Sunday, June 01, 2008

Meeting up with the withdoctor

So, I wanted to tell a story of one of the last days at site...I went to visit a traditional healer/witchdoctor...I asked my friend, George, to take me to some in our area, so he took me to the one near the market. It looked pretty normal from the outside, just a house. We went to the back and went into the "consultation" room. Sitting on the mat on the floor, I looked around and saw his potions and magic stuff. It was interesting. George explained the purpose of our visit: to meet him and to see what he could offer me. He said that he could offer me three services: to tell me who has stolen from me (MK85) , fix any illnesses that I have (MK75) , or to fix any problems associated with my family (MK65) . Of course, as soon as I heard he could tell me who was robbing from me, I told him to help me with that.
From this point on, he went into some sort of trance thing. He started speaking to his dead mother's spirit in this gourd-like thing that had hair on it. He said that it reminds him of his mother. In order to get any information, he had to ask his mother (amayi in chichewa). He blew over the hair on the gourd before he started asking his mother for information. He kept chanting things at this object, saying "amayi" over and over until he felt satisfied with his answer. He told me that two male students from the technical college were the ones stealing from me. They come to my house only when I am not there for a few days and tell each other that information and go together to take things. They sell my stuff in the market and to people in the village. It should be easy to catch these guys because they come to my house so often to check to see if I am around.

There are three punishments towards the person who stole from you: 1)put some sort of spell on them that makes them frozen in your house until you catch them stealing from you 2) sores will appear all over the body of the person who stole from you 3) the witchdoctor can put a curse on them to kill them...sounds brutal...

There are 2 things I can do to keep them away from my house: 1) put some seeds around the perimeter of my house and when the person comes close to my house, they will just not feel like robbing from me and walk away 2) put a oil mixture on my windows and doors and will do the same thing as the seeds...I only found out the price for the seeds: MK800! Ridiculous!

After the information sharing, he described how he came to be a traditional healer. He said that in first grade, he started having dreams with his dead uncle in them, telling him what seeds from trees to collect to heal people. He kept having the dreams and by 4th grade, he decided to start helping people against his father's will. A few years later, he had another dream from his dead uncle telling him to charge people for his gift. He then explained some of his potion things and gourds: 1)Mwatida: protects a person's body if harm comes 2)Kusala: a strange gourd thing with horns or something that recognizes who is a witch 3)Mwuzayani: assists in fertility 4)Mwazangati: a stuffed snake (like what you would win at a fair) that turns into a live snake that can be sent to bite someone and kill them...

I discussed the visit with George after we left. We both agreed that he must of thought that I worked at the technical college for him to say that it was students stealing from me. I told him that I suspected my watchman and he agreed that it could be him. He doesn't really believe in traditional healers like a lot of other Malawians, so it was interesting to hear his opinion.

Well, that's it for now....will write later! Just wanted to share this quick story

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why can't things be simple?

Hi everyone!
Only 7 1/2 weeks until I am back on American soil! So, I have been in Zomba town since Saturday and I am kinda going a little stir crazy even though I have had internet every day and have been in good company. I am staying with another PCV, Sika. She is a nurse who teaches at the college of nursing. I came in on Saturday to meet up with her and then buy some cement and collect bricks for the guardian shelter on Monday.

Well, I showed up on Monday and they said they had scheduled the lorry to be used for something else, so I didn't get to collect stuff then. They said I could use it on Tuesday. So, I called the chiefs and let them know the change of program. I came on Tuesday and they said the lorry needed to get new tires since the tread was worn through. The tires were supposed to arrive from the supplier on Monday, but didn't and then maybe come sometime this week. So, I checked with the technical college to see if they could borrow us their lorry and they said their's was in use all week. So, then I talked to the central hospital people and they said we could use their's but that it would be postponing their programs of building as well.

On Wednesday, we bought cement and then delivered it to the health center. Then, we proceded to the chief's house. He told us that the people wouldn't be coming because they had already spent all day monday and tuesday waiting for the vehicle to come to collect bricks. They were in their fields harvesting maize...funny thing I the fields, only women were harvesting maize and we use the men to collect bricks, so where were the men? I don't know...So, we set up to do this all over again on Friday....

Things that have been going pretty good for me lately: I taught at People Living with HIV/AIDS group how to make peanut butter as a source of nutrition. It is really easy to make and locally available so they can improve their nutrition! I also taught the female students a reproductive health lesson. They were really responsive! I introduced them to female condoms and they were so excited about them! I got 100 for them from the reproductive health NGO, Banja la Mtsogolo. While I was there, I tried to set up a system for them to bring about 100 every month when they come to do female sterilization. So, we'll see if it happens. I am so excited about the women having a choice in protecting themselves from HIV, STDs, and pregnancy. I don't know if there's any way to measure how often these girls use female condoms since sex is such a taboo issue to talk about, but it would be interesting to see how successful they are.

I have about 7 1/2 weeks left in country and about 6 weeks left at my site. It is really weird to think that I am actually leaving Malawi relatively soon. Everyone keeps asking me how I feel about it and I don't want to really think about it. It is kind of bittersweet to be leaving because I am excited to come home and start the next part of my life, but at the same time, it will be really hard to leave all of the friends I have made here behind.

I have also been dealing with not being able to talk to Paul since he is in training in Moldova for Peace Corps. It has been really hard since he is a huge part of my support system. He knows everything I am doing and gives great advice on how to deal with some things...I have gotten a few emails but no letters yet, probably because he is so busy with training. He gave me the phone number for his host family and I was able to call him this week! It was so good to hear his voice. He sounded good, but tired from training, which sounds just about right for the length of time he's been gone. He found out his site this week and this weekend was heading to see his site! I am really excited for him!

Well, that's all I've been up to lately....just trying to get through the last few weeks and wrapping up projects and hoping they get finished! Hope everyone is doing well!

Love ya,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Busy with lots of stuff!

Hey everyone!

So, I have realized that I haven't written for a long time and its time for an update on what I've been doing since my bike accident...after some physical therapy in Lilongwe, I went to Zomba to help teach summer school with the education volunteers. It was fun and I led a goat dissection and taught genetics. It brought back my sense of longing for anatomy! I feel like the students had a better understanding of biology after their two weeks at summer school. I went back to site to find the guardian shelter not having a lot done and the students gone for break. I was only there a small amount of time and then headed up north to the Lake for Christmas.

Christmas at the lake was pretty good. I got some swimming in and eating some good food. I was more anxious about visiting the US at the end of December...

I flew out of Blantyre (the major city in the southern region). My flight was 2 hours late, so I freaked out about getting to the US. The flight staff helped to get everything taken care of. When I got to Johannesburg, I went to the South African Airways desk and they had everything taken care of for me. I was re-routed to JFK and put on a Delta flight to Portland. It was a long haul, but definately worth it. I didn't get in until 11pm instead of 9, but oh well. Bridget suprised me with getting Paul a security pass and he was waiting for me at the gate! It was so cold when I got in! I know that it was because I am used to 85 degree plus weather year-round. Everyone thought it was really funny.

Visiting the US was really good and that deciding to go home was definately a good thing for me. It was really good to see all of my friends and family, and especially Paul. I found out that Paul is leaving for Moldova (eastern Europe) at the end of this month, so we spent a lot of time getting stuff for him to leave. It was kind of weird. I feel like I don't fit in as much with american culture and that being back for good is going to be a hard transition. Everything seems so different even though it probably hasn't changed that much, but that I have changed a lot. I spent a lot of my time going to thai food restaurants, shopping for Paul (a little for myself), spending lots of time with Paul, cooking Malawian food for my parents, and going to the mountain with my girlfriends. It was sort of hard to leave, but at the same time I was missing being in Malawi and wanted to get back to wrap up projects and say my goodbyes.

When I got back to Malawi, I spent a few days dealing with jet lag. I got back to site and was busy from the get go. I had some meetings with the head chief and set up a meeting with the local chiefs to discuss the progression of the guardian shelter. Twenty-five chiefs, technical college instructors, a rep from the district health office, and myself had a pretty good meeting. I spent the next week running around Zomba town getting lots of supplies for the guardian shelter. It took almost all week to get most of it done. However, when I returned, I found out that nothing had really been done since I left. The villagers hadn't come to start working and the technical college can't provide most of the work like they had promised. So, I have to figure out how to get the villagers to come and do the building. We'll see what happens. Before I left site, I taught the community based organization (CBO) that I am working with how to make peanut butter.

I just finished at weeklong training on Home-Based and Pallative Care. It was pretty helpful. I took two people from the CBO since they are interested in doing HBC in my area. They found it very helpful and are really excited to start doing this stuff at Nasawa! We will (hopefully) train people in our area that are interested and keep working on the peanut butter making and selling!

Well, I guess that's a semi-short wrap up of what I've been up to lately...I will try to write more often since I am outta Malawi soon-ish! I hope that everyone is doing well and healthy!

Love ya,

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guardian Shelter Progression and Bike Accidents!

Hi everyone!
So, I have been working pretty hard since the last time I wrote...I think...So, after the guardian shelter funding was approved, I worked with the technical college and district hospital to set up everything to get the foundation finished before the students left for break. I had a few meetings and everyone was really excited. I got to watch the students learn how to "set out" a foundation so we could then have someone excavate it. Just talking to the students made me really pumped to do this project because they were so excited to be given the opportunity to contribute to the community while building something so big! It was really cute actually. So, as of now, the chiefs have motivated the villagers to help pour the concrete for the foundation and it seems to be actually happening!
Let's see....since my cat, Mauwa, was run away by the new Medical assistant's dog, I ended up getting a new kitten. It is really little and cries alot because it was taken away from its mom too young. I named it "Namiwawa." It has become my oatmeal eating partner and has already proven to be a great warrior against many bugs in my house! It is a calico cat and super cute!
When I first got back to site after being sick in Lilongwe, Mrs. Mhango told me that I was no longer allowed to walk alone by myself because there were Portuguese who were killing people and taking their blood. Very interesting here in Malawi. Don't worry, we don't know anyone who has actually been killed by the Portuguese in my area, we just hear rumors about it.
On top of this fantastic story, one night when I was getting ready to go to bed, my nightwatchman called me out to the porch and showed me a "charm" from witchcraft that he found in one of the four holes dug in the four corners of my house. It had some wooden "needle" that they said was either for protection or death. Probably not the best thing that could happen. It was kind of funny because Mrs. Mhango and her kids were really worried that someone was out to get me. I think optimistically, so I of course thought it was to protect me from evil spirits! Nothing too bad has happened, we'll see!
I am actually writing this earlier than I had planned because 2 weeks ago, I was biking from my house to the tarmac and got in a bike accident and "slightly" tore my meniscus and lateral ligament in my right knee so I am in Lilongwe getting some physical therapy. I was going pretty fast and hit some loose gravel and fell to the right side. I got pretty beat up with lots of skin missing and gravel in my left palm as well as a decent amount of skin being left on the ground from my right forearm. I walked the 3-5km to the tarmac where I leave my bike with some blood flowing out of my body. I went to the health centre to get fixed...they poured sterile water and an iodine wrap on my wounds and some stuff like tylenol for the pain...right, like that was going to actually work. I went to Blantyre for a summer school meeting and went to the Blantyre Adventist hospital and they gave me some good pain killers. So, after going back to site and doing lots of crouching while bucket bathing, using the pit latrine, and washing dishes, I noticed that my knee was pretty bad. I went back to Blantyre and got some x-rays and a ct scan. Now that's why I am times...
Well, I am in for Thanksgiving, so I'm sure I will have plenty of fun stories to add on here later! I hope that you are all doing well!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Under the weather and done with vacation...

Hi everyone~
So, I've been "under the weather" for the last week and have been put on medical hold until at least Tuesday...I have a horrible sore throat, cough, headache, and runny nose. It's been a kind of bad week for me. My really good friend, Brent, left the country on Wednesday and ended his contract early because he wasn't liking Malawi so much. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do, say goodbye to a great friend. At least he's from Montana and is thinking of moving to Portland, so maybe I'll get to see him when I'm done!
I said goodbye to my parents about a week and a half ago after their visit of 3 weeks. It was hard to see them go too. We had a great time, but the time went by way too fast. We traveled around Malawi (the Zomba Plateau) and at my site for the first week. It was kind of strange having them at my house and for them to see how I actually live. I'm not quite sure if they are put at ease or more worried for me now that they've seen it. I took them to a few of the youth club trainings that George and I do, as well as a community sensitization meeting. They got to meet all of the people I work with. One of the midwives wanted my mom to help her with antenatal clinic, but all we did was help hand out mosquito nets. Mom was surprised to see how little equipment we have in labour and delivery! We ate dinner with Mrs. Mhango and her children like I normally do. I think they handled that ok. They killed a chicken in honor of my parents visiting!
After being tortured in the village, we headed back to Lilongwe to catch a flight to Mfuwe, the town outside of South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. It was on a small cessna, so mom had to take some meds to get through that flight! We stayed at the infamous "Norman Carr" safari place. It was really nice. The rooms were great and so was the food. Our safari driver was really good at pointing out animals! We saw a leopard hunting a puku during the day (very rare), lions hanging out on the sand banks after feeding during the day, and 2 lioness and 3 cubs at night hunting a kudu. Besides those, we saw lots of elephants, kudu, buffalo, etc! We were really lucky with everything! From there, we headed to Victoria Falls, Zambia. We stayed at this really nice place called "The Zambezi Sun". It was so fancy that I kind of felt out of place. At dinner, there were so many utensils I didn't know what to do! My dad and I did this thing called a microlight flight where you go over the falls in this small motorized parachute aircraft thing. It was amazing to see the falls that way! No one can take a picture to capture how amazing this place was! My mom and I had full body massages overlooking the spray from the falls and I had a was so nice to be pampered and to not have village feet!
After the fun in the sun in Zambia, we came back to Malawi on a grueling and not so fun turbulence flight and headed up north to Nkhata Bay. We stayed at Mayoka village (a favorite of mine, if you haven't guessed already). Dad and I snorkeled and got to see some great bright blue chiclids! They made some amazing food and we met some interesting random people from the UK and Australia. It seems like everyone is here in Malawi to help in some way or another. I was able to show my parents the Nkhata Bay district hospital. That was a real shocker to my mom. She couldn't believe that this is the top level and best healthcare available to Malawians. She was like I was when I first came to Malawi.
Even though my parents favorite part of the trip was going to the village, mine was being spoiled in Zambia. Its so different than village life and it was a nice break...enough so that I can make it through the next 9 months!
OH! I GOT FUNDING FOR THE GUARDIAN SHELTER! I have a real project now! It's going to be weird managing so much money and being in charge of a construction will turn out amazing, I'm sure! The community is so excited!
I guess that's it for now! I miss you all and hope that everything is going great!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Done with vacation and back to work...

Hey everyone!
So, I am just getting back from spending 6 weeks of vacation and one week at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World)...
So, let me fill you in on my vacation...I met up with Paul in Dar es Salaam and my luggage was lost by Kenya Airways...then, I find out that his luggage was lost by US Airways, so not the best way to start off our vacation...we spend a night in Dar and then my luggage shows up and we head to Zanzibar! We find out that we are luckily there at the right time (it was the Zanzibar International Film Festival). We spent a few days in Stonetown to see the sights and ate some good seafood that the fishermen sell from their days' work. Then we headed up north to Nungwi to try to do some diving, but Paul and I were unfortunately still fighting our head colds that we got somewhere on a we headed back to Stonetown and Paul was feeling up to diving and I snorkeled...he saw a sea turtle and I saw a dolphin! Heading back to Dar on a ferry, I got really sick to my stomach and felt awful...The next day, we spent 13 hours on a big bus to get to a town to stay the night before we crossed the border to Malawi. We headed to Mzuzu, Malawi the next day. After that, we went to Lake Malawi in the town of Nkhata Bay (where I was for Christmas). It was a much needed break and time for relaxing after all of our long days on public transport. After a few days at the lake, we headed south to the capital, Lilongwe for a few days...we managed to get Paul some shirts at the market (so that he had more than 2) and he got to meet some of my Peace Corps friends and co-workers. From there we headed to my site for a few days and Paul got to meet my Malawian family, go to a community sensitization meeting, meet George (the guy who I go with to all of the youth club trainings), and eat lots of Malawian food with his hands! I think he liked it!
Then came the fun travel to Mozambique...we headed to the border from Blantyre and got to the Malawi customs to find out that the Mozambiquian border 5 km away that we decided to walk (probably one of the worst decisions I've made). We took a bus to Tete and stayed the night. The next day (a Sunday) we went to the regional airlines' ticket place and they told us they had a flight to Maputo (the capital) but we couldn't get tickets because they can't print out tickets on we went to the airport and waited for standby. We got on and arrived in was like a real city in America! I ate some pizza and Thai food! It was so nice, but I was sort of overwhelmed by all of the sights! We headed north at 4am on a small bus to Praia do Tofo (Tofo Beach). It was beautiful white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. I did a SCUBA refresher course and then we did a dive on a coral reef. We couldn't see alot because of bad visibility and not a lot of animal life. We were supposed to do a 2 tank deep dive to see the manta rays (what this beach is known for), but they cancelled it because of bad conditions. So that was kind of frustrating...we headed up more north to a town called Vilanculos to stay for a few days. It was also amazingly beautiful with turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. We stayed at a really cute place. We did a 2 tank dive at the 2 mile reef off of the Bazaruto Archipelago. It was so cool. We saw a huge sting ray, devil rays, a sea turtle, lots of reef fish, and a white tip shark! For part of this dive package, they drop you off on an island made of sand dunes to eat lunch...there are no inhabitants on this island, so me and Paul were all alone for 2 hours on this beautiful island. We found this place that delivered food for free so we ate a lot of "New York Pizza" and good food from them. We ended up meeting this 50-60 year old New Zealand backpacker who we hung out with from Tofo all the way to Malawi. We traveled to Chimoio and stayed the night so that we could head back to Malawi at 4 am. It took us the whole day and part of the night to get back to Blantyre...from there, we headed to Cape Maclear for a few days in a rental car because we were tired of public transport...we did one dive in Lake Malawi at a site called the Aquarium. It was perfectly named because we were surrounded by small bright blue aquarium fish! It was a beautiful dive. From there, we headed to Malawi's premier game park, Liwonde. We camped there and did a night drive. On the night drive, we saw 7 hyenas! It was kind of scary because they got really close to our open land cruiser. We also saw lots of herds of elephants, hippos, impala, etc. We did a day drive at 6am and then did a boat safari. It was really cool and it has wetted my appetite for the safari stuff that I'll be doing when my parents come!
We spent just a day in Lilongwe before Paul flew out. It was really hard to see him get on the plane. I just wanted one more kiss, one more hug...but that won't happen. I miss him SO much. It is going to be another LONG year before I see him again. It has been hard without him, I see little things that remind me of his visit.
I spent a few days in Lilongwe getting things ready for Camp GLOW and headed up north to Kamuzu Academy to get ready for teaching and facilitating Gender and Health Days. It went so well! We had 58 girls from all over Malawi attend! I think they learned ALOT. We discussed some really important topics like: women's rights in malawi, sexual violence, male and female anatomy, addressed sexual cultural practices, and much much more! There are so many myths surrounding sex in Malawi and it was very beneficial for the girls to get some things clarified! I had a great time and all the work put into it was definately worth it! The girls were amazing and so sweet. OH! I forgot, I also taught them a hip hop dance as a morning activity and they were amazing at it! It was really cute!
Wow, this is a long entry...I guess that's what happens when you haven't written in 2 months...but now I should be back on track with all of this...My parents come on Sept. 6th and leave the 25th or 26th, so I don't know if I will be able to write again any time soon...I need to get some proposals written for the guardian shelter and the TBA training (yes, I have finally gotten the 25% community contribution) and get back to site for a few weeks before I am on some more vacation! I hope that everyone is well! I love and miss you all LOTS!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Busy busy busy before vacation...

Hi everyone...
Just wanted to do a quick update before I go on vacation for a few weeks with Paul...he is coming to visit me for 6 weeks at the end of June! I can't wait! I haven't seen him in over year! I am so excited! We're going to meet up in Dar es Saalam in Tanzania and then ferry over to the island of Zanzibar for a few days of diving...other planned activities include travelling through Malawi, visiting my health center and village, and going to Mozambique for some great diving as well.
So, what have I been up to lately? Well, I have met with the chiefs, principal of the technical college, and people from the district hospital to talk about building a guardian shelter for the women who come to the health center with women in labor. It is important for these women to have somewhere to sleep and eat while taking care of women who are working so hard to deliver a baby! I now have to search for funding...I think I can find some through USAID...I worked with the head of maintenance to come up with a budget based on the guardian shelter that we are copying from another health center...It sounds like it is going to be HUGE (12.5 metres x 6.4 metres, aka 23,000 bricks!). I am sort of stressed about finding the funding for it, applying for the funding, and gettting construction started and completed before the rainy season in November...since things move so slowly here, I think it might be pushed until after rainy season... :-(
So, my best friend and Malawian mom is getting transferred to another health center. She's moving about 70km away from me in the completely opposite end of the district. I am so upset about this. When she told me I didn't believe her. I felt like I got the wind knocked out of me! It is unsure when she will be transferred exactly, but hopefully not until after the guardian shelter is built since she is the main person that I am working with on it.
I am in Lilongwe now working on figuring out proposal stuff and then I will help teach the new health volunteers who just arrived in Malawi on May 31st about forming youth clubs and teaching LifeSkills. I'm really excited about that! I am also going to go to 2 other health PCVs' sites to see what they are doing at their health centers! I will then go to my own mid-service training and then head off for vacation with Paul!
I love and miss you all so much! I hope that you are all doing great!