Living, Loving. Learning.
Greetings from a very, very warm Salima, Malawi. Hot season has finally hit its stride and there is no relief to be found. My thermometer broke back in September at 120 degrees Fahrenheit when I took it outside, so I don’t even want to know what the current temperature is (well, maybe I’d like to know, but just for bragging rights).. Luckily, my house is a bit cooler than outside – about 90 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the night and 100 during the day. I will say that the heat is more manageable the second year, but not necessarily any more enjoyable. One great thing about hot season, however, is that MANGOS abound!! I am doing my best to limit my consumption, but they are wonderful!! I wish I could send each of you your own fresh, juicy Salima mango because there is simply no way for me to adequately describe a mango’s glory.
Anyway, life is good! It has been a busy couple months here in Malawi, and specifically in Khombedza. Our pit latrine training took place the week of my birthday, back in September, and the work has continued ever since. Thus far, the community of Sompho has 20 new pit latrines (just 20 more to go before total coverage of the first 2 villages). The work is slow, but we are looking to make certain people know the importance of hygiene. After we finish the next 20, we are hoping to begin digging for 2 or 3 new water pumps in the same area. Only the next “cholera season” will tell if our work is worthwhile, but I am very excited to see things finally in progress. The community is really beginning to take ownership!
More great news! My proposal to build an under-five clinic was just approved! After 2 long months of waiting, we will be beginning construction on a building to be used for health education, sanitary inoculations, and, hopefully in the future, family planning and HIV and AIDS testing and counseling. The community will be doing ALL of the construction while my counterpart and I supervise. My personal hope is to put together a nutritional garden and educational murals when it is finished. Sompho has a lot of work to do, but I believe that after we finish re-vamping the village, we will find a whole new attitude towards health management and disease prevention (any artists interested in coming to help!?).
Other than these 3 big projects, we have also been hosting our Youth Friendly Health Football (soccer) League. The educational portion is going along great, but the scheduling has been a bit difficult. Another group decided to put on a league just after we began ours, so the interest level in the league has been divided. For the sake of maintaining a high turnout to the health discussions, we have postponed games until after the other league is finished (this coming weekend). The audience is mostly men, which is pretty awesome considering that most men here in Malawi never see the health centre unless it’s a life-or-death situation. I have had the pleasure of watching a 50 year old man giggle like a school girl during condom demonstrations! It’s been an effective forum to gather men (mostly between the ages of 15 and 25) and talk about safe-sexual practices, and Arthur is truly doing an incredible job.
The health centre itself is facing a bit of a struggle right now. I won’t go into detail as I have been instructed to remain neutral by the Peace Corps office, but the preventative health staff are “on strike” (which to them means simply refusing to work on a particular campaign). Other than some raised voices, everything is very peaceful (no reason for anyone to worry). This is fascinating to watch given my interest in conflict resolution and I am actually learning quite a lot!! If only Peace Corps would let me mediate…
On a personal level, I am also doing really well! Since I last wrote, I have grown older in age and, wow, 24 feels really good. The birthday celebration couldn’t have been more perfect as friends joined me in Lilongwe for a night of dancing and then at the beach in Salima where we all tanned our very white thighs with beers in hand. I feel that this year will be one full of many new adventures, and I am looking forward to each of , excited for what they will bring; my return home will give me (and Alinon, too!) the opportunity to start completely fresh, redefine priorities, and share experiences with the people I (we) love the most!
Vanessa and I decided that we would run a half-marathon this November. Training started out really well and I made it up to 5 miles every other day… then this began, or that started, and then the heat came, so we called it quits. Nevertheless, it reminded me just how much I love working out and running around. Keeping up a workout routine has done wonders for my physical and mental health!
This time last year, the roof was ripped off the top of my house and with this weather, I almost wish it was again!! My house is still a work in progress - I found myself having a “Krake weekend” recently, patching up holes in my wall with mud and refinishing the floor in my “kitchini,” also mud. Next up: beautifying my grass fence and getting my garden ready for the rains. Now, if my parents had only spent a little more time teaching me to build mouse-traps, I wouldn’t have anything to gripe about!!
Odi is indifferent to mice, but very partial to the clothes drying on my laundry line. She is getting very big, very fast and has quite the “’tude.” She has the basic commands down when fish is held in front of her, but otherwise, she has discovered that chickens are scared of her, that she is faster than me, and that anything of value tastes quite delicious. She follows me everywhere and people call her my “mwana” (child). I must say, that having Odi walking around has been really comforting and the house doesn't feel quite so empty.
With about 6 months left in my service (moved up due to programmatic changes), I have also started the search for jobs. I know that I still have quite a while left in Malawi, but I hear finding work is still pretty challenging state-side. Generally, I am looking for dispute resolution work, so if you hear of anything, please don’t hesitate to let me know! My resume is updated and ready to send out… ;)
I am very excited to announce that I am headed home for the holidays!! I have saved up my vacation days and will be going back to California for about 3 weeks :) What a blessing – I am counting down the days (36 from today, Nov. 2) till I can see (and hug!) family and friends in person. If you will be in Southern California, please send me an email so we can meet up.
Ok, enough. If you’ve made it this far through the blog – you are wonderful. I hope all is well, wherever you are!
Peace, love, and abundant joy,
P.S. I hope you “got out the vote” today - I did!
Thursday, October 28, 2010