I think I got carpel tunnel in Peace Corps. Ever since I’ve had weak wrists and I think it was all the writing by hand (but maybe it was the crocheting). Either way, I did a lot of both, but writing wins. I wrote hundreds of letters, I filled three journals, and I wrote essays for no one in particular. Since blogs didn’t exist (or were not generally used) when I was in Peace Corps, I communicated to the “masses” through mass emails. I’d compose the emails ahead of time by hand as I was planning my venture into the capital.
Through the process of relieving my parents of my old crap (photo albums, journals, letters, etc.), I have started reading my old journals from Peace Corps. It is pretty amazing to read my 9 years younger self’s perspective and reflect on them from my lens today. I have also come across the dozen or so mass emails I wrote. I thought it would be fun to relive some of that experience through this blog by posting some reflections from my journals and mass emails.
June 7, 2004,
Tsetsani, Mtelera, Malawi
So this marks my first real “Oh shit!” moment in Malawi. The last couple days have been like a trip to Camp Malawi. I think staying at the dorms at the Forestry College for the first few days is an excellent idea. First, we got to know the group better and the trainers, too. Anyway, that all is in the past and here I am sitting in my little house in a town I can’t remember the name of with a family I can barely speak to.
I knew I was going to feel like this, but it’s still worth repeating, “Holy Shit!” I think this is what RPCVs talk about when everyday you want to leave more, but you also want to be there more. I’m so glad I’m here, but it’s so weird.
After a morning of training stuff, we hopped in the cars and they took us to the village where we will be for the next two months. As the cars pulled up to the training center, a group of women, men and children were waiting to greet us. It was honestly like a scene from a movie where the “fancy” westerners hop out of their nice vehicle to a crowd of waiting locals wanting to get a look at the white people…”mzungu” in Chichewa.
Then, the women (after going around greeting everyone) who are all our amayis (mothers) sang us a welcome song. Then we were paired up with our mothers and we took our stuff to our new home. This is certainly not like my homestay in Ecuador where we lived in a house similar to my own. I am in a mud hut with a thatched roof, no electricity or running water. I just relieved myself for the first time in a pit latrine.
Anyway, when I got here, my Amayi showed me the Chimbudzi (bath room – i.e. the pit latrine…or big hole in the ground), the Baffa (shower room) and my new home. It is a part from the rest of the house. The only thing in it were a couple of wood end tables.
What I love about reading my journal as opposed to the mass emails is that these thoughts were not meant for a wide audience, they were just for me. They are more honest and truthful about the scariness of the situation.
Now that I’m preparing to head back to Malawi in 3 months, it’s fun to see where I started when I got there. It’ll be even more interesting to compare where I am now to the environment that I left almost 8 years ago. I suppose there’s nothing more important than a mental/emotional preparation.
Circa 2005. My biological family visiting my Malawian host family in Mtelera, Malawi.
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