Simplicity

I’ve been getting lots of emails asking me about what life in Thyolo is like, so I think it’s time I filled you all in. I am currently living in a village called Nchima which is just outside the Boma. All district capitals are called Bomas in Malawi. I have currently been living with Mr. Nzengo, his wife, and their three daughters. They have a nice house, complete with electricity, a tv, their own private water tap, and a latrine. I have my own room and I am quite comfortable here. I was expecting that I would not have electricity when I was in Malawi, but I am close to the Boma and a lot of the houses here are hooked up to electricity. I’ve been keeping up with the news; my family is Catholic so we’ve been watching a lot of the Pope’s visit to the UK.

There are banana trees and mango trees everywhere here! Thyolo is known for its bananas; mango season hasn’t quite started yet, but I’m very excited for it. You can always see chickens and goats roaming the roads everywhere here as well; my family has 7 chickens that are always kicking around in the backyard, I feel bad for them though because I know one of these days they are going to end up on my plate (one already has).

I love exploring the marketplace here in Thyolo. It lines the main road through the Boma and it has everything you could ever need! On the left side of the road there are stalls upon stalls selling fruits and vegetables, and on the right side of the road there’s many shops selling soaps and toilet paper (very important to always carry this around with you because otherwise you won’t have any). After that there’s a couple stalls selling bike parts and then you get to the clothing section.

You have to leave the road and continue into the market if you are looking for clothes. If you’re wondering what happens to the clothes you donate, it’s pretty likely it ends up being sold on the side of the road in a developing country. There are piles upon piles of used western clothing being sold here! People here mostly just wear western clothing, except women usually wear a chitenge (an African cloth wrap) over their skirt as well. My favourite part of the market is where they sell all of the African fabrics. They are so beautiful; I could just walk by them for hours. I’ve bought two chitenge’s so far and I’m hoping to get an outfit made soon.

For the second part of this blog I’m going to fill you in on what a typical day usually looks like for me. I wake up at 6:00 every morning and watch my family bustle around the house getting ready for school. I usually take my bucket bath around 6:30 and then get ready for work. It took me awhile to figure out how to wash my hair with just a bucket of water! I started with the “dunk my head in and hope for the best approach”, but I’ve got it to pat now using just my facecloth. At 7, Mr. Nzengo leaves on his motorbike to bring his wife to work (she’s a primary school teacher) and I have a bit of time to myself. When he returns, Mr. Nzengo and I have a breakfast of hot chocolate, eggs, and peanut butter bread. After that I head off to work for the day.

Any number of things can happen at work. Sometimes I go to the field with a co-worker, sometimes I spend time teaching people computer skills, and sometimes I’m meeting with people, just planning my approach or getting to know my co-workers. I’ve only had 6 or 7 days of work so far, but I think things are going to pick up this week. I go home for my nsima lunch at 12; people usually take a 2 hour lunch, so sometimes I head back to the market for a bit or to the internet café.

Work finishes for the day at 5, I head home, have my second bucket bath, spend some time with my family, have rice for supper and usually go to bed around 9. Weekends are pretty relaxing, this weekend I headed out to the town of Limbe and bought myself a bike! I really like it and it’s definitely handy. Now I can get around faster and hopefully explore more of Thyolo. This weekend coming up I’m heading back to Lilongwe for my first APS team meeting. The African Programs Staff are long term volunteers in Malawi, since there are only two JF’s here during the fall we get to tag along on the APS meetings.

A few things now to clue up this blog; I haven’t checked in with you in a while on my physical, emotional and mental state. Physically I am still healthy! I had a bit of a rough go at the beginning of last week, but I am feeling well now; still no sign of Malaria! The sun really takes it out of me though and I’m always exhausted at the end of the week. Emotionally I think I’m starting to come down from the honeymoon stage on the culture shock curve and am starting to miss home a little, but I’m still charging forward now. Mentally I’m a bit frustrated with the speed at which things happen at work. It’s been challenging for me to get used to the slow pace of life at work.

In other news, I posted a few pictures to facebook, I find facebook uploads them quicker then wordpress does, so I think I may continue to post pictures on facebook when I have the chance. Anyways, thanks for all the support, prayers, and emails; keep them coming. Also, I love getting questions, so keep them coming as well. I’m working on a more thought provoking post on my work, so I like getting questions.

Much love,
Maria

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Categories: Volunteering in Malawi | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Simplicity

  1. Dad

    Thanks for the update. We are starting to get used to you not being here, but have started counting the days until December. It took a little while to turn your bedroom into a sitting room ut it is looking good now.

    We survived Hurricane igor but the winds were really high. There has been a lot of damage to roads and a lot of trees knocked down.

    Have fun in Lilongwe and talk to you soon. Just kidding on your bedroom!

    Love Dad

  2. Ian Froude

    Hi Maria,
    thanks for writing the blog, it is great to keep updated on what you are doing. I have a question for you: what effect does imported western clothing in Thyolo have on local clothing producers?
    thanks!
    Ian

    • Maja

      I’m very interested in the answer to this question as well.Hadn’t thought about it until Ian psoed the question.

  3. Jessica

    I got some sweet stuff made there. If you’re looking to get contemporary clothes, I brought pictures of clothes I wanted made to my tailor and he did a pretty good job. I suggest buying Chitenge from the Congo or Ivory Coast as it’s thicker and much softer =]

    So nice to read your daily routine. It definitely brings me back.

    Just wondering: how are people at work reacting to your presence?

  4. Aunt Lori

    Hi
    Glad to hear you are getting more settled there physcially and emotionally…Don’t worry about missing home from what I hear your father is busy screeching in Mainlanders????? ( Can you picture it..? I can’t) Anyways, we are thinking of you often and can’t wait to hear all your stories..Nathan reads your blogs and of course Devon just wants to be filled in ( not going to spend time reading)..Take care..See you soon…

  5. Lauren Hockin

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your daily life. Is hot chocolate common in Thyolo? We always had tea (tiyi) or sugar water in Chikwawa. It sounds like your family is quite well off serving eggs each day, have you found that this has lessened or altered their view of you as an azungu?

    L

  6. Steven Dlamini

    All the best Maria,its good to hear you are keeping on well. Cheers! Steven

  7. @Lauren: I was pretty surprised that we drank hot chocolate actually since most of the thyolo district is covered in tea plantations! I’m not entirely sure how common it is, hot chocolate seems to pretty easily available though which I guess suggests its a little more common here. The weird thing is though that my family calls it “tea”. We don’t eat eggs anymore, we only ate them my first week which leads me to believe it was one way that my family reacting to having an azungu living with them. I think they are tending towards slighty better, more expensive food since I’ve been here. We always eat rice for supper instead of nsima which I have a feeling is a result of me being here.

    @Jessica: People at work have reacted pretty well to my presence. Everyone is excited to have me here and they seem pretty excited about water point monitoring. I think everyone in the office has made it their own personal goal to ensure that I experience as much of Malawi as possible while I am here. They all tell me by the time I leave I will have all traditional Malawian clothes, I will be able to speak chichewa and I will be fat. For those of you who don’t know, being called fat is pretty much a compliment in Malawi. Everyone wants me to be fat from eating so much nsima. I think they will succeed.

    @Ian: I don’t have a great answer for you get because I keep forgetting to talk to local artisans when I’m around the market. I haven’t forgotten your question though and I intend to. Based on what I’ve seen though, most local producers always seem to be busy making new clothes as traditional clothing is still in demand for women. unfortunately men never wear local made clothing and are usually dressed in pants and button down shirts. Some of the clothing producers I think do fairly well, there’s a couple more expensive ones that produce really good clothing and a couple of cheaper ones that tend to work on smaller projects. I feel like people selling western clothing must have trouble sometimes because there’s just SO much of it meaning there’s quite a lot of competition. I will get you an answer though after talking to some locals!

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