, which is cooked corn maze. It looks like water down porridge.  It was fascinating to watch the children with their nsima. They were sharing with the others they didn’t have cups and they offered to share with us because we didn’t have any. I cried (of course). It was so beautiful to see how much these children love.

The next school we visited was our own, the Domasi Government School. This is the oldest school of three. It was started before 1964 when Malawi was under British rule. And because of this, the school looks colonized. It was beautiful. Each classroom was its own separate building. And the size was about the same, 50-100 children. We all felt more comfortable since this was our second school. We all walked around and visited with the children and the teachers. We needed to start figuring out what standard we wanted to teach. Katlin and I went into the fourth standard (again, this means grade) and just started dancing. And the children joined in and chanting “music” in Chichewa. We danced and laughed with the children for 3 minutes but it was hands down, the best three minutes of the trip so far for me. After visiting all the standards, we were assigned standard 6, which from what I could tell was equivalent to 4th or 5th grade. I wanted the babies, but they can’t understand any English and Dr. Kelly said it may be frustrating/hard. I’m excited for to teach them though! Tomorrow we will return for observation and we will officially begin teaching on Monday.

The last stop was Domasi Demenstration school. This is also a government school and the families must pay tuition for their children each year. It is 4,625 kwacha per year, which is $25. (Fun fact, this is the same price I paid for the pottery I got in Deadza. WOW! Mom and Dad, I could have sent my future adopted baby to school for a year…) This school was the most “modern.” The class size was the same but they had desks and chairs in each room. We were also able to meet the head teachers at the school. They talked about the school’s progress over the past year and gave news that their standard 8 class just took their examinations which determine whether they can enter secondary school or not. This year 40 students out of 65 passed and will continue their education ( equivalent to our high school). Dr. Kelly said when our universities started this study aboard program in 2006, about 14 students at this school went on to Secondary school. WOW! It really shows how much this program is making a difference, one step at a time.

After our orientation day, we returned to Annie’s Lodge (same name/owner as the place in Lilongwe). This was the first time we really got to explore the lodge in daylight! It is nearly 10 times the size of the lodge in Lilongwe. It was beautiful. There are multiple bars, multiple “houses” where we stay, and a great restaurant (not just chicken and rice, yay!). The thing that stuck out to me most in the lodge were the breathtaking poinsettia trees. Yes, trees! I have never seen them like this before! They are so tall with numerous branches each. I knew right then, Mommom was with me on the trip. We all know she loved poinsettias.  I know she is keeping me safe.

Love to all. Keep praying please!
Xoxo, Anna

June 17, 2011

Today was the first day in our classroom. We didn’t actually teach, just observed. Katlin and I got a good feel about their abilities and gathered some ideas about lessons to teach. The school day only lasts from 9-1 for these children. Their teacher, Teresa, greeted them in the morning and followed by teaching them English and Social Sciences. In between each subject, we danced! The children love to chant and sing while dancing. Katlin and I ojoined in, of course. In the beginning of the day, the children laughed at our Chichewa and called us “silly” but after they saw us dance with them, they really started to let us in. It was a really great feeling. I noticed that some of the kids don’t even have notebooks and pens! That will changed on Monday! We have things for each child! I can’t wait to see their faces.

One of the children even commented on my sneakers—ugly ones I messed bought! (Yes, Mom, the Nike ones!!) I’m going to give him them after!!

After school we visited the Malawi Institute of Education where all the teachers in Malawi are trained in curriculum and instruction for their students. It was so beautiful and looked very colonized. We had our first “class” for the credits we are receiving for the trip. We got a deeper insight into the culture of Malawi. I love learning about this place!!

After class, we walked into town to get the internet at a cafĂ©. It was so small and sketchy! But we had to because the internet transformer blew out and we don’t have any connection at all at the hotel. Hopefully it will change soon so I can share all this news!!!

Side note: I’ve been passing out fruit snacks packs to children that line the streets. They are all so hungry they will take anything. But these snacks are 100% Vitamin C and 20% Vitamin A with minimal sugar, so they are actually good for them! They go nuts! I gave one out to a kid today and he said to me, “You is my friend.” It was perfect.

Thanks for reading!

June 18, 2011

Today was such a wonderful day! We drove up the mountain that is about 2 miles behind our hotel. It is called Mount Ku Chewa. It was a beautiful drive going up! When we got there, we went horseback riding at Plateau Stables. The group divided in two and each went for an hour ride on the trials thoughout the mountain! It was so cool, but I will definitely be sore tomorrow!

After our rides we had lunch and enjoyed the town and the views a bit! We had dinner at a place called “Tasty Bites.” Dr. Kelly says it is the most European Food they’ve got in Malawi. It was yummy!! Katlin and I had chicken Samooahs which are basically fried chicken and chips (similar to fat French fries!) yummy! J

We are happy to report that they have fixed the internet in Zomba so hopefully my blog can be public again!

Loving Africa,

Friday, June 17, 2011

Internet Fail.

Hello everyone!!

Unfortunately, the internet transformer in a town nearby blew up. They are only
servicing the main parts of town. Right now I am at a shady, dark internet cafe
in town. Our hotel no longer has internet at all. It is really frustrating, I
know. I probably won't be able to make any more blog posts! :( If I do, it will be in a few days!

I am alive and well. I am really enjoying my trip so far! I am teaching 6th grade which is about 4th or 5th grade in the US. They are the most beautiful and loving children I have ever worked with. I wish I could take them all home with me! (Don't worry Mom, I wont!)

Say some prayers for patience! I am struggling not be able to talk to everyone!

I love you all!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 14, 2011

Today we got to explore the city of Lilongwe. We went to Freedom Gardens, a sustainable garden. The farm was started in 1982 by an economist and teacher who had no formal knowledge of farming. The couple wanted security with food so they decided to begin a farm. They started small with 100 square meters of land granted to them by the chief. It is now run by their son, Daniel who is 26. Daniel was educated through college and came back to run the farm when his father passed. This is rare in Malawi. Most people, if they are educated, continue to go on and work for the government. But Malawi needs their educated people to help people like them directly. And that is what Daniel does.

Freedom gardens rotates crops and never depends on external imports such as fertilizer and pesticides. They make their own from basic ingredients such as ash,  maze, aloe, leaves, etc.  The irrigation system is natural as well. It is made out of horizontal wells and basins. This type of farming is called permaculture—a holistic approach to farming and the environment. It manages wastes instead of getting rid of it and allows people to use the land, instead of their own capital to find food security.

Freedom Gardens led by Daniel gives tours, lectures and seminars to nearby and international farmers.  The country of Malawi could find their way out of poverty one step at a time if they were educated about permaculture.
After our tour of Freedom Gardens we went to a local market for some “shopping.” It was more like the needy people of Malawi asking us to “check out my stand” and/or begging for money. It was really hard not to give the begging mother with a baby on her back and another in her hand cash. But the people of Malawi need resources to sustain themselves long term. They need resources such as education if they are ever going to get out of the cycle of dependency.  Daniel’s main piece of advice, “start small”

When we got back to Annie’s lodge, we got ready for our “night out.” Peter decided to throw us a party (He’s crazy and likes to flaunt his money). He wouldn’t tell anyone the location exvept Dr. Kelly. After a 30 minute bus ride we ended up a Kimbali Lodge/Resort. This is the place where Madonna stayed during her trip to Malawi to adopt her second child. It was awesome! There was an outdoor restaurant, patio, bar and dance area. We were provided dinner (chicken and rice, AGAIN) and enjoyed some drinks. We got to know each other a lot better during this time and I’ve come to enjoy the personalities of these people. After dinner was a poetry reading. A young gentlemen named Q read some of his works. He raised awareness of the poverty of Malawi and the presence of HIV and AIDS through his poems. These poems are his way of fighting for human rights and social justice.

Next were tribal dances. It may sound strange (but if you really know me, not so much), these dances made me tear up. The dancers had nothing and they were smiling and laughing. I think the best part of the night is when they asked us to join in. I’ve never felt so freeze (and not awkward) dancing. It was wonderful.

I learned a lot today. One day can definitely make a difference.

June 13, 2011

After nearly 24 hours of travel, our group of 26 arrived at Annie’s Lodge in Lilongwe around 3pm (Malawian time). We spent the rest of the day exploring the quaint lodge and meeting the staff. Everyone spoke great English and was very welcoming! Peter, Annie’s son, is the owner of the lodge. He is British and quite charming!

Before dinner, Sammy (our unofficial tour guide) traded money for us on the black market. The US dollar is rare in Malawi and the government tries to control the exchange rate. Malawian currency is the kwacha. He sat in a room with 4 other men and we went in to trade our money. It was sketchy to say the least. The exchange rate was 185 kwacha for every $1 as oppose to the bank, which would have been 152 kwacha for every dollar. Don’t worry, Dad, I only exchanged $100 at first. But after the “deal”, we all felt pretty rich!

Our dinner consisted of chicken and rice. It was exactly what expected the food to be like. We all sat around, drank a few beers and got to know each other for the rest of the night before returning to our beds covered by mosquito nets. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Arrived Safely !!!!

After nearly 24 hours of travel, we have all arrived safely in Lilongwe, Malawi. It was interesting travel but I did sleep for about 85% of the flight. Thank goodness for drugs. Our short layover in Ethiopia was different to say the least but the accommodations were better than expected. Everyone was very kind to us and spoke pretty good English. We did get some odd looks from people in the airport. I guess we do stick out like a sore thumb!!

We will be spending the next two days in Lilongwe before we go to Zomba on Thursday morning! There will be have access to free internet and I will able to write more.

Thanks for the prayers everyone!!

Lots of love,

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Trying to Save the World in Two Suitcases

Packing has been nearly a two-week process! I am struggling trying not to bring everything! Or forget anything! I can check two suitcases that are up to 50 lbs and carry on a bag as well. That seemed like a lot when I started to pack, but now, it's just the opposite.

I've packed a lot of old clothes for myself. These clothes I can wear during our hike, our safari trip and for just hanging around the hotel. I want to be able to leave most of these clothes for the people of Malawi. I've also packed my "teaching clothes." It is custom to wear long skirts when we are in the village and schools. I sprayed these clothes with mosquito repellent on a makeshift clothes line I made outside my house (I attached string from the top of the lamppost to the top of my suv!). I want to be extra careful and I don't want Malaria!! I've also packed lots of food-- I don't know what I will come across in Malawi, although I've heard from previous students that the food isn't bad!

Aren't my skirts going to look fabulous on me?

The majority of my things are for the children. I have gathered school supplies (thanks again to my high school!), jump ropes, beads, yarn, stickers, bubbles, old clothes and shoes to give to my students! Malawi is so poverty stricken and I want to do everything I can to help. I keep saying to people, "I'm just trying to save the world in two suitcases!" I know that's not exactly possible but every little bit counts!

I leave in one week from today! I am getting pretty anxious. I just want to BE THERE and get started! Please continue to send prayers my way, especially for the flight!! :)

Lots of love,