Welcome BACK to Chintheche
Two weeks after beginning our placement with CPAR in the Lilongwe office, we are back at CPAR Nkhata Bay and loving it. I feel like our short stay in Lilongwe was very productive and we thoroughly enjoyed working with Joseph, Steve, Dennis, and Patricia. I feel they all made tremendous progress and CPAR can be assured that their programs in Lilongwe are in good hands. Even though it isn’t goodbye yet, it is unfortunate we couldn’t spend more time working with the staff in Lilongwe.
Although I was sad to leave Lilongwe, the ‘big city’ we were getting accustomed to, I am excited to start a new challenge back on the beautiful Lake Malawi. We are excited to start the Communications training with Laban this week, and with Alan the next. I am positive that we have learned how to complete the training more effectively and I am sure that Laban and Alan will be a lot of fun to work with.
Two days ago, one day earlier than scheduled, we arrived with Vincent, our dedicated driver, back at the Flame Tree Lodge in Chintheche and we were greeted by the friendly staff, Tony, Ida, and Ester. Alan and Laban from the CPAR office in Chintheche quickly made their way here to warmly greet us once again. Unfortunately Alan could only spend about a day with us because he made his way on Saturday to Likoma Island in Lake Malawi, just off the coast of Mozambique. He was quite nervous about making the journey on an aging vessel (see picture below)…probably for good reason. After the jokes that probably made him more nervous, we saw him off from the other side of the bay, but we do hope his return voyage on Saturday also goes well.Even though the journey is only 40 nautical kilometers from Nkhata Bay, his trip took over 10 hours, but all in one piece.
Yesterday was one of our longest days of the entire trip…we really wanted to revisit the Tawonga Community Based Organization that we were able to see the first time we were in Chintheche on the Study Tour. So in the morning, Vincent came and picked us up and headed to the office to pick up Laban, and then we headed off to Tawonga. Just like our last visit, Judith, the CEO of the CBO, was there to welcome us. This was fortunate for the three of us, because we were hoping to interview her for our article on inspirational African women for International Womens Day. Not only were we able to complete this, but she also graciously showed us the Community Based Child Care in action, with 2-5 year old children counting to 20, playing airplane games, and singing welcome songs to us.
We were also able to meet with a woman who was receiving home based care from the CBO, because she has been ill with AIDS. It was such a great sight to see all the help she and her family were receiving with household chores and counselling. I was fearful coming here that people with a positive HIV status had a stigma attached to them, and this would severely disadvantage them both in medical treatment and in community involvement. I am quite sure that if not in Malawi, then in other sub-Saharan African countries this may be the situation, but in all the cases we have seen thus far, it has not been a big issue.
Afterwards, we drove to the CBO’s garden, which they use as an income generating activity as well as to feed the children. I really enjoyed trudging through the fields, across canals and rivers, to see the garden. It helped me reinforce the nickname I have willingly accepted, “Man vs Wild”. Probably because I bring up something I learned from the show at least once a day. The best one had to be when I identified blackjack (the plant; haven’t played at the casino in Lilongwe yet), which could be used for mosquito repellent. Proud moment.
Today we travelled to Mzuzu, probably my favourite city in Malawi. It is at a higher elevation so it is quite a bit cooler than down at the lake, but close enough to it to have a cool breeze passing through. It is also the only place where being a mzungu (white person), didn’t seem to be that big of deal. In Lilongwe and definitely in the rural villages, we seem to become local attrations, which I don’t mind, however it gets tiring after being in Malawi for over a month.
As I type this I can rotate my head 45 degrees and see the lights on the lake, fisherman who will spend all night in an uneven dugout canoe, trying to catch fish to take to market the next day. I think that this is the most lasting image of Africa for me so far. The thought of being out in the middle of the water in pitch black attempting to catch fish, quite honestly terrifies me, but I greatly admire the courage and dedication that the fisherman have in trying to make a living and supporting their families. I only hope I can effectively portray this image so others can realize the struggle of people not only in Malawi, but throughout the world.