Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Equinox

Colii reminded me that today is the equinox. For all you northern hemisphere folks it is the spring equinox, but for us southerners it is the fall equinox. So happy Spring/Autumn to everyone!

Here are the sunrise and sunset times for our PC posts:

Chisinau, Moldova
Sunrise - 6:06 am
Sunset - 6:16 pm

Blantyre, Malawi
Sunrise - 5:43 am
Sunset - 5:51 pm

Garden Goodness

My garden has really taken off. With all the rain, sunshine and manure, my little plants have been really happy here.

I've got my first cucumbers ripening up

And some radishes as well

My marigolds really like growing in Malawi. They are the tallest things in the garden! I expect the first flowers within the next few days

There is a bit of Swiss chard and carrots growing, and the peas are making their way up the wall. I have some volunteers too-- amaranth and something that might be sweet potatoes.

Here is the whole garden in all its wild splendor.

Look, it's the next crop of papayas starting

The other day my neighbor cut the grass near our houses. No lawn mowers here-- he did it all with a machete. These people are amazing! I asked if I could have the grass clippings for my garden (instead of him burning him which is waft would normally happen to the clippings). Now I have a nice mulch to keep my soil cooler on those hot days. Plus it should help with the weeds.

I am already making plans for next year's garden which I'll plant in late November. I want it to be a bit more orderly and I am going to include herbs as well.

The garden also provides lots of wildlife to amuse me. I saw a little toad yesterday, and I've seen tiny frogs in it as well. There are worms in the soil, some ants, lizards and today I found a snakeskin. The kids were all a bit scared when they saw it.

Can you spot the toad in this photo? You can just make out his little eyes.

And that's my little garden. Thanks for the seeds, Paul! I'm putting them to good use.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The joys of travel kuno ku Malawi

The day started off super hot and sunny. It has been like that all week. Not quite Hot Season hot, but walking out in the bright sun is not pleasant, and pretty much whatever I do I will be covered in sweat. There have been some thunder rumbles the last couple days, but no accompanying rain.

So off to the Boma I went this afternoon, to meet up with a couple PCV friends and discuss our plans for World Malaria Month next month. While we were having lunch, it started pouring. Of course. But by the time we finished it wasn't so bad. More a light sprinkling.

There weren't many mini-buses about, and I hate sitting at the bus depot waiting for the mini-bus to fill up, so I decided to take a bike-taxi. The easiest way to catch one is to start walking. They'll ride by and ask where you are going. So I start walking towards the next village. You know what happened next, right? Yep, it started raining. So at this point my only options are to a) wait it out at a shop, b) try to catch a mini-bus or c) keep on going and catch a bike-taxi.

Well, I'm not afraid of a little rain so I decide to keep going, and soon a bike-taxi guy stops and picks me up.

We go flying down the hill, and the rain starts coming down faster, and we are both totally soaked. People are laughing and pointing at us as we go by because apparently I am the only person in Malawi that would take a bike-taxi in the rain without an umbrella. And I can't keep my eyes open because the rain is hurting them, which makes me wonder how the bike-dude is keeping his eyes open, which I really hope he is, and I start to get kinda scared and I wonder if this is how I will die. But then we slow down as we approach the destination, and I get off and all is fine. Soaked, but fine.

After I ran my errands in the trading center, it was time to take a mini-bus home. I had to negotiate a bit to get the normal price because the conductor wanted to charge me the Azungu-tax (as in they charge me a higher price for being a foreigner cuz they think I don't know any better), but I was firm and he gave me the real price.

There were already a few people on the mini-bus so I opted for the third row which only had one man in it. He had stuff next to him, which he wasn't moving, but I moved into the row so he picked up the stuff and held it on his lap. Then a man gets on the bus, takes the stuff from the guy in the seat next to me, and angrily says to him, "You don't speak good English". Then he sat in the row behind me which already had two men sitting in it. So I guess I inadvertently took his seat, and he was blaming the man next to me for not saying anything. I would have felt bad, but it was kind of funny too.

Later a woman hailed the mini-bus down and there was a bit of a discussion. She only had K100, but it was K160 to get to her destination. I think she was on the way to the health clinic so she was probably sick. The driver and conductor decided to let her on for K100. That was really nice of them. Of course they made her sit in the first row facing backwards in the seat that isn't really a seat. But it was still nice.

Another day of traveling in Malawi. I think I will be able to handle any and all public transport when I get back to America.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

and the birthday gifts keep coming!! :o]

Well, it's official, i have the BEST brother, sister-in-law, and nephew in the WORLD!!! Look at all the cool stuff they sent for my birthday!! The group on the left is for my goody bag at school and the group on the right is ALLLLLL MINE!!! :oD

My students are gonna LOVE this stuff!! 

And i LOVE this stuff!!
I got a bunch of Trader Joe's and Starbuck's goodies!!! YAY!!! Also, Elliot made me card and they sent me another hilarious card! 

This owl is sooooooo cute!!! It's for my backpack, which i attached it to immediately! Trista said she wanted to make sure i got it and to let me know it wasn't for the students. I told her, even if it was, i was gonna take it anyway ;op

The BEST kind of card - the HOMEMADE kind!! 


I love and miss you all!! Thanks for EVERYTHING! (My students thank you too!!)

Malawi vs Moldova - School

This post is the first in a series we will be doing on our blog, with direct comparisons between our sites in Malawi and Moldova.


Public or Private: my school is a Community Day Secondary School, which is funded by the community as well as with student fees. Teachers are paid by the Malawi Government.

Supervisor - The school is run by the Head Teacher, with assistance by the Deputy Head Teacher.

Staff - We have 15 teachers including myself. Plus we have two priests that teach Bible Knowledge as well as a student teacher that is with us for one term. Half our staff are female, which is unusual for Malawi.

Number of students: about 290, including about 95 females

Class Size: 50-100. Officially the maximum number of students per class is 40 in Malawi, but there aren't enough schools and teachers, so the actual maximum is 100. My classes have about 90 in Form 1 and 70 in Form 3.

Number of Subjects - they are required to take six subjects (English, Chichewa, Math, Physical Science, Biology and Geography). We also offer electives (Bible Knowlege, Agriculture, Life Skills, Computer Studies and Social Studies).

School Terms - Three terms between September and July.

Proficiency Exams - The students are required to pass an exam to enter secondary school. Then they take the Junior Certificate Exam (JCE) to advance to Form 3 (equivalent to 11th grade), and the Malawi School Certificate Examination (MSCE) after secondary school to qualify for higher education as well as many jobs.

Fees - Primary School (1st -8th grade) is free, but students must pay for Secondary School (9th -12th grade). My school costs about K4000 per term, which is equivalent to about $8 US. They must also pay for the two required examinations (end of 10th grade and end of 12th grade). Students that do not pay are dismissed from school.

School Layout - Four classrooms plus a spare classroom, a library, an office, a staff room and a laboratory. Each grade has one classroom where the students have all their lessons.

School Day: 7:30am to 2:00pm with a 20 minute break in the morning and a 10 minute break in the afternoon. Students typically eat before they come to school and then again when they return home afterschool.

Transport: Most students walk to school, while a few ride bikes.

Religion: My school is on property owned by the Catholic Church so we observe Catholic Holidays, and all assemblies conclude with the Our Father prayer and making the sign of the cross. We also start staff meetings with a prayer.

Moldova (sorry, no pics for this one)

Public or Private:
Public - I teach "gimnaziu" which is middle school. It is overseen by The Ministry of Education. These days, a lot of Moldovans (especially younger Moldovans) move to other countries for work. This migration has caused dramatic decreases in school populations across the already tiny country, including in my school. 

There is the main director of the school, which is similar to a principal back in The States, and 2 adjunct directors. All of them are also teachers at the school.

We have about 25 teachers - all but 2 are women. One man teaches a computer class, the other one teaches PE. We also have a Director, 2 Adjunct Directors, Librarian, and a Secretary to the Director.

Number of Students:
I've been informed that my school used to have 800+ middle we have apprx 200 students, including Primary School students, which didn't used to be at my school.

Class Size:
5th grade: 28 students
6th grade: 26 students
7th grade: 18 students
8th grade: 26 students
9th grade: 25 students
If they all show up to class is another story...

Number of Subjects:
Required: Romanian, another language (either Russian or English at my school), Math, Physical Science, Biology, and Geography.
Electives: Religion, Computer Studies, Knitting, Dance, Art, Music, and Health (my class).

School Terms:
We have 2 semesters per school year -
     Semester 1 is September 1 - December 24
     Semester 2 is January 12ish - May 31.

Proficiency Exams:
They take proficiency exams, but i'm not sure what they all mean. 9th grade here is treated how we treat 12th grade in The States. Most kids don't go beyond 9th grade, so their 9th grade year is full of events surrounding graduation. They even have a yearly Middle School reunion where the current 9th graders perform songs, poems, skits, dances, etc for the staff and previous people that have graduated from that school.

High School here is more of like a trade school. Kids go there to learn a trade for their future careers. At least that's my understanding.

I don't know about fees.

School Layout:
Over half the school is closed off because there aren't enough students to fill it. The building we all teach in is 3 stories. The 1st floor is Primary School, Biology, the gym, and the cafeteria. The 2nd floor is the Director, the Adjunct Directors, 2 staff rooms, Geography, Art, and Physical Science. The 3rd floor is the library, the computer class, English, Math, Music, and Health.

The Primary School stays in their same classroom all day. The Middle School students rotate classes depending on subjects.

School Day:
08:15 - 15:00 (they use military time here). There are 10 minute breaks inbetween classes and one 15 minute break from 10:50 - 11:05, which is when the Primary School students are provided lunch in the cafeteria, but not the Middle Schoolers.

The students that live in the village where the school is walk to school. There is also a minivan that picks up students from other villages around the area.

Eastern Orthodox. On September 1st - "First Bell" - the Priest blesses the school.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day

I totally forgot today was Pi Day until I saw an article about it on NPR. (If you haven't heard of Pi Day, you should read the article. There are also some yummy looking pie recipes.)

Since my avocado tree is bursting with ripe fruit, I decided to make an avocado pie. I went with this recipe:

However, since I am in rural Malawi, I had to make a few substitutions. I decided to substitute an egg for the yogurt since they don't sell yogurt in my village. Then I substituted bread for the graham crackers. And I left out the condensed milk, even though I have a can here at my house (they sell it in my village trading post). I also had to substitute a frying pan for the pie tin, and a hot plate for the refrigerator.

My modified ingredients:

Okay, so basically my Pi Day treat was a fried egg and avocado sandwich. Which isn't quite the same thing, but it was pretty good anyhow.

Happy Pi Day, everyone! Eat an extra slice of real pie for me : )

Friday, March 13, 2015

Revision Week Activities

This week was Revision Week at school, which is a week of review before the end of term exams begin next week. 

In a Physical Science we have been learning about electricity. Yesterday we played Jeopardy to review for the exam. I split the class into four teams and they answered questions in categories like Series Circuits, Electric Current and Resistance. By the last question the two top teams were only 50 points apart, so it was pretty tense. Team Special Forces (they chose that name) got the question right and won masweeties (candy). I had brought in some Conversation Hearts that my Mom sent me in a care package (thanks, Mom).  They loved the candy and I think by all the noise and laughter they loved the game too. I will definitely do this again next term.

Ever since I started teaching this unit on Electricity, I have had the School House Rocks "Electricity" song in my head. I decided to show the video to the class today during their free period. Since they had to watch it on a tiny laptop screen, I divided them up into groups of 12 and showed it one group at a time. They really seemed to enjoy it. I even saw a couple kids sneak into subsequent viewings so they could watch it again!

In Biology we have been studying the Human Circulatory System. For Revision Week I had them break up into groups of 5 and present on a topic to the class. Topics included red blood cells, platelets, double circulation and lymph nodes. I suggested they could do a skit or make a poster (I brought in paper and markers) or ask questions of the class. The results were about half the groups read off facts about the structure and function of their topic, while the other half asked questions of their own group members which the group members then answered. So it wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but hopefully they learned something anyway.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ziua internațională a femeii (International Women's Day)

Today is Ziua internațională a femeii (International Women's Day)! This is a big deal in Moldova. It's celebrated similarly to how us Americans celebrate Mother's Day, except it includes all women! 

So here's to all of the beautiful, wonderful, awesome women in my life! I love you all so much and am so blessed to know you and be loved by you! Thank you for all you do!

These are the flowers i received for Women's Day! :o] The rose is from Grigore (Mama-G's boyfriend) and the tulip (my mom's FAVE!) is from Rada (my host niece)! 


March 1st was the beginning of Mărțișor. Mărțișor marks the beginning of Spring and there are a lot of legends that are associated with its origin ( 

One of the main traditions of celebrating Mărțișor is the giving and receiving of red and white tassels, as seen below. They are pinned over the receiver's heart and are supposed to be worn the whole month of March (or for the 1st week of March, according to some sources). Then on March 31, people remove their tassels and tie them to a blossoming fruit tree, which is supposed to signify health and success for the coming year.

Above are the Mărțișor tassels i've recieved so far in the order i've received them (you can expect to continued to recieve [or give] them throughout the month of March). Who i've received them from from left to right: Mama-G, Natalia (my main partner teacher), one of my students, Grigore (Mama-G's boyfriend).

Below are the same tassels shown individually.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

more in the life of Moldovan decor...

Oh, Moldova... 

Here is another apt that we stay at a lot. It's a different apt than the apt with the floral bathroom, although, i think that floral bathroom would fit in quite well with this apt.

This is the kitchen:

And the bedroom we refer to as the "love nest":

Yes, that's a mirrored back board. 

care package!

YAY!! Nothing's better than care packages from home! Like i've mentioned before, it's not necessarily the stuff (although the stuff is definitely GREAT!), it's just knowing you're thought of and cared for back at home...especially when you're super homesick!! 

The story behind the towel: 

Peace Corps Headquarters has a shower...Mama-G, does not. I average going to PC every other week, which is when i get to actually shower, and it's something i long for by the beginning of the 2nd week of not showering. 

I brought 2 REI "quick-dry" towels with me from America. I don't like them because they don't dry well, but they were all i had. I left one at PC, hanging with everyone else's towels in the bathroom, and had one at home, that i actually forgot that i had. 

Like i said, the 1s time i showered at PC, i left my towel hanging in the bathroom with about 20 other PCV towels. When i returned, excited to take my bi-weekly(?) bi-monthly(?) shower, my towel was gone!

A little while later i stayed a night in medical and was given a towel to use for showering. I decided to "borrow" it to use it as my PC towel (since it was PC property anyway and was staying at PC). But i also decided to keep it in my locked locker for safe keeping. 

After showering, i hung it over my locker door to let it dry a little before locking it up, but i forgot about it and left it like that. When i returned to PC for my shower 2 weeks later, it was gone!

So for Christmas, i went on Amazon to make a wish-list and put the weirdest/most unique towel i could find on my list...and what better than a pink shark?! 

My logic is that the REI quick-dry towel and the PC towel were both pretty generic (i've seen 3 other quick-dry towels and 2 other towels that other PCVs probably took from PC medical), so i'm trying to give the benefit of the doubt that my other 2 towels were mistaken for other PCVs' towels.

But this time i know that no one else has a towel like this, so if it goes missing, violence might ensue. ;op 

...I'm not going to mention my drying methods in between towels, i'll just say that i don't want to revisit those times, and i'm SOOOOOOOOOO happy to have my new towel!!! Thanks mom & dad!!!

So, even though the towel is the only picture i took from that care package, it was actually one of the biggest, if not the very biggest, care package i've received and EVERYTHING else that was sent is much appreciated too (MUCH-NEEDED clothes, Trader Joe's treats, MUCH-NEEDED clothes, STICKERS for my students and other "goody-bag" stuff, a portable speaker for my iphone, and did i mention, MUCH-NEEDED clothes??)!! ...I just felt the towel was of the utmost importance and needed to be highlighted! :o]

Again, thanks mom & dad!!! I love you!!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

6 months at site kuno ku Mulanje

I was at a training in Lilongwe when I hit my six-month mark so this
is a little bit late.  It's okay though because I am in Malawi and
everything runs a little slower here, so this only shows I am
integrating well, right?

Compare and contrast how you thought your service would be by this
point, and how it actually is.

I think I imagined that after six months I would feel pretty
comfortable with teaching, daily chores, Chichewa, knowing transport,
all of it.  Still, six months isn't much time, so I wasn't expecting
to know everything.

I am pretty comfortable with my home and with teaching, but I still
come across new things everyday.  For example, I just recently learned
that my village trading post has fresh milk in bags.  And I just went
to my first PTA meeting last month, which was a whole new experience
for me. So I am still learning, but my life has more of a routine to
it than it did when I first got here.

What do you do in your free time...if you have free time?
I like to read, garden, play with my neighbor kids (lately we are
drawing with chalk), try to figure out new ways to cook  tomatoes with
onions and rice, read the news and of course blog!

How has "integrating" into the community been going?
For me, my community is my school, my village trading post, and my
neighbors.  When I am in those places, I feel pretty well integrated.
At school I know all the teachers and I have my students and my
classes and my work in the library, so I feel comfortable there.  In
the market I usually buy from the same 6 or 7 vendors, so we say hi
and chat in Chichewa when I go there. My neighbors are really friendly
and helpful, and I spend a lot of time with my neighbor kids.  So
while I will never be confused for a local, I feel like after six
months I have made a place here for myself.

If you have any type of media, what do you watch, read, listen to, etc?
Mostly I read books.  I usually have a few going at the same time-- a
couple new ones including the one I am currently reading for the book
club, plus rereading some of my favorites, like "The Mists of Avalon".
I listen to music sometimes.  I have been listening to a lot of
Frente! and Cat Power lately. I was also able to download some
podcasts when I was in Lilongwe, so now I can catch up on a few
episodes of This American Life!

Do you have any new hobbies?
Does weeding my garden count?  Because I have to do that everyday. I
have made a couple friendship bracelets with some embroidery floss
that the previous PCV left for me. Plus I just got a new book from the
PC library so I might have a new hobby in time for the next PC
milestone post.

What's at least one thing new that you've learned since being at site?
Let's see... I think the biggest thing I have learned is how to make a
little bit of water last a long time. I am pretty efficient with the
use of water for bathing and washing dishes and other household needs

Other stuff: I have learned a lot about fire from burning my garbage.
I can now hang, repair and properly wash a mosquito net. And I learned
a new way to cut a pineapple.

What time do you usually go to bed?
I get in my net by 6:00pm since it is dark and the mosquitos come out,
but I usually go to sleep around9:00pm.  Hence all the reading.

What do you typically eat everyday? - what do you "still" like and
what are you sick of?

Breakfast - maize porridge with brown sugar, raisins and pumpkin pie
spice (thanks, Becca!)
Snack - energy bar from care packages, but those are almost gone so I
might try eating boiled cassava as a snack now
Lunch - egg on toast, piece of fruit if I have any, or peanut butter on bread
Dinner - rice with soya pieces, tomatoes, onions and whatever veggies
I can find (today it is eggplants)

I still love toast and peanut butter and eggs and maize porridge.  I
am kind of over the rice and veggies dish, but I try to spice it up to
make it palatable.  I make spaghetti once a week which is a nice
treat, and I've made pancakes a couple times, though it isn't really
the same without syrup.

What does your typical "work" day look like?
I usually wake up at 5:30am and start getting ready for the day. I use
the latrine, get my water for the day, start boiling my drinking water
and making breakfast.  I leave my house and walk to school which
starts at 7:30am.  This term all my classes are in the morning.  In
between my classes I am usually marking homework, preparing an
activity for the next day's lesson, or working in the library.  I
usually leave school around noon. I might stop at the market to pick
up a few things and then I head home.  I make lunch and maybe relax a
bit, then start lesson planning for the next day.  Usually the
neighbor kids will come by and I will take a break and hang out with
them for a little while.  Then back to lesson planning.  Around 4:30pm
I start my evening routine of bathing and cooking, so I can have
everything finished in time to be in my net by dusk.

What are you so over, but you still hafta do it for the next 1.5 years?
Well, there are lots of things that I won't be sorry to say farewell
to after I complete my service, but I try not to think about them too
much (because I still have to do then for another 1.5 years). I will say that I don't enjoy having my bathroom outdoors,
especially when it is raining and my yard is basically a muddy
obstacle course on the way to the latrine in the morning. But that is
more a Rainy Season problem, which won't last forever. And of course
the Rainy Season has lots of cool stuff too, like how pretty and green
everything is right now, and the gentle patter of rain showers on the
tin roof, and how fast my garden is growing, and all the cool frogs
and toads I see in my yard. So there are lots of things that I like
about this season too.  That is kind of my way of getting by here.  I
try to think about what is special about being here in Malawi, and
focus on that.