Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gule wa Ingoma

(Video - may take a while to download)
Sunday, June 21 there was a large Ingoni tribe dance (Gule wa Ingoma) where I live. It was originally a war dance performed after a successful battle.
About 400 people from Malawi and nearby Zambia attended and it was quite a celebration of traditional culture.

It was organized by my landlord and Malawian brother Williams Lipunga as a cultural celebration and to welcome me to the community.

Many village headmen attended as well as the Group Village Headman, who oversees 14 village headmen.

There was also a small delegation from Mchinji including 2 Peace Corps volunteers: Irene and Lauren, the District Planning Director, and the assistant Forestry Officer.

There is always food involved and the women here are cooking Nsima, the staple food of Malawi. It is a pattie made from a thick cooked mixture of maize flour and water. A Malawian does not feel satisfied unless there is Nsima.

The men wear goatskin and carry a "club" which is a stick with a ball of the end. You can see it between the feet of the dancer on the right.

It was a great day for all!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Swearing In to Peace Corps

Finally, after 2 months of training we were ready to get to our sites and begin. The swearing in ceremony was held at the American ambassador's residence. . .

. . .which is very nice.

Everyone was all dressed up for the occasion. These outfits are made from chitenge's - pieces of fabric used as a traditional skirt by women, but also used to carry babies and many other uses. Local tailors turn them into suits and dresses for a very reasonable price.

There were many officials and guests. On the left is the US ambassador, then the Peace Corps country director and me - giving a short speech for all the new volunteers.

There was merriment. . .

. . .a cake and good food.

Then, the next day, we started loading all our stuff into Land Cruisers for the trip to our new homes in Malawi.

My new home in Lipunga

Here is the front of my new home in Lipunga village. It is big with a main room, 2 bedrooms and a utility room/kitchen.

The front yard has trees and grass which is actually unusual here. Most yards are bare dirt and they are swept every day.

My bafa or bath. It is made of udzi (grass), small trees, bamboo and tied together with strips of the inner back of certain trees. You just grab a top branch of the tree and rip the side off then strip off the inner bark. It makes a strong "rope" to tie things together.

Outdoor kitchen with thatch roof and cement floor.

My mud stove heating a pot of water. Mud stoves are more efficient, which saves trees, and smoke less than an open 3 stone fire. One of our projects is to teach villagers to make mud stoves. All you need are: clay soil, local bricks and wood ashes which are used as insulation.

Women keep their fires going most of the day cooking and heating water. Since there is no electricity or refrigeration food can't be kept long so each meal is cooked from scratch.

Since I am out most of the day working and don't have a wife to mind the "hearth and home" it is difficult to start a wood fire just to cook a pot of rice for dinner so I use this paraffin (kerosene) stove which is quick and easy to use. Paraffin costs about $4 per gallon.

This is the chim, short for chimbuzi (outhouse). It has a hole in the cement floor and yes, I can buy toilet paper.

Since the wether here is mild to hot and people are very poor, the houses are very simple in their contstruction. This is my roof made of "iron sheets". These sheets were used before so there are old nail holes - about 50 - but it doesn't seem to leak.

This is my bedroom. I still don't have any shelves or furniture so my stuff is on the floor, but I do have a small table and 2 chairs.

This is my utility room/kitchen. Here too everything is on the floor until I can make a simple counter with shelves. It's not that simple though - I could hire a local carpenter but bought my own tools to make them myself. I am getting boards which are sawed by hand, then I have to plane them smooth and cut them - all with hand tools.

Everywhere I go kids greet me enthusiastically! They always want me to take their picture and often ask for money.

Mikolongwe Dairy Project

This is Mr Williams Lipunga. He is my landlord and has started a dairy farm to provide milk for improved nutrition as well as economic development. You can find out more about his project and how to help at another blog I have set up at: Friends of Mikolongwe

Giripa is herding one of the cows into the milking stall.

I help with the milking in the morning and evening.

Mr Lipunga is straining the milk before selling it to customers who come to his house. You can see there is a need for better facilities.

To learn more and see how you can help, visit my blog Friends of Mikolongwe

Some Daily Activities and Functions

Here we are compiling crop estimate reports used by the government for planning.

I helped by adding the numbers while the local extension agents provided the numbers for crops, animals

I am with the Agriculture Officer at a training session for one of our irrigated wheat projects. Since this is the dry season the crop must be watered by a canal from the river.

At the training everyone is trying the methods we learned. Small beds are built with ridges to hold the water. You can see the small channel down the middle to distribute water.

In addition to working in the field women bring food and cook food. We east nsima (patties of corn similar to grits) with greens and sweet potatoes.

The women are leveling the beds.

This is a tool I made to make the grooves which the wheat is planted in.

This is a bee keeping group building beehives. I help by offering advice and resources like nails.

These are the simple tools they use. The large tool is an axe and the small one is an adze. They also had a hammer made from a large bolt welded to a handle.

This is a typical outdoor kitchen with a 3 stone fire. It is open with a thatched roof. These fires are smoky and often in enclosed spaces which causes respiratory problems, especially with children.

Occasionally the local CCAP church (Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian) has a revival. This one lasted 3 days and was held outdoors. These are the ministers who led it.

These women are what we would call the ladies auxiliary. They are also a choir group and here they are singing.

This is the rest of the people who attended. I estimated there were about 200 people and they came from villages around the area.

Villages have soccer teams. Soccer is very popular at all levels and inter-village matches are a common week-end entertainment.

Here is one of the teams.

Often I will attend trainings given by other NGO's (Non-Government Organizations) or government agencies. This one was about saving seed for food security and it was a project of CARD (Christian Association for Rural Development).

These are the people who attended the training. They had received seed for various crops last year and the project was being evaluated.


Even though it is just little bits of electricity flying through the ether the contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps.