Living, Loving. Learning.

Please join me on this inspired and fun-filled journey of creating the life of my dreams!

Halloween, IST, Thanksgiving

1) My counterpart Arthur!

2) Bedroom without a roof! Sleeping under the stars was such a treat :)

3) The rest of my house without a roof.

Hello All!!!

I can hardly believe two months have passed since I last wrote on my blog. As of November 27th, it has been six months since I left the Los Angeles airport and started this crazy adventure. What a huge feat! I am doing my best to enjoy every moment here, but it is impossible not to count down with each month that goes by. Only 21 months left of Peace Corps service... until I can come home and give you all the biggest of hugs.

So much has happened in these two months... where to begin??

Most of October was filled by surveying staff at the Health Centre about the areas they work in. My "catchment area" for the Health Centre includes about anywhere between 250 official villages and 500 unofficial villages, comprised of 50,000 people... the surveys were to assist me in evaluating what resources and services are already available in the community and who potential partners for my projects might be. In October, I also officially chose my Counterpart (Arthur) who will assist me on my projects and in the community. Not to mention that he will be a fabulous translator. ;) Arthur is 25 years old and a Health Surveillance Assistant at my Health Centre. He finished taking post-secondary school exams for the second time in October in order to reapply for nursing school - ultimately, this is what he would like to do as a career. The university system has very few openings for students in Malawi and is particularly expensive... keep his success in your thoughts!

The rest of the month was occupied by my waiting for a new roof... rainy season typically starts somewhere in the month of November and I didn't want to leave my house for any extended amount of time with a holey roof. After three months of being at site, too many phone calls, and days of hoping the maintenance crew would show up, I finally have a shiny silver new roof without holes!! It was fabulous sleeping in my house without a roof for a few days while they were replacing all the beams... it was comfortably cool at night and I was able to stare at the stars until I fell asleep. The new roof has also somehow lowered the temperature of my house to make it comparable to outside temperatures during the day :) It's still hot, but much less of a sauna. Next time I update my blog, I will upload pictures of all the construction.

I went to Lilongwe a day or two before Halloween, to finish up my community assessment reports before our Re-connect/In-Service Training (IST). For Halloween, we got creative with costumes (my curly haired twin and I were Adam and Eve, thanks to nude colored undershirts and slips we found in the "I don't want" box at the transit house), ate delicious food and bobbed for apples - not so great for those of use with TMJ :/ The next day, we were off to Dedza for training.

The first week of IST was just the Health '09 Peace Corps Volunteers. We heard from a variety of speakers, including some from USAID and Bridge. We also broke down our experiences from our first three months at site and took a side trip to the Mua Mission in order to visit a museum about traditional Chewa, Yao and Angoni cultures. While I struggled with the idea of learning about these cultures through the eyes of a mission, the museum still provided a wealth of information and a collection of masks and materials donated by each of these tribes for display. Also, I am excited to let you know that I will be helping to coordinate next year's Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). It is a girl's/women's empowerment camp organized by the Health Sector each year. My role is to coordinate counselor training among several other things. This, OF COURSE, includes dispute resolution. My degree might just come in a little bit handy here ;)

During the second week of IST, our Counterparts joined us for training. We presented general information about our communities and our findings during the Community Assessment. We also heard from more speakers, talked about project design and development, created action plans, and learned about several income-generating activities (IGAs) such as making peanut shelling, oil pressing, making peanut butter, growing mushrooms, bee keeping and soap making. My Counterpart was sooooo excited to be invited and felt like he learned a lot... He's ready to start up an oil press and a bee colony all on his own!! Let's see what community resources/groups we find to get a fun project like this rolling :) Anyway, he left motivated and ready for action in establishing a transportation project and youth friendly health services at the Health Centre - our primary projects.

After IST, I returned to Khombedza for a few days to set a few details in order...
Due to a withdrawal of my past sitemates' site for this group of education volunteers, I will begin teaching Physical Science at the secondary school in Forms 1 & 2 in about one week!! I am excited to get back to site and try my hand at some new things, but a bit nervous as I will be the only physical science teacher at the school. With that said, there will not be any teachers for Form 3 & 4 (Junior and Senior year of high school) in both Biology and Physical Science. Also, I checked in on the two students were sent to Camp Sky - a camp run by the education sector of Peace Corps - and made sure that a friend starting a peanut shelling business was able to function with his new sheller.

When all was clear at site, I headed back to Lilongwe to do some research and begin my mental health week. This week included camping out at the transit house, going for long runs, and celebrating Thanksgiving with my Peace Corps family here in Malawi. On Thanksgiving day, Alinon and I made about 60 pancakes for the other volunteers staying at the house and then spent the rest of the day relaxing, enjoying others' company and partaking in a late night BBQ. On Saturday, we attended the Thanksgiving celebration held for a few embassy members and all Peace Corps Volunteers! While I kindly denied the roasted pig (all parts visible on the table), the rest of the food made and contributed by volunteers was INCREDIBLE... a sweet taste of home. Other than food, we enjoyed playing a game of football, swimming in the ambassadors pool and dancing the night away. It was a GREAT way to spend Thanksgiving if I can't watch Dan and Drew deep fry a turkey.

The next month should be just as exciting as this month. I'm looking forward to getting some projects started (even in the most elementary of forms) and taking a hiking/camping trip to Ruarwe for Christmas and Nkhata Bay for New Years. It's about time to see a little more of Malawi :)

On that note, it's about time for me to run... today we getting our plans for Camp GLOW rolling and I am starting lesson plans for my students. Wish me luck! Missing you all immensely!!

Peace and love,

P.S. thank you to all of you who have sent me letters!! I'm sending out your mail today!! Aunt Debbie, everyone has commented on how wonderful I smell :) Thank you so much! Grandma and Grandpa, I am doing my very very best to space out my use of the Mac n Cheese... it has been delicious!!! Thank you again! LOVE!


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