Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Busy busy busy

Last week I was back down in Chikhwawa again on the Monday and Tuesday to revisit the students there and see how they were getting on. Anyhow I decided this time as I was being let loose all by myself that I would drive. This time I took my camera to take pictures of the road and the obstacles but sadly the battery died and I didn't get many at all. And there would have been some amazing ones. The picture below is the view of the hills/mountains as you are coming out of Chikhwawa. (And a very badly focused picture also – but then my camera battery said no)
Now if you can imagine a steep road curving all the way down those hills, with nothing but cliff on one side.

On the way up I had to overtake 3 huge broken down Lorries, who have of course conveniently broken down on a steep part of the hill right on the apex of the blind bends. We are coming to the conclusion that it is probably a law in Malawi that if you break down it should always occur at either a junction where there is no room to overtake or on a blind bend, preferably on the steepest hill you can find. 'You always get lots of warning though (if it is in town – a long queue of traffic and if it is in the country – half a dead tree for about a hundred yards in front). Will have to get some pictures so you can see what I mean.

Otherwise have been busy supervising the students on the ward, doing OSCE tests, skills practice in the lab, lots of marking, and helping the college with the end of year collation of all the exam marks and clinical evaluations. The students all finish the school year at the end of this week and are then off on holiday, as am I. Very excited about that as have friends coming from the UK with more goodies for me. Prior to that though on Friday am meeting up with Bex and Matt who have also just returned from a short break in the UK, and who have also ............ yup you guessed it brought back stuff for me, and happily have picked up two parcels from the main VSO office that were sent out back in July for my birthday and have now finally arrived. It feels rather like Christmas.

How to make a volunteer happy

One of my housemates has recently returned to Malawi from a trip to the UK, she brought back loads of goodies for me, and also

and this was not all of it
this should keep us going for a little while. It is not that you can't get cheese here, but the cheese we can afford to buy is of the plastic cheddar variety, a decent bit of cheese requires a mortgage being taken out, and as we are volunteers I fear the bank will think we are not a good risk.
Not only did the huge amount of cheese come back with her, but on hearing of my tragic tale of woe regarding rodent activity, to my utter amazement and delight, not one but two bags of giant chocolate buttons were in the Mary Poppins suitcase as well.

Watch out there’s a chisoni about

Recently we have taken up gardening; well this is of course the royal we. My role has been very influential in so much as that I have brought the seeds and directed where they need to be planted. Then of course there is the surveying of the growing pattern. What is coming up and what isn't. All very time consuming I am sure you will agree. Whilst walking around the garden I noticed lots of holes in the ground. I decided to ask Wayson our night guard/gardener what was causing these holes and he informed me it was the chisoni that were causing them. Unfortunately he didn't know how to translate chisoni in to English and my hideously bad understanding of Chichewa didn't extend to translating this either. So we both agreed to not being able to translate.

Later that night I was taking the tea out for him and he said he had something to show me. He brought over an old charcoal bag and informed me that he had caught one of the chisoni's and had it in the bag. Busy holding it out for me to see, I gingerly peered in wondering what strange creature might possibly be lurking in there, imaging all kinds of wild beasts, snakes obviously being on top of the list, and very worried that whatever was lurking in the bag might jump and bite or sting me. Imagine my relief when this is what was in there,


So chisoni is Chichewa for hedgehog. Well that was a relief as there are an awful lot of holes in the garden. One side effect though of this is that we have had to deflea the dog (I am refering to the royal we here again as my house mate actually did it)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

It has not been my best week

It would be fair to say it has not been my best week, not withstanding the chocolate tragedy, I have also still not been able to get into my old email address to check for post, so therefore have had to arrange a whole new email account, for which ofcourse I don't have any of the old contact addresses so am having to rebuild my contacts. If you are reading this and have tried emailing me in the last 2 weeks on my old email account and have not received a reply, you now know why. Please let me know how to contact you again with my new email address. The latest mishap ............
I don't know if this is age related or just general stupidity.

I got up for work this morning and thought, that is strange.........the freezer door was open, I don't remember going in there..........

Had a look and then the evidence caused me to remember

I had got home from work the night before and thought – I know what would be really nice, a little vodka and diet coke, however there was no ice, and hadn't put any cokes in the fridge to chill, so had a brilliant idea, I will stick a can in the freezer, that will be the quickest way.

Got caught up with cooking dinner and playing solitaire, reading my book and then went to bed. It is an exciting life that I lead sometimes.

Anyway you guessed it – sometime during the night the can exploded. Fortunately no damage to the freezer was incurred.

It has been a tragic day

It was my birthday at the end of July and I have been making regular forays to the post office to see if any of my parcels have arrived yet. My first inclining that it was not all as it should be at the post office was when the postmistress looked at me with pity when I asked if there were any parcels for me. She went and retrieved my parcel and I could see that there was a piece of white paper attached. I carefully perused the said letter –

If it doesn't show up properly it says

"Apology Letter. The attached package was damaged by rodents in transit. Please, we are sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused."

Now I knew what was going to be in that package and had been dreaming about it for weeks, ever since I knew it had been sent.

I took said package tenderly in my hands and noticed the damage corner.

I was still optimistic but sadly that optimism proved to be misplaced when I got back to work and opened the parcel. It was not just the corner of the packaging that had been chewed off.

I did inspect the remainder of the contents quite thoroughly to see if anything could be retrieved but with great regret had to admit defeat and consign the rest of the package to the bin.

Obviously rats/mice or whatever love giant chocolate buttons as much as I do.

It is not as though you can't get chocolate out here, you can, just not this particular type, my favourite......

You can even get chocolate named after you. Thank you very much Ruth for these.and thank you to everyone else in Malawi for all the lovely birthday gifts that you gave me and for coming to the partae. Great time.

I should be grateful that it made it this far as am still waiting for parcels sent in February and still for some others sent after that a further 3 that I know of. It is very depressing knowing that people have taking all that trouble, effort and money to send you stuff and you never seem to receive it.

Oh well guess I will just have to wait until Christmas.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Flames came to Blantyre

Today the Malawi Flames – Malawi's national football team – were playing at home to Botswana. It has to have been one of the most wintery days so far here, very stormy and windy with that horrible drizzly rain that is moving sideways so that you can't hold up an umbrella without it blowing inside out and all the rain comes in underneath anyway. This did not dampen the spirits of the Malawians who are extremely passionate about their football. Apparently according to my students the president had declared that there would be a half day public holiday so that people could get to see the match as it was being played midweek and in the afternoon. I can't imagine that they would have an evening match as there would probably be a power failure and the flood lights wouldn't work and there would be absolute uproar. Malawians are very passionate about their football. From lunch time onwards there was the sound of the horns again (just like the world cup all over again). Where I work is the other end of the road to the Kamuzu stadium so lots and lots of the fans went past braving the very inclement weather. I could also hear all the cheering etc from the stadium as I sat in my office wrapped up in 3 layers with the electric fire going trying desperaltly hard to keep warm without success as the louvre windows let a howling draft through them constantly. My office is on the cold side of the building which will be great in the hot season but not so good in the winter. My housemate was taken to see the match and said the atmosphere was absolutely amazing and it was a great experience but was absolutely frozen to the marrow by the time she got home. Perhaps as part of the cultural experience I should try and go and see a game for my self but think I shall wait until the weather is warmer. The result was a draw apparently with Malawi managing to equalise at the end of the second half.

Internet difficulties

Besides work, life and the universe for not writing much, one of the reasons that I am not very up-to-date with posting is the somewhat erratic internet connection. Have been having quite a lot of problems recently, the internet at work is not working at the moment and hasn't been for at least 3 weeks if not a month. Something wrong with the box where all the internet cables go into it. I have my own internet dongle but that didn't work for a while either as someone pinched the internet fibre optic cables and these were replaced with I am sure go much slower than usual cables. Also someone told me that the internet cables that run under the sea were cut as well. At the moment I am managing to access most things except for my email. Have not been able to get into that for most of this week – don't know why but it is really frustrating as I know there are few emails I need to reply to which are related to work and also it is the main way of being connected with people at home etc. Although no doubt when I do get access I will be extremely disappointed to find that it is just the usual circular emails etc and nothing nice to see at all, most of them will end up being deleted without being read as lovely as all the money off offers are at boots etc they are of no great use to me at the present time. If the internet were to work quickly enough I would take myself off their mailing lists, but when it can sometimes take as long as 40 minutes to be able to load and read the emails I want to read I really don't have the patience to read and get rid of the ones I don't want.