Another PC milestone! It feels like it has gone by pretty fast, and yet when I think back to the beginning of the term it seems so long ago. I feel really comfortable in my house, my village and at my school. I've met a ton of people, improved my Chichewa, rode many, many mini-buses and taught over 150 high school students about science. I'm feeling really excited about the next phase of the school year and my journey as a PCV.
What is the funniest thing that happened to you so far?
Last week I was kneeling down while talking with some of the three-year old girls that live near me. They were asking me things in Chichewa which I only partially understood. They pointed toward my abdomen and said what I took to be "belly", only they said it like "bay-lay". I said, "Yes, belly." Then one of the girls reached forward and grabbed my breast through my tank top! And it dawned on me that she was saying "bere" which is Chichewa for breast. So I laughed and said, "Eee (yes), bere!"
What surprises you about your host country?
One of the biggest surprises has been how much is actually locally available. Yesterday I saw spaghetti noodles in my local village market. There are stationary stores in every trading center that sell chalk, erasers, rulers, notebooks, pens and other school supplies. I can get bread and Coca-Cola, peanut butter and M&Ms. Even Orbit gum and Lay's potato chips are sold in the Boma. And that's not to mention what is available in Lilongwe or Blantyre where they have stores that look like something from America. Which isn't to say these things are common. I don't think most people can afford these items, and I certainly have to watch my Kwacha and follow a budget to afford some of these on my stipend. But I never expected to see most of these here.
What do you love about your host country?
I love how friendly and helpful everyone is. Pretty much everywhere I go I meet someone that is willing to take a few minutes to show me around, help me find something or just chat for a few minutes. I hear "Takulandirani" (Welcome) all the time here.
And it's not just with me. Malawians are friendly and helpful to each other too. When we have a visitor at the school, everyone that walks by will greet them. And if someone just picked pumpkin leaves, all the ladies will get together and help peel them. It's just a very communal, friendly culture. People really care about each other here.
What cultural customs have been most difficult to adapt to?
Money is very out in the open here, which I am not used to. If I buy something usually the first question will be, "How much did it cost?" And people will ask things like how much I pay in rent, which I consider a bit inappropriate unless I know them pretty well. Also when you tithe at church you are expected to go up and put the money in the basket up front where everyone can see. At weddings and parties it is similar. Sometimes they even write down what you gave and read it out. I'm used to a bit more privacy with regards to finances. I don't usually talk about money or how much things cost myself, but I try to put it in perspective and just go with it here.
What is your favorite word or phrase in the local vernacular?
Right now it is a tie between "ndathokoza, which means "I am thankful" and "kaya" which means "Who knows?"
What did you eat for dinner last night?
I had a fried egg on a piece of toast with sautéed onions and tomatoes. And a delicious mango for a dessert.
What foods do you miss the most?
Salads and smoothies. It's been so hot here and those were my summer go-to meals. I would love a fresh Greek salad with romaine lettuce and a strawberry smoothie made with yogurt. Mmm, strawberries. And ice! Cold ice on a hot day would be wonderful.
What do you wish you brought with you?
A laptop, a portable speaker, more tank tops, a good Biology textbook because sometimes I don't trust the Malawian textbooks I am using, sticky tack, and a whole suitcase of food. Especially Clif bars and stuff I could just grab and eat on the go.
Which do you prefer-- a shower or a toilet?
I don't have either at my site, but if I had to choose I would go with a nice shower. While a cool bucket bath on a hot day is quite refreshing, I never feel like I get 100% clean. I am really starting to appreciate how amazing showers really are. I mean, you just turn a faucet and water comes out at the temperature of your choosing, for as long as you want? Sounds like paradise.