This week’s blog is the third one to be written by RIPPLE volunteer, Anna Mohan.
I can’t believe that it’s June already, and I have been in Malawi almost 10 months; time really has flown by. My blog this week will try to give you a flavour of what we, as volunteers, have been up to recently, as well as some of the things that I have been doing myself.
In mid May, Will, Susie, Jim and I decided to explore a bit more of Malawi, and we organised a trip to Nyika National Park up in the north of Malawi. This is a huge expanse of wild landscape and very beautiful. We started out early on the Thursday morning, catching a minibus up to the Nkhata Bay road-block where our team of guides picked us up, and we started the journey up north, through Mzuzu, then Rumphi and onto the park itself. The drive through the park was a little bit bumpy as we made our way up to the plateau, and we were all on the lookout for wildlife. The plateau itself is a lot cooler than the lakeshore due to the altitude, and it is teeming with wildlife, such as zebras, impalas, roan antelope and bush pigs.
The plan for the trip was to wake up early Friday morning and go for a game drive up to the start of the walk which, over three days, would eventually lead us to the elevated town of Livingstonia. This is the town where David Livingstone set up a mission when he arrived in Malawi all those years ago. So, with the goal in mind, we started out walking up and down a lot of hills and through beautiful landscape that did actually remind us of the rolling hills in the UK. Our first night camping was in a tiny spot at the bottom of a little valley with a gorgeous view out over the hills…it even had a sitting down toilet (long drop with a box and toilet seat on the top!) with an amazing view out over the hills…a novel experience.
On the second day, we had a big descent down into our second night camping spot by the side of the river; it was a hard day’s walk and all the walking downhill took its toll on our tired legs, but we arrived in good spirits and a swim in the very cold water of the river refreshed us. The last day’s walk was the longest one up to the town of Livingstonia; it was a big ascent, but we made good time and made our way to Lukwe Lodge, an upmarket lodge with an amazing view over the national park, which we enjoyed with a few well-deserved drinks.
Talking with the owner of the lodge, he asked us where we had come from and what we had been doing, and we told him about our 45km walk that we had completed, to which he informed us that it was most defiantly not 45km and was more like 75km!!! No wonder we were completely shattered!!! It was a fantastic experience and was definitely more of a challenge than we had perhaps bargained for…I think the sore legs and blistered feet were the big give away! So we arrived back to Mwaya, hobbling around as if we were 90 year olds, but a good sleep sorted us out and we were back to normal within a couple of days!!
In terms of the volunteer work that I have been doing, I’m still going to Kapanda teaching PE and have just introduced the students to handball which they have loved. The Form 2s and Form 4s are working hard as their JCE and MSCE exams are looming very soon, and plans for the 2014 Form 4 Graduation on 28th June are underway so it’s a busy time ahead for the Kapanda students.
We have recently started a girls’ CAMFED Friday group which is a government campaign for girls education to try to encourage the girls to stay in school and to give them an opportunity to raise their confidence and awareness of the importance of education. It is a tough life for a young woman in Malawi; all of the household chores are a woman’s responsibility here – collecting firewood and water, looking after the children, cooking, buying food, cultivating the garden…and the list goes on! To try to fit in school and studying around these roles is quite a challenge, and I admire these girls very much. The girls have been composing poems and songs as well as performing dramas and dialogues in order to promote the importance for girls to stay in education.
I have continued to go up to Chiomba Primary School to teach the Standard 7 class every Wednesday. Last week, we had a cooking practical lesson learning how to cook mandazis (Malawian doughnuts). The students do not get much of an opportunity to take part in practical lessons purely because of a lack of resources and funding, so I have tried to plan as many practically based lessons as I can as the students love them. The mandazis even tasted pretty good, even if I do say so myself.
Life at Mwaya is going well; the staff are on top form and ever ready with a smile and a laugh to brighten up each day. In fact, thinking about the prospect of going home soon, I know it will definitely be one of the main things I will miss … I would love to put them all in my suitcase and take them home with me but I’m not sure how they will survive with the lack of sunshine and no nsima though!
In the month of June, we have a busy time ahead; we said goodbye to Geoff and Toby on 1st June and then a hello to Vicky on 2nd June. Susie, Jim and Will only have one more week left before they say goodbye as well. Towards the end of the month, Charlie heads back out, as well as a visit from the Aldenham students and my sister, so exciting and busy times ahead.