No Bodza


It has been 738 days since I was last in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

When I was last in America everyone was looking forward to the Dark Knight Rises coming out in theaters next month. Call Me Maybe was a hit song on the radio. There were no Brooklyn Nets. None of my family members had smart phones (dad’s still holding out) and no one ever used the words ‘selfie’ or ‘twerking.’ 

In a few hours I’m getting together with other PCVs to root for Team USA in the World Cup. I miss my country and can’t wait to come home. But I’ve also gained so much in my two years here- including a second home. 



Fly away baby birds

On Friday the school went to church to pray for our form two students. These students are about to begin their long-awaited Junior Certificate Examinations, and as they brought their calculators and pencils up to the altar to be blessed I smiled with sincere admiration and fondness. I have grown to love these kids, and I’m filled with emotions.

The first term was not easy. I spent the first few months frustrated and unsure of everything, and they seemed to spend the first few months staring blankly at the stranger in front of the chalkboard who probably spoke too fast in a language they were hardly comfortable with. But eventually I started to get the hang of village life, and they started to open up. I’ve probably spent more hours with this class of ~130 students than anyone else during my service, and thus we’ve gotten to know each other a little bit. I’ve been privileged to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Malawian student, and I think they now view me as just another teacher (no more blank stares), which is really the integration goal. But now it’s come to a close.

As I reflect on my time in Malawi, I find that many of my happiest memories were spent with these students. While adults frequently let me down, they never disappointed me. These kids are hard working, kind, respectful, and smart. The odds are stacked against them, but I like to think they’re a little better off for having had me as a teacher.


Election Day

When pride gives you blisters

The rains have come and gone and Malawians have harvested their maize. The next step in the farming process, which began about a week ago, is removing the pieces of corn off of the cob, collecting the pieces into big sacs, and then discarding the cobs. (There is probably an English word to summarize that description.) Armies of small children are employed to help the families with this task. Sometimes on my front porch. At 6 AM. On a Saturday. (Who’s bitter?) I thought it looked simple. WRONG AGAIN, AZUNGU.

So on Saturday afternoon I went over to Caeser’s to find the family outside working. I sat down, was given a glass of guava & banana wine, and offered my assistance. While working I realized that this job was actually kindof annoying and was hurting my fingers, but refusing to sit idly while everyone was working, I kept at it.

A man on a bicycle stopped to chat. He said something along the lines of me not being able to manage because of my delicate white lady hands. ‘No!’ Caeser protested, ‘she’s doing it!’ I was motivated further. I’m one of you! Americans can work hard too! I am integrated!  But also, Damn, this sucks!

Then Mrs. Kasani from next door came over and said ‘Ah, Rita, you’re going to hurt your hands!’  I assured her it only hurt a little bit, but I could already see big blisters forming on both thumbs. At this point I started to slow down my efforts. I quoted back to Caeser one of his own favorite expressions, “This is not a joke.” He laughed and suggested that in America we probably used machines. But he appreciated my efforts and in his ever courteous nature said, “Just enjoy your wine.” “Yea, let me stick to what I know best,” I said, taking a long sip to try and soothe my throbbing hands.

These wounds will heal, and it was definitely worth making a few Malawian heads turn and smile at the strange foreigner getting her hands dirty with the rest of em.

To be rich while you are not educated is the same as wearing a big hat while you have got a small head

- I have spent far too much time contemplating this sentence a student wrote in their composition.

May 8


My cat ran away over a month ago and it appears the mice have noticed and moved back in while I was away. So the other night I borrowed Caeser’s cat, Poacher. Poacher was not happy with this arrangement. He fought the whole way here, and upon trapping him in my house he spent the first 30 minutes checking every window for a means to escape. I fell asleep to the sound of him crying (dramatic much?)

Throughout the night I continued to hear him meowing from the living room and I started to think that this had been a bad idea. But when I woke up in the morning to let the whiner out, I found a big mess of knocked over dirty dishes, a pile of cat shit, AND three dead mice. She did the job and still made her point of unhappiness perfectly clear- what a boss.

May 8

97 days and (trying to avoid) counting

Last week was Education 2012’s COS (close of service) conference!  I learned procedures for leaving, that it’s probably time I start looking for a job, how to readjust back to life in America (It will probably be harder than you might think), and most importantly, spent some time with my beloved PC family.

I leave Malawi on August 13th. 97 days from now. I am both ecstatic and terrified.  I yearn to see my family, friends and oversized sandwiches once again, and yet can’t handle the idea of leaving the friends I’ve made and the experience itself.

I suppose my strategy is just to remain as present as possible. Cherish the moments spent laughing with students, drinking bucket wine with Caeser, greeting everyone in the market, and even the smelly, overcrowded minibuses sent from hell. It aint over til it’s over- you’re not gonna see anything mournful and sappy for at least two more months. 97 days. BRING IT ON, MALAWI.

May 8

Because I Went to Sky

“Madam, masowa!” students and friends greeted me as a reminder that I was out of the village for all of April. Yes I was missing, including missing from tumblr, and I’m here now to tell you the biggest and best reason why: Camp Sky!

Camp Sky was a weeklong education camp for some truly spectacular Malawian students, and I was one member of a team of dedicated PCV coordinators. It took us a whole year to plan the camp. We discussed every detail and problem solved more than I ever thought I would- from forming our objectives all the way to buying 68 chickens without any cash. It was one of the most challenging, exhausting, and rewarding experiences of my life.

The camp was a success! Everyone had a great time, learned a lot, tried new things, and made new friends. The biggest evidence of success I’ve seen is in my own students that attended the camp. One week of meeting peers as gifted as they are, access to resources  & information they were lacking, and simply being believed in has changed them. They came back more confident, carrying with them the belief that (as one student put it)  “the impossible is now possible.”

Thank you to anyone who donated and helped us achieve our goals- I can assure you that you helped give 120 people the experience of a lifetime. I hope to keep in touch with Denis and Esther after they graduate. With kids like them leading the way, the future of Malawi looks bright.


Exclusive interview with camper Taysedwa!

So here’s Taye (pronounced Ty) being interviewed by his teacher/counselor, Melissa, at Camp Sky. He shows off his designer Camp Sky bag…they’re all the rage in Europe right now you know. Go Taye!