Wednesday, November 9, 2011

First Day (October 24, 2011)

After a night of confused nightmares (probably from the Malaria pills), I wake up, shower, dress and have breakfast (I drink both the B&B water and eat watermelon – I hope that is ok). Phalys, the driver picks me up and we head to the WUSC offices for the first day of orientation.

Everyone seems friendly at the offices and we sit down for a meet and greet.

Alice teaching me how to wear chitenje
 (traditional sarong worn commonly by
Malawian women as a wrap, to carry
babies or as a head piece)
I then have an ‘expectations and fears’ section with Alice, the program manager. She is lovely and hilarious and listens to me as I tell her about wanting to be useful but not wanting to impose the way that I think things should be done. I have been worried sick about the ethics of what I am doing. I want to help, support and ally – not repeat colonial and post-colonial patterns or follow one of many well-wishing volunteers who does more harm then good. She also teaches me how to wear a chitenje (traditional sarong worn commonly by Malawian women as a wrap, to carry babies or a head piece). 
She tells me that my mandate has been expanded to work with a second organization because MANET +, the umbrella organization for people living with HIV and AIDS does not have office space for me. As such, they found another local NGO that has a spare desk. FAWEMA is the Forum for African Women Educationalists (the MA is for the Malawi chapter). It sounds like they do some great work to encourage women to stay in school after having children. They also do a lot of training around HIV and sexual and reproductive health. The feminist in me likes the sounds of it!

Alice also thinks that the items that the church kindly donated through my Aunt Sandra’s coordination will be useful with some of the women’s groups. They have hygiene projects where women can stay at a special place when they are menstruating so that they can stay clean and go to school. Apparently a lot of girls don’t go to school during the week of their periods because of lack of hygienic items. Missing a week a month means that many can’t keep up or end up dropping out.

WUSC Malawi Staff @ Lunch
I then go to the CIDA program office to get a briefing of the Canadian development context in Malawi. The briefing officer invites me to join him at the Hash House Harriers weekly run that night. I happily agree.

After lunch with the program staff and a hilarious health briefing at the clinic, I head on a ‘City Tour’ with Steve. He shows me how to take the local transport – I bump my head getting into the overcrowded and sweltering minibus. We go to the local market and walk over the scariest bridge I have ever been on in my life. I get random thumbs-up from a few people – not too sure why but that’s ok!

After getting a SIM card and water we walk the few clicks back to my guesthouse.

I arrive sweaty, disoriented and exhausted and eat raw Mr.Noodles out of a bag because I don’t know where to find food.

The CIDA man picks me up at 5 and we go to the wildlife reserve where they take care of hurt animals. I have never seen anything like the Hash House Harriers!  You literally run along a path until you hit a junction and the fast runners run up ahead in both directions looking for a marker that indicates you are going the right way.
After about 8km of excursion through the bush, passing a one eyed lion (among other animals), crawling a pipe over a river and running over yet another scary bridge, we end up at the reserve bar. A few wood stools and a bar fridge stacked with beer is a welcome treat after the run.
The hash group turns out to be a roundy group of mzungus (white people). They find something to ‘punish’ people for (I get punished both for being new and speaking French). They make me down a cup of beer while they a sing some sort of song about being a piss pot. I got a special round of applause for being the wooly-socked Canadian who could chug the fastest beer. Wow.

I arrive home boiling, exhausted and pass out.

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