I've been in Malawi for almost three weeks now. The first week was spent with the other PCT (Peace Corps Trainees) at a training center. Then we relocated to a rural village where we will be spending the remainder of our training.
I am living with a host family in the village. We have no electricity or running water. The house has several rooms, including a living room and a grain storage room. I have my own room, which includes a mosquito net, water filter and a twin-sized mattress, all courtesy of Peace Corps. There are three separate buildings which are all part of the house too. These are the kitchen (with a built in henhouse), the bafa where we bathe and the chimbudzi (pit latrine). Then there is an area for dry corn storage and an elevated pen for the mbudzi (goats).
A typical day starts with kusesa (sweeping) outside. We use branches which have been tied together to make a pretty effective broom. I also sweep my room. My amayi (host mother) is always up first, and has usually already gone to the well and gotten water for us. She usually has the moto (fire) going too, with a pot of water boiling for tea. She heats water for me to bathe each day, so after my chores I take my bucket bath in the bafa. Then I get dressed and have breakfast with her and my achemwali (host sister). My achimwenes (host brothers) have school on weekdays and usually leave before me. Then I head to "class" with the other PCTs. We have class all day, with a break so we can go home and have lunch with our host families. In the evenings I might visit with the other PCTs or spend time with my host family. There is always chimanga (corn) to de-kernel so that is a frequent evening activity for everyone.
Corn is so important in this village. The kernels are ground into flour to make nsima, a staple food. We eat it everyday, usually for lunch and dinner. The corncobs are used to make the cooking fires, or burned for light in the evenings as we work on the corn. Here is a photo goats on a neighbor's maize pile. Goats are everywhere here.
It gets dark at 6:00 so we eat dinner in the light of the lantern. Sometimes we go over my Chichewa lessons together by flashlight and my host family helps me practice. We had fun drawing different animals and labeling them in Chichewa.
Stuff I have done this week: swept, lit the lantern, carried water on my head from the well, washed my clothes by hand, washed dishes with my amayi, helped prepare the nsima and masamba (vegetables), and stripped countless kernels from their corncobs.
I'm learning a lot, from language and culture to technical training and household tasks. I usually go to bed pretty early, exhausted from the long days. It's challenging, but rewarding too. Sometimes I look around and just wonder at how much my life has changed in just a few weeks. All in all, it's pretty amazing to be here.