Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Michiru Mountain Trail, a “Third World Conservation”.

I’ve learned my lesson. Not to wear my LL Bean (teva) sandals on a trail and not to ASSume the trail is like any other I’ve encountered in the Northeast (US) and parts of its Appalachian Trail. When several volunteers from the hostel invited me to come along, I’m like oh cool, a hike. I’ve not gone on a proper hike (not counting a small mountain near where I grew up, and miles of streets in New York City) for years.

The Michiru Mountain conservatory is one of the closest one to Blantyre, about 9 kilometers away. The road was difficult, some smooth, a couple short wooden bridges (in a taxi cab – nerve wracking), and a gap in the road that the cab cautiously drove into and out minding the tail pipe wouldn’t be scraped out from under . Eventually we reached the conservatory. There were several trails ranging in difficulty and one trail for birdwatching. The group opted for the difficult trail all the way to the top of the summit which is 1,470 meters high. Why not?

Unfortunately, because my Doxy med (anti-malaria) can’t be taken for two hours if I consumed dairy products (sometimes a challenge for breakfast) so I had taken it just prior to the hike. And in combination with my other prescription meds, my heart went sky high from climbing a short steep hill. I was sweating profusely. I was more embarrassed than winded. It never happened to be before with my heart rate this high and rivulets of sweat running down my body from my head and neck. Several times I had to stop to rest and continue to drink water – I felt old and sick. Also my sandals attracted snagging by long plants, grass, and rocks on the trail, so in addition to being winded, I kept tripping, occasionally stumbling. After the first rest, my heart went to normal thudding properly from an exercise. However when we neared the top, I started seeing black spots, and sat down for good 10 or 15 minutes. The other three continued to the summit and the guide stayed behind with me with his rifle. I guess I’d be a weak prey for the large mammals (leopard, jaguar or big baboon monkey) – eventually I reached the top with the guide and I thanked him for not shooting me because I was weak and idiotic for wearing my sandals. One other volunteer in the group, a German medical student also wore tevas sandals – he didn’t have a problem but he was a little faster than me. The two young English women, 18 years old and wearing sneakers, full time smokers and first time on a trail were perfectly fine other than being winded. It looked like it was a little rough walk in the park for them.

The height of the summit was amazing. The Shire Highlands and other koppies (South African word for small mountains – more like big hills) appeared as dollops on the ground. We could see several towns laid out between or at the base of the koppies. Blantyre is a very hilly city – not as steep as San Francisco streets though. We could see Mulanje mountain (about 70 kilometers away) that is bigger than Michiru and possibly Zomba mountain. We took several pictures, posed on the summit and our guide as well.

The trip down the trail to the base was even worse, more work on your feet, knees, thighs, and hips to maintain balance, not to pitch forward. And plants and grass snagging at my toes and sandals – about three-quarters of the time I’d be stumbling and falling down. But I bounced back and I’m still amazed I don’t have bruises – only minor cuts from plants and fallen tree branches, a wicked blister, and a calloused skin torn off from my big toe. My feet were sweaty so the callous softened and scraped off, from the exertion of keeping my balance on the steep trail. Sort of like a rough pedicure on the trail. Matthias, the German med student kept monitoring me, reminding me to drink water and dawdled behind me. I think he conjured up quite a number of possible scenarios involving me – him treating me for a cut, scrape, or even worse a broken bone. He was a tad nervous. Near the bottom I did have a nasty fall – we were walking down a relatively easy trail but I missed a step. The next thing I knew, I was on a steep side off the trail, my hands holding to thick plants and my feet anchored. Matthias had to pull me up – I strained my left shoulder from grabbing the plants for anchor.

I sure kept the group entertained. We reached the bottom and in the last 100 feet or so I kept the stumbling to a minimum until I slipped on a small dirt mound on a very level ground by the office and fell on my butt. The mountain had its last word with me.

We (I missed them due to communication barriers – not fast enough for a paper and pen) saw a bushbuck, a vervet monkey and some sort of a large bird. Afterwards, we took the taxi back along the same road we took earlier we spotted a large baboon monkey in the middle of the road. The taxi slowed but inched a little further and further for a better look. I managed a picture until the monkey left the road into the cornfield.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

MANAD and Deaf Action (Scotland)’s Sign Language Interpreter Training (SLI)

This is my first exposure to a NGO working with Malawians here, not someone (both white and Malawian) driving around in vehicles with a NGO logo pasted or painted on its sides, or a signpost announcing an ongoing project (which is plentiful), sponsored by this and that in coordination with this and that, and the estimated duration. I do not work for Scotland and since Finland (Finnish Association of the Deaf that placed me with MANAD) will not be here in the duration of my internship, so I sat in the training for the sake of experience and exposure. Since I do work for MANAD, I provided some assistance as an extra hand (or body) for Betty and Erick, and feedback to the trainees along with the Scots.

The training is a second phase with returning trainees from the first phase last June. It lasted for six days with themes; religious, medical, and legal along with fingerspelling practice, voice to sign and sign to voice translation and self-care such as avoiding a common interpreter malady, repetitious injury. The facilitators who organized the SLI training, Betty, the top interpreter in all of Malawi and Erick, a deaf man, some couple years ago received training at Edinburgh in interpretation and sign language instruction and curriculum development. The Scots, a deaf man who freelances in sign language instruction, Bryan and an interpreter Nicola, sent by Deaf Action to observe Betty and Erick, to determine whether the funding for SLI to continue and provide input to both the facilitators and trainees.

Recognition of MANAD, and the need for the deaf and hard of hearing population’s right to access to information, and other human rights are nascent in Malawi only 15 years old. There are around 11 sign language interpreters in Malawi, but their skills and fluency varies and all is voluntary meaning very little opportunity to work. In some ways similar to Ireland back in 2001 once they emerged as a Celtic Tiger. When I lived there, there were only 13 interpreters but none for the city I resided in. I told this to Betty and the trainees so that seemed to help their anxiety some. The Woodford Foundation (UK) is currently working with MANAD to provide funding to pay the interpreters in the near future. Many of the trainees are not skilled signers especially in the eyes of the UK and the US (the best ones might be considered level 3 below the top), but there is an alarming need of interpreters hence the MANAD and Deaf Action’s decision to provide both signing and training for interpreters as a foundation. There is a talk about a separate training for Malawian Sign Language (MSL) instruction and learning. For trainees, there are promising individuals such as several teachers of the deaf, a young man whose parents worked for deaf schools and grew up playing football with deaf students, and a rehabilitation worker who occasionally has a deaf patient.

Probably the most interesting part of training was the first day which fell on Sunday beginning at a church (St Michael’s) a CCAP. One interpreter refused citing personal reasons but others including a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf, several Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Catholics, and a nonbeliever (me) gamely went as part of the training to interpret in a religious setting. The trainees took 5 or 10 minutes rotations, interpreting the sermons from the reverend (a Scot I believe with a thick accent who attempted occasional phrases in the Chichewa language that sounded awful to Malawian ears), Malawian deacons (or elders?) and some choir singing. It was a real exposure to the trainees because the average Malawian often uses English (official language) and Chichewa (national language) in the same sentence or lectures, even in the newspaper. I learned that part of the Malawian culture is to mix in proverbs in Chichewa for wit, and to describe a particular situation. Talk about throwing the trainees in water with a weak life ring on the very first hour of the six day training. One part of the training, later in the week was translating Chichewa into MSL and vice versa. It proved a challenge for many, especially one woman a pastor from Zambia who spoke a different dialect of Chichewa.

There were many words in legal and medical terms that are not in MSL, in addition to regional sign language. MSL used in the towns or cities of Mzimba and Lilongwe can be vastly different from Blantyre and many trainees were frustrated on what is the right sign language. The facilitators and Scots, pitching in, offered some consolation (very little in the trainee’s eyes – that was obvious to see) that MSL as a national sign language is still relatively new and over the years MSL will continue to evolve and once MANAD becomes stronger the MSL will become more uniform. There was also encouragement (I also pitched in) that the trainees to form local support networking with deaf people to share MSL. MANAD has a registration of interpreters around the country for support and new names will be added and they will be provided upon request. That seemed to appease the trainees some. Betty was very intent on not using ASL or BSL (British Sign Language) but there were already some signs recognizable no doubt due to the missionary influence in the past. I would sometimes tease her that I would tell deaf Malawians that ASL is better and Betty would laugh-shriek and tease me that my true intent is to oppress the Deaf here. Zambia Sign Language has a heavy ASL influence with some tinge of BSL. MSL is probably more national than Zambian sign, though some signs are in ASL or BSL. But it is relatively common. For instance, the Irish Sign Language has some BSL influence because of deaf Irish working in London to send money back home (long before Ireland became the Celtic Tiger). ASL has roots in French Sign Language and Martha’s Vineyard Kentish sign language in addition to home signs from more than 200 years ago. ASL evolved as any other language on its own, despite regional signs but it is still understood in conversations.

Medical and Legal also proved to be interesting sessions as well due to numerous deaf people being seen at clinics or in emergency rooms and being arrested for simple misunderstanding with police officers. Best scenario is that an interpreter or a signer would show up, help clarify matters and the deaf prisoner released with apologies. But sometimes actual petty crimes do happen such as stealing and battery. Awareness about the Deaf and those without hearing is still slow but worse in the rural parts. The visiting lecturers, a doctor and a magistrate provided typical scenes what to expect in a legal (court room or prison) and medical (conversing with doctors and nurses), the common terms – such as body parts, diseases, medication dosages and court procedures. I provided some input with basic scenarios because I spent five years in NYC working with deaf people in both medical and legal settings, which the trainees and the Scots seemed to appreciate.

One sign to voice interpretation (both English and Chichewa) session involved Erick signing funny scenarios such an animal, a dog or monkey stealing food from a local who worked hard to get it, a man driving by staring at a shapely woman and crashing into a tree as a result, and so on. It was evident that the trainee’s receptive skills is better than expressive (in MSL) and there were many laughs when they took turns translating what Erick said. Many got it right, some got it wrong. The group or paired work, and role play exercises were more enjoyable for the trainees, taking turns to be deaf, interpreter, a doctor, a lawyer, judge, police, and magistrate and so on. Betty, Erick, and sometimes Charles, and two other deaf Malawian resource persons when available to attend went from group to group to provide feedback and criticism. Bryan and Nicola pitched in, too.

Deaf Action is pleased with the overall improvement in how MANAD coordinated the training and the future together is ensured. I know it’s corny but looking at two interpreters and two deaf people of different nationalities (and First World and Third World) working together as equals were really inspiring. There are some cultural differences and I could tell Deaf Action tried not to let their British culture interfere with how the Malawian trainees should learn but as long as the basic foundation in interpreting is covered, and MANAD has enough to go on. There is a very respectful relationship and partnership between MANAD and Deaf Action. Yay for cooperative development!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

pictures posted

PAH! I've uploaded couple pictures to each post. Scroll down and enjoy! - kb

PS - a shout out to my fellow ID classmates and professors. A Worldvision office near Mzimba. And its headquarters isn't far from the Gallaudet campus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Embangweni School for the Deaf and the Ministry of Persons with Disability and Elderly

The first school we visited for the three and a half city seven day survey trip is Embangweni School for the Deaf, a primary school that relied on total communication method within the huge Livingstonvia Synod of Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). The Synod also consisted of several primary schools, a couple of secondary schools, a mission hospital, and a colonial house where the head minister and his family live. All hearing, in case you were wondering. Some deaf students would qualify for a secondary school but not very many of them. All teachers and administration live on the CCAP grounds as well.

Our visitor’s quarters had toilets and showers which I know the student housing does not provide. During a walk, I saw students, both deaf and hearing receiving water from a well to wash their clothes or carry the bucket inside to bathe. During the survey session I had “to go” very badly cos I’ve had too much instant coffee at breakfast - the guest toilets were too far away so I had to settle for student toilets – cement “outhouses” with doors marking “girls” and “boys”, and rectangular holes in the ground. Unfortunately someone pooped out a bad breakfast and missed the hole. The pile was covered by flies, so, no. I used the boy’s outhouse hoping that a boy wouldn’t walk in and have living daylights scared out of him by discovering a white woman sitting on her white haunches. Fortunately that did not happen.

We started the next day (a Friday) by accompanying students and staff to their morning prayers and greetings. The teacher who led the prayer used both his voice and signed, but naturally more voice than signing. They talked about the value of hard work, that God does not reward lazy people that sort of talk. For a demonstration, the boys gathered to ring out something (something like a Xylophone I cannot remember but it sure brought back memories of my own “hearing-impaired” class doing the same thing when I was in second or third grade), had bells and rang out a song with a teacher pointing at notes. I was wearing my hearing aid and all I could hear was different bell and jingling sounds, and some singing (not signing). The boys finished, and then the girls got up and signed/sang a chorus, with basic foot movements to count out the beats. Voices rang out differently to my tone-deaf ears.

Students, ranging from ages 5 to 20, and several students that I later found out were in their late 20s, one as old as 37 settled down to listen to the announcements of the day. Most of them were watching us, at Charles and Betty who were signing to each other. I couldn’t help but be amused and smile when I noticed some students discussing among themselves who is deaf who is hearing “no no that woman is not deaf that woman is interpreter I’ve seen her before” “that man is deaf” “white woman maybe deaf”– the universal deaf culture assessment and discourse of strangers in their midst. They were used to receiving hearing visitors, both white and African, but not Malawian signers and a deaf white woman too, so they were very intrigued by us. After brief introductions, the headmaster sent the children to their morning classes.

The headmaster held a brief meeting with us, explaining the school’s background (established in mid 1990s) to meet the need of having a deaf school up north since most deaf schools are in Central and South regions. The Embangweni school is also considered a place for students who failed in other schools to try their luck there. They are permitted to take exams for a number of times to give them a fighting chance to pass their certificate exams. Some thrived but others did not. Those who were unable to pass were placed in carpentry and tailoring classes to give them some skills (and hope). Hera, the headmaster placed the importance of Charles’ visit – not only as a leader of MANAD, but also as an employee at a Ministry office – that he is a role model to the children who’s never seen a deaf adult in that capacity.
Next, we joined the faculty for their tea break – and they asked Charles and me a series of questions about our experiences in deaf education. One thing that really turned me off (and I would later see in other schools, too) that there were exam results and announcements implying failure of students. And a teacher would point to a student and tell us that she failed four or five times before being placed in his carpentry class. I made the choice to share a personal story with them that I was not a star student in my early years, that both my parents and teachers were frustrated with me and pushed me to work. When I found an interest in history and social studies, I began to show more interest and improve. I encouraged the teachers to find their students’ interest and work with them on these.

The survey/needs assessment session a long and grueling one, for me because I was still learning Malawian Sign Language (MSL). Charles and Betty began with MANAD’s purpose of being and partnering with Finland to gather and document information from Deaf and hard of hearing Malawians, to see what needs and problems they have to enable Finland to provide more funding to help MANAD work on improving the Deaf living conditions in Malawi. I introduced myself as an intern for MANAD to learn from their work, shared my experience in a total communication school environment that I learned the same way as they did. I saw some heads nodding as if they understood that I went through the same thing they did.

Charles opened the floor asking students to come up and share their problems or experiences with their villages, schools, hearing family members and friends. Quite a number volunteered, saying that their home villages are generally OK, some thought they were “mad”, good relations with their neighbors, one student complained about a hearing soccer team pulling dirty plays to card the deaf players, among many others. Really not different from what deaf people everywhere encounter. The only differences are technology access since most of them do not have TV and media information, and acknowledging their rights for better things in life (education, jobs, etc). After bread and soda break, we then moved on to health information – access to clinics, communicating with doctors and nurses, the depth of information about TB, HIV+, cancer and AIDS. Many of students said they relied on their hearing family members or friends as interpreters. One young boy maybe 12 years of age, shared his experience about finding the right kind of dosage. He described going from nurse to nurse, finding information on instructions he could not understand until he found someone who were able to gesture with him, by using the hand as a clock or placement of sun during the day. “morning” “2 pills” “night” “none”. We three cheered him on and Charles encouraged that kind of initiative to the students.
Then came the toughest part. I’d already had a tense five minutes. Betty received a call and she and Charles had to step out. They told me to take over the floor – the students were patient with me and helped clarify signs for me. Since most of the students were weak with both English and Chichewa languages, Charles, Betty, and I were surrounded by students demanding assistance filling out the survey forms. Several teachers helped out to lessen the demand. I had four (or five) girls with me and a teacher helping out with communication barriers. It seems most students became deaf from an illness such as malaria, grew up with at least one signing family member and/or friend, and have overall stable relations with their families. For health information such as HIV they know the word or letters mean something bad, but not the depth or details about it. For priority goals for MANAD to work on, most asked for improvement in education and jobs. Charles was very impressed with the teachers (all men) who maintained good rapport with students and really communicated with them. The students rarely complained about their teachers, only that they wished for more materials to use.

At the end, I took a large group picture and many students wanted pictures taken of themselves. I gladly put my camera to use. We didn’t have lunch until 4pm and Charles was demanding (jokingly) that we have to give him our lunch for him to eat – then we ate dinner at 7pm with faculty and staff. All the information from the day was leaking out of my eyes and ears and I went to my room for some downtime. Then hit the sack early after observing Betty screen two teachers as candidates for the 2nd phase of interpreter training.

Two days later, we visited a deaf class within a hearing secondary school (name escapes me) in Kasungu, a couple hours north of Lilongwe. We met with five or six students and they are not doing so hot because their teacher’s signing skills deteriorated evidently under pressure from the school to pursue oral methods. It was rather depressing collecting information from them, especially after our experience at Embangweni. Charles sternly lectured the teacher for letting his signing skills slide, thus hurting the students’ chances in school and after. Most of the students didn’t know what they would do after completion of school – they are already taking tailoring and carpentry training. I recommended to Charles of a project in the future to construct and update (if any) a resource career guide for secondary school deaf students.

The classroom had small windows and was very dark, especially with a thunderstorm happening outside. We had trouble following conversations. Charles requested the teacher to turn the lights on, urging the importance for the Deaf to see each other. The teacher declined saying the Braille machine (the size of a small suitcase) is plugged in and he couldn’t unplug it. The dark classroom contrasted with bright and cheerful classrooms we saw in Embangweni and another in Lilongwe. We left the school, concerned and depressed about the future of those students we met.

On Monday, our last full day of work and travel we went to SOS Village School in Lilongwe, a primary and secondary school that contained two classrooms for younger and older deaf students. We didn’t meet the students however Betty screened three teachers for the deaf for the 2nd phase SLI training with Deaf Action. They had various signing skills and the classroom we used had large windows, the red brick walls and wooden ceiling reflected light well. Student’s work were pasted on the walls and strung up across the room. We left the school; a deaf secondary student found us and chatted with us on the way back to Lilongwe on a minibus. He knew Charles and Betty but chatted with me, and an opportunity to use my ever-improving MSL.

Before visiting the SOS Village School, we had coffee and cookies with Mr F Sapala, Director of Disability Program with his other subprogram directors, at the Ministry of Persons with Disability and Elderly. Charles and Betty gave their reports about the MANAD’s status in projects assisted by Finland and Scotland – evidently something they liked to hear about and that the relationship with both countries is ongoing. Charles also mentioned that MANAD is currently developing a project with the British High Commission Office for a second attempt at Deaf Awareness campaign. The people were very pleased that MANAD is working. They were particularly interested in my MA program in International Development specialsing in Persons with Disabilities and asked what courses I took. I replied and gave them the website address and Dr Wilson’s email as well. A woman, the head of a rehabilitation program asked if I studied rehabilitation and I affirmed saying its part of our coursework. She appeared to be content with my answer. One other program head informed me he had gone to Gallaudet in 1980s for some sort of disability related conference. He did enjoy the nightlife in DC, he added. Mr Sapala mentioned to me that his ministry along with the Malawian government very much supported my “new government” and is looking forward to working with President Obama’s administration. I felt that I was somewhat an US representative in the room and did my best to present honest but diplomatic answers. I did answer honestly that our race relations isn’t perfect when they asked me that. That was when they interjected saying President Obama is a good man for change. I think so, too!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

on the road - smooth and bumpy

This post is typed two weeks late – not as exciting as the previous posts. I’m trying to cram as much information as possible. Will write a post shortly about deaf students, then another about the SLI training. – kb
Out of the seven days we traveled, approximately good four days of it consisted of being on the road or waiting for a bus or minibus filled with passengers and luggage to the driver’s content before leaving. The longest we waited for our minibus to fill up and depart was two hours in Mzimba with destination to Mzuzu. We missed our meeting with Deaf adults in Lilongwe because of the paperwork needed to be done and travel from Kasungu.

The toughest road was the one from Jenda to the Embangawe school for the deaf, one of the several primary and secondary schools in a huge Embangwei/Loudon synod branch of CCAP (Church of Central African Presbyterian) of Livingstonvia , in the southern portion of the large Mzimba district bordering Zambia. One hour on 30 kilometers of hard dirt road filled with lumps, crevices, holes, and mud spots that can test the car shock absorber and tires. The first ride to the school was in a 4 x 4 overland an ancient ambulance truck that our contact head teacher hired. It was a very bouncy ride in the dusk. Within a quarter of a mile from the synod, the truck blew a tire in the pouring rain. We three (myself, Betty and Charles), Hara the teacher and two other passengers with a small baby stood outside under the trees, watched the driver change the tire with assistance from a couple of passersby. On the way back two days later, one sunny morning the head teacher secured a pick up truck to take us three back to Jenda to take a bus to Mzimba for long detour to Mzuzu for a last minute meet up with a retired teacher to distribute survey forms. To make the trip leaving the school quicker, Charles, assisted by Betty interpreting had to negotiate with the driver on an agreed price to make him hurry up. However the driver resisted a little preferring to add a couple more passengers before leaving. Betty and I were squeezed in the truck cab with the driver and Charles rode in the open truck bed with several other people and our luggage. I wanted to ride in the back for the sake of experience, but Charles wanted to enjoy the sun and breeze. However, he told me that if it rains he’ll gladly trade places with me. The ride was smoother, probably because the truck didn’t have 4x4 wheels and the driver seemed to maneuver around the lumps and crevices more expertly. Along the way, we picked up few more passengers. There were many bikes riding up and down the road – costing MK 600 for a ride on the extended seat behind the rider. There aren’t bikes in Blantyre and Lilongwe, possibly due to the volume of automobiles (they were scarce up north) only outside the cities for those riding in from the rural parts.
Along the way back to Jenda – we spotted two cut branches of leaves on the road placed in a way to slow us down and pass through the narrow space provided. Betty explained that it’s to warn drivers and pedestrians that a funeral is in progress. After passing the second set, a group of men sitting near a graveyard spotted us and begged for money (for burial payment Betty reckons).

After nearly an hour and half on the back road, we reached Jenda and immediately boarded a minibus ready to leave for Mzimba. The drive lasted maybe two or three times the actual distance of the trip, due not only frequent pick ups and deboarding of passengers along the way but to navigate hairpin curves on the road. There’s a slogan in Malawi for its roads – “Arrive Alive!” and “Speed Kills”. We eventually reached Mzimba and expecting to leave again, but the driver and conductor preferred to wait until the minibus filled to capacity. Two hours were spent breathing in the diesel fumes from the running engine, a kid (well a young man) would come up to move the bus around every 10 or 15 minibus. Occasionally he’d shout and bang onto his door as if he owned it. Several other passengers going as far as Mzuzu were not amused but were silent. An internet café sitting across the street tortured me. But I knew I’d have a nervous breakdown whenever I see the minibus move, thinking it’ll go to Mzuzu without me. The minibuses are that unpredictable.
Finally, filled with passengers including several with large maize bags, and one man holding a flat of live baby chicks – occasionally a tiny feather drifted by my face – the driver decided to depart for Mzuzu. Like Jenda and Mzimba, the route between Mzimba and Mzuzu was long, but filled with scenery. The northern region is heavily forested, filled with timber mills. I had become accustomed to seeing people live in concrete dwellings with either a tin or thatched roof, the dwellings were all wood looking like it was clapped together with nails and mud. The planed wood beams piled like large grates dotted along the road. Occasionally we’d see a lorry or large truck hauling cut or uncut wood. Sometimes we’d pass acres and acres of deforested land, land lying bare with thin trunks poking out. Other lands and hills consisted of new trees – afforestation is big here, and the government is trying to promote an afforestation campaign. Once in a while, a man riding a bike (or pushing his bike) with cut wood piled high on the extended seat, as high as four or five feet, held together by braces or splints of some sort. The route also went through or on top of the highlands, with steep or narrow roads.

The route from Mzuzu (a small but upcoming city, filled with bike taxis, many registered and so jazzed up with colorful padded passenger seats with complimentary handlebars – I was angry that I didn’t have the camera on me at the moment) to Jenda, then Kusungu were uneventual. It was becoming dark and we were becoming bored and restless being on the road. Charles and I traded and fought over newspapers before dusk. I happily gave him Chichewa language pages. Some he translated for me. We arrived into Kusungu and we were grateful for the ride a friend of Betty’s gave us. We arrived in time f or a late dinner then totally crashed for the night.
After visiting a secondary school outside Kusungu, and few stops in Lilongwe (including a visit to the Ministry of Disabled and Elderly office) Betty and I headed back to Blantyre on a slow minibus. After seven days of packing and repacking my rucksack I was glad to settle into a more permanent housing at the Kabula Lodge.

The motels we stayed at, does not cater to the Westerners. The rooms and its bathrooms are pretty grim and Spartan like, with mildew damage, cement and bugs. I quickly became accustomed to toilets without seats, shower or bath with freezing or scalding water (sometimes I bathed out of the bucket to reach acceptable water temperature) – one place had perfect water temperature I think. After few weeks in Malawi I’m not as bothered by bugs and ants as I used to be. I merely flick them off or scoot them away. I was grateful that in all situations at least the toilet flushed without problems, running water, warm but simple beds and rooming with Betty. The Malawian sign for “bath” is the action of splashing water to one shoulder then to the next. The motel menus basically consisted of rice or nsima with chicken or beef and vegetables. Nutritious though.