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slowly slowly, partying a bit, hula hooping, a future in malawi?

MALAWI | Tuesday, 25 October 2011 | Views [951] | Comments [2]

One would think I would be used to this by now but gtting used to the africa time again, has been one of the hardest parts of my stay as of now. Of course the change of pace of city life vs the bay side life has been incredibly wonderful. I can step out of dorm each morning usually by 5am as the sun is blasting heat and light, do yoga in a sweaty haze, meditate to the white noise as wave splash pon the rocks at my side...and this is all so heavenly. But when I step out of the zen state and try to do the hands on work for a community center, school, etc, I find that time takes a toll on my soul. Here I do not create my own program and thus must work along side programs which have already started. In fact this can be great as the Malawians are used to having interaction and partipatory events and thus more can be achieved. I guess what it really comes down to is the actual hump of getting there. I have been waiting and waiting for projects to do and there is so much to be done yet getting in there has been a great challenge.

I helped finish the beginnings of the community radio station which is currently in phase two where they are putting electrical wiring in and also doing some cleanup on the space with building of infrasctructure. The group is also holding classes to train people in sound technology and musical appropriation. This is fantastic yet I know I will not be here to see its fruit until probably 2012 arrives. Slowly slowly.

Recently I have gotten involved with the nursery school which had been protesting when I arrived on the fact that we (butterfly space) were trying to remove sugar and salt from the porridge served each day for health issues. The typical day of 40+ children was now reduced to 10 and we were in a crisis of power. The mothers saw the move as a stingy means of saving money, while we actually ended up spending more on the bananas we substituted. Eventually, a meeting was held and we had to back down on the decision and comprimise on reduced amounts. In Africa sugars are considered an essential part of diet and no explanation of our own cultural views would have changed their minds. The biggest result is that everyone had to put the childrens needs of education first and therefore the mothers were happy when we decided to keep the menu as before. I work in the classrooms painting the cement floors with bright circles in order to create stations that are used for learning stations. When you have 25 students, 1 small classroom and 1 teacher, it is essential for the students to do individual learning without support of Mzungu (white people) volunteers, or one on one time with teachers. We hope this will allow personal growth and dicipline as well...who knew colorful circles on the floor could be so useful! I worked saturday and sunday on this project only to return later and find red foot prints all over the class...I should have stood guard while it dried, this being typical for an unlocked open air classroom I guess.

Partying in Malawi has also been one of my favorite memories thus far. Being in this wonderful Butterfly Space community has really made me feel at home. We work like a cooperative house often doing projects together, volunteering locally, getting involved with project planning and group brain storming, shared meals, and of course all night dance parties. There is a wonderful routine here where when one of the family leaves to their homeland, we will have a going away bash. My first experience was a few weeks ago when a dj mate here was leaving to England. The party insued with incredibly maddness of dancing, singing, emotional speeches, hugs, huge cuddle puddles in the middle of the dance floor, and laughing to the point where I lost my voice for a few days.Having made a travel Hula Hoop, I brought that to the party which surprizingly got used for at leat 3 hours through the night by the randoms who walked in and the butterfly crew. We even played games with it and I loved most that people were never embarrassed by failure but tried continually. There is a certain air of comfort that is present here at Butterfly but specifically in Africa which is like a free bird just learning to fly its wings, like a mother bird whoh will take care of you in case you fall. This family shines with that type of support, what a blessing.... Being that I was one of the only sober folk in the room, I was also able to sit back and watch the show all night long until the wee morning hours. A group of us stayed until sunrise which was my first experience in Nkata Bay. We are so lucky to be here. Perched pon the rocks we watched at 430 AM as the sun spoke its vows of morning bliss as we laughed loved and meditated to the waves and the rays. By half 5, people were ready to pass out....I, unfortunately had work to do.

I had been planning to teach the Hot Box cooking meathod to the HIV/Aids, Widows group, and Kitchen staff here but it had been delayed twice. So they chose the saturday after our big party to meet at 11am. Not so early except I had planned to present Hot Boxed Beans as well as rice and veggies. So at 530AM I gathered supplies and wood and with the help of the night guard and bar tender, I started cooking beans galore. Man oh man is it hard to function with tired eyes being sprayed with blasts of smoke and having danced all night my body was not cooperating. But eventually the fire caught and by 630 AM the beans were boiling and ready for the Hot Box. I passed out and woke again at 11AM. Our group met together and I showed them hands on how to Hot Box the rice while the chef made us our veggies. When the time came, I opened the Hot Boxes and they all leaned close with their skeptical eyes and in their local tounge said something to the effect of “oh my god, it works” They all clapped and I got those shivery feelings again of satisfaction as I hoped they would use the technique not only for the sake of their time, but for the reduction of the use of mother earth's trees. After 3 days of fire assistance though, I have finally become independent and can official gather my own wood, make my own fire and cook an entire meal sustainably, locally, and satifyingly!

On mondays the first half of my day is filled with a gathering of youth with special needs. There are a few who are diagnosed but the rest just seem to struggle walking, talking, thinking etc. 2 can't even walk and 1 has a wheel chair that I can't see how it even works on these unpathed roads but somehow they manage. They all gather to get support from one another emotionally and educationally. They are smiling constantly and I am soo impressed by what they can actuallly handle each day. Many of them I believe are in a position where they have never really been listened to. They have much to say, but can't vocalize it. But you can crack a joke and they squint with laughter. They are also so special because they maintain no boundary. When they feel something they show it. No shame. Its empowering to see this no holds bar ability they have and its quite a lesson to see how they all treat one another with such kind patient behavior.

Today we taught them about time and things you do throughout the morning, noon, evening etc. We made clocks and did work on times of the day. I worked with a little girl, Chrisitina who is around 5yrs. I believe she has severe lordosis and has trouble physically. But she is so young that she can probably reverse or alleviate it with appropriate stretching. I think this was the first time I really felt so inspired to use my Massage background. I spoke to the director about possibly becoming trained on specific areas like cerebral pasly which is a major issue linked with malaria maltreatment here. She assured me that if someone were willing to do home visits weekly, they would find willing parents who would love to have their children get physical support for their unique issues,,,the wheels in my head are turning.

So after time work, I took them out and we did yoga. They pretty much giggled the entire time which then turned in to laughter yoga as I couldn't maintain a straight face. They absolutely loved it and it was simple quick and effective in getting some of them moving. After a short lunch, they all worked together to make banana milk shakes with a splash of sugar, powder milk, banana, and water. This just enclosed the wonderfully unique chance the kids get to feel spoiled when they would otherwise have been forgotten in a society which doesn't quite know what can be done with them. They can even hula hoop with their own unique style! I am soo proud of Butterfly Space.

I have a few more weeks left here but just got the news that I will be headed back just before christmas. A local business has hired me on a work trade position to return for the party planning and bar tending experience for the high season during the holidays. I needed a reason to return to Malawi and why the heck not for an experience of fun and entertainment. I will also work to create a special holiday volunteer program for the kids here, maybe a movie night or dance party for the local schools. YAY for the holiday celebrations.

As for me, I have found my favorite country so far. Although I am sure its biased seeing how the whole trip is culminated by my being here in Nkata Bay. The small township is respectful and welcoming to locals on top of having a great shorline to swim on each day. At night one has the chance to sit pon the shore and watch the twinkling lights from the lake coming from the night fisherman who have their lanterns perched atop of their dug out canoes (hence the term, lake of stars). The rasta culture is quite fascinating and I am surprizingly happy to find true Rasta culture where most are vegan and are very artisitc. They see me with my shining stripes and can't wait to strike up a conversation. Although I have learned that when I am in a rush, I have to hide all my rasta catour(sp?)But the great thing is, the community sees Rastas here as peace makers, and my colors as peace colors which is quite refreshing. I have made friends with a local vegan resturant (really a beach shack) owner named Rasta Mike. I am painting him a sign in trade for a few meals of rice beans, and traditional veggies in ground nut sauce.

Besides the occasional annoying factors like the huge petrol crisis in this land locked country and the black market fuel we have to purchase to drive for one hour to the city, and the immigration officer with his cheeky grin as he asked for a bribe which I refused, I am loving it here.I feel like I can return to this place over and over again and will most likely try to plant my foot here for a few years at least...things can change I know, but its one of those things you just have a good feeling about. The local barman, and outstanding business student and I have been scheming biz ideas and last night we settled on a possible proposal for the first ever lounge. Tanzi (health) Lounge with unique herbal teas, japanese style seating, cyber internet access and private space for biz meetings and work space...there is no where like it and I actually have faith in its potential. Anyway this all being an exciting feeling in my gut chakra while meditating on the “warm heart of africa”...

to Malawi anyone?

Tags: africa, holidays, hula hoop, lake of stars, malawi, mzungu, peace, special needs, vegan



I'm glad things are going well in Malawi. Do you think you could spend a long time living in the country? If you do spend a long time in the country, you might be interviewed on the community radio station :)

  Rashaad Nov 4, 2011 5:04 AM


Hey Kena, been about 6 weeks since we last heard from you ;) Miss you lots!
Love you,

  Lisa Dec 14, 2011 1:09 AM

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