Sunday, 16 June 2013

Back to Life

Well, I may have returned from my travels but it still feels a little bit like I’m on holiday. It was great to see all the Samaritan kids again after going away to Zambia but a week in Catriona and I took another leave from volunteering at Samaritan’s in order to attend rehearsals for The Lion King. Our friend and fellow Project Trust volunteer Matilda was working with Nanzikambe Arts, a hub of performing arts in Blantyre, which just so happens to be the same place whose staff train kids at Samaritan’s for their drama-based community outreach HIV/AIDS awareness programme. Matilda and our friend Julian, a German volunteer also based at Nanzikambe, put on a production of the stage show of The Lion King and Catriona played the parts of both Zazu and Timon (seeing as they’re only supposed to appear together in one scene, and neither of them have any lines in it) and as the actress originally cast had to drop out at the last minute, I stepped in and played the
part of Nala. We had such a great time rehearsing and performing, made some great new friends and broke Nanzikambe’s record for the biggest audience ever – the place is kind of like a 90 degree amphitheatre, so there isn’t an exact amount of seats, and the audience on the Friday night was packed in minibus-style.

I loved going to Nanzikambe and definitely intend to return there in my spare time, but it was great to get back to our usual routine of volunteering at Nama Simba Nursery and The Samaritan Trust. Friday morning was especially lovely: after a bit of maths we had loads of fun playing with frisbees, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing and we were running around and laughing so much, it was like one of those typical memories of being a child and playing outside in the summer holidays. Afterwards we were chatting to Dorothy, a relatively new addition to Samaritan's, which goes to show how much our Chichewa has come on because she really doesn't speak much English. She told us she was going to get her plate from the girls' hostel, when she came back she had bought two bags of popcorn with the twenty kwacha she'd had tucked into her sock, and she poured the popcorn into two bowls and gave one each to me and Catriona and told us to eat. It was so touching and we felt bad eating the food that she'd just bought but she absolutely insisted so we shared it between the three of us and a few of the boys who were returning from school and proudly showing us the work they'd done in their books. 

Like I say, we've been getting back to our normal work life but we haven't quite returned to the reality of life in Malawi. We're currently house-sitting for the head of Joshua Orphan and Community Care, which funds Nama Simba Nursery, so we are living with the luxuries of a fridge, comfy couches and hot water! The best thing about our current home is the garden, which has enough trees and bushes to accommodate a family of vervet monkeys! 

Yesterday was a new experience - litter picking in Malawi. We joined a group of volunteers made up of locals and expats to walk through the streets of Blantyre to the point where the market meets the Mudi river to raise awareness about the pollution of the river. We had been told  before that it was polluted but this week we found out that there are two sewage treatment plants in Blantyre but because neither of them are in working order, all of the sewage is deposited into the Mudi. Many companies deposit all of their waste into the river and individuals also use it as a rubbish bin, particularly around the market, which is why we chose that spot to clean up. We made a noticeable different but there are still layers of rubbish making up the river banks and we only worked on one small section of the river. We walk past the Mudi on our way to Samaritan's and there's nearly always somebody washing clothes or bathing in the water. I don't know whether or not they know that it's polluted, or if they have any other options, but it would be interesting to see the change in statistics of death and sickness if serious action to clean up the Mudi was taken.

Update: Catriona and I were in the photo for an article about the Mudi river in The Nation newspaper!