Photo Set

naomiislilongwefromhome:

First, TGIF. Next, by next week we should have our washing machine fixed! Wooo. Also, possibly calling for a bigger “woo,” I finished my rough draft of my final report!! Well, kinda. I am still waiting on information regarding populations of the irrigation clubs in Kasungu from Soka. And I still have to visit non-irrigation sites for comparison data. HOWEVER. I am thrilled to be that much closer to helping FAO and Malawi with this research. Finally…

The next day, it was rather chilly when we headed out. The sun was acting rather sketchy, and we were climbing higher and higher on the hills. The view was so so beautiful. Lucky for me, it was a breathtaking sight to behold; unlucky for you, capturing decent pictures through a scummy car window while bumping along is difficult. You will have to take my word on it. In fact – none of these pictures do justice to anything I’ve seen, really. Blame me for using my iPhone camera or my lack of photography skills, they do really turn out so dull. Maybe because the motion and vibrancy of the life I am seeing is missing, who knows?

It was recess time at the primary school we drove past up on the wooded hill. All the children were waving and jumping and shouting at the rare car, and when they spotted the mzungu, either they doubled their efforts or went still in shock. To my surprise, we stopped at a fork in the road just a dot past the school. They told me this is where the government extension officer said he would meet us. Then, a huge surge of children came running by to stand in front of the car. A phone call told us to come park at the school, so we began to drive in reverse. Hilariously, the children started running after the car! Everyone was laughing, it was really great.

We parked next to one of the several brick school buildings and climbed out. In a forested area near the field with wooden goal posts at each end, there were a few benches. Here we met with the government extension workers and sat to wait for the farmers to arrive.

A ginormous crowd of children stood quite a distance away, all pointing and laughing, pushing each other towards where we were sitting for what I assume were dares. I couldn’t resist. “May I go see the children, is that alright?” I asked.

“Yes, of course, of course! You want pictures!” Mr. Mtika laughed.

Eagerly, I approached the hoard of children. I could not help but think how awkward I felt; I was a stranger who can’t fully communicate with a whole bunch of strangers. However, I pushed this feeling aside, because this trip has been nothing if not venturing outside my comfort zone, anyways.

I did not know how to react when as I came closer, all the children started to run away, so I just laughed nervously and shouted to the onlookers, “They’re all scared of me!” and then added to the scrambling children, “Wait, wait! Come back!” Unsure what else to do, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and held it up for a picture.

That’s when the magic happened. Every single child stopped running in the other direction, and they all smushed together and waddled towards me at the chance of having their picture taken. It was amazing. I asked, “Are you ready? Smile!” and snapped the shot. The children were all so diverse; tiny or tall, bony or round, in a too-big dress or a jacket with a broken zipper. There was even an albino child, with light skin and matching hair, but they were accepting of him, unlike me, the strange mzungu.

It was all so inspiring that these children gathered together on this hill to go to school and learn for a chance at a better life. Even when their families need all the help they can get on the farm so they can have food on their plates and a bit of change in their pockets, their parents still know what a good education is worth. Before irrigation, however, this was not always the case. Children would stay home when they were sickly, or if they were malnourished. Now, with more food and income for buying household items and paying hospital bills, the parents have stronger children that can attend school. When they get older, they will also be able to afford school fees. It is amazing how some water on a field can change lives so dramatically.

Mr. Mtika asked to take my picture with them, and of course, I was happy to let him do so. There are so many fantastic photos of these children, I am going to do a separate post so you can see some more.

After the interview, I was sad to leave a place so full of giggles and curiosity, but we had one last village to interview. Don’t want to keep them waiting!

We headed off to collect a new government extension officer. His office pictured is like all of the other offices I have been in – walls plastered with posters and information likely outdated, documents scattered around in piles of “in,” “out,” and “pending,” and a visitor’s book that I have to sign and state my purpose of visit, my address and phone number (I usually just leave these spots blank), and my official ranking. I once left the “comments” section blank, because what was there to say, “This chair needs refurnished,” or “I like the posters”? I was quickly chased down to write one, I mean I was literally climbing back into the truck to go, and it was so dumb I don’t even recall what I ended up putting. Probably, “Nice work!” or something else utterly vague.

The final location was one of my favorites, in terms of irrigation-visuals. What a nerd thing to say. Anyways, we had to trek down a humongous hill to reach the fields. They were gorgeously green and laced with canals of water. Slabs of stone or a bunch of limbs made little bridges over the man-made streams, but my trust doesn’t reach too far; after almost tipping over the stone, I just started to do the good, ol’ run-and-jump.

This group was fantastic. They told me about how, of their own volition, they created a fishpond. Inspired by this source of income for one of the neighboring farms, they dug a perfectly rectangular pool at the base of one of the hills and now raise fish to eat and sell. No organization told them to do this or helped them do it. I love this kind of self-interest and self-motivation. Anyone can do anything if you set your mind to it is definitely true.

Back up the hillside just a ways, and we plopped down in the grass under the shade of a tree for an interview. I thought it was so sweet when they recalled my earlier asking to sit in the sun for a different interview, and they asked me if I would like to sit further out of the shade. Yes, I would love that. Then someone said something about fire ants, and at seeing my panicked face, added, “There is none right now, but you’ll know to move when you see them!” Oh, okay.

No fire ants here, no worries.

Source: naomiislilongwefromhome
Photo Set

naomiislilongwefromhome:

First, TGIF. Next, by next week we should have our washing machine fixed! Wooo. Also, possibly calling for a bigger “woo,” I finished my rough draft of my final report!! Well, kinda. I am still waiting on information regarding populations of the irrigation clubs in Kasungu from Soka. And I still have to visit non-irrigation sites for comparison data. HOWEVER. I am thrilled to be that much closer to helping FAO and Malawi with this research. Finally…

The next day, it was rather chilly when we headed out. The sun was acting rather sketchy, and we were climbing higher and higher on the hills. The view was so so beautiful. Lucky for me, it was a breathtaking sight to behold; unlucky for you, capturing decent pictures through a scummy car window while bumping along is difficult. You will have to take my word on it. In fact – none of these pictures do justice to anything I’ve seen, really. Blame me for using my iPhone camera or my lack of photography skills, they do really turn out so dull. Maybe because the motion and vibrancy of the life I am seeing is missing, who knows?

It was recess time at the primary school we drove past up on the wooded hill. All the children were waving and jumping and shouting at the rare car, and when they spotted the mzungu, either they doubled their efforts or went still in shock. To my surprise, we stopped at a fork in the road just a dot past the school. They told me this is where the government extension officer said he would meet us. Then, a huge surge of children came running by to stand in front of the car. A phone call told us to come park at the school, so we began to drive in reverse. Hilariously, the children started running after the car! Everyone was laughing, it was really great.

We parked next to one of the several brick school buildings and climbed out. In a forested area near the field with wooden goal posts at each end, there were a few benches. Here we met with the government extension workers and sat to wait for the farmers to arrive.

A ginormous crowd of children stood quite a distance away, all pointing and laughing, pushing each other towards where we were sitting for what I assume were dares. I couldn’t resist. “May I go see the children, is that alright?” I asked.

“Yes, of course, of course! You want pictures!” Mr. Mtika laughed.

Eagerly, I approached the hoard of children. I could not help but think how awkward I felt; I was a stranger who can’t fully communicate with a whole bunch of strangers. However, I pushed this feeling aside, because this trip has been nothing if not venturing outside my comfort zone, anyways.

I did not know how to react when as I came closer, all the children started to run away, so I just laughed nervously and shouted to the onlookers, “They’re all scared of me!” and then added to the scrambling children, “Wait, wait! Come back!” Unsure what else to do, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and held it up for a picture.

That’s when the magic happened. Every single child stopped running in the other direction, and they all smushed together and waddled towards me at the chance of having their picture taken. It was amazing. I asked, “Are you ready? Smile!” and snapped the shot. The children were all so diverse; tiny or tall, bony or round, in a too-big dress or a jacket with a broken zipper. There was even an albino child, with light skin and matching hair, but they were accepting of him, unlike me, the strange mzungu.

It was all so inspiring that these children gathered together on this hill to go to school and learn for a chance at a better life. Even when their families need all the help they can get on the farm so they can have food on their plates and a bit of change in their pockets, their parents still know what a good education is worth. Before irrigation, however, this was not always the case. Children would stay home when they were sickly, or if they were malnourished. Now, with more food and income for buying household items and paying hospital bills, the parents have stronger children that can attend school. When they get older, they will also be able to afford school fees. It is amazing how some water on a field can change lives so dramatically.

Mr. Mtika asked to take my picture with them, and of course, I was happy to let him do so. There are so many fantastic photos of these children, I am going to do a separate post so you can see some more.

After the interview, I was sad to leave a place so full of giggles and curiosity, but we had one last village to interview. Don’t want to keep them waiting!

We headed off to collect a new government extension officer. His office pictured is like all of the other offices I have been in – walls plastered with posters and information likely outdated, documents scattered around in piles of “in,” “out,” and “pending,” and a visitor’s book that I have to sign and state my purpose of visit, my address and phone number (I usually just leave these spots blank), and my official ranking. I once left the “comments” section blank, because what was there to say, “This chair needs refurnished,” or “I like the posters”? I was quickly chased down to write one, I mean I was literally climbing back into the truck to go, and it was so dumb I don’t even recall what I ended up putting. Probably, “Nice work!” or something else utterly vague.

The final location was one of my favorites, in terms of irrigation-visuals. What a nerd thing to say. Anyways, we had to trek down a humongous hill to reach the fields. They were gorgeously green and laced with canals of water. Slabs of stone or a bunch of limbs made little bridges over the man-made streams, but my trust doesn’t reach too far; after almost tipping over the stone, I just started to do the good, ol’ run-and-jump.

This group was fantastic. They told me about how, of their own volition, they created a fishpond. Inspired by this source of income for one of the neighboring farms, they dug a perfectly rectangular pool at the base of one of the hills and now raise fish to eat and sell. No organization told them to do this or helped them do it. I love this kind of self-interest and self-motivation. Anyone can do anything if you set your mind to it is definitely true.

Back up the hillside just a ways, and we plopped down in the grass under the shade of a tree for an interview. I thought it was so sweet when they recalled my earlier asking to sit in the sun for a different interview, and they asked me if I would like to sit further out of the shade. Yes, I would love that. Then someone said something about fire ants, and at seeing my panicked face, added, “There is none right now, but you’ll know to move when you see them!” Oh, okay.

No fire ants here, no worries.

Source: naomiislilongwefromhome
Photo Set

naomiislilongwefromhome:

Y’all, meet the Tchongwe family.

Mr. Kumwenda reassuringly told me, “I will accompany you to Mzimba, that way we can both meet with Mr. Mtika, and I can tell him what you are doing there and make sure you have accommodations.” Excellent, I sure love last-minute planning.

Luckily, Jenni thought to ask Judith where she has stayed in Mzimba before, in hopes I could find my own accommodations if need be. “Oh no, I’ve never stayed in Mzimba. I do have a friend that lives there, though. She has just built a new house, too. I have not spoken to her in some time, but if you still need a place to stay, call me and I will ask her if she would keep you.”

Well, that sounded great to me. In the FAO vehicle on the way to Mzimba, I mentioned to Mr. Kumwenda about Judith’s friend. “Yes, that would be very good! Call her when we reach Mzimba. The guesthouses there are not very nice, you would not be comfortable.” Alrighty!

And so, Mrs. Tchongwe, Judith’s friend, accepted that I stay at her home. I was to give her a call later, because right now she was in church. Mind you, it was also a Tuesday afternoon, but maybe day of the week does not matter in Malawi. After having a meal at the restaurant adjacent to the motel I may have stayed at, with one bathroom for the entire place that had no lighting and the door didn’t shut properly, we called.

I was intrigued by her name, Tchongwe; perhaps she was Asian? I only imagined Judith’s friend as another international, but I was mistaken. When we entered through the red metal gate, a dark-skinned woman in a chitenje greeted us. I took a deep breath and prepared to be submersed in a true Malawian experience. “You ah most welcome, Nah-oh-me!”

Her home is so new, it is not yet completed. Some of the floor was still gritty concrete, and not all the bedrooms were usable. Then, to my dismay, Mrs. Tchongwe told me they have yet to get a water tank, so there was no running water. That meant using the bathroom outside, not just once, but every day while I was here.

“Do I need to bring out toilet paper with me? I brought some.”

“Ah, yes! We only have a little bit left.”

My most memorable experience was going out to use the hole that first night. Mrs. Tchongwe kept insisting I bring a “torch,” or flashlight, but I showed her how my phone has one. She was amazed. Mrs. Tchongwe also offered that every time I needed to go, just ask for her, even in the middle of the night I am to knock on her door, and she will accompany me. After the first time, I think she realized that this was unnecessary. I must not look very brave. Anyways, I crossed the entire yard and entered the restroom. It was a very small, brick structure with a cutout for a doorway and no roof. I was glad it was not raining, but I did take note of the gorgeous stars overhead. I shined my light around to locate the hole and bit back a shriek when I saw at least three giant cockroaches. To my utter horror, one scurried into the hole I was about to have to crouch over. Thankfully, I survived.

Mrs. Tchongwe was simply astonished when I told her I only needed one bucket shower a day, not two. However, she always prepared me a hot bucket of water each day I came back from the bush. I did not have the heart to tell her that I preferred to bathe in the mornings; eventually I learned it was quite necessary to have one at night, because I always came back so very dirty! To pour the water over myself, she provided me with an empty peanut butter container. It must have been freshly a dead soldier, because it still smelled of its old contents.

Shortly after my arrival, Mrs. Tchongwe spoke to me in her bedroom. It was actually quite large, with a big bed, but the rest of the room was stacks of dusty cardboard boxes. “Nah-oh-me,” she said, putting a hand over her heart and one on my shoulder, “while you stay here, this is your home. Your home is here. You ah most welcome, most welcome. I want you to feel at home. When you need me, just come and you will find me. I am your mother, Mrs. Tchongwe.”

I did not know if I was making a joke or being serious, but she thought I was most serious when I asked, “May I call you Mom?”

“Yes, yes! Wait, how old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

“Yes, call me Mom! I am your mom, Nah-oh-me.” My heart melted.

We sat on these big, bulky couches and chairs that sunk when you sat on them in front of a tiny television with a giant set of speakers. Mrs. Tchongwe was very fond of having tea. We had it with breakfast and before dinner every day. It was black Malawian tea, which she poured steaming hot, full cream milk into and about a bucket of sugar. This was served with slices of white bread and the only brand of butter Malawi sells, Blue Band, I think. I was severely corrected when I tried to eat just some butter on a slice of bread. “No, no, like this!” And she took my bread and smashed a second slice on top. Oh yay, a healthy butter sandwich. I have been doing it wrong my whole life.

Mrs. Tchongwe’s husband died in a car accident not too long ago. He was working with the agriculture department here, so they had been living in a government house. However, it was not very nice so he began to build the house they were staying in now shortly before he passed. They were very fortunate he did this, because they would not have been allowed to remain in the government house without having a government worker in the family. Now, she had little means of income and had four children attending school with huge fees. That was when Judith gave her a job helping with surveys. She was so grateful to Judith, you could feel it every time she spoke about her.

“I was so lonely in this big house. But then yesterday, one of my sons came home to visit me. And now, you are here! It went from one to three, and I am so happy.” I was happy to be there, too.

The first night of being there was tough, I won’t lie. I called my mom, really upset. The culture shock I was feeling was huge. The fact that I was only staying there from Tuesday to Friday or Saturday did not matter, I was so overwhelmed. With the help of my parents, support from my best friend (who also kindly provided me with music to download since I had no wifi for radios, and I will be forever grateful), and the kindness of Mrs. Tchongwe, the shock evaporated after a while.

Every day for almost a whole week, all my meals were traditional Malawian foods (which reminds me, still have to do that food post!). That means every day, I had nsima, the gooey maize globs, at least once, intermixed with rice, greens, cabbage, and hunks of bone with a bit of meat in some red brothy-stew stuff. I am so hungry, I often forget to take pictures of my meal until I am almost done, but what you can see here is nsima, greens, and tiny fish with TONS of tiny bones. I tried not to gag as I ate it, I really did not want to be disrespectful. When they were done, there was just a speck of bones left on their plate. I am convinced they ate some of the bones, because half my plate was covered in them. Despite this one scary meal, I am just thankful not to have been fed the pigeon meat fluttering around behind the house Mrs. Tchongwe assures me is quite divine.

The day after I came, her oldest son arrived for a visit. Now it was four of us. Mrs. Tchongwe’s two daughters were still at school. She spoke to her youngest about me, and I was told she really would have loved to meet me and wished she could have come home. One night, Mrs. Tchongwe showed me pictures of her family, and even her trip to America with a missionary group. I think if I remember right, she went to Minnesota. There she had some church meetings, but she also toured an American farm (“They are so big!”), some kind of factory, and a university that she cannot recall the name of, where she met their international club.

Her sons absolutely love soccer. They stayed up most the night of the World Cup opening games so as not to miss a minute. I could hear their excitement from my bedroom, which, by the way, I almost had to share with Mrs. Tchongwe but she ended up having her son move and gave me his room. It had one bed for my 50-pound suitcase and one bed for me to sleep in, plus an adjacent bathroom with a non-functioning toilet that liked to tease me.

One night, when all I wanted to do was go to bed, Mrs. Tchongwe sat me down and put in the video of her church choir group. This featured several “music videos,” and each video had a lead singer. For the first song, the lead singer was in a colorful dress, kneeling in the middle of a road and singing. Eventually, she was rolling around in the road and shaking her hands at the sky. I loved to pick out Mrs. Tchongwe in the groups of ladies wearing matching dresses and hats, all dancing festively to an upbeat song for the love of Jesus, but after half an hour I was really done.

My plan all week was to try to go back to Kasungu Friday afternoon if we finished with the surveys early enough. We did, and Mr. Mtika offered for me to go home. However, I chose to stay until Saturday morning; I figured Mrs. Tchongwe would like that.

I am really glad I stayed. During the weird commercials that play during the World Cup, Mrs. Tchongwe silenced the television and pulled out her Bible. She then read me part of the story of Joseph. His father gave him a colorful robe, so his brothers were jealous that he loved Joseph more than them. Joseph began having dreams that God was showing his brothers bowing down to him, and he told his brothers this. They hated him even more. One day while out with the sheep, they made a plan to kill Joseph. Their brother was looking for them everywhere, and he wandered very far and spoke to many strangers to find his brothers. When he finally found them, the brothers were going to throw Joseph into a pit to die. However, they ended up selling him to a group of people. Mrs. Tchongwe ended here and added that later, Joseph became a ruler in the land and the brothers had to bow down to him. She told me that my story reminded her of Joseph’s. I am the Joseph of my family. Despite the hardship of coming to this foreign country, and even after the other intern that came with me went back home, I was brave and stayed to make a better future. It has been so long since she gave me this speech, and I cannot possibly recount it as well as she did, but it nearly moved me to tears.

This sweet lady would not even accept the money I offered her for allowing me to stay with her, because she is my family and this is my home. She said when I come back to Mzimba (which is in about a week, now), I am to just give her a call and come straight there. I intend to send her money through Judith; she definitely needs it more than I do, family or not.

P.S. I sent her the family photos through her son’s email (one refused to smile and they all kept blinking, so this was their favorite one out of about ten), but I have not heard back. I hope she received them.

Source: naomiislilongwefromhome
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staystunning:

HAHAH bouta roll diz blunt

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trboswg:

JackFrost #Calyxporn.

Source: trboswg
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Kanye

Kanye

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Closed casket

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