Sunday, September 28, 2014

a plethora of buckets

In my opinion, every PCV should have a bucket. They serve so many purposes! From bucket bathing, to puking into it while having diarrhea at the same time, to using it to store stuff, to using it as a chair, to making a drum out of it to make a kikass beat... and thankfully they can be found almost everywhere, including the local piață!

Cleaning Day in Malawi

It's Sunday so it is a good time to do a little house-cleaning. I'm mopping my cement floors this morning. I don't see much difference before and after, but it feels good anyways.

While cleaning my living room I found a few things this morning:

- lizard skin that had been shed
- a dead cricket
- a tiny poop (lizard poop?)

Oh, and this little guy:

Isn't this the hairiest little caterpillar you have ever seen? He is now happily roaming outside in my yard. Ah, nature.

Okay, back to laundry. Let's see if the red ants are back yet...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hot Season

While the Northern Hemisphere goes into Fall and Winter, it is getting quite warm down here in the South.

In Malawi, they say there are three seasons: Hot season, cold season and the rainy season. And it is officially the hot season. October and November are supposed to be the hottest months, so I am looking forward to that...

I don't have a thermometer, but that is probably a good thing because knowing the number is not going to make me feel any cooler. It's not so bad right now, though I notice I drink more water than a few weeks ago. (Although I really miss ice.)  Mostly it is just difficult to sleep at night. I got a tip from a PCV to sleep with a wet handkerchief over me to cool me off, so I tried that last night. It worked pretty well too.

The heat has some benefits though-- tropical fruit season is coming! I got a bunch of bananas (nthochi) yesterday for really cheap. And my neighbors gave me this from their tree:

Papaya! Now I admit I am not a huge papaya fan, but when in Malawi...

Stay warm, Northerners!

Friday, September 26, 2014

4 weeks of școală terminat!...31 more to go!!

(elevii [students] putting a puzzle of the 3 aspects of health together during class)

(„Triunghiul de sănătate” - mintală, fizică, și socială
"Triangle of Health" - mental, physical, & social - i made puzzle pieces for each health aspect - each representing one of the colors of the Moldovan flag - albastru [blue], galben [yellow], și roșu [red];
o, and obviously not all the elevii showed up for class, hence all the blank puzzle pieces)

(elevii posting their own health drawings onto „Triunghiul de sănătate” ["Triangle of Health"]; my partner teacher, Natalia, is encouraging them)

(my 1st gift from an elev as a profesoară!!)

(2nd gift...the plum looks like a butt...or a heart, depending on how you look at it ;op)

(& 3rd time's the charm! my 1st măr (apple)!!! YAY! how iconic! i feel like a real teacher now! :o] )

bucket bathing...not for everyone ;op

Like my sister down in Malawi, i too must bucket bathe in lieu of showering or any type of bathing with running water...but, unlike my sister, i really dread it and avoid it for as long as possible! I've lived in my site for 6 weeks now and have only bucket bathed twice so far!! I know, ew, right??, well, i've thankfully managed to get away almost every weekend and have been able to take either real, or almost real showers when i've been away from site! The 2 weekends i've stayed at site were the 2 weekends in which i bucket bathed...not a pretty site. So, if you've done the math, ya, i'm only truly bathing about once a week...but inbetween bathings, i do body wipe-downs with the baby wipes i brought with i'm not completely gross. ;op

But, the bucket itself, i do love and it hasn't gone completely to waste! I used it a couple weeks ago to puke in while i was having waterfalls of diarrhea! I think that one of the most valuable possessions all PCVs must have is a bucket! ...regardless of bucket bathing! 

Toamnă este aici!!! ...for realz yo

So, Autumn is here, and it's frkn COLD!!! I LOVE IT!!!! ...but it's frkn COLD!!! The past few nights have gotten down in the 30's (Farenheit, duh)! By the time i walked to school the other day (only about a 10 minute walk), my feet, hands, and nose were numb!

My prep for winter while i was still in SoCal was limited...I was shopping for winter (or trying to) in SoCal in May...

It's only Autumn and i'm already soooooooooo cold!!! Mama-G gave me a 2L bottle filled with hot water last night to put under my blankets next to me while i was wonderful! and it stayed warm the whole night!

(on the left: corn cobs used as fuel in the sobă (heater thingy) for heat during the winter; 
on the right: freshly painted squatty potty...we have a flushing toilet inside (technically we don't have plumbing, the water that flushes and comes out of the tap is pumped in from the well), so i'm wondering about this freshly painted outhouse...does it mean it gets so cold here in winter that we can't flush the toilet and are gonna hafta use this the whole COLD iarnă (winter)?? ...sigh)

time to start growing out my winter coat, i guess ;op

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kusamba in a Bucket

Here in Malawi I bathe (kusamba) by taking bucket baths. I heat the water then pour it into a large plastic basin. I use a plastic cup with a handle to pour the water over me. Add a bar of soap, a washcloth and a towel, and I'm all set. (Thanks for the soap, Mom. I love it!)

I bathe in the bafa, an outdoor structure made of mud bricks. There are little windows to let light in, and a drain to carry away used water.

I have to bathe when it is still light out because I wouldn't be able to see anything otherwise. Also, bugs. Although I did take a few bucket baths by lantern light during homestay, which was kind of nice. Except for the mosquito bites.

While I do miss showers, I don't mind bucket baths. On a hot day it is very refreshing. And it uses very little water. Plus, it is part of the Peace Corps Volunteer experience!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wildlife DOES exist in Moldova!!

I've been in Moldova now for almost 4 months, and up until a couple days ago, had yet to see any wildlife...well, wild mammals, at least (i saw a beautiful bright green lizard, and, of course, birds). But, after i hitched a ride home the other day (one of the main modes of transportation, and other than walking 7 km into my village, it's the only way into my village from the bus stop outside of my village) & was dropped off, I saw a dead rat in the road...and today, lo & behold, I saw an actual squirrel in a tree! I was so happy! Even though i was running a little late for my meeting with my new partner teacher, i had to stop to take pictures for proof (cuz some of my fellow PCVs probably won't believe me).

Sorry they're not the best quality, but hey, it's a frkn squirrel in Moldova... for realz!! 

So, here's a recap of the wildlife i've witnessed so far in Moldova: 1 huge bee-like creature, 1 bright green lizard, 1 critter in my ceiling that i know is gonna fall on me while i'm sleeping one night...which i'm sure will make for a great story to post...1 dead rat in the road (i regret not taking a picture for more proof of wildlife), & 1 squirrel in a tree! well as birds, of course, and way too many stray dogs and cats.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Splish Splash

I woke up to a splashing sound this morning. I went into the living room to investigate and found this little guy:

I had left a little water in the bucket last night, and I guess he wanted to take a bath too.

Photo taken after I emptied all the water out of the bucket and tipped it sideways so he could escape. Because I am nice like that.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

other PC Sister's finally in the hiz-ouse! ;op

YAY! I finally made it to our blog!!! ;op you all have probably guessed by now, i made it thru 10 weeks of PST and have officially been a PCV now since August 13! I moved to my permanent site the same day after emotional goodbye's to my fellow English-speaking PCVs. I had 2 weeks to settle in and meet with my 2 partner teachers to plan lesson plans before starting teaching...IN ROMANIAN...on 1 Septembrie! 

I live in a small village near Soroca, a "raion" (similar to a small city) on the Nistru River, which is the border between Ukraine and Moldova! I love the area, especially Soroca itself! It's sooooooooo beautiful!!!

   (Ukraine on the left, Moldova on the right)

Mama-G (Mama gazdă = host mom) is great! It's just her and me that share the casă mică (small house) together. Her husband died a few years ago and her 2 sons are married with kids and live on their own. 

My "room" is more of a closet and has a door that doesn't shut all the way and half of it is opaque/semi-see-thru glass, but since it's just her and me, it doesn't bother me and the closet is actually quite cozy :o]  Her bed is in the kitchen, so at least i have a door...even if it doesn't completely shut. And hey, at least I have a mirror! I hadn't seen myself in about 3 months! 

(ya, that's Mama-G's sons picture hanging on the wall above my bed)


She has a dog named Negru (probably around 5ish years old) and 2 sister/brother puppies (not Negru's). I named the puppies (Mama-G doesn't know) Rachela (the "ch" in Romanian sounds like a "k") & Nicolae cuz they remind me of my cousins Jez (who was "Rachel" as a kid) and Nick when they were kids. Rachela is bigger than Nicolae (Jez is older than Nick) and kind of a bully, but Nicolae just takes it and just keeps following along. Nicolae is super sweet and loves to be loved and held and cuddled, whereas Rachela wants to be loved, but you hafta earn it. Their relationship is just like Jez's and Nick's when they were's pretty funny!

(don't be decieved by Rachelă's puppy-dog eyes...she's a brat...cute, yes, and with that comes brat! ;o]

(Nicolae :o] )

But enough dog talk (for now)...

So i started teaching with my partner teachers the 1st week of Septembrie. I'm teaching health ed to middle-schoolers (here middle school is 5th - 9th grades)...IN ROMANIAN! it's been 3 weeks completed now and i'm likin' it! 

(from left to right: Natlaia [one of my partner teachers], me, Maria [the dance teacher])

1 Septembrie = "1st Bell" = 1st day of school -- more of a formal ceremony! All the kids come to school dressed up super fancy lacey dresses and 3 pc suits! The mayor is there, a priest is there, speeches are given (including mine about myself in broken Romanian), music is played...i had no idea! After all that, the elevii (students) give teachers and staff flowers! So sweet! :o]

(I found a broken vase in my class to put my flower in ;o] )

(my partners and i have our own sănătate [health] classroom...which is quite a luxury within the healthie [health ed educators] community!!)

Our school only has about 215 students - down from the 800+ it used to have! One of my partners told me a lot of people have moved away for work in other countries, which has been a big problem in Moldova, in general. 

Overall, it's been a lot of fun and adventure getting to know Moldova and Moldovans so far! 

...more to come!!

There's a toad in my bafa

This morning when I went into the bafa (outdoor bathing area) I saw this little guy waiting for me. Ah, it's good to be in Malawi...

Just looked up the word for frog in Chichewa. Frog is "chule". Although I guess this might be a toad? For toad, my dictionary says "chule wa ku mtunda koma amaberekera m'madzi" which translates to something like "frog from higher ground but born in water". Chichewa is awesome.

I checked with the lovely and intelligent Brandy, who is wise in the ways of Herpitology, and she said that it is "surely a toad, probably the African common toad, not endangered, and abundant in Africa." Thanks, Brandy!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back to Sukulu

School (sukulu) started on Monday, September 8th in Malawi. The first week of school here is a bit different than the first week in an American school though.

The school system here consists of Primary Schools and Secondary Schools. Primary Schools go from Standard 1-8, which is the equivalent of Grades 1-8 in the U.S.  Secondary Schools go from Forms 1-4, which is the equivalent of Grades 9-12. In order to progress to Form 1, a Standard 8 student must pass an exam at the end of year. In order to progress to Form 3, a Form 2 student must pass the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE). These exams are taken in July.

So there we were, first week of school, and there were no Form 1 nor Form 3 students at school. Why? Because they had not received their results yet, so they didn't know if they had passed to the next grade. Apparently this is typical, so it is expected that there are no classes for those grades the first 1-2 weeks of the term every year. Thus losing those weeks of valuable instruction.

For Form 2 and 4, which will be taking certificate exams at the end of this school year, there were classes the first week. However, things weren't quite running at full speed.  Only about half the students showed up the first day. There was a lot of school cleaning going on, and end of term examinations were returned to the students. Some class periods did not have instruction as the teacher time tables with subject allocations were still being finalized. Then we had a staff meeting that first Friday in the middle of the day. I'm not sure if the students went home early or what.

Since I am teaching Form 1 Physical Science and Form 3 Biology, I had no classes that first week. So what is a Form 1 & 3 teacher to do? Plenty! I reviewed my course syllabi and prepared my Scheme of Record, which is my teaching plan for the term. This is required for all subjects. Then I started working on my first lesson plans.

So that was my first week of school. On Friday, September 12th the certificate examination results were released, so Form 1 and 3 classes were ready to start the following Monday. Stay tuned for a separate post about my first week of teaching.

Find the Buluzi

I had no idea lizards (abuluzi) were so active. They crawl all over the walls, and when I enter the room they freeze in the funniest positions. They appear active during the day as well as the night. For little guys, they make a lot of noise. But it's okay because they are my buddies now.

Can you spot the buluzi?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Masamba ndi Zipatso

There is a lot of locally available fresh food in Malawi. You can find tomatoes and onions year-round. I have also seen green peppers, small orange hot peppers, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, okra, cabbage and rape (Brassica napus) at the local village markets. As we are just going into the hot season, I expect to see even more as the year goes on. And those were just the vegetables! For fruits, there are oranges, apples (from South Africa), bananas, papayas, guavas and my favorite-- pineapples! Most of these are seasonal, but I should be able to get bananas year-round.

Check out the spoils of a recent shopping trip:

Oh yeah, and one more fruit-- mangos! Mango season starts around December. I have heard tales of the wondrous, large Malawian mangos, and I am very excited to try them.

There are small mangos here too. A teacher from my school brought me a few green mangos and suggested I try thinly slicing them and eating them with salt. I find the unripe mango to be pleasantly tangy, and I will definitely eat more of these. I did not care for it with the salt though.

(For the record, I did not use all that salt. It just poured out too fast from the giant bag.)

So while I am waiting for mango season, I can munch on a few of these mini-mangos, along with bananas and pineapples. Yum!

Chichewa Lesson
fruits - zipatso
banana - nthochi
pineapple - nanazi
mango - mango
apple - apozi
orange - lalanje

Vegetables - masamba
tomato - matimati
onion - anyezi
cabbage - kabichi
carrot - kaloti
okra - therere
peppers - tsabola
peas - nsawawa

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Home Sweet Home

The day after I swore in as a PCV, I said goodbye to my host family and the training village, and headed off to what would be my home for the next two years. So here I am, in the Mulanje District in southeastern Malawi.

I have spent the past few days getting situated. I've unpacked, done a lot of laundry, cooked a little. My first cooked meal was oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins. I used Jungle Oats to make it, which is the brand of oats sold here in Malawi. I've also been drinking a lot of tea. During homestay, I acquired the daily habit of morning tea. My amayi insisted upon it. (Although "tiyi" was a loose term, and could refer to anything from actual tea to coffee to hot water with sugar in it). Here, I am drinking locally available black tea that is grown here in Malawi.

After living with a host family for two months, it is nice to be able to stay in my pajamas a little later, wear trousers around the house, and sing along to music as loud as I care to.

My house is made of mud bricks, with a tin roof and cement floors. Outside, there is a kitchen area and a bathing area, both made of mud bricks. And of course, the outdoor chimbudzi (pit latrine). Best of all, I have a view of the mountains from my front porch. And they are beautiful.

I replaced a volunteer who just completed his service, so the house came already furnished because he left all his stuff for me. (I inherited the bowl in the above photo, as well as the spoon.) So when I walked in the door it already felt like a home. Soon it will feel like my home too.

I thought I would be living alone, but it turns out I have flatmates! Here is one of them now, up near the roof:

I saw three of these lizards yesterday crawling on the wall. I also met another flatmate last night-- a gray, furry little mouse. He was squeaking and doing some kind of scritch-scratching under my bed, but I haven't figured out what he is up to yet.

It's been raining here, which is amazing after the drought back home and then arriving in time for the dry season in Malawi. It is very green here in the Mulanje district, so I am hoping that means we get rain more consistently throughout the year.

I think I am going to enjoy living here for the next two years.