June 5, 2002
Right before my birthday I moved out of the guest chalet and into the
muzungu village (muzungu means white people). I am happy to be closer
to them. We are a small family out here and are learning daily how to
support each other in this foreign land. Surrounded by such a striking
different culture we need one another to vent. This release usually
happens during sundown drinks, where we watch the lake turn from blue to
pink to orange and then into a massive reflection of the stars.
It is these people's level of education that continually surprises me.
There is so much learning I have taken for granted. I am finding I
constantly have to slow down my classes to compensate for a lack of what
I would have called 'fundamental knowledge.'
I went to Manda Buzi, a village four hours walk away. I hired a student as
a guide and translator. I paid the same as Patrick pays, one US dollar a day, quite
affordable for me and my guide thought he was getting a deal as well. You
just can't imagine how far our currency goes here.
On my tour of the village I saw the Anglican and Catholic churches. The Anglican
is the most popular, and they have built a much larger brick church, but
it is still waiting for funds to pay for the roof. The churches they
have now are about the size of a small American living room.
The walls are made of straw and mud, the ceiling is
simply reeds crossing the walls. The floor is dirt with twenty logs for
sitting and praying on. These people are proud of their place of
worship, and Christians and non-Christians alike come here to pray and
sing. Their singing is supposed to be wonderful, but I have not heard
more than a worker’s whistle in my two months. I hope to visit the church
during my next village trip.
But, what was I talking about before? Oh yes, education... There is
one school in the village and it is more modest than the church.
Actually, it is slowly falling apart and they are waiting for the rains
to stop so they can begin building a new school. A tin roof has been
donated by an NGO, and hopefully the new building will last more than ten
years. Until then the children pile in this dark A-frame grass hut, sit
on logs and copy what is on the bumpy wooden black board in the front of
the class. The younger kids are in school from 9-12 and the older ones
from 1-3. Each student only studies three hours, five times a week, and
the teaching quality is shockingly low! It is really amazing these
people learn anything at all.
As many of you know, I came with a large bag packed with school supplies
that Katie's school collected. I have not yet given them out, because Patrick and I
are still deciding which school needs them the most. All the schools need chalk, paper, pens and pencils. I have these things, but also many watercolors, colorful
clay, glue and other fun art and craft things. But the education here
is not that advanced. It is unlikely they would know how to use these
materials to help the children learn.
Their theory on education is repetition, repetition, and more repetition! They
haven't begun exploring the idea of right brain, left brain, and probably wont
for many years. I am at a loss as what to do with these luxuries I have trucked over
here. We are debating selling them and buying more paper and pencils. I don't know.
It will take some more thought, but I don't feel it
would be appropriate to sell other people's donations.
If anyone is interested in helping this area then any basic school
supplies (paper, pens, pencils, chalk) are in great need. So, are
books of any kind. We are personally looking for the Old Man in the
Sea. But, any books are like gold out here. Patrick also wanted me to
throw this idea out to anyone who might be interested. There is a need for footballs
(soccerballs) and uniforms. They have a football league out here, but they
have no way of differentiating the players and all their balls are flat and broken.
Any old equipment would be wonderfully appreciated.
Ideally we would like to create a more permanent link between the Niassa
lakeside soccer league and an American/European league. We would like to keep a
continual flow of old equipment to this area. However, this would take
more of a commitment and a little organization. If you know of any
soccer league or team/s that may be interested in supporting a Niassa
soccer team, please get them in contact with me. Or if you simply have
an old ball in your basement them please pull it out. If you have some
things, but are not sure whether they are needed then email Patrick with a
list at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the business email they check twice
a day, but it is done through radio and is very slow so please keep them
short and no forwards or attachments. The post address is:
PO Box 223
Nkhata Bay, Malawi
It can be very difficult to donate things to an African country when you
are not here to see what they really need. Many places would want food,
such as our neighbor Malawi, but here they are eating fine and could
use a few 'luxuries.' Please feel free to email any questions
about donations at the above email address. Thanks.
The rainy session is coming to an end and the sun shines hotter
everyday. The flowers and butterflies have colored the bush with
splashed of yellow, red and purple. I have changed my shower routine to have
one at morning sunrise, washing as the golden light rises from the hills behind.
The beauty of this place continually reminds me how lucky I am.
I woke up at 5:30 this morning. Your body can't help but live by the
light out here. My mornings are slow, planning classes and correcting
homework. I am beginning to feel more comfortable with my job and my
students are beginning to show progress, which reduces my biggest worry
that I would leave with little improvement.
I hope you are all doing well.