Volunteer Rowan’s 2nd week at MOET – August 2016

It was all fun and games for Rowan in his second week at MOET:

This week saw me making my teaching debut at MOET, as I was assigned to teach English and Geography to MOET graduates who return in the summer holidays for supplementary secondary lessons (free of charge).
My first English lesson was on modifiers; of which according to the grammar book I referenced there are three types; positive, comparative and superlative. I found it initially difficult to gauge the class (Form 4 next year, the final year of secondary), but was soon given an explanation as to why some of them looked confused when upon asking Joseph for an example of a positive modifier which is just an adverb or adjective (literally modifying the verb or the noun), he wrote “The English teacher speaks very quickly” So following that piece of feedback I slowed down and it  went well.
Geography on Friday featured the topic of Population Change, as in AS in the UK. I’ve inadvertently picked up the Malawian teaching style with lots of writing on the board and no particularly creative activities to be seen, but you know; when in Mangochi…


One very Malawian thing you often notice people playing at the roadside is Bawo. It’s a board game played on a 4×8 grid of round holes in which you store the pieces (small stones), and it is every bit as baffling as it looks. Iggy and Fundo taught me how to play, and despite having about as much idea what I was doing as Boris working as Foreign Secretary, I won my first ever game of Bawo against Chifundo. The aim is to clear out your opponent’s front line of pieces but after that I’m sketchy on details.
Baffling bawo


Heads in the game
A shout out to Kerry who went home on Thursday after three weeks at MOET. Her major project here was to give all 11 ex-MOET secondary graduates (from this school year just finished) a mobile phone with a camera and internet capabilities, and even though several of the donated phones ended up being SIM-locked and/or broken, Kerry, after endless trips to the phone workshops in Mangochi got them all sorted. Bravo! Also to be applauded is Kerry’s enthusiasm and friendship with the Sayiwala children. During the cross over between our two stays we twice had a big meal/party all together, the first of which was marked by issues with lentils, the second on Wednesday by the introduction of Johannes’ Malawian gin and brandy; resulting in Johannes fast asleep in his chair and Harry dancing to Justin Bieber while embracing a pillow. This was one of my most amusing nights in Malawi so far.
My transport in Malawi had so far been largely limited to my personal bike and bike taxis. This week though I’ve had the pleasure of the back of a pick-up truck and minibuses. Johannes and I were headed for Mangochi on Wednesday and hailed a pick-up truck outside MOET. It stopped and we hopped in the back and I sat down against the edge of the tray, having tripped over the sacks of flour and maize on the floor. I had been under the impression the pick-up was about full, with 4 people on either side of the tray. I was so very wrong. In the next 30 minutes to Mangochi the truck’s occupancy swelled to 20+ people as the many who board later stand in the centre; and also 1 duck which a woman was transporting in a plastic bag with its head sticking out the top. It is not known what the duck’s business in town was, nor his relationship with the woman. Perhaps he had to get some cash.
Minibuses in Malawi are unlike any form of public transport in the UK. They have an official capacity of about 11 and then regardless, they have about 20 passengers. Johannes and I travelled this weekend to Liwonde to do a couple of days of safari and got supremely lucky in Mangochi in our hunt for a minibus. The buses destined for Blantyre (stopping in Liwonde and Zomba) will often be filled with local drunkards paid by the minibus drivers to make the vehicles look full and ready to leave so as to draw in real passengers looking to leave quickly. We were solicited by several drivers, one of whom promised us “good music” Johannes is too seasoned a pro to be enticed by such suggestions. We headed for a bus we’d seen driving round before we had lunch, and were ushered into the front two seats of the minibus next to the driver. The main area of the minibus was packed full of locals, which made me a feel a little bit awkward. The roads from Mangochi to Liwonde are an absolute mess with craters that wouldn’t look out of place on Mars or somewhere the US has placed its military uninvited.
Before heading to Liwonde we’d had a choice of two budget lodges in/next two the park. A few weeks back Johannes was at a party in Palm Beach and a white Malawian (a real novelty) decided after the music stopped it wasn’t safe to cycle back on the Malawian roads at night and so Johannes slept at this guy’s house there. Now it turned out Erik (name changed so as to avoid a defamation lawsuit) was a manager/owner at a lodge in Liwonde and Johannes was keen to find out which was his. A quick consultation on TripAdvisor found Erik to be an infamous character at one lodge, with many of the 2/3* reviews referencing his racist and sexist tirades after a few drinks around the fire. Keen to reunite with Johannes’ old host, and also to curious to see if the allegations were true, we got on the phone right away and we booked a tent.
Not a tent in the conventional sense
 Our lodge was inside the park and has a lovely viewing deck from where you can see the river and also some animals on the right day: for example I spotted an elephant in the grass on Saturday morning. Johannes and I don’t normally share a room, but we had to share a tent at the lodge. This resulted in one particularly interesting incident, such as Johannes waking up in the night and me asking “was ist passiert?” which is supposedly perfect German for “what happened?” Awake I wouldn’t know how to say that so I’m puzzled as to why sleeping Rowan would say that….
A boat safari saw hippos, crocodiles and elephants grazing on the banks. The elephants are possibly the most impressive animals at Liwonde, with rivals the sole lion (soon to be joined by imported mates from South Africa), leopards and hyenas, but the predators are almost impossible to find. Having said that, on Sunday evening, with only the parrafin lamps for light and pitch black in the bush all about we heard a growl which the guard said was a hyena. Alarmingly near by…
Panorama from the viewing deck
Sunset was the main attraction on an evening drive with no elephants to be seen
My second week has seen more hands on involvement at school with teaching secondary and my first football session at MOET in which I made a goalkeeping error even Ospina 2015/16 would be proud of. Looking forward to more of the same in the second half of my trip.
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