The Soul fam jam is a sweet little gang. Witness and Loveness are a happy couple who have two kids, Olivia and Prince who are five and one, respectively. Witness is a busy guy, working as a Health Surveillance Agent (HSA) at the local Health Center then after work rushing off to school. He’s upgrading his secondary school grades to further his education at a university level; his goal is to reach university by 2014. Olivia is a shy five year old that thinks I’m a freak. Honestly, every child I’ve met here has been over the moon to see me. Olivia, she couldn’t care less – I’m taking it as a reality check. Prince is a handful; weather he’s eating some random object, rolling in the dirt, or singing his early morning songs you can count on him to be up to something. Loveness went took driving lessons after secondary school (few people in Malawi have drivers licences), but living in the village isn’t exactly conducive to life as a driver, so she’s been busting her butt as a house wife for the past few months. Loveness to visit family this past week, and this busting your butt action is what I got to experience first-hand.
BLISTERS and BACK PAIN
The day after Loveness left I realized that I should not have graduated from boy scouts. Armed with six matches I went to battle against the newly splintered wood, aiming to set it ablaze. I set up the tried and true tepee system, with dried kindling and miniscule flakes of wood. Nevertheless, to my fellow boy scout graduates dismay I was down 4 or 5 matches and all I had to show were the chard match sticks. Disappointed with my assumed fire god capabilities, I caved and used a piece of paper from my notebook to start the stubborn fire. This was but the first lesson in my week of “learning’’.
Lesson two: cooking is exhausting. In rural Malawi, people don`t have the time or money to be comfortable cooking. I had the privilege of experiencing this first hand. One lunch midway through my week of learning, it was my time to shine; Mr. Soul was busy at work, and my hunger (which I can only assume matched Mr. Soul`s) was consuming me. With a successful ride on the now pedal less Super Bike I got home determined to unleash my inner chef and make some nsima with soya pieces.
I decided that inhaling the plastic bag was worth the familiarity of cooking with charcoal, but twenty minutes passed and I still wasn`t sure if I had lit the fire – once again failing my fellow boy scouts. Reluctantly, I dove into the cooking unknown and started the wood fire, on which I had never cooked nsima. I found the nsima pot in the darkness of the kitchen covered in the previous night’s snima. Half-heartedly, I grabbed the pot and started scrubbing away which my body quickly rejected – sending obstinate, frustrating aches throughout my back. Finally, with the water heated I started to cook. Successfully cooking nsima on a wood fire, without injury, could win first place at any talent show. Singers and plate spinners got nothing on nsima cookers who have to balance a pot on rocks with precision while aggressively stirring, dodging molten projectiles, and avoiding the scolding touch of the nsima pot – effectively cauterizing any blisters and cuts that you`ve accumulated chopping wood. Needless to say, I came out charred and with a new found appreciation for nsima. Luckily, I had a much easier go with the soya pieces. I sat down exhausted from my laborious work and let the nsima dissolve the hunger brewing within me. It took an absurd amount of time to cook this seemingly simple meal, and Mr. Soul could only laugh when I re-enacted my cooking prowess.
Things I learnt this week:
- Use the dull knife when peeling cassava
- My body is soft, and borderline intolerable to changes to the privileged lifestyle that I`ve been accustomed to.
- Attempting to chop the knotted mango tree is more character building then for fire wood
- My mustache is awesome (personal reflection)
- When carrying water on your head tilt the water bucket farther back then you would think
- Be attentive to your firewood reserves – cold baths are soul shocking
- Searching for sweet potatoes in the morning is a great opportunity to meet your neighbours
Even though this week was my most frustrating, painful, and tiring week yet, its allowed me to understand some of the challenges that Malawian women face on a daily basis.
Now I’m heading off to Lake Malawi for a team meeting and Mid Placement Retreat! So stoked! Time to feel like a tourist 🙂
Thanks for reading! I’d love to read your comments and questions!