VOLUNTEER UPDATE FROM KATE – Week 5 (15th May 2015)
Another week gone by. I’ve been here over a month now. (Would say the time has flown by, but it hasn’t really.) Although I have been very busy recently.
It was the leaving do for the Standard 8s on Saturday. Those children will be sad to say goodbye to MOET. As well as having given them stuff like stationery and clothes, shoes, even soap and toothbrushes, it’s been their place of security – somewhere where they’ve been looked after and valued… which they might not otherwise have had, growing up as orphans and vulnerable children. Nearly all of the Standard 8s will be going on to secondary schools (pending their exam results), and hopefully MOET has set them up well for the future in all sorts of ways. The school (and the charity Fomoe) will be keeping an eye on their progress even once they’ve left.
The ceremony gave them a good send off. It was held in a function room by the lake, with the teachers, the pupils’ guardians, and a guest of honour (headteacher of a good school nearby).
In the morning I helped out with preparing the food, cooking up on big vats of rice on the fire, and tomatoes and onions and chicken feet. (I couldn’t bring myself to try the chicken feet. But everything else was nice.) The ceremony was planned to start at 11am but after taking into account African Time, things got finally got underway at about 2pm.
There was a meal and prize giving and speeches. The guest of honour gave a speech to the pupils encouraging them to prioritise their education over work or marriage. Lots of pupils do drop out – to earn money or, for the girls, because of teenage pregnancy or early marriages.
Afterwards there was dancing – everyone had a good wiggle around to some very loud Malawian tunes. There wasn’t half-hearted sidestep in sight.
We all got a matola on the way back – a big truck that everyone sits/stands in the back of. They’re the main way of getting around for people here (after walking of course, or cycling). You get all windswept and bumped about. It’s great!
On Sunday it was washing and cleaning as per. In the cottage I swept all the floors and took the curtains down and gave them a wash too. It put me in a cheery mood sprucing things up. Although by the end I was ready for a lie down!
On Monday and Tuesday we had the first choir practices. Best parts of the day! To start off with we’re learning ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ – the only song I could find in the school’s three ‘piano for beginners’ books (easy to learn on the piano, thankfully since I’m quite out of practice!) Finding music might be a bit of an issue. But we won’t let that get in our way! The kids have plenty of enthusiasm that’s for sure. And some lovely voices! I’m looking forward to next week’s sessions.
On Wednesday we had another power cut which lasted all day. So in the evening Matilda helped me light some sticks and charcoal and I cooked my rice and beans out on the fire. Like nearly everyone else in Malawi does every evening. It was nice having my own little blaze. It felt like camping! I’ve realised how much at home I usually take electricity for granted – but humans have been doing without it for thousands and thousands of years, and of course still are doing. I suppose… people’s lifestyles in Britain, even compared to just twenty years ago, have altered at such a fast pace, especially in terms of technology. But here, it seems like for the average Malawian not much has changed. (In my humble opinion, not that I was born twenty years ago). Here at Mpemba people live in mud huts, wash in the lake, cook on fires, catch fish, and harvest maize, in much the same way as they have been doing for generations. It makes you think.
The best part of the evening was that I had my first proper look at the Malawian night’s sky, out on the beach for a better view. It was the most stars I have ever seen! Full of them! I don’t know why you can see so many from here.
I’ll write again next week.