Rob Pfeiffer Blog 1/9/2015 The Trees are Your Friends
The week started with all the uncertainty about whether the children would bring the seedlings back and if they did, what shape would the trees be in. Well, we have been answered in spades! We have more trees than we started with. Some of the varieties are very foreign to me but they are trees and will be planted in the forest. The children have come in waves lovingly holding their trees and happily accepting our thanks. They have tracked me to my house here and camp out waiting for me. One young lady was sitting there mute (very unusual-no response to my greeting). Her mother finally arrived to explain. The first day we were at school to thank the kids, she had forgotten hers. So, she dutifully brought it to Go!Malawi as we asked and one of my friends took her name and accepted the tree. I was in her class for a second time the next day with the head teacher assisting me by calling out the names. He inadvertently skipped her. She wept all the way home and was too upset to eat. We have definitely struck a chord and some of it is definitely the reward (a notebook and a pencil), but the children are now chanting what has become my mantra — the trees are your friend — as I pass in the street.
With loggers intimidated, no fires or cows to contend with, planting has now begun in earnest. We already have 3,000 seeds in the ground, but now we are transplanting the seedlings which clearly were imperiled by hooves, mouths, falling trees, and fire. We reforested a severely burned area yesterday with happy little seedlings. Please, pray for rain. Another batch to be planted today.
We sent off a packet of letters to granddaughter Maisie’s class in Bangor, ME from the second graders here. These youngsters try so hard. Their entire bodies curl around their crayon as they work on their letters — both individual a’s and b’s as well as their finished product. And, they have no teacher. She is out on maternity leave. It looks as though Go!Malawi will remedy this problem by funding a long-term sub in the person of our assistant director Eaton. Otherwise, 40 second graders sit by themselves most of the morning doing work assigned by a teacher who “drops in” for a moment, a few times. Five teachers for the eight grades as it stands now.
We have a new fashion craze here in Malawi at the moment. Those who know me know for certain that my fashions are at best out of date and at worst, horrible. But, since arriving here, I have been shielded from the sun by a hat emblazoned with the sunny ensignia of Revision Heat (http://www.revisionheat.com/), a green company which installs alternative heat systems. They are local (well, not local in Malawi, but local in Maine) and based in Liberty and Portland and I have been fielding requests for my hat for awhile.
We are planning a district-wide Planting Day for later this month. After our seedlings are transplanted, we are going to transplant growing trees (last year’s seeds) from crowded areas higher up, to burned and damaged areas lower down the slope. This will be very labor intensive as we will be digging up trees and moving them a considerable distance before putting them in their new “digs”. To that end, I am making a seven school swing this week, talking to the entire student body at each school about environmental issues. Eaton will be at my side translating and we’ll see how it goes. We may use the tried and true reward system again as we have fifteen soccer balls all of a sudden (thanks to the Coupe family) and maybe 15 people from each community, including the children, would make the trek over with an incentive like that.
Big news in the village this week involved an intruder in someone’s kitchen. Kitchens here serve multiple purposes including providing shelter for chickens. In this case, the man of the house awoke to find a hyena about to devour one of his hens as she crouched, protecting her brood. He gave chase and a major slaughter was averted. And, the monkeys are getting so used to me passing on my bike in the morning that they do not run away. Instead, they yell at me like grumpy people. Very amusing. That is some of the news from Malawi.