Volunteer Rob Pfeiffer Blog 11/23/2015
Rob is from Lincolnville, Maine and was a former teacher and counselor and is a farmer and arborist. He is volunteering for 6 months on site in Malawi. November – April and this is his blog!
Happy Thanksgiving week to everyone from the hill country of Malawi. Not a turkey in sight so we probably will have rice and beans and pray for rain-like every other day. This was quite a week dominated by the pressure of getting my visa renewed. I am now into my fifth week so renewal by Friday was mandatory. The manager of the lodge nearby was going to town and offered a lift. The other option is to hire a motorbike and ride on the back for four hours. We arrived at the immigration office and the officer proposed a plan that would eliminate the need for monthly renewals. It also would eliminate the need to leave the country after three months, spend the night in Mozambique or Zambia, in order to be issued a new visa. It did involve a bribe. With my stomach in an absolute clench and my heart racing, I gave him my passport and pitched a tent to wait until Tuesday. The next thing you know, it is Wednesday and still nothing. I was sick with anxiety!!!! The official keeps reassuring me that the passport will appear momentarily but nothing is happening. All the lodge errands are done and the land rover is packed and ready. Nothing. I enter the office probably a bit forcefully (fear driving me hard!!!) and the official looks scared and asks me to wait at a little store one half mile away. I decided that the walk would do me good even at one hundred degrees in bright sunshine. After half an hour sitting on the curb, a small van pulls up. It was probably designed to hold eight people max. It had twenty three people in it. The driver hops out wearing jeans and a tee shirt. He looks at me and pulls out my passport! My heart stopped. My visa now indicates that I have left the country on January 17, 2016, and returned on the 18th. I am glad to be deep in the hills where my passport will not be seen until I leave. There is definitely a strong leaning towards short term thinking here so if there is a dollar to be earned now, do it. Tourists are hassled with this visa business when one would think the country could use an influx of tourists. Silly questions and then illegality. The country has some gorgeous spots but the doors are definitely not wide open and visa money is only benefiting a few fat cats as far as I can see.
Enough of that! I am back in the hill country and spent the whole day in the rainforest on the mountain collecting seeds. My usual companion, the village elder was there as was a Scotsman named Wilf Graham. Some of you will recognize that name as being close to someone else. We were collecting seeds of old growth trees when we realized we were being watched. The trees overhead were full of monkeys-about thirty or so. Cirque de Soleil all over again.
I am convinced that until we find another way to cook other than charcoal, that Malawi will be descending into a treeless arid country side. So, I need to know from someone what is the feasibility of setting up village cooking stations powered by solar panels. Cooking would be on an electric stove top-no oven. We might need twelve burners at a station. Would a rotating panel provide enough power? What would it cost installed, stoves and all? We need to cut down on the cutting. Any ideas?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! All the best from here. Love, Rob