Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things you would never see in Canada

Almost every day, I have experiences which kinda make me say "oh man.  I am SO far away from Canada."  Sometimes, they are very tiny things and sometimes they are monumental.  and sometimes, i even forget that that they are a little strange.  like this morning... it has so far been a relatively normal day.  Nothing too eventful.  Except for the gecko hiding on my floor that scared me. and the fact that this sign was posted on a lamp post.   Sorry for the poor photo (it was taken with my phone), but I am not sure if you can read it... it says "A night of war against satanic manipulation." oh great.  just what everyone needs.

then, a fellow saw me taking the picture, and after a minute or so of conversation said "I would like to be your friend."  HA.  OK. Fine.  And, I walked into school having a little laugh... that is one of the biggest cultural differences that is hard to overcome. no matter how long you can be here, it feels odd when a complete stranger will a) talk to you on the street and b) offer to be your friend instantly.  And, yes, I do recognize that I am a bit of a abnormality here.  Now, I do recognize that there are people who honestly want to be your friend, but there are also others who are weird and want other things (like money, or a wife).  In a culture where it is completely OK  to talk to strangers on the street, or have small talk with the person sitting beside you, you are going to meet good and not so great people.  Most of the time... it is harmless.  but... it is something that is challenging to overcome culturally.  Mostly, it just makes me laugh.  I laugh every day here.  I. love.that.  

You would also not see a flow like this just growing outside on a front boulevard in Canada.  I offer this photo, because in the next few, you will see something that will cause a huge sad face. (that is my warning... if shocking things... um... shock you, just be warned.)  I offer you this photo because it is beautiful and will make you happy.  It is one of the many realities of Africa which is amazing. This is a flower you would never see in Canada.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tidbits from academia

Every once and a while, something that you read really catches you.  And, for me, that rarely happens in academic literature.  I am currently reading a lot about "participatory research"for my new research manuscript to sum-up my time here in Malawi.  and, I came across this quote.  quite fantastic, i think...

"As people engage in dialogue with each other about their communities and the larger social context, their own internal though patterns and beliefs about their social world change;  their relationships to each other become strengthened; and ultimately, they enhance their capacities to reflect on their own values and to make new choices." 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cape Maclear

Last weekend, I went up to the infamous (at least here in Malawi) Cape Maclear.  It was great to get away from the city (once again!) to be able to hit up a little bit of sun and fun.  I was also given the chance to go and do the Mulanje Cross over... But, I was questioning the chances that I might have to get up to Cape Maclear, before I leave. 

In addition.... it is crunch time! I know it seems strange to consider the fact that I am actually in school while I am here in Malawi... but the end of the semester is just around the corner.  That means that my clinical rotation is finishing up (just two more days!).  I have a clinical note due this week.  I have a concept map that I need to present during the week of December 5th.  I have a rough draft of my manuscript (... aka... my new "research project" which is a manuscript, that often feels like I am writing prose, on establishing inter-institutional global health nursing research collaborations) due on monday.  I have faculty interviews to do.  I have a visa run to Zambia to do.  it is crunch time, my friends.  but, the bonus... I'm in Malawi.  And, crunch time in Montreal (from what I remember) is much more stressful than crunch time in Malawi.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The best and the worst of Malawi

On wednesday, I had a day that really hit both the best and the worst parts of being in Malawi.

I am not sure if I have mentioned it before, but Malawi is nick-named "the warm heart of Africa." I believe it is because of the well known warmth and friendliness of the people who live here.  I know I have mentioned previously how I find that Malawians are quite reserved (as compared to other Africans, especially West Africans that I have met);  but, with that sense of being reserved, they just seems to contain a gentleness and kindness that seeps from their personalities.

Late last week, the caretaker of the hostel I am staying in came into my room.  "I want to tell you something," he said.  Yolam is an exceptionally soft spoken, gentle fellow, not prone to boughts of extreme excitement.  most likely not accustomed to extreme extroversion that is sometimes included in my personality.  "My daughter...." (silence.)  "Yes, Yolam.  tell me."  (i was in a tiff that week, thinking that everyone was wanting to ask for money.  i, in no good reason, thought that he was about to ask me for money as well... how wrong I was."  "My daughter... My wife.. She had a baby last week."  "WHAT!  OHHHH!  YAY!  Yolam!  how exciting! let me give you a hug!"  and, there it was.

so, on wednesday, as I was walking to the hospital for my clinical rotation, I met Yolam on the road.  We did our regular greeting and I shook his hand.  As he shook his hand, he then (somewhat hesitantly, but, still, he initiated) he hugged me!  and, i don't know about you, but, a hug a day is pretty much something that is essential in my life.  It was such a special moment for me, because all of a sudden, it seemed as if we had crossed the line from "caretaker-liver in hostel" relationship, to friendship.  and, that just made me so happy.

that is the best of malawi.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

NIxon's Paintings

Ok, yesterday I told you about Nixon, who is an artist.  These are his paintings.    They are a variety of sizes and a variety of styles, as you can see.  They are Nixon's sole source of income, and he has asked if I could bring them back to Canada to give to a friend of his to sell.  I thought I would blog them, in case YOU might wan to buy one.  Send me an offer.  I will bring them back to Canada, via seattle.  So, they can be shipped to you (you pay shipping), or if you live in Montreal, Vancouver or Seattle-Tacoma, I can get them to you directly.  

Let me know which one you like, and shoot me an offer.  I will tell you if it is appropriate, and then I will tell you how to get the Money to me, so that I can pay him for them.   He will be using the proceeds to pay for school fees for his children.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Calm...

if this post works, I will be *thrilled.*  my internet is SO touch and go these days.  skype cuts in and out.  webpages just don't load. even at the college the other day, it took about 3 hours for one episode of "bones" to download.  i can't read any facebook notifications or messages, they just don't load (gasp.  what in the world am I going to do!??!  ha!)  emails may or may not load.  siiiiigh.  and, yet... I try.  I try to connect to the internet, even when the internet gods are telling me to cease and desist.   oh well.

I am over my tizzy from last week.  And, I am SO glad about that.  The calm, the joy, the wonders of being here in Malawi have returned from lacking last week.  my grouchiness has past, and most days I am walking around with a little jump in my step again.

except... I am sick.  I feel a little silly, because I am such a typical "muzungu" and, I automatically expect malaria.  "its malaria!" I say.  but, my signs and symptoms are so non-specific.... nausea, diarrhoea, malaise, headache, achey muscles, sore throat (that is definitely not common with Malaria).  "its not malaria.  don't make silly presumptions!" I say.  but, when you take anti-malarial prophylaxis, your signs and symptoms could be suppressed. "it's malaria!" I say.  but, i have a sore throat. "it's not malaria.  people with malaria don't get sore throats.  and, they have a fever more often than not."

so. maybe i have malaria and am going to die.  or, maybe i have a cold and I need to sleep more.