Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gobble Gobble (Oink)

I'm still alive and kicking. This past week nearly every volunteer in country gathered at the US ambassador's house for an excellent Turkey Day celebration. As turkey is not exactly commonplace here in Malawi, we feasted on concoctions made by PC Vols and 2 large roasted pigs. It was delicious. It was nice to gorge myself finally. As many of you have heard, I have dropped some pounds. I came into the program around 195 and I am currently down to about 155. Not to worry! I am getting all the necessary nutrients but its just too hot to act the glutton on a regular basis.

Volunteer life is moving slowly but surely. I am currently in the pre-planting stage of a small fruit orchard outside my local community based organization (CBO). The volunteer who was in my area before me worked to establish a rural library at the nearby secondary school which would act as the new home for the organization's office. We have erected a fence around the front of the building and we have constructed a number of garden beds and paths. The idea is to grow a substantial number of fruit trees and indigenous vegetables intensively in a rather small area around the building. We have already transplanted a number of tangerine and Banana trees and hopefully this week we will transplant some Papaya, Tangerine, Mango and Masawu (no equivalent in America). It really looks excellent and I'm extra excited because locals need to walk right through the orchard in order to enter the building. A demonstration garden at its finest.

All of this is part of my overall goal to get people to focus on improving the land immediately around their houses. Most people simply sweep away any sort of vegetation that grows or any sort of leaf matter, leaving exposed dirt. This creates a situation conducive of localized flash flooding which in turn leads to wide spread damage to homes and livelihoods. By moving fruit trees to an area around their house, they will have the opportunity to hopefully grow a sizable amount of supplemental food while protecting their houses and improving not only the aesthetics of the village but the security against natural disasters.

I have told some of you that the rains started, but I'm afraid we were given nothing more than a tease; although I did get a glimpse of what can come. We experienced about 3 days of HEAVY rains and incredible winds. The road into my area from the district headquarters was washed out in a number of areas and there was extensive damage to homes and other buildings. Just a little further south of me around 500 people were forced from their villages as their homes were completely washed away. With this news I thought that for sure we were in the throngs of the rainy season. That was about three weeks ago, we haven't gotten a drop of rain since. This is particularly devastating because villagers ran out into the field to plant their crops only to have the seedlings die a few weeks later. Hopefully there is enough seed store to make up for this early setback.

Its still ridiculously hot and I have found that I am in dire need of a vacation. I need to keep moving! Thankfully, on the 9th of December, I am headed off to Namibia to meet up with my girlfriend Briana. This will be a welcome break and though I wont be with my family for Christmas, I feel lucky to at least be around someone I care deeply about. We have quite an itinerary planned and I will be sure to give an update while I'm there (complete with more pictures.) Alas, I'm afraid that's all the time I have for now. Take care everyone and thanks for the kind words and the emails.