Sunday, 14 October 2012

I almost died.

Not really. But I had a mini panic attack and thought I might. On Saturday we got the bus into Blantyre to do our weekly shopping, except it didn't make it all the way into Blantyre. About half way there it stopped at the side of the road because the exhaust was spewing out massive white clouds. I made the mistake of inhaling after we'd stopped and I got a lung full of something I never want to get a lung full of again, and simultaneously noticed that all of the people in front of us were hurrying to get out of the bus. I'd never seen a Malawian person do anything in a hurry before and seeing nine of them showing signs of urgency all at once was what made me panic. I was comforted though, when Catriona and I were both safely out of the minibus and it didn't explode. When we saw that people were getting refunds for their bus fares we took off (we hadn't gotten round to handing over our money) and walked the rest of the way to town. So we actually went all the way into Blantyre for free! And don't worry, mum, I was just overreacting when I thought the bus might explode, that never happens. The transport here is completely safe.

I also had my second viewing of the beautiful Malawian sunset this week. It's so amazing - in addition to the lovely pink and orange sky we get at home you can see the sun itself turn orange, then pink, then red before it sinks out of view. We can't see it from our house, but The Samaritan Trust's football pitch is on pretty high ground, and on Wednesday we stayed late to watch the match between the older boys and a team of med students from one of the local hospitals. It was lovely staying later and just sitting and chatting with the girls whilst they prepared a fruit salad to serve at the match.

In our home life, we've started to really appreciate the wonder of washing machines. Catriona actually has sores on her hands from washing her clothes. We also realised that we spend a lot more time together than the other Project Trust volunteers do with their partners. I went round the corner to get eggs yesterday and realised that it was the first time I'd gone out of the front gate without Catriona. It was also the first time we went out on a Sunday as well. We went to church in the morning, after having discovered that they do an English service at the Catholic church that we pass on the way to Blantyre. It was almost exactly the same as in England, I was really surprised that there was actually less of the congregation joining in with the hymns than at home! I guess if we want the real African church experience with the singing and dancing and shouting "Amen!" or "Hallelujah!" whenever you feel like it, we'll have to go somewhere else.

We got our fix of singing about Jesus and clapping and dancing yesterday afternoon anyway. We also got coffee (made with real milk!!!), really tasty banana cake and our first rain! The volunteers in Nancholi invited us to a coffee afternoon fundraiser for their Girls' Voice Trust group. Once most people had arrived we had a nice sing and a dance, then it started chucking it down outside and we (the volunteers) were so excited by it that we went outside and danced in the rain like lunatics, it was brilliant! Definitely the best weekend I've had so far!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Getting into the swing of things

I wrote this whilst sitting on the swings in the playground outside our house yesterday afternoon. There was a church service going on inside the nursery building and it sounded amazing with all the drumming, clapping and singing. Maybe next week I'll pluck up the courage to go inside, even if I don't understand most of what's being said. I learned last week that 'Ambuye' means 'God', which is a good place to start.

In the latest email from home, my dad asked me if I feel like me project had really begun; do i feel like I'm helping people? Or am I still just getting into the swing of things?
Well, over the past week I've felt like it's just beginning. On Wednesday Catriona and I taught an English lesson about the plural of certain types of nouns, and then we taught the same lesson (although slightly more organised) to a different class in the afternoon. Even though it was a bit slap dash it reminded me of how much I really enjoyed teaching on my training and selection courses, and we both had a little giggle at how the kids all said "hair" like a Scouser and "book" like a Scot when we were getting them to repeat after us.

As for helping people, I don't feel like I've dona anything major yet but I feel confident now that we can make a difference over time.One of the older boys has said that he wants to go back to school, but didn't do too well on the assessment we gave him, so I'm going to try really hard to help him get to the level he needs to be at to go back to school. He came over to ask me for help the other day and he called me 'madame', which is what all students call female teachers. Being used to being addressed by my first name, or my nickname (wisdom (louise - wiz - wisdom)), or just 'azungu' when I'm at the nursery, it took my by surprise and made me feel really grown up.

And the third question? I am still getting into the swing of things (she writes, whilst rocking back and forth on the swing). There's still loads to learn about the kids (and from them - I had to reminded of the method for doing long subtraction when 'helping' with homework on Thursday) but I'm starting to feel like one of the family. Sitting outside with some of the girls on Friday, belting out Christmas songs in the middle of October and falling about laughing, reminded me that life over here doesn't always have to be so different to life at home. Not when you're a bit crazy, which a lot of people have told me you would have to be to do what I'm doing.