Sunday, 28 April 2013

I don't have time to think of a good title!

Sorry, sorry, sorry! (As the Malawian people say when I trip over my own feet) As per usual, I apologise for not having updated my blog in so long.

It’s kind of hard to sum up the past four months in one digestible blog post, but I’ll give it a go:

I’ve gone from trying to see the bright side of everything and telling myself that it’s all going to get better to really enjoying life, and having the gap year I set out to have. We’ve found our place at Samaritan’s now; before we got here we were told that our project was of the Teaching/Social Care genre, and we knew that the previous volunteer was kind of like a mum to the kids, but it was different for her because she lived with them. We are tutors. We don’t often teach actual lessons, but we teach the kids on a one-to-one basis, usually mathematics, but sometimes English. Now that we’ve known them long enough and can speak enough Chichewa, we’re also actually friends with them, so sometimes if they’re really not in the mood to study; we just chat or play with them. For example, last week we made hats and aeroplanes (the kids schooled us in how to make origami aeroplanes) out of the paper they’d been writing their maths work on and invented our own ball games, using books and an umbrella as bats.

 Just in this past week, I have been getting slightly more involved with the social care side of things. I’ve left Blantyre for only second and third times since I got here; first on a trip to a Children’s Village (it’s far too big to just call it an orphanage), which is funded by Aquaid. A group of Samaritan’s kids went for a recreational activity day, they didn’t win any of the football or netball matches but I think they really outshone the other kids in the drama and singing. And they seemed to have fun, which of course is all that really matters J I also went on a home assessment, first to see how sisters Mary and Ethel were settling into their home, which was really great since I never got a chance to say goodbye to them before they were reintegrated, and they were looking very happy and well-settled. Then we went to meet Kondwani’s mother to see if it would be suitable for him to move in with her. I only understood snippets of what she was saying but it was still good to be a part of it all and see where she lives.

We usually just go to the Samaritan Trust in the afternoons now, when the kids are back from school, and often spend our mornings helping out at Nama Simba. I know, helping out at the nursery used to be the bane our our lives, but now we’ve gotten to know the nursery kids a lot better too, we know how to distract them from fighting, and that they enjoy learning and being tested on little things like body parts, colours (using the clothes they're wearing) and writing on the ground with sticks.

At the church I go to, there’s a service for street kids before the normal service. The kids all wait eagerly outside the church building until somebody arrives to open up, and then they pile in, sing and dance for a while before the pastor’s wife preaches to them in Chichewa and then they go outside for mandasi (doughnuts) and sobo (orange squash). I go to help manage crowd control, plate up food and wash hands, but I love sitting in on the service, especially now that I’m getting to know and understand some of the songs they sing. It’s also great because some of the kids who have run away from Samaritan’s go there so I get to chat to them and see how they’re doing. A couple of weeks ago we saw Saidi, who left Samaritan’s a while back, but he was looking indescribably downtrodden. He was in such a bad state that, since he said he wanted to go, Catriona took him to Samaritan’s on the bus, and the change we’ve seen in him since is incredible. He’s so happy and full of life, it’s hard to believe it’s the same kid.

We’ve had a few more issues a home: some kids left graffiti on our house, just some random letters and skull and crossbones, nothing serious, but we’ve also had the outside tap stolen. It was replaced but then the guard broke it whilst trying to fix the new one so we’re again without an outdoor tap. This is a problem because the water needs to go through that pipe to get to the house, so without a tap to control the flow, all of it just shoots out of the opening where the tap should be, and none gets to the house. We’re quite used to living without running water now; it was something I was prepared to do when I applied with Project Trust, and it’s made me realise just how much water I used to use, and waste, both back home and here when we had running water inside the house.

I’m really enjoying myself and feel so at home in Malawi. I quite often think to myself, “This is what I came here to do; this is the gap year I set out to have”.  I’ll be happy to see my family and friends and excited to go to university, but I often find myself thinking that I really don’t want to go home in four months, I wish I could just live here permanently, and worrying that the next four months are going to fly by even quicker than the past four months.

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