A Traveler’s Tales from Malawi

Not the Best Day But A Funny Moment
April 29, 2008, 5:57 pm
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I didn’t have a good day today, but rather than focus on that I would rather share with you a funny moment.

I witnessed a Malawian music video in production. I went to get some lunch from Foodworths (which is a grocery store) and just outside on the lawn adjacent to the parking lot a music singer and his backup singers were performing. The outfits were flashy early ’90s. It was definitely something to see; I wish I had my camera on me 🙂

Anyways, don’t worry, Mom, I am just fine! Tomorrow will be a better day. I am oh so grateful for Tuesday’s girls night and the community that I have found here which are very good listeners and understand when Malawi is just too much at times.



Interesting News Article About PEPFAR and Gender Bias
April 29, 2008, 7:05 am
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Africa: Activist Praises Europe, Slams U.S. on AIDS

Stephen Lewis is a renowned and vigorously outspoken Canadian diplomat who has worked extensively to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa and to advocate for those living with the disease.

Formerly the special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he is now chairman of the board of the Canada-based Stephen Lewis Foundation, which endeavors to ease the pain of HIV/AIDS in Africa by funding grassroots projects.

Lewis is also co-director of AIDS-Free World, a new international AIDS advocacy organization based in the United States.

In a wide-ranging interview with AllAfrica’s Cindy Shiner, Lewis discussed current efforts to fight HIV/AIDS and how Africans are coping.

Do you feel the international community is doing enough now to address HIV/AIDS in Africa?

No, they’re not. It’s much better than it was three to five years ago but the international community still is not galvanized enough in sufficient support of Africa to respond to the pandemic. If it were we would long ago have supplied much more help in the replenishment of the lost human resources… [and] in the repair of health infrastructures.

We would have years ago put in place the prevention of transmission from mother to child [of the virus] during the birthing process. We would have invested much more in the orphaned children. We still have millions of people in need of treatment. It’s unlikely we will reach the goal of universal access to treatment by 2010.

What is your view of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar), the 50-billion-dollar initiative of the Bush administration in the United States?

Everybody is so shocked at getting a sizeable amount of money that they forget that there are tremendous flaws in Pepfar, most of which are destructive towards women. The amount of money is not sufficient and they should be clamoring for much more instead of this endless acting as a cheerleader for the administration.

Do you have some specific examples of ways in which you say it falls short?

Pepfar still insists that up to 50 percent of the preventative monies be spent on abstinence and fidelity when abstinence clearly isn’t a choice for so many women, not only young women who are already sexually active, but women in marriage.

Fidelity isn’t the problem of the women in marriage; it’s the problem of the men in the marriage … It’s an outrageous continuation of an ideological weapon wielded by an administration which is reactionary and out of touch with the real world.

Then there is the prostitution gag rule, where you can’t work with sex workers when in fact they are a high-risk group with whom organizations must work.

That’s another attack on women.

And then there’s the fact that you can’t do reproductive and sexual health in conjunction with work on HIV/AIDS when obviously the two are inexorably linked.

That’s another attack on women.

Here you have a piece of legislation where the money is inadequate and the flaws are all rooted in misogyny… in attacks on women.

Continue reading

The coolest thing about this weekend…
April 28, 2008, 6:33 am
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While riding in the car with a friend Saturday evening, a hyena ran across the road in front of us. It was so wild! I mean, seriously, how often does one see such things?!?! Anyways, it was the ugliest animal that I have ever seen and could not get over it for awhile that it just randomly ran across the road in front of us.

That same night I had the BEST cheeseburger ever. As many of you know, I do not like to prepare meat. So I have only really had chicken (boneless and skinless 🙂 ) since I have arrived. On Saturday, I met up with this woman who is working for the Clinton Foundation. We have a lot of common interests and got along fabulously so we went out to lunch and dinner together. It was a lot of fun! I also learned that I have a very tempermental cellphone number. My power and cellphone both went out of service for a while Sat. My official welcome to Malawi 🙂

Then I went to church on Sun. with my neighbors, Mike and Heather. They have been fantastic to me! I did my laundry over at their house; they took me to an area with a mall that I hadn’t been to yet; and then later Sun. night they invited me to join them and about 30 other people to play ultimate frisbee. It was a great workout and a lot of fun! Granted, my body is suffering a bit today. I fell twice and was knocked down once (by accident) and the ground wasn’t so forgiving.

Anyways, I must get to work now.
Talk later!

PS I also finished Prison Break and now must get my hands on Season 2. The suspense is killing me!

Some news from this week…
April 24, 2008, 9:11 am
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Okay, I received many comments about me not boiling the water. I’m NOT crazy; the water is treated. However, I will heed some of your concerns and be better about boiling and even buy some bottled water next time I go to the grocery store.

Second, I received a really nice compliment from a male coworker today about liking my working style. It was a very nice thing to say, especially since I was afraid that I was stepping on his toes.

Third, a little boy randomly came up to me yesterday as I was walking from the minibus to my apartment just to shake my hand. It was really cute 🙂

Finally, I have now met at least 4 apartments of neighbors and learned more about some of the others. Two are missionary families – one younger with two young kids, the other a little older and have been living here for 17 years! The two neighbors that I met last night just arrived a week ago or so like me – one is a couple from Spain; the woman is working on a project here with the Red Cross for the next 5 months; and the other young women is working for the UN here until Christmas. I also learned that another couple is from Iceland, working for the governmental international development agency there but here until I’m not sure how long. And another two families are Chinese and speak no English. So it’s quite a cornecopia of people. Plus, I think almost everyone has cars so hopefully they will take pity on me 🙂

Good news…I have almost figured out my laundry situation. This weekend I’m going to go to a laundry mat/dry cleaners because I can’t really wait any longer. And, then next week, I may have some help with it a bit more regularly. In fact, I may also see if the young woman can teach me some Chichewa. So far, I know Mwadzuka bwanji (Good morning), Mwaswera bwanji (Good afternoon), Usiku wabwino (Good night), Tiwonana mawa (See you tomorrow), and Zikomo kwambiri (Thank you very much). This has served me well so far, but I should probably work on developing a bigger vocabulary. More to come later…

Finally photos of my apartment…
April 22, 2008, 5:59 pm
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Things that I have learned…
April 22, 2008, 8:01 am
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It is possible to live without TV, a bit harder without internet. But I don’t think that I can do without Prison Break at the moment.

Malawi is so beautiful and very quiet except for the barking dogs, the Muslim call to prayer, and the birds. So, sometimes it’s a bit too quiet. Without TV and much music, I have fallen addicted to Prison Break, Season 1.

You may be wondering…what? how did she get her hands on that?

Well, I went to one of the open air vegetable markets this past weekend, which may I say was beautiful. I have never seen such gorgeous vegetables. Seriously, the colors were just awesome!

Anyways, while I was there, a gentleman selling DVDs approached me to see if I was interested in buying some. I decided to buy Prison Break, Season 1. Now, I’m addicted. I only allow myself to watch 2-3 episodes a day, especially since they can kinda creep me out the later it gets.

So that’s life in Malawi at the moment, I’m taking the minibuses to and from work (which aren’t too bad – think minivans with anywhere from 12-20 people crammed in), working a lot, trying to enjoy the quiet and slower environment, reading, watching Prison Break, visiting with random people, and just learning about life in Lilongwe and how to take care of random chores.

Still to conquer – what to do about my laundry. I think that I may have to go to a dry cleaner soon since the shipment of the rest of my clothes have not arrived. I tell you; I am the shabbiest dresser compared to my coworkers. They all dress so nice, the women in skirts and the men in shirts and ties. The good thing is that they seem to like me, and it doesn’t really matter 🙂

Also, a few truths…it’s extremely good intentioned but difficult to boil/filter water every time I want a drink. Also, it’s difficult, if not impossible, due to lack of variety and my limited cooking skills, not to eat fruits and vegetables. So I do both. I carefully wash everything but common on…. Now that I have told you that those truths, I expect no sympathy if I get sick. But so far, knock on wood I’ve had no problems 🙂

My pet Sammy
April 22, 2008, 7:44 am
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Unfortunately, I think that my pet (who I incorrectly assumed was a salamander and is more likely a gecko) may have left my apartment.

I haven’t seen him in a number of days, and the mosquitoes have been feasting on me lately.

I hope that he comes back soon 🙂