Monday, July 11, 2011

This will never be a Good-Bye.

Monday, July 11:
            After a relaxing last Saturday, we all experienced bittersweet goodbye to Zomba.  We spent the majority of Saturday going into town to get last minute gifts, last minute cake at Tasty Bites and then starting to pack up our room and belongings for Club Mak and Lilongwe.  We all had a great dinner together, Radford and Virginia Tech girls, as we discussed with Dr. Kelly and Dr. Patti the future plans and foregoing’s of the Chibale Society.  The Chibale Society was started in 2005 by Dr. Kelly and Dr. Patti, and was originated on the idea of a scholarship program.  (The children who I sponsored to attend secondary school was through the Chibale program.) Throughout the year, the program has advanced and is also the reason for the feeding center at the Malemia School, the chicken raising project at the Demonstration School, and the locks, blackboards and chicken coop at our Government School.  The project is still growing, and collectively we came up with some great ideas for fundraising and really promoting the Chibale Society.  We then voted on co-Presidents, one from Virginia Tech and one from Radford, to be in charge of the further development and goal reachings for the Society.  These people will take lead for the Chibale Society by getting the club recognized at their college campus and setting up materials for the first meeting in September.  These girls will be in charge of setting up meeting times, making sure to meet group goals and deadlines, and sending out applications for positions which we will determine at the first meeting.  After voting was over, I am honored to say that I was voted into the first Virginia Tech President of the Chibale Society!  Danielle was nominated for Radford, so I am so excited to be working side-by-side with her.  Now these children really will be with me forever, and the nomination made leaving Malawi that much easier for me.  I can leave knowing that I still have so much work ahead of me, and now I can really implement all my ideas and goals into reality.  When the meeting was over, Danielle and I met briefly to discuss things we need to do this summer (make a listserve, a facebook group, a facebook page, set up the first meeting, get everyone’s contact information- alumni as well-, send out applications, exc.) and then we divided up the assignments.  I am seriously so excited and so honored.
Sunday morning we woke up at 6:45 am, brought our bags down the hill and ate breakfast while Annie’s staff loaded the trailer.  By 8:30 am we were saying our goodbyes and giving hugs to Annie and the staff, and then we were on the way to Club Mak!  The weather got progressively better as we were driving, and with the cold front we had been facing the past week and a half, we were accepting of the fact we might not have sun.  As long as it wasn’t cold, we could deal.  We pulled up to Club Mak at about 11:30 am and it was so beautiful!  The clouds had partially cleared and the weather was probably in the 70s with a breeze.  We all got our room assignments, and Alison, Bebe and I were placed in the beautiful room 35, looking over the beach and Lake Malawi.  We quickly changed into our suits and headed to the beach and bar to meet up with everyone else.  The following three hours were spent lying out on the beautiful beach, overlooking the mountains and shining water and trying to absorb sunshine on our blinding pale skin between series of clouds. 
After a few hours and realizing the sun probably wasn’t to get any brighter, we all took a walk outside of Club Mak towards the vendors and to explain the rest of the resort.  As beautiful and relaxing as it was, we all agreed that nothing could top Camp Mvuu.  The food, the staff, the location, the chalets; everything was absolutely perfect (minus the freezing nights).  When we got back from the venders, we all headed back to the beach for more drinks.  One thing turned into another, and before I knew it Katie, Alison, Danielle and I were entertaining all the boys on the beach while trying to attempt one-handed cartwheels.  The sun started quickly going down, and our bottles of wine had made us well-off.  We decided we should probably shower, so Alison and I headed to our rooms and all said we would meet back at the bar in 45 minutes.  Of course, since Alison and I can’t do anything like normal people, we thought it’d be such a fun idea to shower together in our bathing suits just like we did when we were kids!  Next thing you know, we’re in our suits jumping around in the shower, making mohawks with shampoo in our hair.  Mature, I know.  We’re a pretty dynamic duo if you ask me.
After our fun resort back to childhood, we put on our yoga pants and headed out to the restaurant for our dinner.  Unfortunately, plans changed this year and we were all saddened to learn that the dinner wasn’t going to be buffet style.  However, since Dr. Kelly had already paid for everything, she said that we could order anything we wanted off the menu!  This was a dangerous call for 20 starved teenagers in Africa, regardless of the fact that most of us were intoxicated.  We were each allowed to order an appetizer, and entrĂ©e and a dessert.  Obviously, Alison and I both wanted two desserts, so we figured it’d be so smart to order one for our appetizer!  Everyone was brought out their corn chowder soup, and there’s Alison and I slurping down our fruit and ice cream.  To our defense, the tiny scoop of ice cream was more like sorbet, so our choice was actually a lot healthier than the corn chowder. BAM.  After a full-course meal with fruit, chicken, vegetables, potatoes and marble cake, we all headed back to the bar for another bottle of wine.  We then watched an hour long traditional dancing performance, including full facial masks and drumming solos.  Alison, Katie, Jameson and I then stumbled back to our room where we played old-school camp games and then fell asleep on each other in the same bed while playing hot-seat.   It really was such an amazingly fun, relaxing and successful day and night and I can honestly say I call these girls my best friends.
This morning we woke up at about 6:45 am and headed to the breakfast buffet, which I can confidently say we have all been counting down the days to experience.  After scarfing down the most delicious banana bread, bowls of cereal, omelets and chips, we all headed to our rooms to pack feeling completely stuffed.  What a good feeling to feel after being hungry for the majority of a month!  Sadly, we all packed up our stuff and headed to the bus for our 5 hour drive to Annie’s Lodge in Lilongwe.  We stopped at Mua Mission, a museum started by Catholic missionaries whose goal is to preserve the culture of African tribes.  They stated that to move forward, you must always remember where you have come from.  Honestly, most of us just wanted to arrive at Annie’s Lodge, and everyone knows I’m not into all the historical aspects of travel, but I tried engaging myself in the material. 
Finally, at about 3:30 pm, we arrived earlier than expected at Annie’s.  We had time to freshen up and rearrange our suitcases before we headed down the street to a party held for us by the United States Embassy Public Relations Director.  None of us really knew what to expect at all, but it was honestly such an amazing end to an even more amazing and life-altering trip.  There were about 10 different staff members at the party, which was held at the house of the PR Director, his wife and his children.  We socialized with such great people who all work for the Embassy, some from America and some locals from Malawi.  We met an absolutely hysterical guy named Winston who is actually coming to Virginia Tech in December for his PhD.  Katie, Alison and I talked with him for awhile and he had us cracking up the entire time.  We told him we’re taking him out with us to the bars when he comes to Tech and will take him hiking, exc.  Throughout the evening, the hosts brought out plates and plates of pizza bites, samosas, quiche and cupcakes.  I don’t think I’m lying when I say I ate probably 10 samosas (similar to eggrolls), 4 pizza bites and 2 cupcakes.  Holler, just preparing myself for my return to AMURICA.
Now, Katie, Ashley and I are settled back into our initial room at Annie’s Lodge, all reminiscing on our time here and disbelieving that tomorrow we’re departing from a whole circle experience.  I can honestly say this was, by far, the most amazing experience of my life and the people I’ve met here are more amazing than any others I have ever encountered.  Without a doubt, Katie and Alison are going to remain best friends of mine throughout my life, and these children will be the loves of my life until the day I die.  I am seriously giving thought to moving out here after graduation for a year or two to work at a school, and after talking to the individuals tonight from the Embassy I am confident that I would be so happy here.  I don’t think I could do it by myself, but a few of us girls are really going to talk about our futures here.  Malawi will always hold my heart, and I cannot wait to return here in the future to continue my journey to make a difference.  Peace, love, Malawi is no longer a slogan, but now a lifestyle.  Forever and always, Malawi will have a part of me and will be responsible for showing me true and genuine happiness.  Thank you Malawi, for more experiences and happiness than I could have ever imagined. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

An amazing last day.

Friday, July 8:
            Today was a pretty emotional day, but nearly as much so as I had imagined.  We all woke up with butterflies in our stomach, knowing that this was the day we had to say goodbye to our kids.  I was all of nervous, upset, sad, hopeful and anxious.  What if all my boys didn’t even come to school today? What if I didn’t get to say goodbye to some of them? What if they didn’t grasp the point that I’m leaving, and it’s no longer “tu nana mawa”?  Will they understand that this is goodbye for good? Will they understand how much of an impact they have made in my life, and that I would do absolutely anything to give them the best futures possible?  So many thoughts and emotions were flooding my mind and heart as we pulled up to the school.
            Today was the day that the teachers handed back the exams to their students, acknowledging if they passed or failed the standard.  Because of this, almost the entire school was present which made us all so happy as we pulled up to the school.  As Katie and I walked into our classroom, the standards were combined again and Odina told us that about 64 students had passed standard 5, and 143 had failed.  Is that unbelievable or what?  Now I understand why standard 5 is the largest grade at most schools in Malawi; it is the first year that the lessons are to be taught in complete English, as are the final exams.  As the exams started being handed out, Katie and I noticed how each of the kids looked like they were about to cry, and it was the one time I think that I witnessed the class in almost complete silence.  The teachers explained the numbers of those who failed and passed, and the students faces all dropped.  All my boys looked so distraught, especially Brighty, Albert and Raphael.  The teachers began handing the exams out, first handing out those who passed and then handing out to those who failed.  Katie and I looked at each other in disbelief; can you imagine if this was the system of passing out tests, let alone exams, in America?  If your name was called to the front and the entire class knew whether you had passed or failed?
            By the end of all the finals being returned, Edward, Chisinsi, Mike and Henery were the only ones out of my boys who had passed (I guess according to the statistics that’s a good amount out of nine). Yakobe, Allfu, Albert, Raphael, Brighty and 138 other students were going to repeating standard 5 again next year.  My boys who had passed were all so excited and so proud of themselves, as was I.  However, my boys who had failed looked so confused and disappointed, so I tried to comfort them as much as possible and let them know it was okay and I still thought they did a great job; standard 5 is the hardest grade, after all.
            When the exams were all finished being passed out, the entire school headed outside for the last school assembly before summer break.  The headmaster lead the school in their national anthem, and afterwards everyone cheered and screamed and started running around.  I started handing out the rest of my shoes, giving a pair of tennis shoes to Chinsinsi, another pair to Grant, and my last pair to Edward and Edwin (even though I gave them a pair yesterday).  I handed out the rest of my pens, and also bags of trail mix to Henery, Edward (playing favorites?), Allfu and Albert.  Katie and I then quickly realized that the students were heading home, and they didn’t understand that this was the last time they might see us.  We went searching for the ones we needed to say goodbye to, but most of them had already left.  I was dragging off the goodbyes, and as we headed to MIE I had Albert, Raphael and Edward walk with me to get the teacher bags we had put together.  I then walked back to Domasi for the beginning of our “Farewell Ceremony”, and in my mind I knew that those boys would still be waiting for me when the ceremony was over.  I didn’t really understand why I hadn’t cried yet. Allfu, Brighty, Yakobe, Chinsinsi, Mike and Henery had all left.  They were gone, and I hadn’t really said goodbye.  I think the reason I didn’t cry was because I know in my heart that I will be back to Malawi.  I know that I am going to do everything in my power to keep in touch with them through Odina; I will write her letters to hand off to them, I will send them money and pictures, I will constantly remind them that I am here for them and will never forget them.  I want to stay with them as they grow up.  I want to encourage them to stay in school and try their hardest to get into secondary school.  If they graduate secondary school, I will do everything possible to get them a visit to the United States.  Whether these boys realize it or not, they will be in my life forever, and I want to be in theirs as well.  I think they are too young to understand the meaning of “goodbye”, and the true distance, metaphorically and physically, between the United States and Malawi.  All of my hopes and aspirations for these boys is what kept me from crying.  I think I justified it by the fact that if I cried, I would be accepting that I will not see these children again, and my work for them is through.  However, I am not accepting that fact.  I will see them again, and my work has only just begun.
As we walked into the classroom for our “Farewell Ceremony”, there were chairs lined up in a semi-circle and the teachers were all seated at one side.  There was a table at the front of the room where the headmaster and Dr. Kelly sat, behind them being the chalkboard with a pretty, written drawing saying “Farewell Ceremony: We wish you all the best when going back to America”.  They had one of the teachers be a d.j. and we all danced for a little bit with each other and our teachers.  Then, we officially began the ceremony in prayer and John Wesley read an opening speech about how thankful they are for us, and everything that we do for them.  The teachers then handed out snacks and refreshments, which was so nice of them; it was the usual choice of Fanta’s but we were all pretty excited when they brought out a little tray of shortbread cookies.  After there were a few speeches from John Wesley, Dr. Kelly and the headmaster, it was our turn to step up and speak.  One by one, the roommates got up and spoke to their teachers, and then handed them the bag of school supplies that we put together for them.  Lindsay and Ashley went first, followed by an emotional Bebe and Alison who began the waterworks, then Anna and Kaitlin, Katie and I, and ending with Emily and Devon. When it was Katie and I’s turn to speak, I decided to just read the letter that I had written for Odina.  I never get nervous during public speaking, but for some reason my hands were shaking and my body was tense; I’m assuming from all the built up emotion.  As I read my letter, Odina put her head in her hands and started crying, and I could no longer hold it together.  I was fighting tears as I read the letter, explaining how grateful I was for having this experience and being welcomed with such open hearts and open arms.  I told Odina that her positive spirit was uplifting and I couldn’t wait to see everything that she did for these children’s futures.  At the end I told her we loved her and would be writing her letters and sending her pictures often, and then we presented her with her bag and school supplies.  We all gave big hugs, and the look in her eyes was so genuine as she told us she was going to miss us so much and wished we could stay forever. 
After Emily and Devon gave their speech, the headmaster gave a final speech about the difference we make in everyone’s lives when we come to Malawi, and then he called up McDonald and Odina to present us with our presents.  This began the lighter section of the ceremony, for we all knew what the presents were and were so excited to receive our traditional Malawian custom outfits!  They presented the gifts in the same way as was done at the orphanage, by dancing slowly up to the person and then placing the gift in their arms or by their feet.  After we all received our presents, the lady teachers took us into another classroom and we all changed into our matching Malawian outfits; what a sight it was, and what an amazing souvenir we now have from this experience.  The teachers led us, dancing of course, back into the ceremony where all the other teachers started cheering and we all proceeded to dance. (Standard).  After the ceremony was officially ended, we all went outside to take pictures with our teachers in our “chisinsi” and tops, and then took a few group pictures.  They are absolutely adorable, and the teachers kept telling us how beautiful we looked.
While we were outside taking pictures, Edward, Edwin, Albert, Raphael and Katie’s little Innocent came over and played with us for a while.  We took a lot more pictures with them, and tried explaining to them that we were leaving to go back to America and didn’t know when we would see them again.  They kept responding with “okay” but I definitely don’t think they understood what we were saying.  I handed them some more food, and Katie gave them her peanut butter, and then we waited for the bus to arrive.  As we were loading the bus, the boys all came running over, with the peanut butter jar completely empty- it had been maybe 15 minutes since we gave it to them completely full.  All we could do was laugh as their hands were covered in stickiness, and their faces globbed with peanut butter.  As the bus was about to leave, I held onto all of their hands and told them that I loved them.  I didn’t think they knew the meaning of “I love you” in English, but as we were pulling away then screamed, “I love you Kelsey, I love you!”  At this point, I knew that I left on the best note possible.  I smiled, and cried, on the way back to Annie’s, just thinking about the next encounter I will have with them, and hoping they also forever hold onto the memories we’ve shared.  Peace, love, Malawi.

When we arrived back at Annie’s, most of us took naps, read and just relaxed.  The weather has been so gloomy and freezing the past few days, so we haven’t really had the energy to go into town.  At about 5:30 pm we all went down for dinner, and most of us were dreading having to get ready for Annie’s party tonight.  We were all emotionally drained, and physically tired, and wondering why they always plan the parties on the worst days!  A few girls ended up opting out of going, but our group felt bad about bailing after Annie had been planning this, so we sucked it up and got ready.  We headed to Black Diamond at about 8 pm, with another bus ride adventure full of random sing-a-longs.  Katie and I busted out Grease songs, which was absolutely hysterical and probably the highlight of my night haha! Everyone was cracking up, and wondering how the hell we knew the words for, “We’re one of a kind like dip-da-dip-da-wop, do-wop-a-doobie-do. Chang chang, changity- changy bop, that’s the way it should be. Awooooo ya!”  I’m sure our lyrics were not quite so accurate as they thought, but it was entertaining none-the-less.
The first hour at Black Diamond was fun, especially for us who had fuzzy memories from the last party there.  A guy named Fitzgerald was the opening act, and his reggae music and backup band were actually very talented.  We all danced and took pictures for about an hour and a half, and then two more opening singers performed.  Alison, Jameson and I went outside and talked to Fitzgerald for a while, who kept talking about how he was going “to marry a white”.  Not a white girl, not a white person, just “a white”.  He was so funny though and kept saying how much he wanted to come to America, and how there is a radio station in Florida who plays his music and has interviewed him several times.  By this time, it was close to 10:30 pm and I was exhausted.  I went inside, and most of the Tech girls were sitting in the back of the club with their eyes closed, just waiting for the signal that it was time to leave.  Finally, close to midnight, we all loaded the bus and headed back to Annie’s.  It had been a very long day, and I think most of us just wanted to go to bed.  Well, that’s all for today.  I cannot believe tomorrow is our last day in Zomba.  The time has completely flown by, which I expected, but going home is so bittersweet.  I am so excited to see my family and friends and tell them all my stories, and show them all my pictures.  I’m so excited to have FOOD and get sun and play with my puppy.  If I could teleport home for a few days and skip the 24-hour travel period, I would be back here next week.  If I could afford to not get a real job and to be able to travel back and forth to Malawi every other month, I would do it in a heartbeat.  I would be here as much as I could, just to play with my boys and keep those beautiful smiles on their innocent faces. Well, I bet the sap story is getting kind of old to you, but my stories don’t even give justice to the experiences I have encountered, the people who have entered my heart, and the challenges I have faced.  I love these people.  Will post again tomorrow, our last day in Zomba! Peace, love, Malawi. Forever. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I cannot believe tomorrow is my last day.

Thursday, July 7:
            Yesterday ended up being exactly the type of day I needed.  I finished my feminism readings, and truly enjoyed reading all the chapters.  I almost read more than was assigned; woah!  I think I am really going to love this as my major, and if I say so myself, I think my first paper was pretty bad-ass.  I spent the afternoon by myself, in peace and quiet, and knocked out my paper and started my Field Study paper.  I then sat out in the fun for about 40 minutes, which felt so nice and relaxing.  The day ended with Alison, Katie, Jameson and I curled up side by side in my bed watching the Hangover on my computer.  It was exactly the day I needed, and I’m glad I took that break for myself.  I know after this trip, Katie and Alison are going to be two of my closest friends, and I can’t wait to hangout with them back at school.
            Well, today was so much better than I expected.  Katie and I were so worried that none of the students closest to us would be in school today, but to my surprise, all of my seven boys were there!  I was so relieved.  We let them finish the movies, which took about 45 minutes, and then we just tried taking pictures with as many of them as possible.  We come to school again tomorrow, but we have a celebration with the teachers at 10 am, so again, we don’t know who will come to school.  I hung out with my seven boys for a while, as they followed us over to MIE.  I was glad they did this because I finally got to get pictures with them, without hundreds of other kids standing around us, jumping in the pictures.  I told all of them to come to school tomorrow, and I realize that I keep just trying to post-pone the whole saying goodbye thing.  Even when I do actually say goodbye, it won’t actually hit me until I am home.  I can only hope and pray that I see these children again, and that they remember me and know how much I truly love them. Part of me almost wishes they didn’t come to school tomorrow, so I don’t have to try and say good-bye to them.  I know, though, that if I left without saying goodbye I would regret it, I just really suck at saying bye.
Now, we are at MIE waiting for A&T and Radford to get here at 1:30 pm, when we will then walk an hour to the village traditional church for a showing.  I am not sure how the rest of the afternoon will pan out, but we will probably get back around 4:30 pm, freshen up in the bathroom, and then have the end of the year dinner at 5:30 pm with all of the teachers.  Basically, there is a celebration tonight (that we are throwing for the teachers) and then a celebration tomorrow (that the teachers are throwing for us).  Will touch base later! Peace, love, Malawi.
Well, this afternoon wasn’t what I expected but it was special nonetheless, and it has me completely freaking out about having to say good-bye tomorrow. At about 1:30 pm we all headed over to Malika Village Catholic Church for a private performance.  Henery and Mike walked all the way over with us, which made me nervous because I didn’t know where their homes were and if they would even be allowed in the Church when we arrived.  However, when we arrived the Church was filled with other children in a back “children’s section”, so Mike and Henery thankfully got to stay.  The choir performed for us for about an hour, and their songs and voices were absolutely beautiful.  All the ladies with their babies that were in the Church got so into the performances, and you could tell that these people get by with their struggles with help from their religion.  Another beautiful baby came up to me during the performance and sat on my lap, which ended up being, obviously, the highlight of the experience.  It’s really crazy here how calm and collected toddlers are.  Throughout my entire stay here, I have never seen a baby cry or a toddler scramble around, not being able to sit still.  On the downfall, these toddlers also rarely smile.  At the end of the performances, the director called Dr. Kelly up and thanked her for coming back and supporting the Church throughout the years, and like magic, the little baby grabbed both of my hands and held them.  The smallest moments here mean more to me than anything in my life, and when we got up to go, the little girl followed me out.  Add her to my future adoption list!
We walked the 40 minutes back to MIE, where we then parted with Mike and Henery and I gave them two bananas to have for dinner.  The group then headed over to the Cafeteria for our teacher dinner, where my seven “motley crew” boys were playing football in the field.  They ran over to me, and all held my hands as we walked the rest of the way to the Cafeteria.  I gave them a banana as well, and made them promise they would come back tomorrow to say goodbye.  They all hugged me for legitimately 10 minutes until Dr. Kelly came out and I knew I had to go inside.  Of course, the second after we arrived they ran out of fuel for the generator so we continued on with the evening in complete darkness.  We all lined up and received our plates of food (rice and chicken, I will never eat you again!), and then we sat at the tables next to our teachers.  Dr. Kelly, Dr. Patty and Dr. Liz then went to the front and introduced all of us students, as well as the headmasters at each school.  To end the evening, us students all went to the front and performed the two songs that Innocent had taught to us.  The teachers absolutely loved it! After the first line, they all started cheering and clapping, not realizing we had just started the song.  Even though the evening wasn’t what I planned, I was so happy that the teachers had that special night.  For most families here in Malawi, the only time you get to eat meat with your meals is for Christmas dinner.  I was so happy that these teachers got to enjoy a free, filling meal and be recognized for all they are trying to do for these children.  Katie and I had a nice conversation with Odina, and she proceeded to tell us that she “wished we could stay here forever and teach”.  I think something snapped inside Katie and I at the same time, because we were both pretty silent on the bus ride back to Annie’s.
I cannot believe tomorrow is my last day with these children.  I have been putting off the whole “saying goodbye” thing, and every day I keep just saying “okay please come to school tomorrow!”, so that I’ll have at least one extra day with them.  My little “motley crew” means more to me than anybody has meant to me in a very, very long time.  I want to everything in the world for them, I want to be able to give them bright, happy and healthy futures.  I want them to continue smiling and continue their education.  I want them to know how loved they are, and how they have someone who will always be there for them.  I can’t even type this right now without starting to cry, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.  I cannot part with these boys, and I promise both them and myself that I will be back to see them in the future. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday- Malawian Independence Day

Wednesday, July 6:
            Today has been off to a weird start, as we woke up at 8 am and got breakfast, and I was just in a really bitter mood.  We came back to the room afterwards, and we planned on going back to sleep for a little since it was our day to sleep in, but everyone was so loud outside.  I feel that I’m just really flooded with emotions and anxiety right now, and in these times I really need to just be by myself and breathe.  My online class started yesterday and the internet is so flaky here, so that’s extremely frustrating because I already have two assignments due.  I also need to start my paper for my field study credits, but have no idea where to start since there is so specific topic as to what we are to write this 10-page paper about.  I’m also completely torn in the sense that part of me could seriously stay here forever with these children and the friends I have made from Tech, but the other part of me is extremely ready to go home.  The day-to-day routine is just getting old for most of us, as we wake up at the same time every day, have breakfast and head to school at the same time, teach and then wait around for 2 hours for the bus every day, head into town for things we don’t even need anymore, but it will kill time to go into town, then we head to the lodge where we wait around until we eat dinner.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything and I seriously can’t even think about leaving these children, but there’s definitely just a lot of overwhelming emotions flying around and it seems that there’s “down-time” structured into our day-to-day routine where we all have absolutely nothing to do.  We all feel pretty bloated from eating the day food every day, as well as extremely pale, and God knows those two combinations are pretty brutal for me, personally.  I feel like I have learned so much about myself here, though, and I know I have grown so much- especially in the whole ED field.  I feel like on this trip, I am eating and acting more normal than I have in the past several years.  I don’t even think about what I’m eating here, I just go along with what everyone’s doing and feel great about it! I don’t second guess myself or what I’m ordering, which is something I still struggle with immensely at home.  There are just so many things going through my head right now, thoughts that have circulating and building up during the past month, and most of them I can’t put into words or even try to explain, I can just feel them and I know they are there.  Doesn’t really make sense, does it?
            Well, everyone’s off to the town right now and I am going to try to start this Feminism paper that I have due on Friday for my online Women’s Studies class.  Tomorrow is going to be an extremely long and hectic day, but I am really excited!  We are going to school for a little bit, and then walking about an hour to a Church where we are going to see a traditional Church ceremony with dancing and singing.  We are then going to walk back an hour to our school in time for the celebration with our teachers.  The other day we all got measured, and apparently our teachers all make us custom traditional African outfits.  Going to be quite a site, but an amazing souvenir.   Touch base later. Peace, love, Malawi. 


Tuesday, July 5:
            Today was a standard, but also pretty special, day for us.  On our way to the school, Dr. Kelly informed us that this might be our last day with most of our students, for after Independence Day, most of them stop coming to class.  Since Katie and I’s class has been quickly dwindling over the past week anyways, we were worried that some of our favorites wouldn’t be there for us to say goodbye.  As we got to the school, both the standard 5 classes were combined and they were handing back their exams, and then they went on a quick break.  Allfu and Henery weren’t there today, so I can only pray that they’ll be there Thursday or Friday to say goodbye to us.  It was really funny though because the second I walked in the classroom, Raphael and Brighty looked at me and did this hand motion, scooping their hands to their mouth as they did when they ate the peanut butter.  It was like our own secret sign language for “peanut butter” haha!  Katie and I then decided to call them in early from their break, and then we handed each of them a piece of loose-leaf paper.  Odina’s assistant translated for us, as we asked each of them to write us a letter saying good-bye since it was one of our last days.  Katie and I then wrote the class a letter, and Odina’s assistant read it to the class in Chichewa.  Katie said she saw a few of our favorite girls put their heads into their hands as the teacher was reading the letter.  Mine basically said thank you to them for welcoming me into their lives, and I will never forget any of them.  I told them I hoped to see them in my future, and asked them to stay in school and never stop smiling.  At the end I said I loved them, and they all got the biggest smiles on their faces.
One by one, students started bringing the letters up to Katie and I.  Initially, we read them as we received them, but I found myself getting really emotional and decided to read them later.  Almost all of the letters said things among the line of “you in Malawi make me very happy”, and “I love you”.  The one that really broke my heart was from Mike, one of my favorites, and literally the sweetest and most well behaved boy in our class.  His letter said “dear Kelsey you are going for ever.  We shall neve to meet again.”  That one really killed me, and right after I read it I looked at him and said “I WILL come back again and see you”, he got a big smile on his face. 
After we collected all the letters, we broke them into two groups, one going with Katie and one staying with me.  We both brought our computers, and let them listen to Justin Bieber and Eminem while looking at all our Africa pictures on our computer.  After about 45 minutes of that, we put on the movies and they absolutely loved them! Children were crowded around our computers, and some from other classrooms were coming in to watch.  Even though the movies were in English, they could still read the facial expressions and laughed hysterically at certain antics.  Of course, my group watched “It Takes Two” and died laughing when Alyssa is stuffing her face with the sloppy Joe, or when Amanda and Alyssa are both running away screaming and bump headfirst into eachother.  Before we knew it, it was past noon, so we encouraged all of our students to come to class on Thursday and we would let them finish the movie.  I am seriously hoping they come back, because I couldn’t stand to actually say goodbye to any of them today, and a few of my favorites were absent altogether.
            While we were eating lunch at MIE, I saw Raphael outside of the window making the “peanut butter” motion.  I met him outside and gave him the entire jar of peanut butter, and three spoons.  I told him he could keep it, but he had to share, and he couldn’t believe I was letting him keep the entire jar.  He kept repeating, “wait, all for me?!”, and I smiled and said yes, but make sure his friends get some too.  I came back a few minutes later, and saw a bunch of little kids surrounding Raphael, all with lumps of peanut butter in their hands.  Definitely a moment where I thought “ew” and “aw” at the same time, but more-so, I felt a wave of relief knowing that for once, in probably a long time, they were satisfied and maybe even full.
            On our way walking over to the Malemia School for our last drum lesson, I heard my name being called from behind me.  I waited up, and it was a little girl named Eunice.  Apparently, she is in mine and Katie’s class, but I had absolutely no idea.  I had heard her name before, and seen it written on papers, but it astounded me that I didn’t recognize her face.  As we were walking together, Eunice and her sister told me all about their family, while speaking in perfect English.  I felt extremely guilty for not having gotten to know her earlier, and it touched my heart how close she was with her sister, and how gentle and smart they both were.  In the middle of our walk I stopped and unloaded my kwacha, camera and chapstick from my purse and then put my purse around Eunice’s neck.  Her and her sister both knelt to their knees and thanked me, and kept saying how beautiful of a bag it was.  They kept questioning “for me?” even though I told them multiple times they could keep it.  They kept saying how excited their mom was going to be to see it, and at that moment I wished I could have given them more.  They walked with me the entire way to Malemia, where Katie and Allison caught up with us as well.  Allison gave them stickers, Katie gave them some of her hand-made bracelets, and then we said our good-byes.  I made them promise that they would come to school on Thursday, and they agreed, but I am not sure they really understood.
            We then continued on to our drumming lesson, where I was again called out to lead the group.  I don’t really understand why, but I just don’t like drumming here.  I don’t know if it’s because it brings back memories from Alldredge, or if I just get kind-of annoyed because the way it is taught here is so different, or if it’s frustrating that we are all on different levels and all I want to do is bust out my Alldredge songs.  Either way, I tried to suck it up today and still lead the group through some songs, while all the school children were gathered around the door singing and dancing.  Innocent reviewed the two songs with us again, which I think we all have completely memorized since we sang them over a hundred times.  Apparently, we will be singing these songs on Thursday at our end of the year party and celebration with our teachers.  The songs are in Chichewa and are really simple and pretty, so I think the teachers will greatly appreciate them.
            Well, now we are back at the Lodge getting settled in for dinner and then Allison, Katie and I are going to cuddle again and watch Old School haha!  I logged onto the Internet earlier for 10 minutes to upload my blogs and read my emails, and intended on getting back on after dinner to use the rest of the 50 minutes.  However, I forgot to turn the airport off, so it used up the rest of my time.  Basically, I paid 600 kwacha for 10 minutes of Internet time, and this is the second time this has happened in the past 3 days.  Frustrating.  The language barrier here is definitely starting to frustrate us all, because there’s really nothing we can do about it, and every time we think we are understood, we realize that we aren’t.  I feel bad getting annoyed at the workers for messing up our orders, or for not understanding when I ask for another internet card since I messed mine up, but I know they’re trying their hardest and I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for them as well.  Anyways, tomorrow we have the day off because it is Malawi’s Independence Day so I think everyone’s planning on heading into town.  I think I am going to stay at the Lodge because I need some “me” time to just relax and have peace and quiet.  That’s all for now, 1 week left; oh my goodness! Peace, love, Malawi.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beginning of our last week :(

Monday July 4:
            Today was a pretty low-key day, seeing as that the students exams have been over for a week so only half of our class was there today.  Katie and I decided to teach animals today, and our lesson was pretty scattered because we seriously have nothing left to teach them.  Sophia let us borrow her animals poster that had descriptions of 5 different types of animals; fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.  We went over the poster with them, and then held up different drawings of animals and asked them which type of animal they were (ex. A picture of a lion, and the answer was mammal).  Half of the students weren’t paying attention, while the other half kept running outside, but we were warned that this week would be a joke.  Katie also made crossword puzzles, for example: 1 down: an animal that lives in water and breaths through gills, and the answer would be fish.  They really didn’t understand the concept of a crossword puzzle, let alone even understand the 5 different categories of animals, so after 30 minutes our lesson was officially over.  Katie and I spent the remaining hour and a half just playing with them, which was completely fine with me.  If we weren’t here this week, since their exams are already over, nobody would be at school anyways.  At about 11 am, we all headed over to the standard 1 classroom to paint desks.  Last summer, a group donated tables and benches to every standard 1 class.  Dr. Kelly had the idea to paint every 3 desks a different color; we had blue, green, yellow and red.  This way, they can always refer to the groups as “group yellow” or “group red”.  Also, it brought so much more personality to the dull, empty classrooms.  I kept thinking if only all of the classrooms had tables how much of a difference that would make.  If Katie and I’s 100 students had benches to sit on, lessons and projects would be so much easier and more productive.  Just something else I can pray for, I guess.
            We all walked over to the Demonstration school at about 2 to be picked up, and while we waited for Willie to come, Katie, Allison and I saw Gerald and some of his friends.  There was a huge fire and Gerald showed us how they make their soccer balls; how damn creative these kids are, I swear.  They take recycled plastic bags and roll them into balls, one bag inside of another.  They then burn the edges so that the plastic bag melts and secures the  “circle” shape.  It was really neat to watch, and they were cracking us up as they were trying to bribe us to sell them our iPods for the football. Haha!  When Willie picked us up, we went into town and Katie, Allison, Bebe and I went to Tasty Bites for an early dinner.  It’s crazy how hungry we all are all the time! We had lunch at noon, and by 3 pm we were all starving.  I’m not a fan of Tasty Bites, but I thought I’d give it another try and it still didn’t change my views.  However, we all got a slice of the cake, which was so on point, so it made the rest of the meal worthwhile.  Now we are back at Annie’s, and the Internet is out again.  Typical.  I guess it’s a good thing because I’d get really sad looking on Facebook and seeing everyone’s 4th of July plans.  I know none of their plans even compare to this experience, but I definitely have the biggest case of FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.  Haha!  Anyways, tomorrow Katie and I have decided to bring in our laptops and let the kids watch a movie.  They are going to completely freak-out and I’m so excited to see their reactions!  We’re probably going to break the classroom into 2 groups, and 1 will watch “It Takes Two” on my computer, and the others will watch “Toy Story” on Katie’s computer.  If we have any time left, we’re going to play our music and let them dance to it.  I don’t know if any of these kids have even seen computers before, let alone watch a movie from it.  It’ll definitely a fun day and I’ll be sure to get more good pictures.  Touch base later; I cannot believe I only have a week left. I don’t think I’m ready to leave these children. Peace, love, Malawi. 

Saturday, July 2

Saturday, July 2:
            Well, yesterday was an extremely emotionally draining day.  We woke up at about 9 am, had breakfast, and then some of us headed into town to get last minute items for the orphanage.  Katie and I purchased 100 blankets, which cost about 400 American dollars.  The blankets were huge and really soft, so it was an amazing purchase.  We then came back to Annie’s and waited for Peter, and then headed to the orphanage at about noon.  The ride was only about 40 minutes, which was a great change of pace from our normal drives.
            As we pulled up, there were about 400 children and 20 guardians that were singing and dancing.  As we got off the bus, they are greeted us and kept thanking us.  The village then put on about a 2-hour long show for us that consisted of village dancing and drumming, skits, and then a presentation of gifts to Dr. Kelly, Dr. Liz and Dr. Talbot.  A few of the guardians lined up with the presents and one by one they called up the professors.  The professors would stand across from them, and the guardians would dance over to them and then place the present at their feet.  It was very special and the professors were all beaming.   Throughout the show, a few of us students had little kids come up to us and sit on our laps.  This was, by far, the best part of the village.  I had a gorgeous little girl, probably about 2 or 3, who sat on my lap for the whole 2 hours.  It was so special, as when she first came to me she barely smiled and was very uptight.  Throughout the show, she started hugging and cuddling up to me with the biggest smile on her face.  It was amazing.  I then handed her a beanie baby dog and she cherished that thing like it was the best gift she had ever received.  She kept kissing it and putting it on my chest.  With her on my lap, I barely paid attention to the performances, but she was the focus of my attention.
            After the performances were all over, things took a turn for the worse.  It was our time to hand out all of our gifts and donations, and riots literally broke out.  The orphans all about 3 years and younger went into a room and we handed them their beanie babies and toys (I donated all my bubbles to them), and then the rest of us were outside handing out the underwear and toys we had purchased.  The process was extremely unorganized, as we were handing things out trying to make sure every child got one thing.  Katie and I were handing out the blankets with Willie and two of the workers, who had a list of 100 individuals who didn’t receive blankets last summer when we visited.  Only about 3 people out of all 100 said thank you to Katie and I, which was really frustrating and overwhelming.  Katie and I were both flooded with emotion, as people were grabbing and pushing and screaming.  I finally had to leave and go back to the bus, because I couldn’t handle it anymore.  I then saw my little girl crying, as someone had taken her beanie baby and we had none left.  I had so many emotions, anger, sadness, anxiety, and overwhelming confusion.  As I was sitting on the bus, one by one people started loading on, all of them crying more than the one before.  Moments later, Katie came running onto the bus sobbing.  While trying to hand out the clothes we had all brought to donate to the girls, a riot broke out and Katie was right in the middle of it.  She said the teenage girls were hitting and slapping eachother, and pulling eachothers hair.  Katie almost got trampled and said the girls had ripped the clothes from fighting for them and it was the most terrifying thing she had ever experienced.  She was really shaken up and just completely stunned by their behavior.
            On the bus road home, all was silent as we were all sitting with our emotions and thoughts.  While I was initially just so angry and stunned by their behavior, I began putting myself in their shoes.  If I was an orphan, and never got stylish clothes or cool toys, and a group came to visit me to donate things, I would probably act the same way out of fear that I wouldn’t get anything or they wouldn’t have enough things for everyone.  I think that, just like them, my manners would go out the window and my fear of being skipped would override my ability to stay sane.  Unfortunately, as these children grow up, they learn to fight for what they want; literally.  They know that opportunities are limited, so they want to take control.  It’s like they need to be taught how to receive things and be patient and trustworthy that sometimes there is actually enough for everyone.  The entire trip today was nothing as to what we were all expecting with the chaos and un-organization, but as completely heart-breaking that it was, it was nonetheless a good experience.  I will never forget that little girl on my lap, and her innocence and beauty.  I wished that I could take her home with me and give her a bright, happy and healthy future, but for now my prayers and thoughts will always be with her. Peace, love, Malawi.

            Last night as I mentioned before was the party that Peter threw for us at the Black Diamond.  After the orphanage, none of us even wanted to go out and celebrate, but we all took naps and shared our thoughts with eachother and vented.  We then all started getting ready, and Katie, Allison Bebe and I all pregamed in our room together.  Let’s just say that one thing turned into another, and before we knew it we were on the bus heading to Black Diamond, Allison and I leading a sing-a-long in the front of the bus.  We pulled up to Black Diamond about 20 minutes later, and most of us should have called it a night at that point haha.  The famous Lucius Banda performed Bob Marley for us, and we danced the night away.  We got home at about 1:30 am, in which Simeon had to carry a few of us girls to our beds.  To say it was a successful night would be an understatement, and the stories and pictures this morning were absolutely hysterical.  I absolutely love these girls here, and I can’t believe we’re going into the last week. Craziness.  That’s all for today, peace, love, Malawi.