Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Other Football

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, I will tell you a bit about football in Malawi. In Malawi, as in most countries, the term "football" refers to the sport where you kick a black-and-white ball with your feet. Or as we call it in America, soccer.

Football is huge here. If there is a football match on a TV, you can be sure people are watching it. (Well, the men at least. The women are too busy hauling water and cooking nsima.) It will be shown on the TV in the banks, and in the pool halls and bars (so I have heard). Some people in my village have TVs, and people get together to watch the game at home too. So kind of like America, except I'm pretty sure they won't be serving hot wings and tortilla chips and dip!

Malawi's National football team is the Flames. They have never competed in the World Cup (which is held in even years), but they did reach the finals for the Africa Cup of Nations (which is held in odd years). (Thank you, Wikipedia)

There are football matches between schools and between villages too. I went to one my first day in the village during PST. We also had a couple matches between PCVs and the villagers during PST. I've only seen one match since I've been at site though. I guess they must play elsewhere. Interesting fact-- at the village level, most players play barefoot. Imagine running over dirt with rocks and thorns and sticks in bare feet. Malawians are tough.

We don't officially have sports teams at my school. Several footballs and other types of sports equipment was donated to my school, so sometimes the students use it during PE or afterschool, but it's pretty informal.

Okay, that's pretty much everything I know about football. I would kind of like to learn more about it because it is so big here, but there are only so many hours in the day. I will try to watch the Africa Cup of Nations this year, since I missed the World Cup last year.

Now go enjoy your American football! I'm not really a sports person, but at this point I want to hug everything that reminds me of America, and the Super Bowl qualifies for that. So I am down for a Super Bowl party in 2017! You supply the TV, I'll bring the nsima. Just kidding : )

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Where is my class?

Today I had prepared a really fun lesson for my double period Physical Science class. We are learning about electricity. I had a circuit to show them the difference between series and parallel circuits which they were going to get to use, as well as a group activity where they had to draw different types of circuits based on descriptions.

When the bell rang and I went to my class, this is what I found:

The rest of the class was outside slashing grass. It turns out that three quarters of the class was late to first period, and they did not clean the school in the morning, which they are required to do everyday.

So the punishment for missing class was to clean during first and second period. I was told I could start my lesson once they finished. About ten minutes before the end of the period, some of the students came into the staff room to mop.

I was able to enter the classroom and start teaching in time for third period. I showed them the circuit and we did some review and lecture, but there was not time for the group activity. I guess I will have to do that next week.

And that's what it is like to teach in Malawi. Or not teach, as the case may be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Last Mango

Today my mango tree gave up its last mango. You can still find mangos at the market, but mango season is definitely coming to a close.

How do you get a ripe mango out of a tall mango tree? If you are me, you patiently wait for the wind and rain to knock it to the ground. But the neighbor kids are definitely not patient. So when they came over to my house today and spied the yellow mango in the tree, they had a plan. And this was it:

And guess what-- it worked!

In terms of seasonal produce, I see lots of pineapples and a few mangos for sale by the road in my village. Bananas are harder to find, and the price is going up. (K300 for a bunch-- that's over $0.50!) Tomatoes and onions are still available, but they are small and a lot more expensive too. I did find bell peppers the other day for K20 apiece. They were crisp and cheap and really made my dinner taste fantastic. They are definitely my favorite vegetable (even though they are actually fruits in botanical terms, but whatevs). Which is why I saved the seeds and plan to plant my own tomorrow. Yum!

A Good Day in Malawi

It was a bit rough the first few days back at my site. Coming back to the village after being in the city with the other PCVs is always an adjustment anyways. However, this time was even more difficult because the house was all musty from the rain, and I had no water or power for two days. Plus it was super hot and muggy. Think peanut butter sandwiches for most meals, no laundry, dying phone batteries, limited bathing and sleepless nights in the heat.

Then yesterday everything changed. The power came on and there was water again! I was able to charge my phone, and even cook hot meals. Hot food is such a blessing. I also did a quick load of laundry in between the torrential downpours we had, and collected a bit of rainwater too. A few of the neighbor kids came over and we planted seeds in my new garden bed-- peas, squash, marigolds, carrots and Swiss chard. I gave them some seeds to take home in appreciation for their help, and they planted them in their home gardens. Would you believe the peas already have a tiny shoot coming out?

It's amazing how hot food, clean clothes, and spending quality time with the neighbor kids can make everything better!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

After the Floods

I'm back at my site now after being away for 8 days. Everything is just how I left it, except for lizard poop everywhere and a new garden bed that my landlord's son put in for me while I was away. The wet wall seems to be drying now and the remaining part of the brick fence is still standing. The roof leaked in a few places, but it wasn't very much water.

On the mini-bus ride to my site, I passed through an area in my district that had been flooded. You could see how high the river had gotten, and many downed trees. There were also a number of buildings that had been severely damaged. We also drove by what appeared to be a flood refugee camp. The flooding was devastating for many people in Malawi, costing people their homes, their businesses and even their lives.

The Guardian has a series of photos on the flooding which shows the areas that were hit the hardest, Chikwawa and Nsanje.

The second cyclone that was predicted to come through ended up missing Southern Malawi, so the weather has evened out here. It hasn't done much more than shower since I've been back, and there has been lots of sunshine in between.

I'm grateful for PC looking out for the safety of me and all the other PCVs. I'm also grateful that my home and school and my village are okay.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Update on Malawi Storms

All of the intense rain has caused severe flooding in Malawi, particularly in the South. Half of the country has been declared a disaster area. People have lost homes, whole villages have flooded, and so far over 170 people have died. 

All of the PCVs are okay. PC has been closely monitoring the situation and moved all of the PCVs out of the affected areas until it is safe to return. My village was okay when I left, though I did see flooding in other areas of my district. However, the rains started up again and there is supposed to be another system coming in.

Here is an article about the flooding from CNN:

Please keep the people of Malawi in your prayers.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vechi de Anul Nou (Old New Year's)

Last night was Old New Year's Eve. The tradition of this Eve includes kids going from house to house in the evening singing songs, playing instruments, reciting poems; and in return they receive bomboane (candies) and bani (money) from the house owners. 

Apparently the kids go house to house by class. The 2 photos below are part of my 8th form (grade) class. About 30 minutes later my 9th formers did the same thing. It reminded me of a Moldovan version of Trick-or-Treating. Pretty cool!

Then, this morning some other kids showed up singing and throwing dried beans, corn, and rice into the entryway of the house...and again received bomboane and bani. After they left, i went to sweep up the "mess", but Mama-G told me we leave it until tomorrow and then gather it up and feed it to the chickens. 

I asked the kids this morning if they have school today...they said "No" now i'm wondering if my 9th formers will be in school today, since i'm supposed to be teaching them this afternoon...guess i'll find out soon enough! If they're not there, this will be the 3rd time of me showing up to teach and being the only one there...o well, at least it gets me out of the house for a nice little stroll to school and back (it's only about 1/4 mile / 1/2 km to school). 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

And then the rains came

Rainy season is in full swing here. Maybe it's just because we have been having a drought in California for the past few years, but the rain here is like nothing I have seen before. It just doesn't stop. I think it has rained everyday this month. These aren't just showers either. There have been serious downpours.

I have had no water since Saturday morning, so I've been collecting rainwater to use instead. The buckets fill up pretty fast, so now I'm set probably for the next week or so.

The great thing about using rainwater is it is clean. No risk of cholera or other water-borne parasites like you usually get from groundwater this time of year with the high water table. Still, I'm boiling and filtering it all before I drink it, just to be safe.

The rain is bringing out more creatures too. Check out this pretty snail. Note: this guy was as big as my hand!

There are some drawbacks to all this rain though. Like walking through brown water up to my ankles to get to school. Clothes that take days to dry. Power that goes out everyday. Rain pounding on the tin roof when I am trying to teach. Oh yeah, and this:

That used to be the brick wall behind my house. They only used mud to hold the bricks together for the wall, and the soil has a lot of sand here, so the wall has been collapsing as it gets soaked. That photo was from yesterday. More fell down last night. Luckily the bricks from the house were cemented together properly so it seems okay so far. There are some growing wet spots in the walls that I am monitoring, and I have plates on the floor to catch all the leaks.

In that photo, the back left corner is the latrine. I had to climb over that pile of bricks to reach the chim this morning. Have you ever used an umbrella to walk to the bathroom? And then almost slipped in the mud with your flip-flops? I have!

How my day started...

God woke me up to this beautiful sunrise this morning! Today is my 1st day back to teaching, and what a wonderful way to start it off right!! Thank You Jesus!!!

This is the view from my closet:

This is my walk to school:

I'm trying some new things this semester. I created a "comportamentul scară" (behavior ladder) and made a "sac bunătăți" (goody bag). There are 10 steps on the comportamentul scară and 5 clothespins - each a different color - representing each of my 5 classes. I explained to them that if they are good in class - meaning they listen, participate, and respect each other - they will go up a step. Once they reach the top, for the next class we will do something fun of their choosing (within reason, of course, and the "fun" class will be decided while they're still on the 1st step) instead of having a lecture. I had 2 classes today - 8th and 5th grades...8th went up a step, 5th remained on the bottom step...sigh. I'm hoping that the obraznic (misbehaved) classes will be motivated to be better once they see the more well-behaved classes moving up the ladder...time will tell.

Then i showed them my sac bunătăți and explained that if one student is particularly good during class, they can pick a surpriză (surprise) from the bag. No one was particularly good today, so it has yet to be utilized, but i have some cool stuff in there ranging from snacks to scarves to soap. Hopefully it too will become a motivation for them to be better behaved...again, time will tell...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Nothing like be welcomed home to Christmas care packages!!! YAY!!

Thanks Cin for the warm socks, made even warmer with the magical chemistry induced heat thingys!! And when i saw the snow on the ground in Moldova when we landed, finding those in my care package were a welcome treat!! THANK YOU!!!!!! And, of course, the card is what really makes my day...hung it on my door right when i got home!!

And to accompany my new warm socks and warmy new warm winter boots!!!! THANK YOU P, T, & E!!!!!!!! Everyone was jealous when i opened them in PC. I took a shower (don't know when the next one will be and i wanted fresh feet goin into my new boots) and immediately put them on! So nice! So comfy! So warm! So WONDERFUL!!! THANK YOU!!!

Thank you Vicky for pseudo mudg and the beautiful thoughful card! Pseudo mudg went straight to my bed and i've actually been favoring her more than my blankey the past few nights! She cradles my head just right...and it's the mudg, so what else is there to say? Your card is hanging on my door so i can see it everyday and think of you and the wonderful person that you have always been, continue to be, and always will be!! Thank you for you love! I love and miss you! Please send my love to your parents! My prayers are with you all!!

This was the first pleasant greeting i saw out of my care package and it brought a big fat smile to my face! It lost some beads along the way...but it held up pretty well for the long journey it's been on! It's a survivor! And i love it! Does it have a name? It's hanging on the dulap (wardrobe) right next to my bed so it's the first thing i see in the morning and the last thing i see at night!!

Love this one too! It's hanging on my door to help keep watch over my closet to keep everything safe! I feel it's a protector. Does it have a name as well?

And, YAY!!! My sheets!! Thank you!!!!!!! I'm sure Mama-G thinks i'm the weirdest person she's ever hosted ;op  She saw them on my bed and said, "Awwww, frumos!" Meaning, "Awwww, pretty!"...really dood? pretty?? I told her they are amuzant (funny), she smiled. She gets it...i think.

They're a little too big for my duvan (futon), but they're PERFECT!!!!

Lil mudg, blankey, mom's super comfy blanket, and Marvel Comics sheets holding down the fort!

Love the pic! I MISS DISNEYLAND!! It's weird, cuz i was never really a crazy Disneyland person, but i've been wanting to go there for months now! How weird! I guess it's a nostalgic thing for missing home, but wutevz...i frkn wanna go to Disneyland!

My set up...The map shows everywhere PC has served in purple. 

My fave gift, thanks mom & dad..."A Charlie Brown Christmas" burnt into simple, yet so nostalgic and meaningful for me...

Then on the other side is the Bible Verse that Linus quoted in the movie, Luke 2:10-11. Then my mudg girlz love ...sooooo perfect!!!! Thanks Mom & Dad!!! I LOVE AND MISS YOU!!!!!!

And here i am in my super comfy pjs! THANK YOU!!!

They came with this label, which also now hangs on my as to not forget... ;op

Thank you all sooooooooooo much!!!!!!!! I LOVE and MISS you and am counting down the days, weeks, months, seasons, and semesters when i get to be with you again!!!!! (19 months on the 13th, 83 weeks, 580 days, 7 seasons (including this one), and 3 semesters to go!!...the semesters sounds most feasible ;o] )

I love you! You are all blessings in my life and i am soooooo grateful to God for all of you!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Turkey Vacation - day 10: LAST 1/2 DAY! Back to Moldova!

Went back to the same place for our last breakfast. This time i got a feta sandwich and HOT GOAT MILK with HONEY!!!

My fave part of breakfast:

After stopping at Starbuck's for my last Starbuck's coffee, we headed to the airport...bye Turkey! See you soon hopefully!!!

Thanks for my sandwich and coffee!! (I saved my sandwich for my 1st meal back in Moldova)

And hello grey, bleak, cold Moldova! ...sigh...hopefully i have winter boots in my care package that's waiting for me at PC...

Turkey Vacation - day 9: even more of Istanbul

Today was Christine's last day in Turkey...back to Moldova...

2nd to last Turkish breakfast!

I had the Borek with spinach...pretty good!

But my fave was the traditional salep! 

It's super thick, like sweetened condensed milk, but not as sweet, but still sweet enough, and hot and mixed with cinnamon and oooooooooo soooooooooo gooooooooood!!!!!!

One of the things I'm going to miss about Turkey is how they treat their strays. They treat them with love and respect. They're all well fed and are not afraid of people.They come up to you and just want to be loved. Right when you start petting them they just start closing their eyes in sweet bliss! Below are 3 dogs curled up still not having woken to the day.

Across from the dogs was what we called "Cat Island". We counted about 15 cats there!

Again, super friendly and love to be loved!

Hilarious mannequin!

Last dinner in Turkey - I went Italian - gnocchi with shrimp and calamari! DELICIOUS!

Turkey Vacation - day 8: continuing with Istanbul...

1st stop of the day: Topkapi Palace. It was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign.

A cool picture i liked in their palace restaurant.

We found some random lion statues and decided to play!

The entrance to the harem...

A fancy faucet in the wall.

The fancy bed.

The fancy floor couches where you lie around and smoke shisha, or hookah, all night.

The harem's courtyard.

Selfie at the Harem mirror!

Path leading out of the harem.

Cool garden we found by happenchance.

Another happenchance find. We walked by this mural trying to find our way back to the main street after leaving the garden. It's the history of Turkey in mural form!

Including the original Batman!!

A whirling dervish and shisha, of course.

Fun spiral staircase.

View from the boat ride on the Bosphorous.

Sun starting to set...

Another stand that sells loaded baked potatos.

A cute little bean-shaped shop selling coffee and hot chocolate. I would've bought one, but the 5-story Starbuck's caught my attention first!

It's hard to see in this picture, but that whole line of food stands are just selling loaded baked potatos! Talk about competition! And they're all the same price! I don't understand how it works!

Another popular street food: loaded waffles (no maple syrup though ;o[).

Christine bought one - loaded with fruits, nuts, all kinds of syrups (no maple), and stuff i didn't know what was - and they wrap it so it can be eaten with your hands. It was pretty good, but it made Rosemary and me really want maple syrup!

The guy who made Christine's waffle gave us all samples of a banana dipped in chocolate and pistachio crumbs! YUMMZ!

Rosza and me just havn fun!

Not only do payphones exist, but they come in dolphin shapes!

butter head

cool whimsical bike

We walked down this street looking for Taksim Square and came across another market...

Finally found Taksim Square by taksi (taxi).

An Orthodox church in the middle of Taksim Square.

Finally found the whole reason why we came back to Taksim Square in the first place: Shake Shack. Ever since Rosemary heard there was one in Taksim Square, she had been talking about having to go there for a burger and shake.

I got the Shake Stack which is the cheeseburger and shroomburger stacked...and as you can see..TABASCO!!!!!!!!! I also got the "Concrete" ice cream which is whipped frozen chocolate custard with marshmallow cream, shortbread cookie, and pistachio!!!

Paul's concoction: mustard with Tabasco - great for dipping!!

A couple of us didn't eat at Shake Shack and instead got chicken, rice, and chickpeas from this street vendor.

We ended the night at a super chill shisha bar.
Squampous helping himself to some fine shisha.

Squampous sitting on Christine's head ;op

Maybe too much shisha? ;op

Uh-oh, Squampous gettin into the beer...

Goodnight Squampous!