May 30 2012

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Community Integration

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

I am finally getting settled at my site but still getting to know the community. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I actually miss the village lifestyle of not having electricity, running water and small community where everyone knows your name and not be addressed as “azungu” or “machina”. Azungu is a Chichewa word for an outsider/foreigner/someone with money, etc. And Machina is a Chinese person. This happens everyday without failure. I just ignore them or if I’m in the mood to chat, I stop and tell them that I am not an Azungu or Machina. I say this in Chichewa and their eyes just light up because I am speaking their local language.

So to give you all an idea of what my everyday life is like, I wake up before 8am. I used to wake up at 5am when I was at the college and village but due to non-stop howling of dogs at night, I haven’t been able to get any sleep. My neighbor has 5 dogs and these dogs are lazy and sleep all day but are very active at night. They also seem to multiply during nighttime as I hear more than 5 dogs howling non-stop from 10pm-3am. Anyway, I wake up at 8am, workout for a little bit (I bought a jungle gym that hangs off my roof inside my house. I do push ups, pull ups, squats, etc.) While I heat up water for my coffee. Then I get water from the borehole behind my house and if I feel like treating myself, I heat up water so I can have a warm bafa (bafa is Chichewa for bath – bucket bath that is.). If not, then I just take a quick cold bath. I also have been taking regular baths, just a little fyi, I know some of you are probably wondering about my hygiene haha. After that, I go to work then come back around 5pm and cook dinner.

Speaking of cooking, let me tell you about my experience a few weeks ago trying to start a fire *sigh*. Electricity here is not reliable at all. It goes out at random times and ver unpredictable. So about 2 weeks ago, I came home late and started to make dinner but the power went out so I bought a “baola” – charcoal burner. Then bought charcoal and started making fire but failed. I finished a box full of matches and still was “Billy Joel” (We didn’t start the fire. Haha). So an hour later, my neighbor finally came up to me and said “I’m here to help you start the fire. Here are some plastics, place this in the middle and start the fire from there. ” I was shocked! Not because he came to help but because he was speaking to me in Chinese and I was able to understand what he was saying. What shocked me was he is Malawian! Not really, I just wanted to get your attention since this post is getting long. Haha. So finally got the fire started and made dinner….then the power went back on *sigh*

I think I will end my post here and continue again sometime this week.

Btw, Malawi is a cold place! Feels like Southern California in January.

Time for me to head to work.


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  1. nina

    Too bad we cant see each other this June.. I will be flying to Charleston and NYC… But seems your having fun there.. Take care always!!!

    1. jesplana

      I know!! You should make a stop in Africa haha.

  2. Marie Mayen-Cho

    Hi Juan,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. It sounds like quite the adventure, and I love that you still have a sense of humor. Thank you for giving us an update on the shower situation. Connie and I often wonder about that.

    What are you doing at work now? How can you possibly understand Chinese???

    Anyway, take care and stay warm, and clean!!! Lol.


    1. jesplana

      Hi Marie!
      Everyday here is an adventure. I never know who I am going to run into or the kind of questions I will get asked. Haha
      Personal hygiene is important.. Very important, at least to me. Haha. I can’t speak for everyone here.

      As far as work, I will write about it soon. As for understanding Chinese, well.. Haha. I love Chinese food!

  3. Trinitas

    This is a very interesting piece of writing. Charcoal burner in Chichewa is mbaula, just in case…..

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