Friday, September 14, 2007

It's Hot!

Greetings everyone!

Again, apologies for the long delay in updating. Three out of the last 6 weeks I have been away from site, busy of course! In the beginning of August, Karl and I joined Julia and Catherine, both second year volunteers, for a wildlife camp at Lengwe National Park, about 25 km from my site. Catherine received funding to develop a camp for 15-18 year old wildlife club members from the local secondary schools to come for a week and see up-close examples of wildlife conservation in action. We did a whole range of activities including finding animal tracks, alternative resource usage ideas such as mud stoves and paper briquettes to minimize the reliance on firewood as fuel. We also held debates and discussions on the importance of a parks extension program in maintaining healthy relationships with the communities. Perhaps the highlight of the camp for me came while on a game drive with the kids. We were discussing issues about greater habitats and ecology and were offered quite a site. Near dusk, we witnessed a heard of buffalo on the march toward a watering hole. The situation was all quite surreal. We had been driving through the park which is flat and grassy with some HUGE Baobab trees. This time of year, the sky is clouded with dust and smoke from distant bush fires. The sun was a giant red ball against a pale yellow sky and provided a striking backdrop to the whole landscape. It was one of those moments where I think, “Oh crap, I’m in Africa – this is awesome”. The camp finished without a hitch and seemed to be well received by the kids; all in all, a great success.
The next week Karl and I traveled to Lilongwe where we met up with the rest of our group for our four month reconnect. While in Lilongwe we visited a man who is doing some wonderful intensive gardening. It is refreshing to see people who are very conscious about their nutrition and its relation to farming practices and concepts. We then traveled down to Dedza, for a two week in service training. This was like pre-service training all over again, very busy and a bit tiring. All in all it was good, we learned a good deal of information on Income Generating Activities such as Jam and Soap making and information on grant writing, etc.

Most recently, I have made a batch of Papaya Jam with a women's group in my village. This Jam will be sold at Majete's heritage center, a sort of gift shop and mini museum covering the local area and its history. The group intends to take the profit and put it toward another future development project that has yet to be named. So far, everything seems to be working well and I am encouraged by the progress. Other than that, I have been working on a small fruit tree orchard at a local community based organization's office. The orchard will hopefully be constructed using permaculture principles of low-input agriculture, something that is desperately needed here. It will eventually house Papaya, Mango, Tangerine, Masawu (a local fruit to which I can compare nothing. Its small grape like strong smelling fruit tastes horrible... to me at least, but the villagers love it), and Banana trees. We are also going to utilize the fruit from Baobab trees in future projects as well. Should be interesting. Does anyone have any thoughts???

I have been reading quite a bit recently (whats new there). I polished off the Harry Potter series and now feel that I have lost a brother, in the sense that I have no more wizarding adventures to come home to. I promise I wasn't this nerdy at home! But I have moved on to an interesting read called The End of Poverty; Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffery Sachs. I would have read it earlier had I not lent it out but in the past week I have nearly finished it. Sachs, is quite a visionary and if you are looking for reasons for and concrete examples of poverty eradication and its successes, I would suggest it. He highlights, rather convincingly, the lack of concern western governments have about poverty eradication. He spends a great deal of time picking apart and debasing current strategies, but he spends more time actually spelling out ways in which lofty goals can be achieved. This book has made me think a lot about the world and where I fit in as a development worker and it has encouraged me to take on some of these challenges as part of my greater career goals. Overall, a very interesting book (bet you didn't think this blog would turn into a book review too!). Village life also offers me quite a bit of alone time to ponder these dilemmas and I guess as of now, I am drawn toward further education. I have spent some limited computer time on graduate school searches and I have developed a number of ideas. Thankfully, I have over a year to figure them out and Peace Corps, toward the end of service, provides tremendous assistance in arriving at "the next step". Stay tuned!

Moving on...

The Heat!!!

The hot and dry season is here and its quite hot! My little thermometer gave a reading of 117 the other day, but I suppose it was overeating, the actual temp was somewhere around 105-110. My house seems to have turned into a breeding ground for lizards or perhaps it serves a shelter from mid day heat. There are three distinct types of lizards that live in and around my house. The Gecko is the frequent visitor and the least shy, they are almost transparent at night and are roughly 6 inches in length. Then there is a salamander type lizard that doesn't change but keeps its slimy brown color. These are particularly timid and hang out mostly under my overhang. They are roughly 8 inches including their long tail. Then there is the big guy. I have only seen him recently. He looks like a big Gecko but he has bumpy skin the color of concrete. He is about 10-12 inches long but still very shy. The lizards are a huge help in pest control and I fear my house would be riddled with termites, cockroaches and scorpions if it weren't for them.

I have taken a number pf pictures on a disposable camera that is on its way back to my sister's in Chicago. I hope that either my sister or I will eventually be able to put them on here. SO hang in there, I promise you will get a visual glimpse of my time here sooner rather than later.

That is all for now. On the plate the next few weeks, is a glimpse of a Rhino Translocation and a trip to the southern tip of Malawi to visit another volunteer. Until next time, keep the emails coming (I no longer have cellphone network at my village, supposedly it will be fixed soon, yea right!) I would love to hear from all of you!

Peace and Love,


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