Wednesday, April 09, 2008


It seems as though I am up to the tardy antics that results in a post once every three months.

Since January, not too terribly much has happened; life continues. As if the flooding wasn't enough in the beginning of the rainy season, we have now been thrown into a premature dry season. This means that those who lost their crops in the heavy rains have no opportunity for a second harvest. The seedlings that sprung up a few weeks ago will have a tough time making it to harvest. This is a marked contrast to the success of the past two years. Malawi has had a significant surplus in maize and has had tremendous success with their other cash crops (Tobacco, Cotton, Tea and Sugar) but this year may be a little different. So how does this manifest itself? It robs people from that extra little money that is used for emergencies; getting to the clinic in the district center, paying for school fees - things we take for granted. This of course will not be felt at present. However come the end of the hot season this year, villagers' food stores will be empty earlier and the potential for illness will be higher. Its really amazing how much people here live at the whims of nature. One year with good rains, yields an excess of crops and 10 new electrical hookups occur in the village. One bad year, people starve. Things aren't so bad right now. The harvest is underway and people are happy and starting to get healthier, so I will remain optimistic for the moment.

The highlight for the past few months was a visit to Malawi by my parents. It was a fantastic time. I brought them to my village where we were shown the true hospitality of Malawians, with food, gifts and more greetings than most politicians go through. I did my best to show them as much diversity in the country as I could in 7 days and i think I succeeded. We saw Blantyre (the "city"), my rural village. We were up in highland altitudes in the mountains, we were in the low veld of my area. We saw the bush and we saw the lake. It was an excellent time and I think that they could probably do a better job of describing the visit. We also spent six days in the uber-luxurious surrounds of Cape Town. The Western Cape ceases to amaze me. It is absolutely astounding how beautiful it is and how perfect the climate is. It was an excellent trip as well and an excellent time for me to stuff my face with seafood!

At the moment, I am working on trying to get electricity to the CBO where I am working. It's a big task that requires a lot of traveling and bouncing around, but its been good and it has been keeping me busy. I have just completed the funding proposal, and I am now waiting to receive the money. We'll see how long it takes! The idea behind bringing electricity to the CBO is to foster the development of future income generating projects as well as set the grounds for the introduction of computers into the village. This will probably not be my project, but it can and will certainly be a hot topic for future volunteers. I also just completed drawing a giant world map on the wall of one of the rooms in the CBO office. It measures about 4 meters by 2 meters and will eventually be painted. It was a great project and not terribly difficult; something I would do back in America in my own place.

The new group of Environment volunteers has arrived and its crazy to think that I only have just over 11 months left, time has flown by. There will be two more volunteers near me but with transport so ridiculous, I will only see them in Blantyre most likely. Nonetheless they should be a wonderful resource to the area and its good to know I have people that understand what its really like in the Lower Shire valley.

I've had a lot of time to converse with fellow volunteers about the difficulties with development work and I have found it to be a very interesting topic, especially in the Malawian context. I will eventually get around to posting my feelings on various issues related to development soon. But it remains a fascinating field and though not what I see myself doing, I love to talk about it. If anyone reading has any questions or opinions feel free to email me and I would be happy to respond!

Alright, I need to share the computer I suppose. Take care all and I will hopefully update again soon!