Archive for August 2007


August 20, 2007

So it has arrived…may last day in Malawi on a JF placement with EWB…

I just submitted my final report to EWB after quite a scramble to complete it – for anyone who is interested, I’d love to discuss it with others.  Other than that, I’ll be having my last supper with my host family tonight, saying my final goodbyes, and taking off for Johannesburg tomorrow!

See you soon 🙂



Wayne’s World

August 11, 2007

(Many Malawians know this one! And in learning a bit of Chichewa and Chitumbuka this summer, I’m fully inspired to re-learn my French…any willing conversation partners?)

So, what’s up in Wayne’s World? I’m on the verge of The Last Week…the days have been long, but the months a mere four blinks of an eye.

As a sweeping update, here’s a look at me for insight on how I have been living, working, smiling, frowning, and plain ol’ chilin in Malawi.

Kawale – my host community – from a hill

I think the best place to start is…

My Mouth…
What I’ve been eating…In the past month or so, I’ve been eating to the point where I may vary my belt among 3 sizes in a single day 😛 I’m very lucky for meals…breakfast has been a pretty steady bread and tea with three teaspoons of sugar, lunch and supper is a rotation of nsima and rice with beans, eggs, chicken, beef, or fish and a side of boiled rape leaves with tomato sauce. And in between meals there’s always a quick snack of oranges, bananas, groundnuts, mandasi (something like a sweet fried dough ball – yummy to the tongue, but likely killer to the heart…still nothing a workout of cooking nsima can’t solve). I took off with Rod for a few days to visit Papa village, and while there, besides being served a lot of rice and chicken (popular for visitors though not typically eaten otherwise), for breakfast I ate chambiku (sour milk) which is taken plain or with rice…”interesting” combo, but a bowl full kept me satisfied despite walking for hours. Overall, I’m feeling I will miss many foods around here!

Me cooking up a storm of nsima for 7

What I’ve been talking about…the typical conversation these days is centred on the current political impasse in Malawi. Parliamentarians are failing to resolve their differences in debating whether a clause in the Constitution should be instated before or after a now outstanding national budget. The clause states that those who have crossed the floor (~40 MP’s in the ruling party) should have their seats declared vacant, which would require expensive local elections very near to the scheduled 2009 national elections. Some claim and imply this is a means for opposition leaders to weaken the ruling party and seek to impeach the President after he left an opposition party from which he won his Presidency to form his own party instead of serving the opposition as a puppet leader. At stake is a national budget which is now over-due causing Malawi to operate without a budget, threatening all government programs which cannot receive funding approval, and quite potentially endangering the lives of Malawians who rely on these government programs for health, agriculture, education, etc. There has been an impressive onslaught of national outcries for MP’s to pass the national budget, and while some reports state mobs have resorted to physical violence against targeted MP’s, most Malawians pride themselves in being peaceful, and thus the majority have held vigils, marches, picket lines, etc.

President Mutharika at a political rally in Kawale

What makes me smile…realizing that though Malawi faces challenges, there are light-hearted, proud individuals with a fiery passion to see growth in Malawi. That potential is wholly inspiring. And I can’t help but smile when I’m cramped riding to and from work on the mini-bus…to survive it, it’s like there’s a sentiment of “push against me, and I’ll push against you” so that we can all make it comfortably.

But to jump around a bit,

My nose…
…typically does not sense a direction I want to follow.

My eyes…
…constantly see new things everyday…way too much to explain here. But broadly, I’m seeing a tonne of the inner workings of development NGOs from Board to field level, responses to donor demands, how history/politics/culture influence the effectiveness of development initiatives from inception to implementation and beyond. I’m seeing the life of people within the NGO sector of Lilongwe, their motivations, challenges, and aspirations.

My eyebrows…
…are typically frowning when I’m at a loss to solve or significantly contribute towards solving the issues I’m seeing. And they’re typically found high on my forehead when Malawians speak to me in their vernacular too quickly!

My ears…
…are listening to more gospel music than ever before. But the gospel is typically in a dance, hip-hop, or R&B style, so the beats and rhythms are catchy even if I can’t follow all the lyrics. But since radios or televisions are either off or full blast, even during a conversation, be a little patient with me when I return if I can’t hear you well 🙂 Although, in the village, the quiet was particularly enjoyable.

My brain…
…continually ponders and probes many questions…for a mere subset of the questions I’m able to remember and articulate at the moment: Would change happen if there was a vision of alternatives?; Does change happen ‘inside-out’ (behaviour->resources->impact), or ‘outside-in’ (resources->behaviour->impact), or somehow in parallel (behaviour, resources->impact)?; What if the push towards performance-focused NGOs (borrowed from private sector) shifted towards (-or back to) service-based NGOs? Then maybe accountability would not be whether NGO objectives were met, but whether NGOs have indeed served beneficiaries; How might the power of donor demands be leveraged to achieve positive impact?; How might private sector development positively impact Malawians?; and the kicker, How can what I do in Canada positively impact Malawians?

That wild light bulb above my brain…
…is seriously on the verge of explosion through the energy of all the Eureka moments I’ve experienced all summer!

Starting back from the bottom…

My feet…
…are my best friend to make things happen, and my worst friend when I pull off my shoes!

My knees…
…are growing pretty strong from squatting.

My knuckles…
…generally heal a few days after doing laundry 🙂

And maybe most importantly,

My heart and soul…
…I started this summer motivated by a passion to learn and contribute towards development, and through the people I’ve met, experiences I’ve absorbed, and opportunities I see exist, that passion has exponentially grown.

I can’t wait to share more in person in few weeks,


Me and Rod hanging out by the lake.

I’ve got mail!

August 11, 2007

A big THANKS to those who sent me some mail!  It was pretty exciting to read your messages, and I relished even peeling off the tape of the envelope 😛  I can speak for my host family and friends in Kawale that they also enjoyed the pictures and postcards.

Unfortunately it came to be so late…there was a hold up at the address because they did not know who I was – and I imagine peering into something from Canada was pretty tempting…

But again, much thanks!

I’ve got mail!


August 6, 2007

I’ve been busy travelling, working, learning over the past three weeks…so I hope to update you all this week…from cell phone woes, to finally observing a strategic planning session facilitated by CADECO, and a five day village stay about a day’s travel north of Lilongwe returning to a family rift centred on juju (aka witchcraft!), to trying to keep abreast of a MAJOR political impasse between a constitutional debate and passing a national budget to the point where many Malawians dread a scenario where donors pull out of Malawi…the days are not nearly long enough!

Stay tuned…but in the meanwhile, enjoy some of the sights of the past week.  Malawi has an incredible landscape.

Pounding cassava flour

Natural beauty

Cassava fields by the lake

The Baobab tree


Kids enjoying the lake

Me by the lake

My host family in Papa village

Lake Malawi