October 23, 2016
Well, it’s into the evening now, past my bedtime and I’m just getting back to this. It’s been a long day.
The college has several vehicles to transport us to the various clinical sites and there are drivers to go along with the vehicles. A couple of weeks ago, one of the drivers, named Mark, asked me what church I go to. Everyone asks that here. Church is very important to them. I told him I was Catholic and he lit up. He is too! Wonderful! He asked if I would like to go to his church sometime. I said, “Sure. We’ll figure out a Sunday to come.” Well, we didn’t have much going on this weekend, so I send him a text yesterday saying we’d join him for mass today and asked for directions to his church. I told him we’d ride our bikes and meet him there. He told us it was seven kilometers down the Chicwawa Road, and he would meet us at the Chadzunda Trading Center. Great. No problem. We figured, what’s 7K? About four miles? Maybe a little less? We’d leave in plenty of time and get there early. We gave ourselves forty-five minutes, which should have been ample. We set off, and rode and rode and rode, downhill a long way. I will say the scenery was beautiful, but I was getting worried about getting home. I know Chicwawa is at sea level and was hoping we weren’t descending 3,500 feet. When an hour had past, Mark called my cell to see where we were. I gave him the landmarks we were passing and asked how much further? He said, “Just keep coming.” About fifteen minutes later, we finally rode into the village of Chadzunda and Mark was there waiting for us. We were pretty well drenched with sweat, a bad sign early in the morning having just gone about fifteen miles downhill. We locked our bikes at a local store and Mark led us into the village to the church. This was another fifteen minutes or so. We never would have found this church on our own. My original thought was to meet him at the church, but I soon saw why he told us he’d meet us at the trading center. We’d still be wandering around dirt paths looking for it.
We could hear the choir from a hundred yards away. They were fabulous. It was a St Vincent De Paul mission church and, let me tell you, it was simple. The choir wore “poor people’s clothes” and the church was a basic brick structure with a tin roof. It was packed to the gills with people, all on low wooden benches with no backs. We knelt on the cement floor. After the long ride and the longish walk in the sun, we were a little overheated. Then we spent three hours inside what was basically a large brick oven. I could feel the sweat dripping down my back, down my cheeks, into my ears. I don’t think I sweat that much when I ran the marathon. The mass was in Chichewa, and it was really lovely. The singing and swaying were spectacular. This is an award winning choir and they have a CD, which we bought when mass ended hours later.
Mark asked if we would come to his house for lunch and we accepted. Again, he lit up. I was so hot I didn’t have much of an appetite, but I didn’t want to refuse his invitation. He was born and raised in this village and he was so proud. He had lived for years in Blantyre to be close to work, but when his father died three years ago, he moved back to the village to protect the family land. We walked from the church to collect our bikes, then walked with him to his house, about a mile away. The property was beautiful and he has built a nice house at the top of a hill, nice breeze blowing through the open windows. We sat and chatted with him and his brother for maybe an hour, when two young women came in with plates of food. They put them on the table in the next room. I was glad when they finally brought the food, as it was getting late and we had that long ride uphill to get home. George, with a big smile on his face, said,”Oh, great! I’m looking forward to some nsima!” Everyone in the room looked at him in horror. Mark said with alarm, “You want nsima?” and realizing his mistake, George said, “Oh, No! No! Whatever you have will be fine!” I piped in, “We will eat whatever you have brought!” but Mark got up and said something to the young women and they gathered up all the plates of food and left. Then we sat there for another half hour waiting for them to make the nsima that George so enthusiastically said he wanted. I glared at him. He said, “Why can’t I keep my mouth shut?” I said, “That’s what I keep trying to figure out.” Ok, he was trying to be nice. Malawians always eat nsima, but they apparently didn’t think we did, so they had made potatoes for us. When the women came back a while later, they handed us each a plate heaped with potatoes, beef and nsima and salad. My plate alone could have fed four people. There was no way I could have eaten all that. I said grace as asked, and we dove into the food. I ate about a fifth of what was on my plate, but George shoveled every last morsel down his gullet. I watched him and said to myself, “He is going to explode.” He said he was going to eat it all if it killed him.
Mark tried to talk us into waiting until later in the day when it might be cooler, but we had guests coming for dinner and we didn’t know how long it would take us to get home, so we set off around two for the long haul home. It was bloody hot. And grueling. We had to stop twice to buy more water to drink. I probably drank three liters of water and didn’t have to pee once. So we left for church at 8:30 this morning and returned home at 4 p.m. Like the puritans.
Ok, I finally started doing the job I came here to do. On Tuesday morning, after the Monday Mother’s Day holiday, I showed up at the college and tried to find someone and see what was happening. It was the first day of classes and as far as I knew, I was supposed to be teaching something. I’d heard that the upperclassmen (second, third, and fourth year students) had been delayed a few weeks and weren’t starting until November first. I didn’t know what this meant for me and the first year students, I was supposed to be teaching.
As I was walking to the IT department to see about connecting to the internet, Lily, the dean, called to me from her office window. Thrilled to have a purpose, I ran to her door. She and the other dean were revising the schedule and wanted to know which classes I was willing to teach. “Aren’t classes supposed to start today?” I asked. Lily answered, “Yes, we will be going there shortly. I told the students we will start a bit late today.” It was 8 o’clock and the class was supposed to start at 7:30. Lily and Ursula needed to know if I could teach the class on Wednesday morning, from 7:30 until noon. I assumed since it was less than twenty four hours away, the expectation would be a bit low. “Sure,” I said. I’d already looked over the module and the first one looked pretty basic, about nursing and midwifery values. I figured I could wing it. I went with Lily to observe her teach the first class, which, was just an introduction to the module on Fundamentals of Midwifery. It was supposed to be a two hour class; we were starting a half hour late but she fit it all in to the allotted time. These twenty-one students are the ones I’ll be with all year. This is great. It’ll take me that long to learn all their names. As they went around the room introducing themselves and telling us where they were from and which secondary school they went to, I could understand about none of it. They speak incredibly softly and I still struggle with the accent. I really don’t know how I did this in French. I’m hoping they will open up a little as we get to know each other.
At 9:30 I went to my office to plan for the next day. It was then that I realized that four hours is a long time!! I figured I could fill it, but I was getting tired just thinking about having to be in front of a class that long and trying to keep it interesting. It was actually four and a half hours, but they get a half hour tea break. I was starting to think I shouldn’t have been so cocky. I was depending on a certain level of discussion to kill the time and wasn’t sure what I’d do if no one said anything. My empathy for my college professors was going way up. Like what if I see someone falling asleep? What do I do then? Let them sleep? I imagined a lively discussion and hoped I could will it into reality. I started googling group activities. I thought maybe I could pepper the four hours with some of that. I had already thought I’d start off with a writing exercise like we do in my women’s group at home. That’ll kill some time and is a bit of an icebreaker. I could throw a few more of those in there, or maybe end with one.
Then I started trying to make power point slides. I have no experience with this, but everyone here does it and I need to get comfortable with it. I put my outline on there and they were the most dull things imaginable, but I didn’t have time to play around and make them pretty. I was kinda proud of myself when I figured out how to put a border around the text. Good enough for the first day, I thought.
Wednesday I was up at 3 a.m., wide awake, obsessing about filling a four hour time slot, and trying to think of anecdotal stories to tell to relate to each of the values I was outlining. That was useless. I decided to make a good breakfast, and we had power so I went at it. When he got up, George asked if I was anxious about teaching the class. “No! Why did you even ask that?” I sniped, a little more snippy than I intended. He said, “Well, you are banging things around the kitchen. I just thought you might be anxious.” Ok. So I was a little anxious.
It went pretty well, I thought, but I had no idea what to do with myself during the group activity work. It’s a little awkward. I need to plan some activities for myself. Tomorrow is my next class. I’m teaching Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs. I had two whole days to play around with the keynote program (mac’s version of power point) and I am getting addicted. I had to google how to use it and found a 50 minute youtube video! My children are being replaced! I could not believe how much fun I was having making those slides. And I learned way more about Maslow than I ever did when I studied him in school. Really, I’ve decided the best way to learn something is to have to teach it.
It’s late and I have to get to bed. This is totally unedited and probably crap, but I can’t go back through it now. I’ll post it while we have power and then get to bed and do better next week.
Love to all,