VOLUNTEER UPDATE FROM KATE – Week 9 12th June 2015
Another good week here in Mangochi.
Especially the weekend, when Mike, Sue, Hilary and Rosemary were here. We went round to eat at Father Eston’s house on Friday and had a great time. We sat out on the veranda with Eston’s big family and had a lovely help-yourself-to-seconds sort of meal. The Chief of the local villages (a chief of chiefs really) was there and he was very interesting to talk to. He sat down with us and started the conversation saying ‘So, I was born…’ And went from there. We heard about how he met his first wife and then his second wife and how he’s lived in lots of different places in Malawi, and then about the sorts of problems he has to sort out as chief, for the villagers who come to him with their disputes (mainly about land and marriage apparently). Then we heard about how he loves listening to football commentary on the radio, and mid-meal he stood up and started shouting imaginary football commentary “and he passes, the ball whizzes across the pitch – and GOAL”. It was so funny!
Eston’s son Benjamin (who’s in Standard 6 at MOET) invited us to go and watch his football match the next day so me and Hilary and Mavis (who I mentioned last week) went to see them on Saturday afternoon. It was Benjamin’s village team against Makokola village. Taken very seriously by all the boys. And watched at the side not so seriously by their little brothers and sisters, and us. While we were watching Mavis plaited my hair into lots of tiny braids. The little girls kept coming up to help and pat my hair to see how it felt. It did feel odd.
Then we went round to Patterson’s for tea. His wife Rose had done a great job even though there was no power all day so she’d cooked all sorts of different dishes on one fire. We ate well again and all had a good laugh! Patterson took us back to our respective bungalows in his trusty red pick up. Or not so trusty, it’s falling apart but still, loved sitting in the back rattling along under the night’s sky.
On Sunday at church we went along to church again. Mothers and babies, teenagers, old people, and everyone in between were having a good sing and dance. I very much like their lack of self consciousness actually. It’s just fun.
I said a proper goodbye to my good old English neighbours on Sunday evening. I very much liked being able to pop next door and eat their biscuits and have a joke and talk about home, Malawi and life in general. They are pretty inspirational people, trekking all the way out here to make a real difference, when they’re not exactly spring chickens! I already miss having them around.
This week at school was back to normal after the assessments. We had fun making ‘MOET Library’ bunting with Std 6. And I’ve been making new labels for the bookshelves. Also it seems that the children never really get stories read to them, so I sat in a group with some Std 6 kids and read them the Lion King. It’s their favourite one, and just about the right level of English. I think I enjoyed it as much as they did!
Yesterday I did some interesting lessons. Before leaving Susan gave me some photos of a primary school in Carlisle, and it’s pupils, to show to the pupils at MOET. This was such a good idea! They looked at them in groups and discussed the similarities and differences. They were very curious about this strange school full of white children with whiteboards, carpets, glass windows, and with grass on the playing field. I asked one boy, Innocent, to think of a similarity between that school and MOET. “But Madam, nothing is similar.”
The children had loads of questions about England. They were fascinated when I described what it’s like when it snows, and how to make a snowman. Other things that shocked them were having an upstairs in houses, the fact that secondary school is free, that everyone eats with knives and forks, and we don’t eat nsima. That’s made from maize flour, they have it as mphala (a sort of porridge) for breakfast and the same in thicker form with relish (usually beans and cabbage) for lunch and tea. Eating mpunga (rice) is a real treat which they only have on special occasions like Christmas. They were amazed to hear about how those English pupils have a different school dinner each day. It really made me think, telling them stuff, seeing their reactions, seeing what questions they asked. I found myself seeing the pictures a bit from their perspective and how strange it must seem, when Malawi is all they’ve ever known. We looked at the world map and found little England and little Malawi and all the big countries in between.
They also noticed that the English school didn’t have many plants growing, while at MOET there’s trees, ponds, wildlife everywhere – chickens, pigeons, butterflies, fish.
Last Friday I watched the fish being harvested from one of MOET’s four ponds, by dragging a net from one end to other. The fish are a species of chambo which you can only find in Malawi. They catch them about four times a year and sell them to staff and others, which makes some extra money for the school.
I joined in on the Wildlife Club yesterday! They have clubs on Thursday afternoons before sport – there’s also Art, Reading, Debating, AIDS awareness, and Permaculture.
In the Wildlife Club they share poems and articles about wildlife, and have planted some trees on the other side of the playground. Next week we’re going to start planting some new seedlings where hopefully they’ll grow better near a patch of water.
After that I played basketball with some of the boys from my classes. They are very good players! Even nine year old Victor who is great at intercepting despite being smaller than everyone else! It was a lot of fun actually. I am getting so fond of them all.
Anyway, last but not at all least, a great big thank you to everyone who donated money to Fomoe at Grandpa’s funeral. I felt quite wobbly on Tuesday and I really wish I could have been there. You were all on my mind. I’m not sure yet how much money was raised but I’m sure it’ll go far.