Thursday, October 1, 2009


I remember listening to a child’s radio program as a child that always started with a song “Let the Children Come”. That song has been going through my head a lot recently, and the idea of “letting the children come” has taken on a whole new meaning to me. When I first moved into my house, there were multiple children playing outside. They found it amusing to call out my name repeatedly “Julia! Julia!” and when I did not respond, they would knock on my door. When or if I answered it, they would all run away laughing; some would return to stare at me with sheepish grins. While I cook, I have my window open, which is too high for the kids to see into, so they would climb the wall, holding onto the burglar bars in the window. They asked me what I was cooking, and would watch with awe. It was as if I was holding a new style of cooking classes for children. I can only hope that they learned something useful. At times, when little kids hanging outside my window or at my door became too much for my “personal space”, I would tease them with calling out my own name and asking who “Julia” is, or jokingly chase them away. I was worried for my sanity at times.
After living in my house for about 6 weeks now, things have gradually gotten better. I believe that the novelty of me, a strange American, has slowly worn off. I have also made friends with most of the “regulars”. One evening I was sitting on my steps playing my harmonica and kids came and sat with me. They are usually very hyper and running around wildly, but this time was different. They listened with silence. As I played, I looked into the eyes of these children and saw a love and innocence that I had not seen before.
Now, when they call my name, I answer, and they laugh. When I come home from work, the neighbour boy yells my name until I wave and acknowledge his presence with a smile. At the market yesterday, one of the little girls saw me, I took her hand and we walked hand in hand as I shopped. As I walk through town now, I always hear a faint “Julia!”; all the kids know my name now, which is better than them calling me “Azungu” (white/rich person), or Miyuki (The name of the Japanese volunteer who lived there before me). I smile and give them a thumbs-up and say “Za Bo?” and they say “Bo” (it is like “what’s up?”)


There is a saying, “This is the best thing since sliced bread”. In my opinion sliced bread is the best thing. There is a very common chain grocery store called “People’s” that has a bread bakery which bakes massive amounts of bread. In the evening, People crowd in at the bakery counter, waiting for the bread to finish baking. I call this “rush hour”. When I am in town, I make it a point to buy a loaf. Bread is a treasured novelty that “Peoples” has now made available in the local towns; it can possibly be compared to the opening of a new restaurant in America – a really good restaurant.
Imagine the excitement at discovering such a simple, already cooked food: bread. Unfortunately most of the bread is white (I prefer whole wheat). I am lucky that bread is sold here in my trading center. I don’t have a “Peoples’s”, so the bread is not that fresh; they buy it in the city and bring it back to sell. I was so excited to find bread in the store, and you can understand when you consider the convenience of bread compared with the energy required to cook nsima.
The Malawian diet has very little variety, nsima is the staple food, and for side dishes they have greens, eggs, beans, or fish, and they put tomatoes and onions in everything. I can’t complain, I have enjoyed the challenge of learning how to cook and be creative with these foods. I have slowly been perfecting the art of cooking nsima; it has to be the perfect consistency so that it can be eaten with the hands. My night guard has had the privilege of testing my efforts. Unfortunately, Malawian’s have a hard time being creative when cooking; they are content to eat the same food for every meal. Of course there are those who do not have a choice and are lucky to even have food. I have realised one major difference between Americans and others: most Americans eat for pleasure whereas others eat to live. I realise that everyone must eat to live, but the mindset is very different when food is such a scarce thing.

The Wind

Strong gusts of wind wake me up. The creaking and groaning of my tin roof causes me to grab my sheets tightly, I fear that I might blow away. I hear the metal gate outside the door suddenly slam into the electrical box that is on the outside wall and I hope that it does not get damaged before I actually get electricity. The winds will last from September to the end of November. I grew up with tornados and I went to college in the mid-west where the winds are very strong, but this is somehow different. The dust swirls in the wind and gets in my eyes; the sand is deep on the roads. Riding my bicycle is difficult, it is as if I am riding on one of those run-off ramps for semi trucks on steep declines; at some points I must get off and push the bicycle. Riding into the wind makes it seem like I am barely moving, but the ride back is amazingly fast!
Through an embarrassing experience, I have learned which skirts I can wear and which ones I cannot wear. I was walking from the Public Health office to the hospital and a sudden gust of wind came and blew my skirt up and away. One of the on lookers said (in Chitumbuka) to my friend that I needed a chitenje (a wrap around piece of material that all the women here wear). I personally do not like wearing a chitenje over a skirt; it is too much; so, I will just keep to my longer skirts during this windy season.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

my first week

I arrived at my new home on Saturday, August 1, 2009. I started by cleaning each room, then started unpacking and arranging and organizing my stuff. I put up pictures of my family and friends, trying to make it like home. I have settled in well and I started going out to villages on outreach clinics with the hospital staff. I have been perfecting the art of cooking on a charcoal stove...I cook once and eat that food for a day. I have made friends with a few people. My house is the water source for my neighbors and so there are always people outside, coming and going. Last night I woke up to a terrible shaking. at first i thought it was someone trying to get in my house, but then I realized that it was an earthquake! I jumped out of bed and went to stand in the door frame. I had no idea what to expect...I was just hoping that my house did not fall down. Thankfully it stopped after about 10 seconds or so; and I'm glad to say that my house is fine. This caused the dogs to start hawling and I also heard women wailing....I wanted to wail but i was in too much shock! I heard later that it was a shock wave from an earthquake in the Indian ocean that registered around 7 in the rictor scale and that this happens about once a I have a couple more to survive.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Good times

Hey everyone!
I went to visit my site and it went well. My house is nice...I have an indoor toilet and shower! I will live in Mhuju at a rural hospital. I am heading back to Dedza to finish up with training and I will swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer on the 29th. I have a PCV about 10K from me and I went to visit her at her house. I will be receiving my mail at the Rumphi District Hospital because the ambulance from Mhuju goes to Rumphi daily.

This morning I ate at this really nice restaraunt....I had a Mushroom omelete, salad, coffee, and potato chips, it was delicous! Last night I had vanilla icecream...mmm...I will take my final language proficiency interview tomorrow ( I'm learning Chitumbuka) so wish me luck!

I have been getting around Malawi pretty well...I got a free ride from Mzuzu to Lilongwe yesterday...and in a few minutes I will be hitching to Dedza.

I miss everyone!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Few Weeks in Malawi

Today we are moving out to our villages for homestay. The name of my village is Chapatali and there are twelve of us that will be staying there. The other eight people will be living in a nearby village. I received my language assignment yesterday... I will be learning Chitumbuka along with three others: My current roomate Bonnie, Chad ( a nurse), and Ray. Chitumbuka is spoken in Northern Malawi so at least I have an idea of where I will be placed. Bonnie and I might be neigbors! (neighbor is a word usedd loosely here......HAHA)

We went to market to get things for homestay... Such as toilet paper, peanut butter, and Chiterije- a peice of material that has many different uses. My new last name for the next five weeks will be Chimwala - it has a nice ring to it. It is dry season here. The roads are very dusty! Sandy. It has been unussually warm so far - I am waiting for the cold to hit. It is chili after the sun goes down - sweat shirt/pants or leggings needed. The trainers have been very thourough in everything...they even taught us how to make a bed!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” - Martin Buber

Hi everyone!

I will officially begin my journey with the Peace Corps on May 28, 2009. It has taken a long time to finally get here (I applied in November 2007) but it has been worth it. I received my invitation to serve in Malawi as a Community Health Adviser on January 21, 2009. My staging information arrived in the end of April: I am scheduled to fly in to Washington D.C. on May 28th at 9:10am. I will be meeting the rest my fellow volunteers at registration at 2:00pm where an intense afternoon of training will follow. We will fly out of D.C. Friday evening; arriving in Johannesburg, SA Saturday evening. I am not looking forward to the 18 hour flight. We will spend Saturday night in Johannesburg and fly into Lilongwe on Sunday afternoon. From the Lilongwe airport we will bus to Dedza where our nine weeks of training will begin. The seasons are opposite in Malawi so I will be able to enjoy two winters in a row.

I am currently trying to think of everything that I need to pack...I have lists galore! I have put a pad of paper in my purse so that when I am walking down the street and it starts to rain; I can write down that I need to pack an umbrella. I wish that I could just throw some stuff in and go, like I usually do, but I am packing for 27 months! It is a bit overwhelming, so at times I have to remind myself that if the people in Malawi can live without it so can I.

I cannot wait to discover each secret destination that this journey has in store for me; I am so excited about the change of pace and experiancing the different culture. I will do my best to keep you all updated, whether it be writing blogs or having my family post letters that I send by snailmail.