Friday, July 29, 2016

Saying Goodbye

July 25th was my last day at site. I packed up my stuff, said a few more goodbyes, got into a share taxi that happened to be passing by transporting a few hikers into town from Mulanje, and I was off.

It's hard to believe that two years have come to a close, and that I won't be seeing my friends and neighbors and the village everyday anymore. As I looked out the window at the rolling hills, the brick houses, the women filling buckets at the borehole, the children playing at the side of the road, I couldn't help but feel sad to say goodbye to my village and my home of the last two years.

Goodbye, Village
Goodbye, School

Goodbye, Mountains

Goodbye, Neighbors

Goodbye Other Neighbors. Goodbye, cow.

Everyone was so sweet when we were saying our goodbyes, and they all wanted to know when I would be back. I had to answer "kaya" (who knows?) because it's hard to know what the future holds. But Malawi will always hold a special place in my life, and I would love to come back again someday.

Officially an RPCV

Today I have officially completed my service and I can now call myself a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV). Or maybe I have to be back in America to be "returned"? Anyways, after two years my service is complete.

PC Malawi Education 2014 - 2016

Showing off my National Wear, a farewell gift from my school

When I think about my service, so many emotions and thoughts come to mind. I often think of the Charles Dickens quote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Everyday was filled with triumphs and challenges, both big and small. I learned so much from living and volunteering in a new culture and from the people around me. And I made wonderful friendships with Malawians as well as PCVs that I hope will last a lifetime.

I feel so grateful to have been given this opportunity to serve my country as well as the people of Malawi, and I think joining the Peace Corps is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

So now what? Time for a bit of travel to experience more of the world's cultures and explore God's good works. Coalee will be here tomorrow(!!!) and then we will be on our way. Stay tuned for posts about our trip...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Passing the torch

It's site visit week! The new group of PC trainees in the Education sector arrived last month, and their new sites were announced last week. And guess which PCV is getting replaced? Me! And about eight others from my group. The rest of the trainees will be pioneering new sites.

First the trainees went to a two-day Counterpart Workshop with their soon-to-be Head Teachers and heads of the PTA from their new schools. Then the trainees travelled down to their new sites to get acquainted with their new sites and prepare themselves to spend two years there after they swear-in.

My replacement is named Vanadie and I have been hosting her since Friday. I introduced her to the neighbors and the teachers. I showed her around the school and the trading center and the Boma. And we did lots of cooking and chatting about the house and the site and PC. It was a lot of fun!

On Saturday afternoon I took her on the walk to the scenic overlook near my house. It is a nice walk, a beautiful view and it was one of the places I went during my site visit two years ago with Ryan, the PCV I replaced. And we found out there is 3G up there too!

Here we are, enjoying the view and the good cell service!

She is really positive, motivated and has a lot of ideas for projects in the community. So I'm ready to pass her the PCV torch. Zabwino zonse, Vanadie!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Last week at site

I have just about a week left at my site. Despite the fact that school is out and I've been staying in the village, my days have been really busy.

I've been trying to go through my stuff to prepare the house for the next PCV that will replace me. Somehow I have acquired a ton of stuff in the last two years. It's mostly clothes, papers and junk like tin cans, plastic bags and water bottles, but it's all gotta go somewhere. I'm giving away most of my stuff to my neighbors, though I'm leaving the household items like dishes, sheets and books for the next PCV.

The weather has been overcast and chilly, so it's perfect soup weather. I've been making vegetable soups using whatever veggies I can find at the market, a few spices, and fresh basil from my garden. Sometimes I add beans. Here is a soup I made on Friday with some macaroni noodles added in. I seasoned it with garlic salt. It was so warm and delicious!

My neighbors have been coming by to chat more, since everyone knows I'm leaving soon. And I've been making daily trips to the trading center so I can see my friends there too. When I think about the final goodbyes it makes me feel a bit sad, so I'm trying to just be present and enjoy the little things in my PCV village life while I can.

These last two years have been full of ups and downs, and I am very much looking forward to seeing my family and friends back Home, but I am going to miss my life here in Malawi too.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hedgehog Sighting

I saw my first Malawian hedgehog today! Actually, it might be the first hedgehog I've seen in the wild anywhere, come to think of it.

I was chatting with one of the teachers in front of the Staffroom when this little guy ambles by. So of course I had to take a picture. The teachers and students thought it was funny that I was so interested in it. They picked it up to show me it was safe to touch it, but then it curled into a little protective ball. I touched its quills. They were thick and sharp, but didn't hurt since I just touched them gently.

One of the students pretended like he was going to step on it, so I told them if anyone hurt it, I would fail them! I was only joking... maybe. But luckily they let it alone and it walked away unharmed.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Tea Party in Thyolo

With just a few weeks left of my PC service, I'm trying to tick off those last few things on my Malawi bucket list. Visiting the Satemwa tea estate in Thyolo is one of those activities I've been wanting to do. So today me and a few of my PCV friends headed over there.

Tea is one of the major exports of Malawi. But that's kind of misleading because while agricultural is the major industry here, it is mostly subsistence agriculture, specifically maize for nsima.  The tea that is produced here is primarily grown in the Thyolo and Mulanje Districts in the south. There are a number of large tea estates, mostly European-owned. Malawians work in the tea fields picking tea, and some grow tea and sell it to the estates as well.

Satemwa is a well-known company here that sells their own blends of coffee and tea in the major grocery stores throughout Malawi, like Shop-Rite and Chipiku Plus. My favorite is their Earl Grey tea.

When you visit the estate you can have a lunch at the Huntington House. The house was built on the estate in the 1920s.

Lunch includes one pot of tea or coffee. I  ordered the oolong tea, which was really tasty.

They had two lunch options. I ordered the veggie quiche and salad. The salad had lots of arugula which I loved. There has been a serious lack of raw greens in my life these past two years. The quiche was really good too.

And a real chocolate brownie for dessert! I'm always skeptical of chocolate desserts in Malawi because they usually disappoint, but this was the real deal.

After lunch we explored the garden area around the house. There was a manicured yard that looked like it could have been the site of a croquet game. Alas, there were no gophers nor flamingos to be found, so no croquet. (Yes, everything I know about croquet I learned from Disney's Alice in Wonderland).

Here I am in the tea fields. Around the tea estates it's hectares and hectares of these bright green fields. Quite picturesque.

Rakiu season...again

I woke up this morning to Mama-G telling me to come to the chicken coop for fresh rakiu (think moonshine) 9:30am. 

Mama-G makes her rakiu from apricots grown on her apricot tree.

This is a tool they use to determine the alcohol content.

According to this tool, it's 70 proof. 

Nice way to start the day... ;op


July in Moldova is sunflower season! They're everywhere!! Sunflowers are big business in Moldova - for seeds and oil primarily, so they litter the countryside with beauty every July :o]

This is a sunflower Mama-G is growing.

New Traditions

Over the past 2 years there has been A LOT of changes in PC staff and policies here in Moldova. With that, a lot of PCVs have left before completing their services...whether they left by their own choices or not. 

PC Moldova has a bell ringing ceremony for people who make it to their COS (Close of Service) dates. But, since so many PCVs leave before their times, some of us decided to start a new tradition: squeezing the pig. So, for those who don't complete their services, by choice or not, they can now squeeze the pig for a final farewell. :o]

Above is our "crew": Aana, Scott, me, Nate, and Rosie. Scott was the first to get to squeeze the pig. Farewell Scott...we miss you! See you on the other side!!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dedza Trip

For my third and final 4th of July holiday weekend in Malawi, I decided to go visit my friend Sheila in Dedza. Dedza is in the central region of Malawi, and is known for its colder climate, abundant potatoes and the rock art. It’s been on my to-do list to visit here, and since I COS this month(!) it was a good time to make the trip up.

We met up in the Boma at the bus depot and had lunch (beans and rice and veggies, always one of my local favorites) before heading over to Dedza Pottery. Dedza Pottery is a cute little lodge, café and shop where they sell handmade plates, cups and all other kinds of pottery. In honor of the holiday weekend, we decided to stay here for the night. Our room was really nice, especially the spacious bathroom with tiled floors and walls. The tiles over the sink featured zebras. Very cool.

One thing missing at “The Pottery” (as it is called locally) was good internet though. No wi-fi and the internet access was about the same as in my village. So much for getting work done. But we had fun playing word games and hanging out. The food was really good, and I finally got to try the cheesecake that I had heard so much about. It was more like firm bread pudding than cheesecake, but still tasty.

The next day we headed to Sheila's site. From there it was just a short walk to a place where we could see Prehistoric petroglyphs. Here are some photos:

It was a great weekend, even despite the fact that I was battling a cold-flu thing the whole time. It’s mostly gone now except for a bit of a runny nose and cough. Hopefully this will be my last sickness in Malawi. But not my last trip—I still have one or two more things I want to do before I finish my service.