Senga Bay, The Long Journey Home, Home Sweet Home, and Guli Wankuli!
Note to reader: I understand that there has been a delay in our blog. As some of you are aware I write this blog on my cell phone so to me it looks like a really really long text message (this hopefully explains all the typos, grammatical errors, and unfinished thoughts throughout this blog). Unfortunately in order for me to be able to post it, I need to send it from my phone to somewhere in outer space (or cyberspace, I’m not sure) where it connects to our website. This means that I basically need a perfect cell signal to do this which I haven’t had for the past week, so I apologize. I have been writing each day and so to make it simpler, I have decided to just combine all the days onto one post. We will be in Zambia until the 21st so I probably won’t be able to post until them.
Senga Bay July 11-13
Awesome! Nothing else to live for after you have been there. We played in the surf, visited and snorkeled off Lizard Island (and saw two four foot lizards!..on Lizard Island. We were looking for any kind of irony, but there was none there). Our guides (nicknamed “The Pirates” by the girls) grilled us Kompango and Butterfish right on the rocks. When we got back to Cool Runnings (our resthouse) we were happy to see Griffin and Daniel finally made it (they couldn’t find any gas for the Pule, more on this soon!). Joanna, who is also a swim instructor took Daniel into the surf and he jumped from one person to the next while avoiding the 6 foot waves crashing onto the beach. We had a rather eventful dinner one the beach before it was time to call it a day (some much earlier than others).
The Long Journey Home July 13-14
The next morning we checked out and hit the road only and hour or so after we had hoped to. We had to tie some bags to the roof of the Pule to make room for everyone. The plan was simple since we needed to get a few more small things (per request of our awesome chef who we all fight over who loves him the most), stop at the Salima carving market, fill up our gas tank, and make it back to M’Pamila before dark! We stopped at the carving market (check). Picked up some tomatoes in the market (check). Now for some gas…. There was no gas anywhere in Salima which left us to ask the most relevant question in all of Malawi. Do we not get any gas now and go home with the hope that when we are on our way back to Lilongwe there will be gas available (The Pule is not as fuel efficient as one would hope so I doubt he could make the trip back home and then again to Lilongwe.
So we took the long way home via Lilongwe in hopes of finding some fuel. What started out as a joke (“Wouldn’t it be funny if there was no gas in Lilongwe,” he said in a goofy voice. “Ha,ha that would be sooo funny… we would be, like stranded there… ha ha ha, ho ho ho!”), ended in the awkward silence as Griffin and I dropped the group off at the Golden Peacock in Lilongwe at about 7:30 at night and set out to find fuel for our Pule. Even though we had spent most of the day driving all over the city searching for a single drop of petrol, our hope was that somebody would have some in the middle of the night (we based this hope on Griffin’s last fill up a couple of nights before when he found gas at 3 in the morning). To complicate things more, Griffin got an urgent phone call that his one year old son Michael had been rushed to the hospital in because he was vomiting and with diarrhea in alarming amounts.
So we obviously went to the hospital first where I left Griffin to be with Michael and I went out in search of gas. I will not bore you with too many of the details of my solo adventure; however, I will give some highlights:
1. I thought I found gas at one station and actually waited patiently for about 20 min. before I realized it was a line for diesel. This was also not funny.
2. I drove from one boundary of the city to another, and passed through five stations (not including the unfunny diesel station) causing me to consider the very real possiblity that I was going to run out of gas while looking for gas.
3. I got all giddy when I finally found a gas station with gas. Yet when I went to get in line, I was at first astonished, then memorized, and finally laughing-out-loud-at-how-stupid-all-of-this-was as I drove just over two kilometers to find the end of the line. It was quite honestly one of the craziest things I had ever seen.
Not long after I was the end of this glorious line, Griffin called and asked me to pick him up to do a diaper run. I was glad that I had a reason to leave the line as there was no way there was going to be any gas when I would finally make it to the pump.
After some sweet diaper pick up and drop off, Griffin decided to come with me (Michael ended up being okay. He had an IV drip and was discharged in the morning. We went and saw him the next day). We went back to that ridiculous queue and actually cut the line to get ahead. Nevertheless, karma was not on our side and about ten minutes later the station ran out of gas and we sped away to city center where we had heard there was gas.
I can’t tell you that sitting in line at the City Center BP for just over two hours was exciting so I am not going to write about it. Not even when we got to the pump and the attendant agreed to fill up our now empty with the light on tank did it seem exciting. It was just done. 7 gas stations in 5 hours. Good times, no. Sleep time yes!
Home Sweet Home July14-15
Our arrival back in M’Pamila was a day late and we heard about it from the children in the village. We had missed a day of class and the kids were not happy about it. We apologized and promised them that we would make up for it tomorrow at school. When they left we also had to say goodbye to our three brave homestayers. Scott, Evan and Catherine signed up to leave the comfort of their tents and chalet and spend three nights in the homes of three families in the surrounding villages. They were eat dinner and breakfast with their family and see how they live within their community. It is at times a very trying experience, but it is also can be a very positive and enlightening experience. It pulls you completely out of your comfort zone and forces you to appreciate they day to day life of a completely different culture. After we waved goodbye to our three friends, the rest of us got ready to get to work.
Teaching Malawian standard 3 and standard 4 (3rd and 4th grade) is just about the most fun and most satisfying thing you can do this side of Disney World. These kids are very excited to learn, so eager to please, and they have so much fun spending time with us that Munda (who is never short on words or volume) proclaimed that the two hours she spent with her class is made her remember why she loved Malawi so much. “Those kids,” she said. “Those kids, those two hours is what makes me love Malawi so much. I love those kids!” I don’t want to read too much into her statement, but I think I know where she is coming from. I think we have good programs at Go! Malawi. I am proud of what we have done, but there is something about education that I think is so important. Not just for the book smarts part of it, but for the personal confidence that can be gained by each of these students as they learn. We told everyone that if they do anything while they teach, make sure they praise. There is nothing more valuable to these kids more than to feel good about themselves. As I walked from group to group I was so impressed to see how our volunteers not only taught so well, but they praised well. The kids were so excited to be apart of the classes, it was hard to get them to leave when time was up (the only one who was not happy was Daniel who was not the center of attention for two hours and was forced to share the book of stickers with all the other kids. He showed us by breaking out Mr. Grumpypants for the rest of the afternoon).
Standard 3 and Standard 4 were not the only ones who were learning between 2 and 5 in the afternoon. While everyone was at the primary school teaching class, Susan was with the HIV committee teaching knitting (though it turned out that several not only were skilled knitters, but there were some closet crocheters in the group as well). Eston set up a couple of straw mats on a hill side that overlooked a valley and we all knitted. Susan seemed to jump right in with the ladies and they flipped through Susan’s knitting pattern magazines, the men (Eston, myself, Kennedy) fumbled all over our yarn as we tried to make all the little loops go together and stay together. It was quite an amazing thing to be a part of. Like I said earlier about this group, the camaraderie in the group was the real magic in how they supported each other. But to spend time with them was something else. There was so much chatting and laughing, and to have it go on in such a great spot, on such a perfect day, it made me stop and think (as my row of yarn effortlessly came apart) “Look at where I am. Look what I am doing”. We have these stop and look around moments all the time in our lives. We should be thankful for each one of them.
The Guli Wankuli
On Saturday we had scheduled a celebration dance to mark the opening of our new campus on our little hill. We invited anyone and everyone from the surrounding twelve villages to watch the traditional Malawi dance, the Guli Wankuli. We had the chiefs and village headman for lunch (goat and nsima!!!) And the dance commenced soon after. The Guli Wankuli, put in its simplest terms, is all the scary things you could ever imagine, in dance form. What characterized this best was Daniel’s preparation for the show. In the morning he was abuzz with questions about when exactly they were going to arrive, followed by not wanting to leave our chalet (while making sure the doors were locked), to watching the dancers arrive one by one from inside the girls tent but refusing to go outside. As show time got closer and closer, he became more and more clingy and absolutely needed to have me at all times between him and the Guli. When the show did start, he hid behind a wall of me and Munda, though he could not take his eyes off the show. I imagine I looked the same when I was his age and I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The Guli on the other hand were spectacular. Each one of them represented a specific spirit, ghoul, or black magic. They were controlled by these haunting priest like figures that corralled them around a huge circle of on lookers (there must have been three hundred people on our little hill by the time the show started. There dances and their costumes were very elaborate (if not inappropriate at times…), and their showmanship was spectacular. I have seen this dance done four or five times, but this one was by far the most impressive. It was really a fun day.
We headed back down to Lilongwe on Sunday and were lucky to meet up with our friends Solomon and Louise from The School of Hope organization. Solomon is a good friend of Griffin and currently a University of Maine student. Louise Sutton is from Maine as well and assisted both Griffin and Solomon in their village when she was in Malawi in the Peace Corps. We had a nice dinner and it was great to hear about all the wonderful things they are doing for orphans in the Kongoma community. We leave for Zambia and the South Luanga National Park tomorrow in the am. Its going to be great!