Thursday, September 13, 2012

Delayed in Paradise with a New Camera Phone

My fourteen hour layover in Amsterdam

Village Life, take 2

In all fairness I wasn't really living in a village.  I was living 7 km from asphalt on a Presbyterian Church compound with electricity and a flush toilet; I love that I have to specify it's a "flush" toilet.  I think I did a very good job making the best out of my homeless situation. 

Interesting how all my activities centered
around food.  Those seven pounds are laughing
in my face right now.  

Picking Lemons in the orchard
Main ingredient in Goat Curry
Weekly milk run
Homemade cheese success!

Making Strawberry-Basil Jam

Playing Catch Up

Ouch.  Fourth of July since my last post?  Sorry...  
What you've missed:

- Went back to America to be a groomsman in my friend's wedding. I was the oldest and most female ring bearer of all time. 
- Gained SEVEN pounds in just TWO weeks.  The math on this is truly staggering as I was eating the recommended caloric intake of a male olympic gymnast. 
- Spent one glorious day in Amsterdam
 - Came home to no home
- Temporarily moved back into "the village"
- Moved back to Blantyre

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fantastically Fun Fourth

A bit late, but wanted to share a few photos from my Independence week extravaganza.  A large PC event was organized, which was conveniently located about as far from my house as humanly possible and still be in the same country.  SMF and I decided it would be a great opportunity to make a few guest appearances at several friend's houses along the way.   We spent a few lovely days at the lake, learned to golf, ate great food, got good and carsick, and spent several transports with livestock on my lap or hair.  
 Never a boring moment in Malawi!  

We all did our best to pretend we weren't
freezing to death at the lake
Made spaghetti one night, but no tupperware in sight.
Next best solution was to put it in a grocery bag and
hang by a hook on the door.  Made delicious spaghetti and eggs for breakfast!

Learning how to beat the hell
out of a golf ball

Travel breakfast?  
Shrimp ramen + cheese ramen+ 
hardboiled egg+
peanut butter toast + tea

= stomach ache

Peace Corps Volunteers displaying our Independence 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Do a little dance

The Gule Wamkulu is a ritual dance practiced by the Chewa tribe in Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique. The dance accompanies initiation ceremonies of young men into adulthood, but it is also performed at weddings, funerals, and then installation of chiefs. On these occassion, the dancers wear costumes and masks made of wood, straw and other materials, expressing a great variety of characters, which represent forms of behaviour as a way to teach moral and social values. 
(Info stolen from
Still working on getting my videos posted.  I'm pretty sure its just not going to happen until I get back to the states.*

*this was an older post that, sure enough, had to be delayed until I returned back to American internet 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ICU training week

Scavenger Hunt Led to Chaos

Learning to place the breathing tube

Sticky Fingers exercise taught the importance of aseptic technique
Learning to tape the breathing tube
My friend Eric pretended to be our unconscious patient while we practiced oral care
Learning the importance of good suctioning using mayonnaise!
Central Line Care

Homemade meat stomas to demonstrate the stoma gone bad!

Our volunteer nurse pretending to be a patient while we practiced airway maintenance

Monday, June 18, 2012

Malamulo Youth Services

My major project at Malamulo hospital has been to create a usable space for impoverished youth in the my area.  Our youth are at extremely high risk for contracting HIV due in part to the lack of HIV education, issues with female empowerment, and stigma behind receiving health care.  The Malamulo Youth Friendly Services Center will offer a variety of medical and educational services to our youth.  The center will provide education sessions, games, and other activities for young people to participate in so that they may become comfortable with the staff and environment.  We will offer medical services such as family planning methods, counseling on safe sex practices, crisis and rape counseling, providing HIV testing and counseling, and prenatal care.  There will also be a female empowerment curriculum offered to girls in the community.  
Several Malamulo nurses have been trained in Youth Service delivery and are prepared to donate their time and knowledge to staff the center 24 hours a day.  Their dedication to the project has truly been an inspiration to me.  

So far we have identified three rooms to use; I am in the process of acquiring materials to renovate, furnish and stock these rooms 
This is our beginning... still a long way to go!!
Tearing everything out and will create a small lecture/activity hall

Wanted to make this into a bathroom, but, alas, no funds

This will be our two medical exam rooms

Current setup.  Plans to change into the reception area

If anyone is interested in donating to this project please contact me at  Your assistance can make a real difference in the fight against HIV in Africa.

"be the change that you wish to see in the world"


My one-stop-shop
Blantyre City

Vegetable Market
Taking friends out to the market

The Neighborhood

Monday, June 4, 2012

Avocados from the Garden Of Eden

Weighing Matters

I recently got back from my mid-service training; yep, I’m now well passed the one-year mark and now only about 11 months left.  There were lots of changes in my group, some far more noticeable than others.  We spent lots of time discussing how our feelings and attitudes have changed towards Peace Corps, Malawi, Africa, and even Americans, some for the better, and some for the worst. 
However, what was most shocking was the physical changes so many of my fellow volunteers have undergone.  One girl in my group has lost over 115lbs and one of the guys has lost around 80!  In one year!! Crazy!  The newest volunteers who arrived just a few months ago had many questions concerning weight changes; The rule of thumb seems to be that girls tend to gain while pretty much all men drop significant pounds.  Why is this? As a woman, I get the weight gain; the diet here is extremely carbohydrate heavy, low protein, and produce is often limited to onions and tomatoes for most of the year with occasional spikes of seasonal fruits. 

I had the privilege of speaking with one of my favorite Malawians who was shocked to discover I wasn’t Japanese (a pretty common misunderstanding here).  When I asked how in the world he could have made that mistake he replied, “why, you are not a fatty like American.”  Thank you Nelson, for making my year. 

In my mind the weight fluctuations of Americans in Africa seem to suggest that the healthier you are in America, the more likely you are to gain; while those of us from the cheese-smothering-fat-dipping regions, like the South, tend to adjust well in the absence of oils and dairy. 

Another shock to the dietary system has been the complete removal of preservatives and artificial sweeteners from our diets.  Bread, and the occasional cookie, are the extent of inexpensive, locally manufactured goods.  Everything is fresh! Preservatives imply that you’ve gone to the extent of wrapping your food in a plastic bag, but if you want anything besides bread or produce, its going to have to be made completely from scratch.  

Exercise is also a totally foreign concept here.  Why would you go out for an evening jog when you’ve just made two trips from your house to the well carrying roughly 45lbs of water on your head?  I went to the beach the other weekend, and a group of us stared with jaws agape as a doughy white guy jogged through the sand.  Turns out, running really does look ridiculous. 

In my world there are usually 3 options on any menu and two of those three are “not around.”  A grocery store is a lady with a basket of bananas on her head, and scales are for weighing corn and cotton, not people.  I’m pretty sure my head may explode when I get back to America, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy my adventures into organic, free-range, preservative free, often vegetarian, no sugar or sodium added diet! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bravo Malawi

For the first time in Malawi history, and only the third time in African history, a female is now serving as President. Joyce Banda, who was kicked out of the President's political party when Bingu decided he would rather have his brother in charge after him, is now President following the sudden death of the President. There were several days of political debating from the President's party to see if they could stop her succession, but the Constitution was clear, and, ultimately, the VP was sworn in. This is a huge step for Women's empowerment (I'm pretty sure my blog entry on Women's rights is what did it) as well as democracy. I'm very proud of Malawi today.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika Dies

The president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, died yesterday of a massive heart attack. The comments that people have left about the article below give good insight into the sentiments of the people here.
Streets are quiet today as most Malawians are home for the holiday weekend. Most seem anxious for what is to come, hopeful after what has ended, but lack faith in their political system. It feels very much like I am an onlooker, watching the shift of an entire nation that is not my own. Hopefully, Malawi can transition to a new leadership peacefully.

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika dies – exclusive » Comment Page 38 | Malawi news, Malawi - NyasaTimes breaking online news source from Malawi

Thursday, March 29, 2012

No Girls Allowed

When I lived in the village I found myself rationalizing most behaviors as “cultural differences.” Behaviors such as throwing rocks at dogs, waking up at 4am just for fun, and men lounging most of the day as their wives struggle to carry the water, wash the dishes, and cook all the meals usually with a baby strapped to the back. Malawi is a male dominated society, and it was only until I moved away from the villages, away from all the cultural “differences” and into a world far more recognizable that I realized just how powerful the men still are and how far women still have to go before they could ever be considered truley equal citizens.

On the surface, it would appear that women are given all the same basic human rights; they are allowed to vote, own businesses, go to school, etc. However, spousal rape is not recognized as an offence, and until fairly recently, rape in general was not acknowledged as a crime. The reasoning was that if the man chose to have sex with a woman there should really be no further discussion. Here in Malawi, if a man chooses to have more than one wife, or have a mistress, there is no discussion.

My neighbor, and closest friend in the village, was forcefully removed from her home by her husband when he decided he wanted to replace her with another woman. She left only because he threatened to never let her see her 4-year-old son again. Their tribal tradition gave all children and property to the man of the house. Without money, high school diploma, or most likely a valid marriage license there was no legal recourse for her. She lives a two-day and month’s wages journey from her son now with no prospects of finding work.

Recently, there was movement by several men to stop women from wearing pants. As western ways slip into daily life here some of the younger generation have taken to wearing pants instead of the traditional ankle length sarong. In protest of this practice women wearing pants or skirts above the knee were grabbed by men, stripped in the streets and admonished until sympathetic onlookers would save them. The action was done by just a few men, but the reaction was the truly scary part. Malawians were divided; half believed it was a horrible act, however, a shockingly large portion of both men and women agreed that although the act was in poor taste, the message was right one: Women showing off their body were asking for negative attention because males are unable control their “urges.”

This uncontrollable carnal nature of men seems to be a common excuse for men’s behavior: forgiving them for forcing their wife into sex, taking a mistress, polygamy, etc. A man’s virility here is a common topic of conversation. Several men I’ve spoken with from various villages and tribes believe that if a man has only a few children he is “lazy,” but if the couple cannot conceive it is always the women’s fault.

As a white woman here I don’t really count as a woman. Malawians acknowledge that I have my own culture, and they have theirs and the standards don’t apply to me. They all agree though, that one tradition is not better than the other. Accepting this, as a woman, is a difficult pill to swallow. I believe the change must come from women themselves first; they must find their voices, believe in their own equality and begin to effect change. Things are different here now than even 20 years ago, but women in Malawi still are living in a boy’s club, they’ve found the clubhouse, but they must find the courage to knock and force their way in.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Really simple homemade cheese

You will need: Milk, vinegar, salt, cloth

Step one: Pour milk into saucepan over med heat
Step two: Bring to a boil, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn or get that creepy film on top
Step three: Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes
Step four: Add vinegar while stirring. Add as much as it takes to curdle. You will be able to tell when it curdles. I promise.
Step five: Let it sit some more, maybe 20-30 minutes depending on how much patience you have
Step six: Line a colander with a cloth. I've used anything from a tee shirt to a cut up bed sheet. Just avoid fuzzy stuff.
Step seven: Strain your liquid through the cloth/colander by letting it sit or just gathering the ends of the cloth and squeezing it, depending again on your level of patience.
Step eight: Add salt, herbs, pepper, maybe some lemon... whatever you like!

*The cheese will be the consistency of soft goat cheese. A quart of milk makes about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cheese. *

What to use it for....
-manicotti filling
-Calzones stuffing
-cracker spread
-pizza topping
-add vinegar to the final product, strain for longer, and it will be remarkably similar to feta
-I'm open to suggestions
-Let me know if you try this with goat cheese. I'm dying to know if it works, but asking for the milk of someone's goat would be like asking to milk their newly lactating cat... it wouldn't go over well

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The stingy bone's a twitchin

I'm four days away from payday and I'm afraid all I can think of these days are my own money woes. Moving to the city, followed by the resounding thud of the economy hitting rock bottom has led to an increased awareness of my spending habits. As my family will gladly tell you, I have never been much of a miser. I prefer to consider my lifestyle as a series of "well controlled indulgences." I'm learning all sorts of fun and creative ways to save money. In my family we like to call it "the stingy bone," which I believe replaces the "funny bone" in those of us some would call "dry." The following is a list of fun ways to save a penny, or kwatcha, depending on your country of origin.

10 signs you might be cheap
1. You mix your laundry soap with water rather than purchase dish soap
2. You design and make your own feminine hygiene products
3. In the heat of the moment you come to and realize you've been screeching at a 60 year old man who is try cheating you out of 10cents for a handful of dried garbanzo beans
4. You consider toilet paper a luxury, not a necessity
5. You wake up in a sweat only to realize your nightmare was real: you really did leave the bathroom light on
6. You wash your hair in the sink instead of showering so you don't waste the water
7. Just as the tube of toothpaste looks like it got run over... then you cut it open
8. Instead of just buying more oil you just keep using the questionable stuff sitting at the bottom of the frying pan
9. You find yourself internally bargaining when shopping "If I get the wrinkly cucumbers I can have electricity for another 12 hours!"
10. You catch yourself asking the starving child in Africa "Hey, are you going to eat that?"

*no this is not a plea for money, seriously, don't send it
** ok, some of these might be a slight exaggeration

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lazy Photo Eye

For those of you who know me and my Lazy Photo Eye (LPE)....I thought you would apprecitate these. The first was taken without the "1,2,3 Tyra" with very unfortunate results. Seriously guys, its works. I stand as medical proof.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Graphic Images Below

Thought I would share a few of the most attractive photos of myself. These are just a few pictures of my CURRENT injuries.

Image Below: Blood Blister from trying to close a gate. Stupid gate.

Image Right: Mysterious rash acquired in Mozambique. Yes, it is still around, and still getting worse, and itches like crazy. I don't have any idea what it is.

Comments or suggestions from dermatologists, Mozambicans, germaphobes, or my mother are welcome.
(No, it is not mange. I would know)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My very own slacker spiral

It all started with a little additional work stress, too much fun on holiday adventures, and then moving to a new home. All of that added up to a complete disregard for my blog. My apologies to those of you that have faithfully checked it over the past month. I humbly admit I am a bum.

So my very biggest news is that I moved. It wasn't really my first choice, but I've learned, when in Africa, you don't always have a choice. I've been homeless since November. Yep. That's right almost three months without residency. I don't really want to go into details of why, but Peace Corps and I decided that my home wasn't really that safe for me anymore. My wonderful friend Christie graciously offered me her home in the interim, and I began my house hunting.

I have since added house hunting to the ever growing list of things that are much easier in America; its right up there with daily meals at Taco Bell and maintaining sense of dignity. Anyway, there's no Craigs List or online apartment listings or bulletin boards or anything other than hearsay. After about two months of this I started feeling like that little leprechan who knew his lucky charms were somewhere but couldn't ever quite catch them.

I gave up.

I hate admitting it but I just couldn't do it anymore. By January Ginger and I had moved three times, which is not easy on a puppy or me for that matter. A wonderful house, that was promised to me fell through, and it was just the end of the line for my sanity. It didn't help that I had exhausted all of my temporary housing options and I was left with two choices: 1. Sleep in my tent in the yard of a cooperative Adventist or 2. Move 65km to big-city-Blantyre where there was a wealth of housing options and a fabulous job opportunity.

So here I am.... moved from the spiders and the dreaded outhouse, and my fancy counter top and my little garden, into a rooftop apartment with all the comforts and conveniences of America. I'm right back to massive, overwhelming culture shock, but I strongly suspect my hot shower will help to wash that away quite quickly.