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The Gule Wamkulu, Baboons, and Homestay: Part One

Lilongwe, Malawi

A little more detailed update on our very busy first three weeks here in Malawi...

We spent the first few days in Malawi enjoying Cool Runnings, a lakeside "resort" at Senga Bay on Lake Malawi. Instead of beautiful beach weather, we experienced unseasonal torrential downpours. The sound of the rain on the tin roofs was deafening, yet the extreme calm that follows such a downpour was beyond amazing. While the rain was at bay, hundreds of fishermen would head out in their dugout canoes. At night, we could see their lights shining far out across the lake. We even got to witness a handful of extremely ripped men pulling in the fishing nets in the afternoon. It took about two hours of constant labor to get just one net back on shore. The fish they caught were miniature and seemed ironic in relation to their long hours of hard work. "Beach boys" walked the beach, trying to sell the "azungus" (meaning "foreigners" in Chichewa, the local language) their batiks and jewelry.

We spent our days there at the Lake becoming familiar with the World Camp curriculum of HIV prevention and environmental issues prevalent in Malawi, such as deforestation and soil erosion. The curriculum is very interactive and hands-on which makes it a blast for both us, the teachers, and the students, who are used to a much more formal classroom setting.

From the Lake, we jumped right in to our first three-day camp at a refugee camp about 1.5 hours outside Lilongwe. Working at a refugee camp was a first for World Camp and was both a challenge and an incredible experience. The camp had been run by the UN for several years, but the UN just pulled out about a year ago because they were at maximum capacity (5000) and it had been open for 10 years. We met refugees from the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sudan. Languages spoken at the camp ranged from English to Chichewa to Swahili to French. The "classrooms" were tiny rooms scattered throughout the maze of a camp. It took us the entire first morning just to separate the students into classes and actually find rooms that were big enough. Janie taught at the first camp and Price led the teacher workshop. It was scary to see how little the community really knew about HIV/AIDS - such as the correct way to use a condom and the three modes of transmission (blood-to-blood, unprotected sex, and mother-to-child). Though the camp was chaotic at times due to the physical circumstances of the camp and the multitude of languages spoken (making it especially challenging for our Chichewa translators), we felt very successful at the end of the three days. One "student" who claimed he was 18 years old epitomized the chaos/randomness of this camp - he called himself Ja Rule - we found out later that he was really 25 (we actually think he was closer to 40).

permalink written by  Price and Janie on January 17, 2007 from Lilongwe, Malawi
from the travel blog: Price and Janie do the World
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Price, Maris forwarded your story to us, and we really enjoyed reading about what you are doing. As I think Jesus told the guy, "go and do likewise", which is exactly what you are doing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

John Demosthenes

permalink written by  John Demosthenes on January 21, 2007

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