Monday, May 30, 2011

Old Lady Smalls

The other day, I was sleeping in to 6:30 because it was a weekend, and I decided to treat myself, when I was woken up by a horrible booming sound of rocks on my tin roof that could only be those dang kids in my yard again, throwing stones at my tree to steal lemons. I let my dog out, who chased them away and cackled before I got to work on my new quilt.

You kids today and your internet references I don't understand, and your Ga Gas, and iPads- in my day, we had phones that made calls dagnabit.


Friday, May 20, 2011

A PCV Watches TV

As some of you may know, I recently received what is quite possibly the greatest package of all time. Zach sent me a little netbook and a hard drive loaded up with TV and other media, and it has changed my routine in amazing ways. Now, instead of compulsively reading books all day when I'm not working, I read COMIC books on my computer all day when I'm not working. This, my friends, is progress.

And, of course, there is the TV, oh TV, how I missed you- one of my favorite parts of having shows to watch is the way that Hector will watch it with me- or rather, she'll watch me watch TV. Last night, she laid on my chest sphinx -like, and twisted her head in that cute sideways dog way every time there was a strange noise on the show I was watching- and every time I would laugh, her eyebrows would crease in concentration, and she would look between me and the screen, alternatively twisting her head and whining a little. Dogs are cool. I had about two seasons of shows to catch up on- some observations:

-30 Rock- always awesome.

-The Office- over it. I'm sorry, but you all have jobs with health insurance, and get to have houses with toilets, and I'm supposed to derive humor from the fact that you get bored at your job?

-Parks and Recreation- like it. Pretty much like the office, but with less complaining.

-Various BBC Sci/Fi shows- nice escape for a lonesome little PCV, because hey, I may have problems with ants in my house, and on more than one occasion have woken up with a cockroach in my bed and stuff, but at least I'm not a vampire/misfit who can read minds/ghost who lives with a werewolf/or the last of the time lords. Another thing I like about the BBC is that I feel like the actors on it are good looking, but aren't too good looking. This is good for my self esteem, because even though I ran out of shampoo a month ago, I feel like I could be on TV, at least in England.

-Mad Men- you would think that after living in Africa, that I'd be sick of consumerism or the ad industry, but I think that Don Draper might just be too handsome to do anything that would really make me annoyed for long.

Of course, I don't spend all of my time watching TV on my wonder of a netbook (its so small!), I have also been working- though in the past five weeks, we have had school on a Monday exactly ONE TIME! The reasons for the various holidays in chronological order: Easter Monday, Labor Day, Something I can't remember, possibly a bank holiday, and last Monday, it was Kamuzu day. Any time there is a holiday over the weekend, the government closes down schools the following Monday, but doesn't announce it until the Friday before at around 2:00. I went to Catholic School, and we never had Easter Monday off- and how can you have a Labor Day if your country doesn't have unions? Or Labor, for that matter, practically every day is Labor day if 90% of your country is unemployed. The one that gets me the most, however, is Kamuzu day- the man was a genuine dictator, but he still gets a national holiday.

Ah well.

My women's groups are going well- the Umoza group which sells school uniforms is inching toward our goal of buying a new sewing machine! Thank you very much to anyone who bought a bag from me over Christmas, because this is how we have been able to afford to really get the business going. We just need a few more people to pay us for their school uniforms, and we can buy it. See, we have a problem, as a PCV, I am unable to be in charge of the group finances, which is fine, but that also means that the group 'sold' all of its uniforms on credit this term, even though I told them not to, but then, I only really work with the group on an advisory capacity, so what can you do? Either way, this has made me sigh like a Peanuts character on more than one occasion. If we hadn't sold the uniforms on credit, we would have bought the second sewing machine months ago, and Ama Banda would have been able to teach sewing lessons out of her house to the other group members. Instead, we've been chasing people to pay us for school uniforms their children have already been wearing for months.

The other group, which I usually think of as the Wednesday group, is also really getting into its stride. A few weeks ago, I gave the group members a little loan of about 3,000Mk to start a scone* business, and they have already managed to start paying me back while maintaining the business. The group has pulled together nicely now that they have a purpose, and each member now has a little bit of money to take home to their families, but the majority of the profits are going toward making improvements to the primary school in the village. Their long term goal is to hire a teacher, and there is some talk of perhaps hiring one of my current students once he has finished with school. For a kid with such few options, this is huge.

The other day, that kid and I were walking home from the group meeting. My bag was full of fresh baked scones from the group, and we ate them as we went. I asked Franzelo what the previous PCV in my area was like, and after much deliberation he came up with two statements: “He had a bicycle, and he loved vegetables.”- but he didn't just say that he 'loved' vegetables, he said he 'loooooved' vegetables. What will they say about me? She had a bicycle, and she loooooved dogs. I'll take it.

Ok, I should go, the ants are back.


*a scone in Malawi is really just a bread roll, don't ask me why they call them scones

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Regular Days

Hey guys,

Sorry I haven't written much lately, but really, to me life here is the same old same same. Here is a rundown of how my days tend to go- to me, this is boring everyday stuff, but maybe it will be interesting to the likes of you:

Most days, I wake up, set a pan of water to boil, let the dog out (or else she stands on me until I do), and then I go back to doze until the water boils. I have a hot plate in my bedroom, which makes me really spoiled. Once the water is boiling, I mix it with cool water from the tap in my backyard (another thing that makes me spoiled), and I take a bucket bath in my shower (spoiled!). While I am bathing, I have another smaller pan of water that I boil for my coffee.

After bathing, I make breakfast, usually pancakes. I mix the batter from scratch, which is actually pretty easy. I can get dressed as I fry them in my skillet, a benefit of having your hot plate in your bedroom. Finally, I eat my breakfast while reading, I drink half of the coffee at the table, and bring the rest to school so that I can be nice and caffeine buzzed when I teach. If I am running good on time, I can drink my coffee slowly and really savor my book, but usually I have to sort of bolt down my breakfast before I run across the street to the school.

At the school, I teach my classes and sit in the library making sure that the students are working. At my desk, I plan or grade, but mostly I read books. The best times are breaks when the form one students rush in for new books. The classes I teach are Life Skills for forms one and two, and English for form one. The form one students are great, they work hard and ask good questions. The form two kids are troublesome and I have to keep on my toes with them, and usually have to plan very structured lessons that bore me. With the form one kids I can get more creative.

After school, I either have meetings with my women's groups, or I go to the market. Umoza meets on Thursdays, the Kaweta group on Wednesdays, and the Science and Tech. Club meets on Mondays. Other times, I might nap. I also might make a snack before the meetings, popcorn is pretty easy to do.

On Fridays, I go to Chintheche, I check my mail and go online. After that, I buy my food for most of the week. There is a guy who sells lots of different vegetables who I like to visit because otherwise its only onions and tomatoes all week. I also have a place I like to get my flour from, a fruit guy and an ufa lady. Ufa is the flour I make Hector's food with. The man I buy my fruit from is a cheerful little old mad who greets me the same way each week: 'Hello Madam!!!!'. My ufa lady always asks about my dogs and tells her friends about me, she lets me try my tonga on her. Of course, there is also Bright, at the internet cafe, and the guy at the post office who likes to joke with me. When I get parcels, the guy at the post office might pretend I have nothing, and then bust out a pile of packages and laugh- he never tries to get bribes, good man. After shopping, I sometimes visit my carpenter, who is a good guy, and is fun to talk with. He has made all of my furniture.

On Saturdays, I do my laundry while listening to the BBC, and afterwards I tidy up my house, sweeping and mopping the whole house. This usually takes all day, so that by four, I am done, at which time, I read or sew. The little neighbor girls might come over to play at that time, which is nice, they are quiet and polite, but Hector scares them.

On Sundays, if it is hot, I'll go to the lodge. Hector usually comes too. There I read and swim until I get light headed and have to go back.

My evenings are the best time, and they are the same every day. I will read until the sun sets, and I can't see anymore, and I'll turn on the light to keep going. At around six, Zach calls, and we talk while I make dinner. I can most days fix a whole meal and eat it while we talk during his lunch break. When we are done talking, he goes back to work, and I'll read at my kitchen table with a handful of candy to cool my mouth off (I use too much spice in my dinners almost every day).

That's about it-


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Science Camp

Hey everyone!

Well, science camp was a success! We ran out of time, so I'm saving some of the experiments for later, but the kids LOVED it! Especially the solar cars. I was very happy that some friends were able to come and help- Vanessa took over the lecture on the electric motor, because, yeah, I don't really know much about electricity. I was able to do the demonstration, but as for taking questions... nope, couldn't do it.

Everything here is good! Sorry, I don't have much more time to write a big long post, but I love you all!


Friday, February 25, 2011


I am!

I got the go ahead for my itty bitty day camp from the boss-man, who said that we can get me a little grant when I apply for it, so that's good, now I just have to write and submit the thing. We don't need money right this moment, but I'd like to know that the group will be supplied with iron nails and insulated wire for a bit longer. The experiments and posters are all set and assembled- I just need to add color to the posters that I made, but I can get that done over the weekend. Vanessa is coming up next Tuesday to help set up and teach- and by this time next week, we will be on our way to Mzuzu so I can buy more fabric for Umoza, and she can go to some meeting.

Umoza is going just fine- and the other women's group, the one that meets on Wednesdays is also just fine. They have started turning a profit on home made peanut brittle which they store in my house at night when it rains. Yeah, guess who their #1 customer is...

Also, as of yesterday, all but one of the puppies are GONE! This is a good thing. One puppy is cute, five puppies are a pain in the ass.

so that's about it in the world of Melissa. The world is puddle wonderful and green, things are good.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Science and Technology Club Part II

Hey all! So after a weekend at the beach to celebrate a friend's birthday, I'm back and really getting into preparing for next week's break when (drumroll please...) I am going to have a day camp for the Sci/Tech club! What?! Yeah, it is a week long break, and yes, I am going to spend it fiddling around with science experiments with my students. Don't judge.

Most of the experiments I'll be presenting/ letting kids mess with come courtesy of Kitty and her amazing science kits! My favorite was definitely the kit that showed you how to make little things like a battery operated motor out of wire and paper clips, or another one which used the concept of electromagnets to create a telegraph machine. The solar cars are also awesome, I kept looking outside in hopes that the sun would come out so I could test them. Hope and pray for sun next week!

This is how the camp will go- I have 5 main topics: sound, flight, electricity, magnets, and solar. The magnet activity will be next to the electricity activity so I can save time with the electromagnets. Each subject has about 5 activities to go with it, so the camp will either need to happen over the course of 2 days, or I'll need help (I have friends who are maybe coming though, keep your fingers crossed). Either way, I'm excited! I feel like Esther.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Science and Technology Club


Ok, ok, maybe this is a little premature, since we've only had our first meeting, but I will say that I for one had a good time teaching the little lecture I put together on flight. I told the students the basics of airplane flight, showed them some books that they could borrow for more reference, and then we took some of the balsa wood airplanes that I got in a package (thanks kitty!), and we threw them around, trying to see which model would go the farthest, and why. The kids loved it when one of the planes did loops. Then, we went back to the library and the kids made their own airplanes out of some index cards I'd found. It was a fun little lesson to start with. I think that next week we are going to work on simple machines (screws, wedges, levers, maybe even, gasp, a pulley)- I've got my carpenter working on making some simple shapes out of scraps for us, and he is even making me a peg board so that I can better demonstrate the principles. Today, a form 1 who isn't even taller than me yet borrowed a book about airplanes that I'd pulled and put on display under the 'technology club' poster. I'd say thats progress.