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MALAWI
A YEAR OF INSPIRATION, REFLECTION, AND ADVENTURE

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Contents
arriVaL 4
Life at the MaLawi ChiLdren’s ViLLage 8
adjusting to afriCa 12
siCkness and heaLth 16
neighbors 22
entertainMent eConoMiCs 26
funny stories 30
dry seX and MaLawian hosPitaLity 34
enigMatiCaL PoVerty 40
danCing with Men 48
easter break adVentures 50
LaPtoPs and aPProPriate teChnoLogy 62
on bribery 68
MaLawian Money 72
reduCe-reuse-reCyCLe-rePair 76
Mysterious friends 80
it’s the eConoMy stuPid 82
generosity…in Moderation 90
siCkness 94

4 hoMe 100
arriVaL
We have made it! Jes and I have spent the last several days on planes, flying from I have yet to manage to open it with only a 3 inch pocket knife. A machete is high
Portland to Atlanta, to Dakar, to Johannesburg, and finally to Lilongwe. After on my shopping list. MCV grows much of its own food and we were told by the
arriving in Malawi, we were picked up by a driver from the Malawi Children’s grounds keeper to help ourselves to the fruits of the mango and papaya trees. The
Village (MCV) who drove us the final five hour leg to MCV. lake is only a short walk away but we have been told that it is not safe to swim in
because of parasites. This nearly destroyed me, since at the time I was sweating
The night spent in South Africa was a surreal experience. We stayed in a hostel from head to toe at 7 o’clock in the morning. It is very hot, but Jes has discovered
several miles from the airport that was located in the middle of a neighborhood that by laying on the cement floor you sweat less. I have stolen her discovery
that could have been mistaken for a white upper-middleclass American suburb. and now spend much of my time at home laying on the floor. The water is not
The desk clerk at the hostel spoke with an American accent and, when I men- safe to drink so we are boiling and filtering it with a hand pump. When we are
tioned that I was from Oregon, asked if I lived near Portland. It was odd to have not at home laying on the floor, we are pumping and boiling water to quench
flown for over 20 hours and feel like we were still in America. We only had one our monstrous tropical thirst. MCV is currently without internet because they
night in South Africa, but I imagine that if we had ventured to other parts of couldn’t make the payments, so if you email do not expect a prompt reply. I am
Johannesburg, our experience would have been markedly different. The impact emailing this from the director’s house which has dial-up internet access.
of apartheid still reverberates in South Africa, where the 10% of the population
that is white controls over 40% of the country’s wealth. The racial populations Yesterday (Saturday), we met with the principal and discussed our teaching
are still highly segregated and the country is often described as two countries, schedules. I start teaching on Monday and I have been preparing classes today
white and black. Alas, I suspect we saw only one of these countries. (talk about a lot of prep time). The textbooks are surprising progressive, but I
am finding it difficult to explain many physics concepts without referencing 1st
Traveling from South Africa to Malawi was like being transported through time. world technologies. Malawian technology is one of the most enigmatic things
As we flew from one of the richest countries in Africa to one of the poorest, I have ever encountered. Most Malawians live in mud huts with thatched roofs,
the view from the air changed from one dominated by large circular agricultural walk or ride bicycles, and have cell phones. When walking down the market
fields, to one of sporadic misshapen ones. As we approached Lilongwe Inter- street there are electronics vendors hawking cell phones, stereos, and DVDs
national Airport, I kept waiting to see a city. Lilongwe has over 600,000 people, from their lashed and thatched stands adjacent to stands selling produce and
but from the air it resembles a city the size of Corvallis (a town of only 50,000 (whole) chickens. Very odd.
people).
Well, that is all for now, I have to go down to the lake to do some laundry. I am
Malawi certainly deserves its reputation as one of the friendliest places in Africa. sending some pictures of our house; I will send more later and tell you how
Jes and I have been treated with so much hospitality since we got here. Our first teaching is going. Again, updates may be irregular seeing as the internet may be
day here we were greeted by one of the MCV employees who took us on a tour. down indefinitely. Love to hear from you.
The campus is very impressive with many building projects currently underway.
We are staying in a very well equipped guest house. We have electricity and even
a stove and a refrigerator. The house has a beautifully landscaped yard full of
palm trees. I climbed one of them and successfully retrieved a coconut; however,

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Right: A typical Malawian village as seen from above.
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[Left Page] Right: A young Malawian boy looks
on from his front door. Above: Cows on the road
between MCV and Mangochi.

[Right Page] Pictures from around our hut at


MCV. As you can see we were blessed with a re-
frigerator, an oven, and running water. Though the
running water and electricity went out often. The
hammocks took up permanent residence outside
and were often used to hang laundry. Our hut was
made of mud brick with a roof of thatch and cor-
rugated metal.

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Life at the Malawi Children’s Village
I have just finished my first week of teaching and what an interesting experi-
ence; it is peculiar to be on the other end of it for once. I am teaching freshman
and sophomore physical science, as well as sophomore mathematics. My first
lecture experience was met by a classroom of blank stares. I was attempting to
explain the scientific method to my freshman physical science class, which is
difficult considering it was their first week of classes in English (English lectures
are only required in secondary school) [I later learned this was actually incor-
rect. Classes are taught completely in English starting mid way through primary
school]. I was told later that most teachers skip the scientific method and start
with more hands on topics. We are now learning about force quite successfully.
I was, however, amazed by one of the student responses. We were trying to test
the hypothesis of whether increased sunlight leads to increased maize growth.
One student stands up and in broken English says, “Plant 30 maize stocks in
middle field, plant 30 maize stocks under trees.” Needless to say I was impressed.
My second class was mathematics and, with a few lecture style alterations on my
part, went quite well. After a day or two I have gotten into the swing of things and
students really seem to be getting it. Today I had freshman physical science again
and after several demonstrations, a few games of tug of war, and lots of diagram-
ming I think most of the students understand the basics of force. The teaching
load is very reasonable, most teachers only teach about 2-3 hours a day. This
leaves plenty of time for prep work and socializing. It has been fun getting to
know all the other teachers. They are helping me learn Chichewa, albeit slowly.
At lunch the cooks bring huge bowls of nsima (corn mush) and beans into the
teachers room and we all eat together. One of the teachers, Andrea, is going to
take us into town tomorrow to get more supplies.

Most essentials we can get within a 30 minute walk. I found a stand by the road
which sells tomatoes, onions, and fish (although nothing larger than an inch
long). Down the road a ways there is a farm where you can buy chickens. I went
by today for the first time and said I wanted khuku (Chichewa for chicken). The
woman started leading me toward the chicken coop then paused and said, “oh
do you want them dead?” I said that was preferable and thankfully there were
several frozen ones. If you hang around on the road long enough there inevitably
A view of the school and the huge baobab tree at its center.

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passes the most wonderful thing on this earth, a man with a bicycle full of mangos. I discov-
ered this several days ago and have since scared several mango men half to death by running
after them yelling Mango? Mango? Mango? The mangos can be had for about 7 cents and
there is nothing quite like a fresh mango. I have been eating about three a day, one at break-
fast, one at lunch, and one at a time after school and before dinner which has been termed
“mango time.” If we happen to have beer (which is unlikely) it is called “beer and mango
time.”

My diet, aside from being rather heavy on the mangos, could be described as that of
the average Malawian. This means that I eat nothing but corn mush and beans, with
the occasional side of minnows or vegetables. Well, I hope that I have been eating only
nsima and beans; when we were cooking dinner last night we noticed tiny holes in
all of our food sacks accompanied by wee little rat turds. Jes gave me an, “I told you
so” look, since she had been insisting that she heard rats in the cupboard while I had
maintained it was all in her head and that she should stop waking me up.

A few days ago Jes and I walked a kilometer or so down the road to a resort that was
rumored to have a beach where it was safe to swim. The lake has parasites and croco-
diles, so unless the beach is clear of reeds, you run the risk of being eaten from the inside
or outside, or both. The resort was a local destination and was apparently quite popular
at one point. Now, however, the place looks a bit like a ghost town, with cracking side-
walks and not a soul to be found. The beach was as advertised though, and after a
cursory check for crocodiles, I exuberantly dove in; by which I mean I rushed in while
simultaneously being careful to avoid getting water in my ears, eyes, nose, or mouth.
The water was so warm I was unsure whether I was actually swimming. Apparently
there is a place an hour away where you can rent snorkel equipment, although I will
have to wait for that until I become more proficient with matolas (trucks that go up
and down the road offering rides).

That is all for now, I will keep everyone informed as to how Jes and I are fairing. So far
we love Malawi and are having a great time. I loved getting your emails last week, so
long for now.

Top: I use the only teaching materials given (chalk and a board) to convey the
thermal properties of matter to my Form 2 A class. Middle: Jes helps her students
in Form104 A with biology. Bottom: Jesse prepares his lesson in the teachers’ room 10
using a Malawian text book and the national syllabus.
[Left Page] Left: the middle row of my Form 2A class. Notice the second girl is wearing the
“official” school jersey with the monogram AHS. This does not stand for Gracious Sec-
ondary School, but instead bears the name of the American high school that donated the
sweatshirts. Top: my Form 2A class getting ready for physical science. Bottom: me with two
of my Form 1 students. [Right Page] Top Left: the mango tree outside our house. I had to
be quick to pick them before the students beat me to it. Top Right: Jes sits down to a dinner
of potatoes, pumpkin leaves, and beans. The beans were often a little hard because we never
remembered to soak them long enough. She is wearing her head lamp in anticipation of the
nightly power outage. Bottom: a tomato stand on the side of the road near Mangochi. These
roadside stands have better prices than the markets, but are hard to access without a car.

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Adjusting to Africa
Happy inauguration day! Okay, so this will likely be sent out some time after the votes. The election is around the corner in Malawi and people keep asking me if
inauguration, but everyone was quite excited about the event in Malawi. Several I am going to vote. I figured that voting would be out of the question since I am
teachers and I caught a ride to a local resort to watch the inauguration on CNN. not a citizen; however, when I raise this point to Malawians they shrug it off as if
I always wonder how organizers decide when to hold large events. I know that to say, “more questionable things have happened.”
most of the popular sports at the Olympics were held at obscure hours in Beijing
so that they could be broadcast live for prime time in America. If America was Jes and I stick out around here like a sore thumb, so people are quickly realizing
considered the target audience for the Olympics, then Africa must have been and adjusting to our presence. Many people now know our names and we see
the target audience for the inauguration; in Malawi we enjoyed live coverage at many friends on the road now. Many students live within a mile or two of the
6pm. With good reason, I suspect that Barack Obama is far more popular here school and upon the frequent roadside meeting I feel at an inherent disadvan-
than he is in America. All you hear is Obama this and Obama that. When people tage. If I am lucky they will say, “Sir, Sir,” at least informing me that they are a
hear that I voted for Obama they get really excited. I get the distinct feeling that student. If they are in my classes I also have a chance, but most of the time my
most people think that American politics impacts their lives about as much as standard greeting is met with, “I go to Gracious (the school), I am in Form X, we
Malawian politics, and alas they get only one vote. Oddly enough, I may get two met during the X event, do you remember?” Most of the time, in an effort to be

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polite, I say “oh, I remember now,” but in reality if the student is not in one of my point, since I am pretty sure I saw one or two people approach the truck, haggle
classes the odds of me remembering a face out of hundreds is on par with me a fare, and board, all while the drivers were arguing with the police. After a lot of
passing on an opportunity to buy mangos. shouting between the police and the drivers, and a lot of laughing by everyone
in the truck (the riders seemed to think it was pretty funny), we were allowed to
We usually go into town on weekends to buy supplies we can’t get from local go on our way. On the return trip someone was trying to rip us off, but thank-
farmers. We travel the 10km trek in a matola, a form of public transport which fully a friend from MCV happened to be on the truck and yelled at the person
involves as many people as possible cramming into the back of a compact pickup that we were volunteering at MCV and to leave us alone.
truck. I counted 23 in the back this weekend and I
imagine there were several more in the front. We Jes and I attended the local church today.
got stopped at a police checkpoint because One of the men who works security at
the drivers hadn’t paid to update their MCV is the chairman and invited us
permit. Apparently all you need to visit. The sermon was in the
to carry a dangerous number native language, but all in all
of people in your dilapi- it was pretty fun because
dated pickup is the singing was so
a permit. The phenomenal. Mala-
police could have wians sure know
cared less that the how to sing. I don’t
truck was packed think I have met
to the breaking anyone yet who

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can’t keep a tune and sing harmony. The congregation was as good as
any church choir in the United States, at times singing in several parts,
all in perfect harmony. It is interesting how Christianity has been
intermixed with local culture. Most prayers and speaking parts are
sung in a call and response manner; quite a fun way of doing things.
Jes and I have a church invite for next week too, but the church is
some distance away and I am skeptical whether we can make it.

The religious situation here seems peculiar from an outsider’s per-


spective, but the locals manage it just fine. Malawi was and is the land
of missionaries and there is so much religious variety here it seems
almost crowded. After classes the other day students were meeting
in their religious clubs and I saw a frazzled teacher running down the
halls grabbing students and asking, “what religion are you?” At the
school’s opening ceremony this Saturday each religion was given a
chance to sing and it took three hours. I must admit it was quite fun,
whether it be Islam or Christianity, everyone is given a voice and
each voice is given a Malawian twist.

I apologize for the lack of pictures this week. I keep trying to bring
a camera with me but I always forget. If my resolution improves,
hopefully next post will have pictures from Monkey Bay. It is a resort
destination about an hour away where Jes and I have been trying to
visit to try the famous freshwater snorkeling.

A woman from Nasenga village stands in front of her church. The


inside of the church is pictured on the right page.

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Top Left: about 15 people try to pile into the back of a compact pickup
truck (called matola). I counted more than 25 on several occasions.
Right: Girls carry water from the lake to their homes. The trek for these
girls is about a quarter mile. Bottom Left: The inside of the church pic-
tured on the left page. Notice the choir on the left. I made a music video
for them later in the year.
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Sickness and Health
Life in Malawi has been interesting as always. I got sick last week with a high to meet a group that were so excited about the medical profession, and for all
fever but thankfully the Malaria test was negative. The director of the NGO is a the right reasons. The group has been running clinics at the nursery and I have
Health Officer (the Malawian equivalent of an MD) [This is actually incorrect, a been joining them after my classes. The experience has been both uplifting and
health officer is more similar to a cross between a registered nurse and a masters sobering. The nursery conveys a good feeling the moment you enter the door.
in public health] and his wife is a nurse so I was well cared for. The clinic is just The caretakers are fantastic and the children are well loved and cared for. That
across the street and while I was hobbling towards the clinic, Hope (the nurse) said, an afternoon working with sick children receiving inadequate care can be
stuck her head out the door and told me to go back home and rest. I obeyed, and taxing. Several of the children are HIV positive, but don’t yet qualify for anti-
within an hour I was paid a house call by the director and his wife; talk about retroviral drugs because they aren’t sick enough. Malawi got access to AIDS
good care. Sibale (the director) is quite gregarious and, after the Malaria test drugs several years ago through the World Health Organization, yet the stigma
came back negative, started walking around the house in good spirits slapping of AIDS here is so strong that many people don’t go to the ARV Clinic for treat-
me on the back and saying, “Ahhh, don’t worry, you will be fine; you’ll be back ment. As a product of the American HIV/AIDS education system, the amount
on your feet any day!” I missed several days of school and since there is such a of misinformation here came as quite a shock. Many people still aren’t clear on
shortage of teachers my students went without class. Sickness here is common what AIDS is or exactly how it is spread. I have not heard a single person mention
and students are used to cancelled classes. There is usually at least one teacher AIDS since I got here (aside from in the clinics), and as such the epidemic is
out sick, and although there is a gamut of diseases, often Malaria is the culprit.
The other day a teacher friend of mine looked a little weary and I enquired as to
his condition. He responded, “I am doing well, I just have a little bout of Malaria.”
I had always pictured Malaria as a horrible and exotic disease, the type that leaves
you gasping for breath on your deathbed. However, for a healthy individual
with access to medication (malaria meds are easily accessible in this region of
Malawi), Malaria is far less severe but far more disruptive than I had previously
imagined. Picture the entire US population with a chronic disease that incapaci-
tates individuals for weeks out of the year and you will have an idea of Malaria’s
impact. And this is the impact on the healthy portion of the population. If you
combine Malaria with rampant malnutrition and a 30% HIV infection rate the
problem is compounded.

Tom and Ruth (the people from whom we learned about MCV) arrived last
week along with several medical students from the States. We all had dinner
at Ruth and Tom’s house last Friday and had a great time (it was the largest
gathering of white people I have seen in some time). Their house is right on
the lake and the waves were so big you could almost body surf. After hearing
numerous stories about burnt out and jaded medical students it was refreshing Tom and Ruth Nighswander run a clinic in the Open Arms Nursery.

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responded, “life has been good to me, please give your money to the poor”. The
second person to pick us up was an Italian contractor who had lived in Malawi for
nearly a year. His company was doing the construction on the road we have been
witnessing for the past month. His wife was with him for the first six months but
then had to go back to Italy. He said that he missed Italy, but really enjoyed living
in Malawi. He left us at the junction to Cape Maclear. Figuring that our luck with
free rides had run out, we sat down next to the road and waited dutifully for a
matola. To our surprise a SUV rounded the corner with stickers proclaiming it
to be associated with the “Icelandic Group,” whatever that is. Inside was a very
nice Icelandic man who gave us a ride the rest of the way. He was working for
an Icelandic NGO that was doing work with sanitation and education. He was
quite well traveled and prided himself on having been to 25 states.

Finally in Cape Maclear (actually the trip only took an hour and a half), we
quickly went about locating a resort which had tents, also known as a resort
which is cheap. The guests were either young like us or old with “hippie hair;”
two groups which I can only presume prefer what the Lonely Planet likes to call,
The Nighswander house at Palm Beach. Jes and I spent many weekends here.
“budget accommodations.”
nearly invisible. As an outsider, if you avoided clinics and hospitals, I am fairly
confident you would have no idea AIDS was an issue in the area. People who are Cape Maclear is an odd fusion of tourism and village life. When most spots are,
sick stay home, and since an individual’s HIV status is private, the only indicator “discovered,” tourism pushes out the locals until the only traditional life which
of the epidemic is an unusually large number of coffin makers. Disease aside, the
babies in the nursery are still babies; they still burp and smile when you hold
them, and most are quite cute. Jes has now become jealous and is demanding I
take her along so she can play with the babies too.

This weekend Jes and I escaped from school (we normally have school on Sat-
urdays for a half day) and visited a gorgeous area called Cape Maclear. Other
teachers have been telling us for weeks that we need to pay this little gem a visit.
It is only 60km away, but any distance of travel in Malawi is interesting. We were
planning on taking matolas (see previous post) the whole way but we ended up
getting picked up by a Malawian music producer who was driving from Blantyre
(biggest city) to his home village. I am not sure why he picked us up; Jes and I
must have looked pathetic on the side of the road. He could only take us part of
the way because he was almost home; nevertheless, it was an interesting leg of
the journey. His company recorded local Malawian bands, several of which we
got to sample on his car stereo. We asked if he wanted any money for gas, but he
Above is a furniture maker with his wares for sale. This man apparently spe-
cializes in coffins. Such sights are common along Malawian roads.

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remains exists solely for exhibition and profit. For the most part, this is not the case with
Cape Maclear. A corner of the village is scattered with a handful of resorts, leaving most of
the town as an actual fishing village. If you travel more than 100 meters from the resorts,
western products become unavailable and English becomes rare. Sure, some cultural exhi-
bition existed; several men approached Jes and I trying to sell us a “traditional” Malawian
meal for 1500 kwatcha (10 dollars). He said that if we visited Malawi we should eat Malawi
style. I said that we normally paid 50 cents for our traditional Malawian meals and that if he
came down to that price we might consider it. He seemed to think this was funny, but after
realizing that we really weren’t going to pay that much, left us alone. I was personally glad
that he hadn’t been willing to match our price, since Jes and I had been eating traditionally
for the last month and were really in the mood for something that wasn’t beans with corn
mush. All heckling aside, I got the impression that the village would go on existing in about
the same manner if all the tourism decided to pack up and leave.

Cape Maclear was beautiful; Jes and I rented a Kayak and paddled around exploring the
many islands in the bay. Check out the pictures and the video.

For everyone who keeps asking me to send pictures, I finally started taking some. I am
posting pictures from school and Cape Maclear. The hut is a picture of our house, and
the class pictures are my form 1 and form 2 students. The dog is a recent acquisition that
started hanging around after we put some chicken scraps in the garbage. After a little chicken
skin the dog was completely devoted to us. The picture of the water and the island is from
the resort we stayed in. The pictures of the fishing canoes are fisherman we ran into while
paddling around.

A fisherman heads out of Cape Maclear in his dugout canoe. Canoes of this sort are still
the most common water craft in Malawi. Jes and I were once offered a free meal if we
could keep a dugout canoe upright while paddling out to a floating dock. We capsized
after 5 feet. They are difficult because you must maintain a very high center of gravity
since the boat is actually too narrow to sit in. You must sit on top and put your legs in-
side, wedged against the sides to maintain control. When the canoes spring leaks (which
they often do), fisherman nail sheet metal over the holes. Whether the boats are new,
repaired, or unrepaired, they all require some sort of bailing mechanism.

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[Left Page] Top: a fisherman rows his canoe outside
Cape Maclear. Notice the sheet metal repair job on his
canoe. Bottom: these two men seemed to think that
our snorkeling spot was also good for fishing. Several
hundred feet down the shore is another team with the
other side of the net. After the net came in the snorkel-
ing wasn’t quite as good…wonder why.

[Right page] Left: I prepare to dive into the crystal


clear waters of Cape Maclear. Right: Jes stands next to
our Kayak. We rented it for the afternoon to explore
some of the islands in the cove.

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Neighbors
On Sunday, Jes and I attended At 4:00 pm I asked why Jes and the other sports patrons weren’t whipping up
the sports tournament between some frenzied competition. I was told that the girl selected to bring the girls’
Gracious Secondary School (our uniforms was not selected to play, so had decided that bringing the skirts was
school) and Mangochi Private no longer in her best interests. As the
School. Jes is our school’s sports girl struck off to get the uniforms, the
patron. Although the title sounds remaining girls started playing in their
like she should be a saint or muse shirts and underwear; knee length skirts
of some sort, it means that she is that, as far as I could tell, look just about
the girl’s coach. I find this particu- the same as their uniforms. At our school
larly funny because I don’t think the boys play soccer and the girls play
Jes has played organized sports, netball. Netball is like basketball except
ever. We arrived at 2:00 pm, the it is played outside, on a dirt court, and
scheduled start time of the games. there is no running with or dribbling the
An hour later the coach of the ball allowed. Imagine a cross between
competing team showed up and Ultimate Frisbee and basketball. The
asked where our players were. Jes result is thoroughly entertaining and I
could have, just as fairly, asked soon found myself standing enthusi-
where his players were, since after astically on the sidelines. The heat was
what should have been an hour of blistering, and while I was drowning in
playtime, no one from either team my own sweat, the players seemed barely
had arrived. Turns out the students to be breaking one. A good effort was
had had a hard time finding trans- brought by both sides, but I am happy to
portation to the venue, a dirt field report that the Gracious Girls (as I like
that is just far enough away from to call them) trounced the ladies from
both schools to preclude the pos- Mangochi Private. The boys’ game was
sibility of walking. The school had also entertaining, but anyone familiar
tried to arrange transportation, with soccer (or football as everyone here
but had tried to charge students calls it) would have a pretty good idea of
for the privilege, with little success. what transpired. I am not sure who won
At about 3:30 pm students started the boys soccer game because Jes and I
to trickle in. At 3:45 pm enough left early due to mild heat exhaustion.
students had arrived to start a When I enquired the next day at school
healthy game, in my opinion. as to who had been the victor, nobody
The Gracious Girls play a fierce game of A netball basket made out of a pole
netball. and an old bicycle rim.

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The students of Gracious Secondary School pile into a rented truck for a field trip to watch a sports game at another school. You will be happy to know that all available seatbelts
were in use. The transport was arranged by a teacher who was later chastised for the manner in which the students were transported.
seemed quite sure. It seems that in the absence of a score-
board, the actual results of the game had been lost in the
excitement. However, I am unsure if I had asked the boys
from Mangochi Private whether they would have been
stricken by the same enthusiasm-induced amnesia.

Ruth and Tom came over the other day for pizza and
introduced Jes and I to neighbors we didn’t know
existed. A two minute walk past corn fields and chicken
coops leads you to the house of Ayub and Hote, two
afghan refugees that settled here just two years ago. As we
approached the house we announced our presence with
the traditional saying “Odi odi.” At the door we were met
by the type of people who are so hospitable is makes you
almost feel guilty…almost. In seconds we were seated in
their living room and brought beers and Afghan snacks. I
had just eaten dinner, but was happy to avail myself with
food that was not beans and rice. Ayub is involved with
the NGO, Solace International, which has done work
in Malawi, and specifically, with MCV. Ayub and Hote
were concerned about raising their five daughters around
the Taliban and, after the violence of the US occupation,
decided it was time to leave. This weekend we all got
together at Ruth and Tom’s house. Ayub’s Afghan friend,
Dr. Ayub, also came because he was in the area doing
cholera clinics with MSF (Doctors without Boarders).
The irony of Jesse introducing Jes to Ayub, and Ayub
introducing Ayub to Jes, was lost on no one. Dr. Ayub has
been with MSF for 15 years and was fascinating to talk to,
having worked in over 10 countries all over Africa. His
wife and children also came and many a joke was made
about it being the largest peaceful Afghan-American
gathering for thousands of miles.

Speaking of neighbors, Jes and I took one in as a


roommate last week. Her name is Puss, and she is a black
cat we stole from the storage building across the street
with the hopes that she might enjoy the company of rats.
I attempt to thwart the rat entrance to our hut.
I put white surgical tape over the hole and
wrapped paper around the central post of25 our
25 house hoping that the paper would be too slip-
pery for them to crawl down. It wasn’t.
Since I arrived in Malawi I have
been waging a silent war against
the colony of rats that lives in our
roof. Well, my efforts have been
silent, theirs have not. I am regu-
larly kept up at night listening to
the army of rats knock dishes off
the counter, engages in noisy terri-
torial disputes and, perhaps worst
of all, gnaw an ever growing hole
into our food cupboard. After an
extensive survey of the rat poop
left on all cooking and eating
surfaces, I can accurately conclude
that the population must stand
near 700 healthy individuals.
The rats show no trepidation; the
other night I awoke to the sounds
of one pulling my cash/passport
fanny pack back to his nest (seri-
ously, he got it all the way up the
bookshelf and was beginning
up the wall with it before he was
discovered). Last week I bought a
trap but, after a rather unpleasant
Our frying pan had attracted an unattractive hitchhiker. episode, decided an alternative
was needed. Enter Pus; the moment we kidnapped her she perked up her ears and ran around the
house sniffing everything. She obviously had never seen a house supporting this much prey. Moments
after the lights went out I heard the familiar scurry of rat feet, followed by a squeak and the sounds of
Pus exercising her hunting prowess. Ah, bless the circle of life.

All three pictures are from a Halloween party thrown by Palm Beach Resort. I made a grass
skirt for the occasion pictured on page 46 and Jes dressed up as a rock climber. The after-
noon culminated in a competitive alcoholic scavenger hunt where the victor received Red
Bull and26wine. The top picture is of Maggie, Taryn, and two Palm Beach residents. The 26
middle picture is of Jes and Ghoty, one of our Afghani neighbors. The bottom picture, from
left to right, is Jes, Maggie, Taryn, and Ayub.
Entertainment Economics
If you venture into a larger village or town in Malawi there are a number of things what you need after visiting two adjacent shops (people always refer you to their
you will inevitably see. There will be a market, usually a bustling dusty road lined neighbor if they do not have what you are looking for), but the simplicity of the
with a smattering of small stands selling anything from maize to cell phones. supply chain allows for considerable reuse.
What exactly people
choose to sell in their For example, in Malawi
shops is sometimes there are four main bottled
comical. The other day drinks, Fanta, Carlsberg
I saw a shop specializ- Beer, Sprite, and Coca-Co-
ing in fabric and bicycle la. Each has a distinct bot-
parts right next to a pay- tle which can be returned
phone which had a sign to be washed and refilled.
that read, “Praise the Because the bottles are re-
almighty GOD phone used instead of recycled,
booth.” A section of the a generous deposit of 25
marked usually focuses cents is possible, and in-
on food, but as should sures that all bottles are
be apparent from the returned. Some bottled are
previous examples, so old that they are partly
there is no hard-fast rule ghosted and resemble
dictating where food beach glass.
should be sold. There is
also usually a hardware At first glance most shops
section of the market appear to be selling locally
which has a remarkable grown/produced prod-
variety of merchandise ucts, and have hand tied
if you are prepared to baggies of oil, or mounds
search for it. of salt and flour heaped
high on woven mats. Clos-
The standard size shop No explanation required. er inspection, however, re-
is around 100ft sq, filled from floor to ceiling with shelving on which a prodi- veals a curious economy. Most people in Malawi are so poor that a bottle of oil,
gious amount of “stuff ” is stored. The amount of products stored in just one or a box of salt, the kinds of which Americans regularly buy on a visit to the gro-
of these shops could easily fill a large convenience store. The efficiency of not cery store, are prohibitively expensive. As such, small shops buy these commod-
stocking 20 iterations of the same product is huge. Not only can you usually find ities, break open the container, and sell the contents in smaller proportions after

27 27
a modest markup. Some products the shop owners are able to get at bulk rates darkened venue. Very few Malawians own televisions, so just as businesses exist
and thus sell at good prices. One must be weary though, since often times the to share cars, businesses exist to share televisions. Seeing these movie theaters
shops are just reselling something they bought from the nearest brick and mor- gave me an idea. I had noticed several weeks ago that MCV has an old InFocus
tar grocery store at hiked up prices. I recently saw a shop owner opening a can projector they use in the computer lab. I brought several movies on my com-
of powered milk (the exact brand Jes and I just bought) and adding it to a large puter and, after a little searching, easily procured a speaker setup.
heap. The price was nearly double. Many poor Malawians are either to poor to
buy the proportions at the grocery store, or as is often the case, live too far away. I announced the showing of the movie during a school assembly on vandal-
Since larger stores are located in larger towns, rural Malawians get hosed. ism. After students had been told, using several comical stories, why writing bad

Left: I have no idea what this store sells, but apparently it is cheap. Middle: this was the writing on the wall of the childcare establishment in Maldeco, a fish-
ing village 2km north of MCV. Don’t forget, education is akey. Right: a pay phone on the side of the road near Mangochi. Private individuals operated these
phones as a business. They are essentially cell phones with big batteries. For the consumer, the cost to use the phone is the same as buying minutes for a per-
sonal cell phone so I am not sure how the owners get their cut. There must be some special contract with the cell carriers.

On a quick jaunt through a local market you will also find a plethora of video things on the wall of the toilet was wrong, I was swamped with questions. The
theaters. At first I was very surprised that movie theaters could be found in such biggest concern of students was that they lived too far away. Many students walk
abundance. However, after venturing into one such, “theater,” my confusion was several miles to and from school, so a return trip at 6:30 for a movie requires
resolved. I was met with a dark room, at the end of which was a wooden crate considerable conviction. I made it clear I didn’t want students traveling after
with an old 29 inch television on top. For 40 kwatcha (25 cents), you can sit on dark, and that the movie was for students who lived, “close by.” At 5:30 while I
the floor and watch a South African soap or a football game. The fee pays for the was preparing dinner, Jes returned to the school to lock up. She came across a
electricity, the satellite dish (very limited broadcast offerings in Malawi), and the classroom full of students studying hard. She asked why the students had not

28 28
returned home for dinner. The response was a jumble of murmurs explaining
how they weren’t really hungry and seeing as how they, for some reason, weren’t
hungry today it seemed sensible to stick around and study until, oh, 6:30 there
abouts.

After spending an hour walking around the MCV campus rounding up spare
power converters and extension chords, I had successfully jury-rigged a passable
theater. The only concern at this point was electricity. Power usually fails around
six o’clock because of “technical faults” at the power-station. Once I expressed
disbelief that the irregularity of electricity could be caused by just one power sta-
tion, to which a Malawian friend of ours conceded, “they do have lots of techni-
cal faults.” Seeing as how it had been raining most of the day (nearly a guarantee
for a power outage), Jes pegged the chances of us making it through the movie
as a little above her class passing her genetics test.

At six o’clock the power was still on and there was a group of students conspicu-
ously loitering around our house. The spokesman for the group approached me
and said, “Sir, if we are doing a movie tonight can we help you setup, sir?” One Jes goes shopping in the Mangochi market with her “special” backpack and
umbrella.
thing I love about Malawian students is that they are always quick to help with
anything. I barely carry my own books anymore. I started Jurassic Park at 6:30 ing moments. The clapping seemed to coincide with narrow escapes and with
sharp to cheers from an audience of about 15 students. By 6:45, the group and disembowelments by dinosaurs, so it was hard to tell whose side the students
burgeoned to about 50 students who were spilling out the door and jockeying were on.
for the limited seating in the studio. Every few minutes a student would try to sit
on the chair blocking the projector and would get a thorough telling off by the Halfway through the movie, a sophomore turned to me and asked, “Is this a
audience. Eventually, the doors and windows were packed with peering pupils. true story?” I replied that it wasn’t, but that dinosaurs really did exist millions of
The students got really into the movie and would cheer and clap during excit- years ago. This response was met by a mixture of awe and disbelief, as though the

29 29
student thought dinosaurs were undeniable cool, but was skeptical as to their
existence during any epoch.

About a half hour in the speakers cut out. I had been warned about this by Jona-
than, one of the computer specialists at MCV. The amp’s fan was broken and as
such would cut out if it got too hot. Seeing as how the temperature was likely
well above a hundred degrees in the cramped and sweaty studio, I was person-
ally surprised the amp lasted as long as it did. After a short hiatus, during which
time the amp was moved outside and cooled by swinging it through the air, we
were back in action. By assigning students to fan the amp by hand we made it
through the movie without any further hiccups.

On my way back to our hut many students approached me and said, “again to-
morrow sir?” One student even made a logical argument about how it made
sense to show a movie the next night because it was a holiday. Seeing as I have
only 7 movies on my computer, the showing may have to be more spread out.
Next I think I will show Star Wars.

Above: One of the many movie showings at Gracious Secondary School. On


this occasion the show was outside to prevent overheating of the amplifier.
Upper Right: men eat their food outside a snack shop at a bus terminal. Lower
Right: sellers hawk their wares outside an AXA Country Commuter Bus. On
long bus rides this is the only way to get food, although there is no need to
30 to food. Office supplies, clothes, and knickknacks can also be
limit yourself 30
gotten from the window of a bus.
funny stories The Undead Lizard

I awoke to a rather comical situation today. I was lying in bed, enjoying the last
few minutes of the snooze setting before it would be replaced with offensive
ringing noises, when I hear a concerned voice from the bathroom. “There is
a dead lizard in the tub.” This is not what I wanted to hear at six o’clock in the
morning. It wasn’t the lizard that bothered me; it was more the tone Jes used
to convey the information. From the short sentence I gathered three things.
Number one, there was a dead lizard in the tub. Number two, Jes was not happy
about the lizard in the tub. And number three, Jes had no intention of dealing
with it, except that is to wakeup her boyfriend and make him fix the “situation.”
Before I could begin carrying out my manly duty, I heard an exclamation from
the bathroom, “IT’S NOT DEAD! IT’S NOT DEAD!” I never saw the lizard,
but it could have ranged in size from one centimeter to half a meter. There is one,
particularly large lizard, which has taken to sunning himself on the dirt patch in
front of our door. The lizards are everywhere, and one cannot walk more than
a few paces without seeing them scurry for cover. The lizards are quite prone to
loosing their tails, so it is not uncommon to see one awkwardly running away,
thrashing its butt excessively in attempts to compensate for its missing latter half.

A Bicycle for Two

Austin (a friend of ours) was kind enough to lend Jes and I a bike during our
time here. It was in slight disrepair, but after a short visit to the very capable bike
mechanic down the road we were zooming around, gleefully covering distances
unheard of on foot. We had a back carrier made (a robust seat over the back
wheel) for the bike so that Jes and I could both ride. By this I mean that I pedal
and Jes sits on the back. This is quite common in Malawi, and one frequently
sees bike taxies shuttling people down the road. Most Azungus (white people)
in Malawi own cars and are not often seen on bike taxis, and certainly not in the
petal position. As such, Jes and I provide a good bit of comic relief to people as
we pedal down the road. I have taken to saying, “you transport now, good price,
good price,” as Jes approaches the bike. I also frequently demand money upon
arrival. Occasionally, Jes will play along and hand me 50 Kwacha (33 cents). This
always evokes big laughs from people nearby.

31 31
Annoying Flies

Today in class I was giving a lecture on gas laws and noticed several male
students staring at me intently while sitting spread eagled stroking their crotch.
I thought this was a bit odd. It wasn’t until one student caught my eye and then
quickly looked down that I glanced down to find my zipper hanging wide open.
I laughed a little and quickly zipped up, at which point the crotch stroking boys
let out loud sighs, as if to say, mission accomplished, while everyone else broken
into tumultuous applause.

32 32
33 33
The wall of Mulangeni Holiday Resort.
Probably the Best Story Ever

Jes and I frequent a rather dilapidated resort just down


the road from MCV. Mulangeni, as it is called, was once a
respected upscale establishment, but is now so rundown
that Jes and I are commonly the only guests. Paint is peel-
ing everywhere and crumbling cement buildings scatter the
compound, looking more like forgotten bomb shelters than
luxury accommodations. Still, the food is cheap and a quiet
respite is just what is needed after a busy week of teaching.
The slogan for the resort is, “Simply the best of lake Ma-
lawi.” One can see the slogan plastered, in peeling paint, ev-
erywhere. Jes and I always found the presumptuous slogan
a bit funny given the state of the resort; the management it
seems, agreed. On our most recent escapade we found that
the old slogan had been replace by a new one, “Probably the
best of Lake Malawi.” I kid you not. Jes and I could not stop Above: Just one of the literally thousands of lizards
that lived outside our hut. Below: I sit on the back
laughing. seat of our banduka “bicycle taxi.” This was Jes and
I’s primary method of transportation.

34 34
dry seX and MaLawian hosPitaLity
For the last week I have had the pleasure of getting to know, Florence, Phiri, and starchy, much better suited for milling; however, it has a mouth feel that is
and Catharine. These three women comprise the field team of MCV, and can strangely addicting.
often be seen barreling down the road in the back of a pickup truck dispensing
knowledge and assistance to local villagers. Being a teacher, my work is centered Women from the village began to appear and everyone came by and graciously
at the main MCV campus, and as such, I am detached from the village based welcomed me to the village. After greeting the woman, my work was done.
work which comprises a significant portion of MCV operations. When I asked Most of the meeting would be conducted in local dialects and everyone under-
if I could join them I was warmly ushered into the truck. After a journey down stood, myself included, that the only thing I would bring to the gathering was
a road that looked like the set of a truck commercial whose purpose was to novelty. The turnout to the meeting was good, and for a moment I allow myself
emphasize how tough a truck is, we arrived at a one room brick building with a to think that the cause was my novelty. Then I noticed clothes being handed out
metal roof which I was told was the chief ’s house. A blue and white sitting mat in exchange for attendance and I accepted that I was completely superfluous. I
was promptly produced and I was made aware of the fact that it was machine have come to realize that outside the small domain of school, my usefulness in
made (a mark of quality and affluence in Malawi). As the village woman began
to arrive we were offered grilled chimanga (corn). The corn here is rather dry

35 35
36 36
ticularly hot and sweaty. Matolas usually are, but
matolas are scarce on the weekends and are thus
packed so full nearly everyone is standing. The
shear number of people translated into an inordi-
nate number of stops. As we arrive in Namiyasi we
are met by Austin, who has managed to arrive at
the same time despite the fact that we were in an
automobile and he was on a bike.

After a journey through meandering cornfields


we come upon a tidy house with a metal roof.
Inside there is a table, several chairs, a wicker
couch, and a boom box. I am perplexed by the
boom box since Austin told me that he does not
have electricity. Then my attention is drawn to a
large car battery which supplies Austin’s house
with power. He takes it on the back of his bike into
town, where, for a small fee, he can charge it at a
charging station. He says that between the radio
(which is currently blaring music) and a light
bulb he usually gets two weeks of power before
it dies. Alas, the car battery provides Austin with
more consistent power than the Malawi Power
Company is able to provide us.

Soon we move into the back yard to meet Austin’s


family. His wife is busy in the kitchen, a small
shack removed from the main house. The kitchen
has room for two stooping individuals and resem-
bles a dark cavern, one permeated by the aromas
of wood smoke and cooking oil. Since most
Malawians still cook with wood fires, the kitchen
is usually a drafty room outside. To the left of a
smoldering fire is a pile of feathers and a naked
looking chicken which I soon learn is about to
become lunch. My back is starting to hurt and the
smoke is making my eyes water so we soon retire

37 37
to the backyard. The packed dirt yard is lined on all sides by corn fields which, heart. I am later told by a teacher that the slaughtering of a chicken is the highest
to Austin’s credit, are some of the healthiest I have seen. Also in the yard is a welcome you can receive in Malawi; Austin really pulled out all the stops.
mango tree, which to Jes and I’s immense disappointment is as barren as every
other mango tree in Malawi. Mangos are now out of season, and since the fruit I am continually impressed by the hospitality of Malawians. The next week we
import business is nonexistent in Malawi, I have had to transition to sugarcane. were invited to a fellow teacher’s house. We were greeted by the teacher’s mother
I never got a good look at Austin’s youngest child, who for the duration of our (people often live with their entire families in Malawi) who ran up to us and
visit could be found hiding endearingly behind the legs of his father. When promptly gave us both big hugs. I at times feel guilty that so much effort is taken
children in Malawi see Jes or myself one of two things happen, either they on my behalf, however I also get the impression that it would be inappropriate
scream with glee while toddling quickly towards us clapping their hands, or they to decline. Thus, I have adopted a new strategy: pass it on. Last week we invited
toddle quickly away and take refuge behind mom. Austin’s older son was bolder, our neighbor over for dinner, we all had a great time.
and upon meeting us, quickly produced a Bawo board. Bawo is a game resem-
bling mancala, except that there are twice as many spaces and the rules are far On another note, Jes and I have an Easter Break coming up and we will be back-
more confusing. Bawo is the game of choice in Malawi and it is hard to walk 20 packing on Mount Mulanje. There are forest service huts that you can rent for a
paces and not see someone playing. I have no doubt that given time to practice small fee and it is supposed to be spectacular. I also hear they sell Bawo boards
I would no longer be an embarrassment when playing Bawo. However, given so my play may soon improve. I will write more when we return.
that my total playtime to this point equaled 20 minutes, and the boy’s total play
time equaled playing most of every day for his entire life, I was quickly beaten. It
doesn’t help that everytime I play Bawo the rules seem to change. Either there
are thousands of variations or I am being taken; I haven’t decided which pos-
sibility is more likely. To my reassurance, defeat is handed to Jes as quickly as it
was bestowed upon me. Since in Bawo the winner continues playing and the
loser does not, Jes and I mostly watch for the next hour as neighbor children
materialize to insure I never get another chance.

When the chicken is ready, Austin, Jes, and I return to the table inside. I keep
expecting Austin’s wife and children to join us but am told that they will be
eating outside. This seems strange to me but it is apparently the way entertaining
is done in rural Malawi. At the table we are presented with a heaping platter of
rice and a succulent chicken. I am worried at first that none will be saved for the
rest of the family, but I am later relieved to see that the wife and kids did indeed
get some, although not the quality cuts Jes and I had received. On the chicken
patter was the heart, which I am told is traditionally offered to guests. Austin
said that “if someone cooks you a chicken but does not offer you the heart, the
chicken is not really for you.” The heart is chewy, but satisfying. I can’t be sure, but
the heart may be important because it signifies that the chicken was slaughtered
particularly for your arrival, since store bought chickens often come without the

Pictured is a small Malawian village. The picture was


taken from the road near Dedza, a small mountain
38 town between Mangochi and Lilongwe. 38
Top: Maggie, Tommy, Jes, Peter, Davie, and myself eat snacks on the front
porch of Davie’s (Mtemangombe) new house. He had the house built over
the course of the year with money from his teaching salary. He invited us all
over when his house was finished to celebrate. Bottom: Mr. Moto and his
family joined Jes and I for dinner at our house. He invited us over several
weeks earlier and we were excited to return the favor. We exposed them to
fine American cuisine, hamburgers.

39 39
Pictured is Tommy O’Malley and a local tin smith with his wife. Tommy special ordered nearly 20 pie pans from this tin smith. The tin smith was so excited by the
large order that he gave Tommy one of his hens to show his gratitude. I suspect the margin on the pans must have been pretty good.
40 40
Enigmatical Poverty
Malawi is consistently ranked among the 5 poorest countries in the world. If you
look up Malawi in the encyclopedia, ironically its entry follows that of malaria,
you would find the per capita income to be 596 US dollars. I used to always be
skeptical of numbers like these. Aren’t things cheaper in poor countries? The
answer is a tentative yes, but once the shock of 7 cent mangoes wears off, you
begin to see the hidden costs. Anything imported is more expensive, and since
Malawi manufactures so little, a lot of things are more expensive. I recently saw
an old computer, which in the US would be sold by the pound, selling for 800
dollars. If I were to make an estimate, let us call it the fruit-adjusted-guess-jesse-
is-not-qualified-to-make-estimate, I would say Malawians live on about 1000
US dollars a year [Perhaps I am more qualified than I originally thought. Once
back in the United States I looked up the per capita GDP in terms of purchas-
ing power parity and found it to be 900 dollars]. Most Americans would call
this impossible, and I would have too until recently. With this sort of budget
forget about a car, a telephone, electricity, internet, or running water. Forget
about having more than one room for that matter. Look down at the grocery
bill. See the occasional staple that it is too cheap to really be considered in a food
budget? That is all you eat, and to make it simple, cut it down to corn flower,
wheat flower, beans, salt, and veggies (don’t worry, you will grow most of those).
What really struck me was the absence of “essentials” that, as a member of the
American middle class, I had been raised to think were a basic right. Things like
health care, food, education, books, pens, and art supplies. These were the things
my parents never said no to when growing up. Many of the teachers and MCV
workers we meet live in one or two room un-electrified huts, sometimes with
their entire extended families. By any definition this lifestyle should be represen-
tative of poverty, but somehow in Malawi it isn’t. It didn’t dawn on me for some
time what element of poverty was missing from the teachers and professionals
at MCV. I finally realized it was the psychological element of being poor.

I associate poverty with feelings of inadequacy, a feeling of being destitute, and


a position at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The teachers and MCV workers
live simply and without excess, but they have jobs, and are therefore very well off These are two boys that I met across the road in the village of Nasenga. They are
compared to the average villager. Their houses have doors, they have metal roofs members of the church pictured previously.

41 41
instead of thatch, and they have enough food. Most of the people that work at electricity and running water. In this United States I would be poor, but on this
MCV are big shots back in their villages. They own business, are landlords, and budget I still spend more money than most Malawians. I don’t have a car, but I
are the epicenter of supports for their entire families. also don’t have to consider the cost of a matola (see earlier post) before I hop
on. I eat a rather simple diet, but because I am not exposed to richer foods I
Fraction, the man who runs the sewing department at MCV is quite the indus- rarely want for them anymore. When I go out to eat and get a simple plate with
trious fellow. He owns several houses, a tea house, a small shop, and recently chicken and rice, I can honestly say that I enjoy it as much as a more elaborate
started a bakery. He excitedly showed this all to me one afternoon after I had meal in the United States. I think my satisfaction with my rather simple life in
stumbled into his tea room. The entire complex is housed within an area no Malawi stems from the fact that I am rarely exposed to those who have more,
and frequently exposed to those who have less. I feel rich for the same reason
that Fraction does, because I am doing well by comparison.

A consequence of my relative affluence is that when I walk into a room everyone


else becomes poorer. If I take my laptop into the teacher’s room to do grades,
everyone there becomes acutely aware of what they do not have. After several
occasions where I (or other American teachers) brought expensive items to
school, I noticed a distinct change in the mood of the room. The other teachers
began talking about how they wanted those items. Even days later, I would
overhear conversations between the teachers expressing dissatisfaction that
they could not afford the things we could. Since I noticed this I have become
very careful of flaunting my wealth around other Malawians.

In the teachers room the other day, Moto, a fellow teacher, divulged his master
plan to become a janitor in the United States after he heard that janitors have
cars. I began to think of how Moto’s life might be different if he carried out his
harebrain scheme. In Malawi Moto is in the elete; he has a college education
A rich mzungu (white man) enjoys his high calorie burger with complete and has a respected profession. He enjoys his job and associates with other intel-
disregard for the poverty that surrounds him. ligent people near the top of the social hierarchy in his village. If Moto became a
larger than a suburban garage. Someone working minimum wage in the United janitor in the United States he would be at the bottom of a society and lose, what
States would have far more money and live a more luxurious life than Fraction, I think, are far more valuable things than a higher standard of living.
but still, Fraction would be wealthy and the minimum wage worker would be
poor. What I have come to realize most about poverty while in Malawi, is that Americans may have expensive jewelry and caviar, but I don’t think Malawians
it is relative. The wealth of a person is not determined by the absolute amount are any less happy than their counterparts in the United States. When I visit
of money they have, but by the amount of money they have compared to other isolated villages the people seem happy. They probably know there are those
people. who have it better, but it doesn’t matter. Their world is the one around them,
where they have friends, family, and everyone eats the same corn mush day
When I came to Malawi I became rich even as my standard of living decreased. after day. There is also a relaxed and jovial atmosphere here, one which I rarely
Here I live on 3 or 4 dollars a day in a one room house which, occasionally, has experience in America. The stress knot which had gained permanent residence

42 42
43 43
44 44
between my shoulder blades during college now only flares up when I am would be of much comfort. Being poor anywhere is a painful experience and we
trying to check my bank statements using the glacially paced internet. Visitors to should acknowledge that there are components of poverty that are not buffeted
Malawi will expound endlessly about the kindness and generosity of Malawians by living in a wealthy country. We cannot call everyone in America rich, same
and I suspect that these vary qualities may be a result of poverty. as we can not call everyone in Malawi poor. There are parallels, and a common
human denominator that must be acknowledged.
Everyone here lives perpetually without a buffer to the turmoil of life. If someone
in Malawi loses their job, it could literally be days before they run out of money
for food. Parents of a boarding student we know recently failed to send their
weekly check for food. Within two days the student was out of money and going
hungry. This constant vulnerability has spawned a sense of community and
generosity which defines Malawi. Whenever a teacher at school loses a family
member (unfortunately a rather common occurrence), a collection immediately
begins to help the teacher pay for funeral costs. If you lose your job or livelihood,
you are immediately welcomed in by a family member. When Jes and I went to
visit the home of fellow teacher Mr. Piyo (he is probably around 30 years old),
he excitedly introduced us to his mother and father who share the room next to
his. Such an arrangement in the United States could vary well bring out homi-
cidal tendencies, but in Malawi Mr. Piyo can’t imagine living without mom and
pop. When I told Mr. Piyo that such arrangements are rare in the United States,
he said he thought that was sad. Mr. Piyo and the other teachers at MCV live
a life of relative comfort, but unfortunately there are many in Malawi who are
not so lucky. Poverty does exist here with the worst kinds of consequences. The
constant deaths resulting from illness strike a particularly big blow to the psyche
of Malawians.

In this blog I did not mean to discount the poverty of Malawians, I meant only
to articulate how the use of Gross Domestic Product and Per Capita Income
are incomplete measures of wealth and poverty. I have noticed expats and vol-
unteers in Malawi frequently discount the recession of the developed world
because their economies, even if decreasing, are still magnitudes more wealthy
than countries like Malawi. I think we need to resist such sentiment. The fear of
losing what you have, of moving backwards, is very real. It is what has made the
economic disaster in Zimbabwe so horrific. Zimbabwe was once the wealthi-
est country in Africa, but is now rounding out a decade of negative growth and
inflation that has left the country’s moral in shambles. Zimbabweans I have Pictured is Thokozani and her new husband on their wedding day. Their
wedding was quite the production; there was music, dancing, snacks, soda,
spoken to describe the country as having an atmosphere of despair that you can and around 200 guests. I would estimate the wedding cost several hundred
viscerally feel. I doubt the knowledge that they are still better off than Malawians dollars, a stretch for middle class Malawians.

45 45
Right Page: Gracious students prepare for a play about AIDS in the local
community.
46 46
Two young Malawians wait outside their house. The
glass windows and hinged door are uncommon and
signify that this house probably belongs to middle class
Malawians.

47 47
I wish

I had

A blender
48 48
Jesse pulverizes a coconut for coconut curry.
danCing with Men
Before Jes and I embarked to Malawi it seemed that everyone had a bit of tic backup dancers. I suspect they aren’t always professionals, just groups of
cultural advice. I consider myself a fairly easygoing person and have yet to be drunken guys who feel the ambiance to be incomplete without five to ten men
perturbed or embarrassed by a cultural idiosyncrasy, that is, until now. The 2nd in tight pants gyrating their hips and spiraling around the stage. The dancing,
most popular musician in Malawi was going to be playing at my favorite local although not necessarily good, is always executed with intrepid panache, which
bar. A night out is a rare thing in Malawi and Jes and I were very excited. in the opinion of this dancing-impaired blogger, is what really matters.

After dinner we peddled down to the bar on our banduka (bike with a seat in As the night progressed and the music got better, the dance floor started to fill
back), ignoring the nearly constant laughing and pointing of passersby. I am and before long everyone was dancing. To make a blanket stereotype, it is true
used to the constant gawking now, and have come to accept that I will likely that Africans are better than average dancers. But what I find more remarkable
be a source of amusement for Malawians up until my departure. It is my way is the sheer magnitude of participation. Poor dancing skills are no deterrent.
of giving back. Jes and I on the bike have become such a quotidian source of Alongside the rhythmically talented are those with two left feet who, in the
amusement that people often look crestfallen when we walk past bikeless and United States, would relegate themselves to standing in dark corners. This
will ask accusatory questions like, “Azungu, banduka lanu lili kuti? (Where is unbridled enthusiasm for dancing means that wherever there is a beat, people
your banduka white man?)” congregate to dance. Several nights ago while biking home from Maldeco,
I had to swerve to avoid hitting a dance party (in the middle of the road) of
We arrived at half past six and I secretly hoped we would run into Vicky, the young boys moving to the sonorous beat of a nearby Chibuku (shake-shake)
bar owner who, in addition to being a good conversationalist, buys Jes and I bar. Once I was awoken at MCV by timid taps on my front door. After cursing
rounds for which, hard as I try, I am never able to reciprocate. To my delight, quietly and putting on sufficient clothes to chastise someone without the loss
Vicky was there and a beer was quickly thrust into my hand; the night was of undue dignity, I opened the door to find a group of students, eyes timidly
starting out good. We played some pool and drank more beers as the opening downcast, professing their belief that the night was perfect for a dance party
bands started up. The first few bands were pretty atrocious. Some probably had and would I please, if it wasn’t too much trouble, set up the speakers and lend
potential, but any semblance of talent was drowned out by an overbearing syn- them my Ipod.
thesized backbeat. To my dismay, most Malawian music groups rely heavily on
synthesizers, and although I am not universally opposed to this, I feel it detracts As a fairly remarkable dancer (by racial, not dancing criteria), I was quickly
from the acoustic bands and choirs who often employ them. accosted by potential dancing partners at the bar. This would have been fine by
me, if all the suitors had not been men. Although men and women do dance
Although the music was disappointing, the backup dancers were not. Nearly together in Malawi, man on man and woman on woman partnering is com-
every musical performance in Malawi, no matter how small, has enthusias- mon. As far as women are concerned, the social norm is analogous to what it is

49 49
in the United States. With men, however, the parallel quickly breaks down. The
conventions of physical distance and masculine separation seem not to exist.
The other day in class we had a shortage of chairs and a student came in late
and found nowhere to sit. After scouring the room, the boy walked over to his
best friend and sat on his lap. Very considerate of the friend, but certainly not
something you would see at a high school in the United States.

Back at the bar, I first tried to politely decline the interested dance partners. But
then persistent men started buying me drinks in the hopes I could be cajoled.
Declining drinks is considered rude in Malawi and as the beers in front of me
quickly multiplied, I began to weigh the consequences of my continued inac-
tion. Jes of course thought the whole thing was hilarious and started goading
me with a lecture on masculine insecurity. Eventually, I was coerced into ac-
tion.

The actual dancing was interesting and can only be described as half dance off,
half cock fight. Most normal dance moves were employed, grinding was no
exception, but with the added confusion of rapid-role-reversals. The whole af-
fair took on a competitive bent, where dancers jockeyed for position and chal-
lenges were rhythmically intense. Thankfully, expectations of me were quite
low and I was rewarded for even the most modest efforts.

I don’t think dancing with other men is something I will ever be entirely
comfortable with. Sometimes it is impossible to completely step into another
culture; the homegrown expectations and thinking patterns are simply too
engrained. That doesn’t mean, however, that one cannot overcome some social
and culture barriers. I can now hold hands as nonchalantly as a Malawian na-
tive and I am thoroughly looking forward to freaking people out on my return
home.
Bottom Left Page: students dance in the cleaned-out woodshop during the
graduation celebration at Gracious Secondary School. And yes, even in I work tirelessly to gather construction materials for my grass skirt for the Hal-
Malawi chaperones confiscate alcohol. Bottom Right Page: students dance as loween party.
part of a play about AIDS that is put on for the local community.

50 50
easter break adVentures
In Malawi, the Easter holiday marks the end of first term and is punctuated by a is Malawi’s largest city and, interestingly, is named after the village in Scotland
battery of exams. For me, school exams were always a bit of a celebration. They where Dr. Livingston was born.
marked the culmination of a lot of hard work that, most importantly, was coming
to an end. Unfortunately for Malawian students, this “culmination” lasts seven The ride from MCV to Blantyre was characterized by ever increasing
hours a day for two weeks, until what should be a crescendo is more reminiscent wealth. Thatched roofs became metal, concrete replaced wood, and no longer
of a diminuendo keeping beat to a funeral dirge. The whole situation is made was the palate of paints limited to white and the offensive purple color of
more unpleasant by the fact that I am required to sit in the examination room, Malawi’s major cell phone carrier (Zain). In Malawi, the color purple is Zain,
bored to tears, until the Friday nearest the reunion of Christ’s resurrection. and seems to be the color of choice for the plural minority of Malawi’s rural
buildings. Perhaps people simply like the color, but this is unlikely because the
After a long two weeks and tens of hours of grading, freedom was finally color is hideous (okay, Jes likes it but she doesn’t count). I suspect Zain pays
upon Jes and I and we set off on a backpacking trip to the highest peak in central out for the color’s use, or at least pays for the paint. Regardless of how they have
Africa, Mount Mulanje. The word Mulanje is the original name for the peak managed to inflict the eye sore on rural Malawi, it was refreshing to see more
and literally means, “mountain.” When the English arrived, they intelligently variety as we moved closer to Blantyre.
added the title “Mount,” I assume because they didn’t want the mountain to be
mistaken for hill, heap, or mound. In the tradition of colonizers getting it not In the changing landscape, many of the indicators of wealth were too subtle for
quite right, the mountain was hence forth known as “mountain mountain.” On me to have detected several months earlier. The spectrum of wealth and poverty
the way we were lucky enough to hitch a ride to Blantyre with Felix, who was in the United States is so different from Malawi, that it takes time to calibrate
already going to retrieve Ayub’s four daughters from boarding school. Blantyre ones eye to understand the gamut that is Malawian poverty. When I arrived in

51 51
Malawi things mostly just felt different. The most accurate way to describe it was devices, and said, “Your bus is here, better get going.” It was very kind of him to
a feeling of traveling back in time. If pushed to think about Malawians as rich alert us, since the line was already forming by the bus door before it had stopped.
or poor, nearly all would have outwardly appeared poor, with little distinction Even with the station master’s assistance, we were bringing up the end of the
between their varying economic realities. After living in Malawi for sometime, I queue. No problem I thought, as we clambered on the bus, the thing was still
began to notice small things like shoes, sunglasses, or whether a window frame mostly empty and we still had over an hour and a half until the bus’s scheduled
had glass, as indicators of wealth. In the United States, even the shabbiest apart- departure. As Jes was negotiating her bag down the aisle to join me, the bus
ment has glass windows, just as most poor people have shoes and sunglasses. In gave a lurch, and smartly started off. I am perfectly comfortable with the idea of
the United States the presence of such things are not indicators of wealth, but in public transit being late, it is in fact the predominate state of most mass transit
Malawi they are. I was not completely oblivious to the subtly of poverty upon operations. What I don’t understand is why any bus would leave early, it just
my arrival in Malawi, but after I learned more about Malawian culture and pri- doesn’t make sense. Perhaps the government strives to attain a 100% on time
orities, I began to be able to differentiate between a range of wealth where before statistic; perhaps such claims were common during dictatorship rule, and now
I could only see poverty. It was these subtleties, which I had missed on the drive that a more transparent government cannot outright lie, drastic measures must
to MCV three months prior, that were painfully obvious on the trip to Blantyre. be taken to preserve the appearance of the “flawless government” people were
used to seeing.
We caught a public bus from Blantyre which was scheduled to depart at two
o’clock. The bus station master was helpful yet confusing. “The bus departs at The reason for the early departure still dumbfounds me, since on a back road
two o’clock,” he said, “so make sure you are here by noon.” Be here at twelve? not far from the bus depot the bus abruptly stopped for a 15 minute break. It
What on earth for? I wondered. Nevertheless, Jes and I have learned that people’s was as if the bus crew was taking a well deserved siesta to reward themselves for
advice often seems a non-sequitur only because of some misunderstanding on the record departure time. The driver got out, walked around a bit, made small
our (ok, my) part, so we showed up promptly at noon. At 12:15pm the bus talk with several people walking by, and with no apparent motivation got back
rumbled into the station. The station master rushed over with the urgency of in the bus and started off again. Next we stopped for fuel, then at a bus depot in
a person who wants to help others who are rather hopeless if left to their own a neighboring suburb. By this time the bus was completely full and people were

52 52
53 53
A forest service cabin on Mount Mulanje.
Cost: 3 dollars per night.
54 The back side of Mount Mulanje. Atop the sheer rock faces are beautiful grass mesas. Travel
54
farther and you will reach yet another level of cliffs leading to the mountain’s peak.
Jes hikes through the fog on route to the second cabin. Fog is a common fixture on Mount
55 Mulanje and days can pass with the mountain entirely enshrouded by clouds. 55
cramming into the aisles. I looked over and saw a sign that said, “this bus is authorized
to hold 65 seated occupants and 25 standing occupants. Well good, at least we weren’t
loading the bus passed any sort of “official” capacity. Just then a live squawking chicken
was smacked into my face as a woman nearby began jockeying for a better position.
Finally, at 2:30 pm the bus left the city and started heading for Mount Mulanje. We’re still
okay I thought, only 50 km away and plenty of time before dark.

Unfortunately the bus was what Jes endearingly refers to as, “the milk run,” meaning
that it stops at every village, hut, or random spot along the road where someone desires
“transport.” Of course whenever someone had to get off, they were inevitably in the back,
meaning everyone before them in the aisle would have to get off then back on. The last
half hour of our five hour (50 km) ride was made even more interesting by the fact that
Jes managed to antagonize a very loud and obnoxious drunk passenger. I have made it
a goal in life never to draw the attention of loud drunk people. It is good for me that
I have chosen a partner without such aspirations, since as soon as Jes murmured the,
“shut up,” that everyone on the bus was probably thinking, the irritating man’s attention
was focused entirely on her and, more importantly, entirely off me. We finally arrived at
Mount Mulanje just as dark was blanketing the streets.

The next morning we started out on what was to be a spectacular trip. Mount Mulanje
has an extensive hut system, each with a caretaker who will warm up bath water for you.
At first I wondered whether the luxury of hot baths would cheapen the rustic experi-
ence of backpacking. The answer is a resounding NO! It is customary to take a guide

56 56
Jesse tries to avoid sunburn (unsuccessfully) while hiking to the second cabin. The moun-
tain in the back is not the peak, but instead one of the many false summits.

Topping out at 9,849 feet!

Personal bathing stalls at the first cabin. The caretaker warms bath Right Page: I hang off the marker on top of Sapitwa, the highest part of Mount Mu-
water for you over an open fire. Awesome. lanje. Despite the 100 degree weather at the base of the mountain the top was bru-
57 tally cold and windy. 57
58 58
Jes hiking through the mesas of Mount Mulanje. Second Day.
59 59
Jesse ascends through a fern strewn hillside on the second day.
60 60
while hiking on the mountain and at first I was against such an idea. I had never school. Jes and I decided to take the Ilala ferry to Likoma Island, an island off the
needed a guide to go backpacking before, and getting lost was one of those Mozambique boarder of Lake Malawi. We arrived at the port to find that the
cherished experiences no trip should be without. Jes was more receptive to the schedule had changed. Turned out the president was taking a campaigning trip
idea, maybe because she was a girl with no male ego to appease, or maybe just to the island and had decided to commandeer the sole mode of transport. Still
because she has better sense. I lost the battle to go it alone for two very good determined to fully utilize our extra week, we struck out to Senga Bay, a popular
reasons. Number one, we didn’t have a map, and number two, we didn’t know tourist destination with a multitude of lodges and resorts.
where the trailhead was.
Hippo pools were supposed to be only a 10 km walk from our resort. Several
We stayed on the mountain five days and four nights during which time we hotels offered tours, but being too cheap and foolhardy for such things we
hiked up steep escarpments, over rolling plateaus, and ascended the highest headed out on our own. After several minutes we came across a fishing village
peak in central Africa (Sapitwa). Aside from a few cold nights it was a great trip and acquired several guides with questionable senses of direction and no English
and I encourage everyone to look at the pictures. Check out Jes’s blog for differ- ability. The price was right though, only 4% of what the resorts were charging. Jes
ent pictures and a more complete description of the mountain. and I’s Chichewa has improved in recent weeks (partly from lots of studying
during exam week) and we are now able to communicate our needs and wants,
We arrived home to the dream of every American school child: Easter break had as well as make general small talk. After a few minutes the path degenerated and
been extended by one week because of a conference that was happening at the I made, what was in retrospect, a very ironic comment of how it was a good thing

61 61
we had gotten the guides. I suspect the guides had simply chosen the wrong
path, since pretty soon we were up to our knees in stagnant and parasite ridden
water. Oh well, the worse thing that had happened so far was that Jes had been
stung by a wasp on her face, no skin off my back, the trip still had promise. We
walked for one hour, and then two, and I began to expect our guides to jump us
from behind and steal our money. But no, our guides were actually very friendly,
just inept. Finally we gave up and hired a boat to take us back. At first the boat
tried to charge Jes and I five times the going rate. When Jes and I started to get
out of the boat, presumably to find our own way back, our guides began berating
the boat owner, sensing that if we disembarked they would have to pay their
own fares. Apparently the guides were able to make the boat owner see reason,
since we were quickly ushered back into the boat and offered the normal rate. In
the end we never saw any hippos, but we weren’t gored to death either, so I peg
the expedition as a success.

62 62
The rolling hills of Nyika Plateau.
Laptops and Appropriate Technology
I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the term, “appropriate technology.” The One Laptop per Child laptops. Original cost: $120.
The term became a buzz word a while back in the realm of development and
foreign aid. The principle behind it being that developing countries should be
given technology that will mesh with their lifestyle and current state of develop-
ment. Proponents of the theory would argue against giving undeveloped areas
medical or educational aid which relied too heavily on electricity or consistent
access to technology. This could include anything from x-ray machines to com-
puter-based learning tools.

Several years ago during a service project in India I saw remote villages that had
benefited greatly from low tech borehole wells. The wells have no electronic
parts and can be easily fixed with basic hand tools. They represent a project that
would fall under the classification of appropriate technology. Projects like this,
and those that focus on soil reclamation and improved farming practices have
provided significant improvement in people’s lives in a sustainable fashion. In
the same village where I had seen the boreholes, I also saw the remnants of a
failed electrification project. Several years back a centralized solar system had
been installed to power basic electronic devices such as radios and lamps. After
6 months the battery had died, and without access to new acid or the electron-
ics knowledge necessary, the equipment had been dismantled and was being
used decoratively in the chief ’s house. Ironically, I was visiting the village with
a team from college who were installing a solar lighting system. At the time I
secretly wondered whether our equipment would eventually be used aestheti-
cally, but the time and effort I had invested in the project made it easy to ignore
such thoughts. A year later I heard rumors that the solar systems were still in use,
but to subsequent news I have not been privy. Overall, the experience led me to
question the practicality of technological projects in remote areas.

After returning home I began reading about the One Laptop per Child (OLPC)
movement. The organization was started by an MIT professor who wanted to
bring computing to the children of the 3rd world. His idea was that by building
a rugged laptop aimed at children, you would create a tech savvy population
ready to utilize the technology necessary for development. The website featured

63 63
many idyllic photos of children typing away on custom green laptops in the outreach club at Colorado College), the stuff I do now seems down right lame.
shadow of thatched mud huts. Aside from wanting to play with the laptops, Amazingly though, the students are always a great audience. During the distilla-
which were admittedly pretty cool, I was skeptical. I simply could not imagine tion demo I actually got cheers when the water started to boil. I know these kids
the laptops succeeding in places like the village I had visited in India. I thought
cook at home so boiling water shouldn’t be too exciting. Perhaps it is because
the project was bound to confirm that those boring appropriate technology these kids never get demos at school. Except for a sedimentation demo I once
people were right. saw a teacher do (he ingeniously used sand and a coke bottle), I have never seen
another teacher do a demo. This is a shame, since with some improvising and a
Fast forward several years to today. I start the day as normal. This means waking little ingenuity our basic supplies can make some passable educational demos.
up to no power and no water. Thats fine, I am prepared for this now and quickly
wash down the bread I had baked the night before with the water I had pre- Today I was hoping to find anything labeled acid or base, and if I’m lucky, some-
sciently set aside. I journeyed to school where, in the half hour before classes thing with a chemical formula and a stated concentration. I was in the back of
start, I quickly outlined my lectures for the day. In
form 1 we are starting acids and bases. This means
two things: first, an excursion to the supply room,
and second, that I will end the day with acid burns
from lack of protective equipment. Although the
school is woefully ill equipped for labs, a smattering
of grants and donations over the years has left the
school with some surprising equipment. Recently,
during an afternoon of snooping, I found a cabinet
full of chemicals (most improperly labeled), a
brand new electronic scale (without batteries), and
a water deionizer (wrong type of plug). Luckily for
me, though unfortunate for the students, the stash
remains untouched, locked away in a room which
the other teachers seem nervous to enter for fear
they might break something. My sense of entitle-
ment, fostered by a childhood and adolescence in
America, left me with no such trepidation, and I
frequently hunted down the keys and went search-
ing for something to spice up my next lesson.

I have made it a goal to do at least one lab per class


per week. Sometimes the lab is basic; last week I
rigged up a water-alcohol solution over a candle to
illustrate the principles of distillation. After some A fishing pond at MCV built with monies from the World Wildlife Foundation. Ponds like these provide a
of the stunts I pulled in COOL Science (a science relatively low tech solution to the overfishing of Lake Malawi. Several times a year MCV runs nets through
the ponds and uses the fish to help feed boarding students and orphans. Although simple, the pond does
rely on having access to running water and if MCV’s pump broke for an extended period of time the fish
would die.
64 64
the room, trying to hold my breath because I had just accidentally kicked a box automatically creates an adhoc network between all OLPC laptops in range.
full of unlabeled white powder, when I saw a box with a green cord protruding. This is great for doing activities and lessons between the computers. A feature
Through a crack in the box I saw a green bevel and I was filled with disbelief. which allows two people to work on the same document is quite fun. Jes and
Yes, it was a box with 15 pristine OLPC green laptops. The first thing I did, after I’s collaboration quickly digressed into an exchange of dirty words that ended
doing a kick ass acid-base demo with color changing indicators, was spend the with a small food fight. Still, I think the feature holds promise for those who
day playing with the laptops. show a little more maturity. The biggest drawback of the laptops is that they are
designed for primary school aged children. This is a problem for two reasons.
The laptops got some things very right and some things very wrong. A linux First, young children in Malawi rank slightly above a goat in the social order,
variant is used which is smart since, due to the proliferation of pirated software so are very unlikely to ever get their hands on a laptop. Second, the games and
in Malawi, every computer expends half its energy following the instruc- applications that come preloaded are of limited practical use for the secondary
tions of viruses and spyware. Another smart idea is the mesh network, which students or adults who are likely to have access to the laptop.

Access is the key issue here. I found the


laptops buried in a supply room and judging
from the dust on the box, they had been
there for a while. I conspicuously took two
laptops to the teacher’s room and started
running loud attention grabbing programs.
Within minutes every teacher was huddled
behind my desk, talking excitedly about the
laptops. Most teachers had never seen the
laptops before and expressed disbelief that I
had found them in the supply room. This is
nothing new, I often hear the head science
teacher exclaim, “oh, we had that did we,”
when I return from the supply room with
some scientific contraption. Some veteran
teachers (teachers who have been here
more than 1 year) recalled with nostalgia
when the laptops had arrived, but seemed
unaware they still existed. Apparently after
a short foray, they were stored away for safe
keeping with every other useful item the
school owns.

A week has passed now, and I have duti-


fully charge two laptops every night and
A Malawian wheelchair. These machines are built by the Malawi prison population and can be maintained by delivered them to the teacher’s room every
Malawi’s many bicycle mechanics using easily available spare parts. It was relatively common to see them creep-
ing down the road.
Right Page: Jes and I set up a computer
65 65
lab with the OLPC laptops as a reward
for the Form 1 class for finishing their
exams.
66
morning. After years of doing fundraising projects, I have a pet peeve for donor my plan was working today when the computer teacher asked if he could use
dollars going to waste. Someone shelled out a lot of money for the laptops and, the laptops in class to illustrate networking. Because they don’t have MS Office
until now, they might have well invested in Chrysler for all the good it’s doing. he can’t use them in his normal lessons, so it might just be Jes and I for a while.
Slowly the teachers have been cracking the green lids of the laptops and trying
them out. Throughout the week, several teachers have asked whether they could I took the laptops into my form 1 classes today as a treat for completing their
take the laptops home. I made it clear that the computers did not belong to me, physical science course work. After a stampede to the front of the room, the
and encouraged them to check one out from the school. This is something the students were putting the term childproof to the test. I hadn’t until today appre-
ciated the vocabulary that has evolved with the
assimilation of the computer into everyday life. A
quick instruction to use the mouse left kids furtively
looking to the corners of the room for rodents. An
instruction to click a button had half the class pushing
on the screen. One kid sat in front of the computer,
hands folded in his lab, giving verbal commands
to no avail. Big cheers erupted when the students
realized that moving their finger on the front of the
laptop moved the curser. I honestly think moving the
curser around would have amused most of the class
for the entire period. Needless to say the laptops were
a big hit. I don’t think they can ever be used for edu-
cation purposes, but as an introduction to computer
use they are invaluable.

At the end of the day I am still asking myself if the


computers are worth the money spent on them. The
cost of the laptops was about $2300, enough to pay
the tuition for 23 students for a year. Jes and I plan on
using them occasionally, but I suspect that after we
leave they will be relegated back to the stockroom.
The computer teacher may use them to illustrate net-
working, but without commercial software, he can’t
The chicken coop just outside our hut. MCV uses the eggs to feed orphans and boarders. In my opinion use them regularly in his classes. I am afraid that in
this investment failed because the chicken’s incessant clucking woke me up every morning at 5 am.
the case of MCV the tech project has failed. In many
teachers are entirely free to do, but the moment I suggest entering the stockroom ways the OLPC laptops at MCV illustrate why high-tech projects are so risky.
their interest fades. I don’t get it; the administration does nothing to discour- The computer required charging, a difficult proposition with intermittent power,
age teachers from using supplies. The principal even mentioned she wished the no converters, few plugs, and no power strips. The laptop design also failed to
teachers would better utilize the resources we do have. I got the first sign that accommodate the population to which they were given. These inconveniences,

67 67
combined with a lack of prerequisite computer knowledge, doomed the project laptops at MCV. In the case of the laptops no benefit was realized, which begs
and wasted thousands of dollars. This example would seem to demonstrate why the question, should the risk have been taken. It is impossible to answer such a
appropriate technology should be embraced and high-tech projects dismissed. question because one never knows what the outcome will be. All that is known
However, while living in Malawi I have been exposed to a perspective which for certain is that if enough projects are attempted, eventually one will succeed.
also should be given credence.
This is not an argument for high tech aid any more than it is an argument for
Please, for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a Malawian. If someone gave appropriate technology. I personally think the two models of assistance need to
you a choice between a textbook and a laptop, what would you choose? The go hand in hand. Dollar for dollar, the low tech stuff will always work better. I still
answer is simple, you would choose the laptop. It is more interesting, more believe the basics: food, water, health, and shelter need to come first. I am still
novel, and unequivocally cooler. The Malawian’s choice, and their motivations, skeptical of projects like OLPC. However, I also realize that the lifestyles people
would be the same. Malawians want the same things as you or I. They want a want will never transpire without higher risk projects. I believe that hardnosed
developed economy, cars, computers, and advanced medical care. pragmatism needs to be tempered with an acknowledgement of what people
want from their lives. If people want development, and they do, the higher risk
The problem with appropriate technology is that you are giving people what ventures are needed. Many projects like OLPC’s and Farmer’s will fail, but
they need, without advancing them towards a lifestyle that they want. You are sometimes they will succeed, and when they do, they will do more to advance
making a judgment about what is best for the person. I think that Malawians people’s quality of life than appropriate technology ever could.
should have a voice in the aid they receive. It is not the place of the 1st world
to tell the 3rd world that they should be happy with better crop yield and fresh
water while forgoing the technological amenities we enjoy. In developed coun-
tries, I have noticed a tendency to idealize rural or village life. In magazines like
Natural Geographic, large vibrant pictures of thatched huts and traditional garb
convey a quant lifestyle. The subsistence lifestyle may be quaint, but it also has
some very serious drawbacks. If people want to continue living traditionally, let
them. However, those who desire a more modern life should also be supported.

A developed lifestyle doesn’t come from borehole wells; it comes from more
radical investments in technology. Without crazy projects like OLPC, a
computer movement will never begin, and people will be trapped in a way of
life with inherent disadvantages. A perfect example is illustrated in the book,
Mountains Beyond Mountains. In Peru’s peasant populations, Paul Farmer
treated multi-drug resistant tuberculosis with state-of-the-art medication, often
spending tens of thousands of dollars per patient. At the time, the therapy was
considered too expensive and impossible without access to 1st world medical
facilities. Nearly all of Farmer’s patients responded to treatment, creating a
paradigm shift in the field of tuberculosis care. The expensive drugs were certi-
fied for 3rd world application causing use to rise and prices to plummet. Farmer
took a large risk and it paid off big. A similar but smaller risk was taken with the
Jes awaits the Form 1 students.

68 68
On Bribery
One of the more prominent stereotypes of Africa purveyed in Hollywood police officer realized I had no clue where I was going. I think American cops
movies is that every policeman, soldier, and government official that you cross could really improve their image by emulating the Malawian system. Of course,
will demand a bribe. I honestly arrived in Africa with very few preconceptions, it might seem a tad patronizing for a police officer to ask if you are having a good
but nevertheless came prepared to spar with crooked officials. I say, “prepared,” day after pulling you over for running a red light, just a hunch.
in a loose sense. I honestly had no idea what I would do, but played through
enough scenarios in my head to know the outcomes weren’t pretty. Either I I lack the experience to judge whether Malawi is the exception or the rule, but
could acquiesce to the request, loosing pride and money I could not afford, or paging through the Africa Lonely Planet leads me to suspect the former. The
refuse, and be at the mercy of the official. Even if a refusal ended with a benign pages are rife with examples of bribery scams and boarder crossings to avoid.
outcome, I was fairly convinced I would botch the job and stand there stuttering Tourists I have met are frequently hassled at the border crossings and check-
embarrassingly before tourists who were handling their bribery with far more points of neighboring countries. I am relieved that Malawi avoids this stigma,
class. but nevertheless cannot shirk the feeling that I am missing out on the full African
experience. Okay, that’s horrible. No one should ever root for corruption; it is
To my relief, Malawi has lived up to its reputation for friendliness. The police, one of the biggest obstacles holding back Africa. Still though, after playing out
military, and government officials here are some of the nicest people I have met. bribery scenarios in your head, you start to wonder what it would really be like.
The most likely place to run into police is at roadside checkpoints, which are scat-
tered along Malawi’s major roads. They are the government’s primary method of Luckily for me, though perhaps not for Malawi, my curiosity was satisfied by
enforcing vehicle registration and insurance, since patrol cars are still too expen- a crooked immigration officer at the airport last month. I suppose that even in
sive for ordinary use. The first few times I was pulled aside my pulse quickened a country known for its friendliness there are always a few jerks. Jes and I were
and my mind began to race with images of Jack Daniels and wads of cash being on route to a Safari with Jes’s family, but first needed to clear immigration. Pat,
coyly surrendered by tanned and muscular movie protagonists. At a roadblock Wendy, and Elias all had no problem, but Jes and I were told we had to meet with
near the capital, I think an officer noticed my apprehension since, after returning the immigration officer. I half expected this, since at first glance I appear to have
to the car with my license, he sternly said, “we have a problem here.” His frown overstayed my visa. This is not the case; I was approved for a temporary resi-
then immediately melted into a smile and he slapped me on the back and said, dence permit and by Malawian law, need only the paper work and not a stamped
“just kidding, have a great trip.” Luckily for me, the police do not seem interested passport. I had the paper work and had handed it over with my passport, so was
in booze or money, and if they are, show no compulsion to extort it from me. understandably a little irked when I was told there was a problem.
There are several things, however, the police nearly always want: a friendly wave,
pleasant conversation, and information regarding how good your day has been. “Well, should I go down to the immigration office?” I asked. The immigration
paperwork had been courteously handled by a proxy from the airline while
The Malawian police also serve a handy dual purpose. Since the quality roads we licked ice-cream cones on the observation level. “Oh that’s not necessary,”
in Malawi are not accompanied by quality road signs, the police are often the replied the attendant, “he is going to come up here to talk to you.” That really
only source of reliable directions. They always inquire as to your destination, and should have been my first clue that something was wrong, but at the time I gra-
are quick to point out, always in a non-judgmental way, that you took a wrong ciously accepted the seeming friendly offer to meet in a locale where I could
turn. I was once told how to drive halfway across the country after a friendly

69 69
finish my ice-cream unabated. national workers don’t bother since English is so ubiquitous. Now understand
that Jes and I are in no way fluent, but at the time, we knew enough to suspect the
We chose a secluded table at the corner of the cafeteria and the conversation officer’s conversation was likely to a friend, and not to our contact in Blantyre.
started out cordially enough. He started with a long drawn-out speech on how
Malawi doesn’t issue fines for overstayed visas. ‘Well good,’ I thought, who “I am afraid we still have a problem,” said the officer after concluding the call.
would open with a line like that if bribery was to come. Looking back, he was He then proceeded to repeat everything he had already told us. I began to
probably trying to abolish any chance of legitimately buying our freedom. Nev- wonder whether we had been misinformed in Blantyre; maybe we really were
ertheless, at the time I was put at ease and accepted that there must be a simple in visa violation. After all, the immigration
misunderstanding. Jes and I ardently tried to explain our situation to the officer, officer undoubtedly knew more than we,
but he didn’t seem particularly interested in our story and kept affirming that the and had still said nothing blatant to
permit was invalid. suggest he was not an upstand-
ing agent of the law. But part
Undoubtedly, Jes and I first appeared to the immigration officer as easy patsies. of me was still suspicious;
We look like young American tourists who overstayed their visa. He also knows little things just didn’t add
that we are shortly scheduled to depart the country by plane, a scenario which up. The phone call, the
probably entails subsequent expensive flights we will not want to miss. Indeed, discrepant information,
by all accounts he should have had us over a barrel, but not all was as it seemed. something was wrong. I
Firstly, we were flying to Zambia on a private plane. There was no connecting
flight and, as the only passengers, the pilot was unlikely to leave without us.
Secondly, after living in Malawi for 6 months we had acquired some useful
contacts and information.

“Why don’t you call the immigration officer who handled this for us
in Blantyre,” I said, as I produced a phone number from my wallet. He
wasn’t expecting this; as I said earlier, I had given the bribery stuff some
thought. He quickly regained his composure and withdrew a cell phone
from his pocket and dialed. Jes and I have been learning
the local language, but we are unusual
in this respect. Most
inter-

70 70
glanced to Jes and then back to the officer and noticed something peculiar. sardonic look.
Usually uniformed men and women in Malawi have name tags, but the man
before me seemed to have inconspicuously removed his. ‘That’s odd,’ I thought. After the feeling of ultimate victory had subsided, I began to consider whether
“Well, what should we do?” I asked. “Well,” he said, glancing to the ceiling before the officer’s behavior was excusable. In the Africa Lonely Planet guide, a
reaffixing his gaze, “I could allow you to leave for humanitarian reasons.” ‘Sure, common boarder crossing bribery scam is described in which the author main-
fine,’ I thought, whatever it takes to get us out of this mess. “Does that mean tains that the officials “shouldn’t be blamed since they have probably not been
we could leave?” I asked. “You could leave today, but it is up to you,” the officer paid in months” (I tried to find the page number and exact quote, but the book
replied phlegmatically. What did he mean, “it was up to us.” Who in their right is over 1000 pages and I failed to relocate it). During the Safari with Jes’s family,
mind would spend their vacation dealing with entrenched bureaucracy? “You I overheard a tourist who was telling a story of how a guard had demanded a
can call your friend in Blantyre yourself if you want, unfortunately my phone bribe at a boarder crossing. He finished the story with an air of nonchalance,
is out of minutes,” he said. I was pretty sure this was a lie. I was willing to bet saying, “hey, he probably needed the money right?” I don’t know why this type
his phone had plenty of minutes, but he knew that we probably didn’t have a of rationalization is so common. Perhaps it is fueled by a sense of guilt arising
Malawian cell phone and would therefore have no recourse. We did actually, from witnessing the poverty that is so common in Africa. Perhaps people are
have a phone that is; one that was stocked with an unusually high number masking their embarrassment of being cheated. Maybe stereotypes have made
of minutes that would allow us to call any official in Blantyre, no matter how people so expectant, they don’t think twice.
protracted the conversation. We also happened to have the numbers of several
people who are close friends of Malawi’s chief immigration officer. I was pretty It is very gracious to dismiss corrupt behavior as the product of poverty, however
sure that in a few minutes I could have the personal cell phone number of this I worry such sentiments are more of an excuse than a cause. I am not about
guy’s boss. ‘Bring it on’, I thought. I’ll call whoever I need to. And then it came, to begrudge a mother or father that steals to feed their family, but how often
the final piece of the puzzle, the sentence that confirmed that the officer was not is bribery done out of necessity? In my bribery experience, the immigration
inept, just corrupt. “We can help each other,” he said. official had a government job, and was therefore relatively affluent. We need to
be careful to not excuse behavior that has such severe consequences.
Damn, this guy really did want a bribe. I was sure he could probably detain
us, but at that point I was pretty pissed off and was prepared to inconvenience Every time a tourist pays a bribe, they are assuaging a personal risk but increas-
myself on principle. I just hoped Jes was on board. “He wants a bribe Jesse,” ing the likelihood future travelers will encounter a dangerous situation. They are
said Jes very loudly. Bless her heart, she was on board. Several people at the far also contributing to a system of corruption that is holding back Africa. When
corners of the room glanced in our direction. The officer across the table shifted encountering bribery, I would never encourage anyone to put themselves in
uneasily in his seat. Then Jes continued, still very loudly, “I think we should physical danger, but safe countermeasures can taken. Have your documentation
call the people in Blantyre.” To the shock of the man across the table, I quickly ready, have numbers you can call, and of course, don’t break laws or overstay
produced a Malawian phone and replied, “I agree, this doesn’t seem right.” I then visas. Most bribery occurs when the victim is at least a little at fault. If you are in
made a show of searching through contacts to the chagrin of the officer who the wrong, try to work through official channels even if it is inconvenient. If your
now realized that he had messed with the wrong two tourists. His ambivalent relative affluence makes you uncomfortable when traveling in a poor country,
demeanor quickly faded and he said in a resigned voice, “I think we are okay donate your time or money to an NGO, but please, don’t allow a sense of guilt
here.” I personally still wanted to call Blantyre and bust the guy, but our plane to rationalize corrupt behavior.
was scheduled to depart in minutes. As we passed through the immigration gate,
the officer was all smiles. “I called Blantyre and got it all worked out,” he said as
I walked past. I thought, ‘yeah right,’ and looked over at Jes as she flashed me a

71 71
72 72
My temporary residence permit.
Malawian Money
Malawi uses the kwacha as their currency. There are 100 tambala in one kwacha and kwacha come in
1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 increments. At the time of our stay, bills were made for increments
20-500. Of course an old 10 or 5 kwacha note could usually be found. At the time of our trip 1 US
dollar was equal to approximately 150 kwacha. The government usually pegs the kwacha to the dollar
and fails to devalue the currency as inflation increases, so naturally a rampant black market exists to
correct the fantasies of the government. At times, the official bank exchange rate was 130 kwacha to
1 US dollar while a dollar on the black market could fetch 190 kwacha. That is a big difference on a 3
dollar a day budget so we usually sought out our kwacha on the black market.

1 Kwacha = .66 US cents 1 US cent = 1.5 Kwacha


5 Kwacha = 3.3 US cents 5 US cents = 7.5 Kwacha
10 Kwacha = 6.6 US cents 25 US cents = 37.5 Kwacha
20 Kwacha = 13.3 US cents 1 US dollar = 150 Kwacha
50 Kwacha = 33.3 US cents 5 US dollars = 750 Kwacha
100 Kwacha = 66.6 US cents 10 US dollars = 1500 Kwacha
200 Kwacha = 1.33 US dollars 20 US dollars = 3000 Kwahca
500 Kwacha = 3.33 US dollars 50 US dollars = 7500 Kwacha
100 US dollars = 15000 Kwacha

73 73
Item Cost in Kwacha Cost in US Dollars
1 kg Rice 120 0.80
1 kg Beans 200 1.33
1 Mango 5-15 .03-.10
3 Bananas 10 .07
1 Chicken 750 5.00
1 Serving of french fries 70 .46

Item Cost in Kwacha Cost in US Dollars


2 km Bike taxi ride 50 0.33
17 km Matola ride 150 1.00
1 Beer at a bar 100 .66
Dinner at local restaurant 500 3.33
1 Bike tire tube 450 3.00
1 Pair used imported shoes 3500 23.3

74 74
75 75
76
Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-REPAIR
Malawi is truly the handyman’s dream. The nascent economy produces (or at
least imports) most modern machines, but unlike a more consumer-driven
economy, there is a lack of choice. There are often only a few iterations per
product category. For example, there are only 4 types of soda, several colors of
paint, and 1 common doorknob in the Mangochi area. The simplicity is quite
nice; not only is shopping straightforward, but the next time you need to touch
up that chipped paint on the bathroom wall you don’t need to agonize over
a color match. Yet, the chief advantage of such a parsimonious system is the
ubiquity of spare parts and the resultant opportunities for the do-it-your-selfer.
I count myself as a proud member of this demographic, and thankfully, Jes
does not. Fortunately Jes doesn’t hog repair jobs or usurp my position as head
tinkerer.

I am not nearly as ambitious when it comes to jury-rigging as some of my


Malawian counterparts. The other day I saw a man securing an engine block
to his car with the remains of an old tire. I do, however, welcome the occasional
weekend project; so imagine my delight when, while reading in bed, I began to
smell the unmistakable stench of burning electronics. I jumped up to find that
the plug of our electric water kettle had melted into a clump of mangled plastics
and wires. Luckily, a plug in Malawi is a huge contraption equipped with screws
for easy repair. I suspect that the inconsistent electricity in Malawi has spawned
a demand for repairable and replaceable plugs. After a quick trip to the hardware
market, I was the proud owner of a new, rather expensive, electrical plug.

The hardware market-men, as I call them, are notorious sharks who will charge
ridiculous prices for simple items. I was once quoted a dollar for a rusted used
1/16 inch bolt that was worth a few cents. I usually try to patronize the larger
established hardware stores that have fixed prices; however, I entered Mangochi
around 1pm, meaning most large businesses were closed for their 2+ hour lunch
break.

With plug in hand I returned home and prepped the wires from the dysfunc-
A common sight in Malawi, a young boy playing with his home-made toy car. tional kettle. Three wires protruded from the sheath: red, blue, and yellow/
Boys fashion these contraptions from spare wire, sticks, and plastic containers.
For more examples see the photo strip on the right page.

77 77
green. ‘Well, this doesn’t take a genius,’ I thought, ‘no sane person would make nefarious agenda. These weren’t paltry shocks either, mind
red the ground wire.’ This left me with a fifty-fifty chance of correctly guessing you; they were body-spasm-inducing, make your-arm-hurt-all-
the proper arrangement of wires in the plug. After a moment of vacillation, I night, shocks. The rest of the night was punctuated by outbursts
finally settled on blue as the most likely candidate for the ground line, and chose of curses as we were shocked by various electrical appliances
red and green as the live wires. For anyone who would rebuke me for picking throughout the house.
blue over green, let me state in my defense that a later investigation revealed my
choice to be irrelevant. Someone “intelligently” choose red as the ground line for I finally managed to unplug the kettle using a long wooden
reasons I cannot begin to fathom. stick while standing on a plastic beer crate, a stroke of brilliance
to which I still refer. I am not sure exactly what happened, but I
I gingerly plugged my kettle into the socket and…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ… think I managed to electrify the ground line of the house when
OUCH!! What’s wrong Jesse,” Jes called from the bedroom. Jes walked I improperly wired the kettle’s plug. The end result was that
into the room just in time to see me trying to unplug the kettle… everything plugged into an electrical outlet had its chassi elec-
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ… *@#!!$%. “It shocked me again,” I said accusato- trified with unbridled Malawian power. When Jes or I touched
rily. Jes started laughing, much to my annoyance. However, her amusement one of the electrified objects, our bodies provided a seductive
was short lived as she nonchalantly rested her elbow on the refrigerator and… electric conduit to the well grounded cement floor. This theory
OUCH…WHAT THE #%$@. “The refrigerator shocked me!” Jes exclaimed should only work, however, if the ground line of our house
- now eyeing the refrigerator as if the once harmless appliance had acquired a was affixed to an object with less grounding potential than
yours truly (I actually suspect the outlets in the house were
interconnected but never grounded to anything). This would
not surprise me in the least, seeing as many Malawians view
ground lines as an irritating waste of time. Many appliances
and dwellings are frequently mis-wired, and I am constantly
receiving low-level shocks from ovens and refrigerators that are
probably not grounded. Through trial and error, I was able to
construe the correct arraignment of wires for our plug. Don’t
tell Jes, but as I was sweeping the next day I found the small
instruction card that had fluttered, unnoticed, out of the plug
and onto the floor. Jes and I have now been enjoying piping
hot shock-free water for over a month. My next project is the
stove, which inexplicably has only one functional burner. Wish
me luck.

Ps. If anyone with more electronics knowledge has insights


or theories about what happened with the ground line, please
send them my way.

I removed my bike tube for a quick patch job and what did I find? That it had
already been patched at least 20 times! This included a questionable repair
around78the nozzle. 78
A water sprinkler made out of a holey 7-up bottle.

79 79 made out of a
A netball basket
A double boiler made using two old pots and a towel. I used the contraption to make the frosting for
Jes’s birthday cake.

80 80
Of all the teachers I work with at MCV, Zamizan was probably the one in the situation most
similar to my own (Jes excluded of course). He was new to MCV, having just graduated from
college in Blantyre. He had not studied to be a teacher but, for some reason or another, found

Mysterious friends himself far from home teaching at Gracious Secondary School (the MCV school). During
school breaks he would endure the segmented 20 hour bus ride to his home village in the
northern hills of Malawi. Aside from these infrequent excursions he lived on MCV grounds,
isolated, except for Jes, myself, and the boarding students. As an unattached bachelor, he
quickly became the boarding master; a job to which he devoted himself entirely. He dutifully
arrived at school each morning long before other teachers to unlock classrooms. After dinner,
Zamizan would return to school so that boarding students could use the electric lights to
study. Often I would hear him leading students back to the dorms at eight or nine o’clock at
night.

At school his quiet assiduity stood out. While other teachers engaged in animated debates
in the teachers’ room, Zamizan would busy himself grading papers or helping students.

81 81
His taciturn manner often gave him an air of composure and contemplation I didn’t had found himself at MCV through a family connection and I suspect he was biding his
commonly see in Malawians. I always secretly wondered about Zamizan’s past since he time until the inevitable moment his tribal responsibilities arrived. Even at MCV it was
was so different from other teachers. The mystery thickened when Zamizan showed up common knowledge that his father was ill and Zamizan must have known his tenure as
at school with a Toyota Corolla. For a man that lived in a 200 square foot cement room a teacher would be short.
without electricity or running water, a car seemed an unexpected extravagance. The car
also hinted at an undisclosed past, since such purchases are far beyond the means of a Still, I got the impression Zamizan was reluctant to take the post for which he was
Malawian teacher’s salary. born. I remember Zamizan once admitting that his childhood dream was to become a
mechanic, but that his father had pressured him to attend college and major in business
Several weeks ago the secret came out. It started in the teacher’s room as hushed administration. Although Zamizan certainly had the ability to be chief, I don’t think he
whispers. “Did you hear about Zamizan?” “Yes, how long does he have before he has would have chosen such a life for himself if given the chance. Chiefdom would require
to leave?” “He is the big man now.” It turned out that Zamizan’s father, who recently an extroverted role very uncommon for Zamizan. A timely marriage would also be
passed away (and left Zamizan the car), had been a paramount chief of the Ngoni tribe. required and I gathered from Zamizam’s expressions that this was not something he
The Ngoni is the largest tribe in Malawi and although his father was not the head chief, wanted just yet. His father’s death also meant an abrupt end to Zamizan’s life at MCV.
he still presided over an area of more than 50,000 people. The Malawian government Zamizan enjoyed teaching and he lamented leaving his students before their exams.
embraces tribal sovereignty and gives chiefs an official position in the government, an
office staff, along with a house and a generous salary. In return the chiefs are responsible Zamizan’s situation contrasted so sharply with a democratic system that it made me
for governing their district and mitigating local disputes. According to Zamizan, there appreciate a drawback of electing leaders. Take the common example of presidential
are also numerous social obligations. You could think of a chief as a bit like a mayor or gubernatorial elections in the United States. Such high stakes offices are so diffi-
except that they, instead of being elected, are chosen by heredity. Zamizan, as luck would cult to obtain that only very ambitious individuals, doing whatever it takes, are likely
have it, was the eldest born and had thus been groomed his entire life for chiefdom. He to win. Quality candidates who are unwilling to cut shady deals or sell out to big
business are usually unlikely to rise. With an inherited system, being power hungry is
not a prerequisite for office. Zamizan is humble, honest, and a good
listener, characteristics that are important for leadership yet so often
lacking in modern American politicians. Zamizan may turn out to be a
good leader precisely because he is not the type of person who would
normally pursue public office. Of course the reverse is also possible,
and it is for this and many other reasons that I remain sour to the idea
of pushing people like Zamizan into positions for which they may not
be ready and may not be interested.

82 82
it’s the eConoMy stuPid
In Malawi, one has a lot of time to think. I think while I pump water (Jes and I same forces of competition and scale are at work, they are shrouded from view
pump all our water with an MSR hand-pump), I think while I walk down the by an economic system so large and complex that it operates beyond public per-
road, and I think with quite little distraction when the power goes out every ception.
night at 6 pm. What has come as quite a shock is that my mind has chosen to
occupy itself with economics during these moments of monotony. In college, Poverty is probably the most visible economic phenomena in Malawi. The last
Adam Smith was about the only economic theorist I read. Over the last several time I saw poverty as severe was on a school trip to India several years ago. I
months I have been kicking myself for never taking an economics class. I am remember wondering why people, who appear to contain the same intelligence
sure many people share my regrets based on the recent bamboozling financial and ability as Americans, have so much less wealth. The question seemed simple
quagmire. However, being cutoff from all but the most superficial and inane enough, and I asked several of the economics majors on the trip. Their answers
news, my impetus for economic learning has been quite different. were never satisfying and seemed to explain the poverty simply by restating it.
“Indians are poor because the country has a low GDP,” and, “people are poor
Malawi provides a unique perspective from which to observe economics. I can because their wages are low,” were common responses. The
literally watch the flow of goods as they move from farmers to market, and as response concerning low wages progressed my question, but
they are distributed from wholesalers along a chain of increasingly smaller, more simply shifted the quintessence of my query to wages; why are
expensive, and more remote shops. When I walk into the market and see only
one stand selling tomatoes, I know the price will be steep. A haggling system also
makes painfully clear that prices are motivated, not by value or cost of produc-
tion, but by what someone is willing to pay. In the United States, although the

83 A football pitch at a nearby83


school.
wages low? After returning to the United States and school my thoughts were It is true that the country
diverted to more immediate concerns. enjoys a more relaxed profes-
sional culture than America.
In Africa, however, the question resurfaced, and I once again started asking People take long lunch breaks,
people about the cause of poverty. Malawians usually have two responses to take mid-day naps, and work
this question. First, they claim that Malawi is not poor, only its people. Now this far fewer hours than Ameri-
sounds nonsensical at first, but it is really a statement about wealth distribution. cans. However, when I see a
Malawians see BMWs drive down the road, they see wealthy resort owners, and Malawian tirelessly building
they assume that the wealth is there and that they aren’t getting their share. As a house in 100 degree heat,
appealing as this explanation is, it is utter hogwash. In a country where there are or carrying lumber for 10
few natural resources and the per capita income hovers around 500 US dollars km on foot, I can’t believe
per year, even the most egalitarian economic distribution would still leave Malawians are categorically
Malawi, and its people, poor. lazy. Even if Malawians do
work less than Americans,
The second rationalization I get from Malawians is that the country is lazy. This say 4 hours instead of 8 hours
explanation is really a statement about how hard and how much Malawians work. per day, the pay differential
should be one half, not one
orders of magnitude greater.
Primary school students conduct class
Although the laziness outside because there are not enough class-
argument is a bit of a scape- rooms.
goat, it did make me think about how much Malawians really accomplish
with their labors. I was recently provided with a rather illuminating example
at a roadside basket stand. An elderly woman sat on the ground, surrounded
by stacks of woven baskets, mats, and little miniature cars targeted at tourists. I
asked the woman how long it took her to weave one of her mats and she replied
that it took about a day and a half. A person working in a factory in the United
States could probably produce 100 or more such mats in the same amount
of time. It was at this moment I realized the answer to my question. Wealth is
simply the result of productivity. A person who creates 100 mats will have 100
times the wealth and purchasing power as a person who creates one mat. The
man who hauls lumber on his back will probably work harder than a man trans-
porting lumber with a truck, but he will transport far less lumber and therefore
have far less wealth. At the rate Malawians weave mats and transport lumber,
a considerable number of people are required to satisfy the country’s need for
mats and lumber transport. In the United States, those same people are free to
pursue other endeavors of production. They make cars, make television, build
Pictured is class enrollment data for a local primary school. Most primary
schools are run by the government (Grades 1-9), while secondary schools
(Grades 9-12) are predominately private. Notice how the enrollment num-
bers drop
84 and how the sex ratios change from Form 1 to 8. These trends are 84
continued in secondary school. On average only 2% of the Malawian popula-
tion will graduate from secondary school.
houses, and create the multitude of things we associate with wealthy societies. to work. And the financial sector determines how to distribute capital so that it
best increases productivity and growth (at least in theory). Nowhere in these
Overall, Malawi’s human capital is probably tied up most by its unproductive activities are the material goods associated with wealth produced. Therefore,
agriculture. Malawian farmers till their fields by hand and, as a result, cultivate far the compensation of individuals in the services sector is inextricably tied to the
less land than a mechanized farmer. The national statistics are staggering; 87% wealth of the industrial complex that surrounds it. The teachers in Malawi are
of the population is employed in farming. Not because Malawi is a prodigious paid by student fees which are collected from families that are employed unpro-
agriculture exporter (although they do export food), but because unproductive ductively. The teachers can only charge what families can afford to pay and
farming necessitates massive human this fact limits the wages of Malawian
capital. In a developed country only teachers as well as all other service pro-
2-3% of the population is needed to fessionals.
produce sufficient food.
Even from the examples of the basket
It seems clear that Malawians are poor weaver and the lumber transporter
because their overall productivity is the root of Malawi’s low productivity
low, however, within specific sectors becomes obvious, technology. The
of the economy the productivity basket company in the United States
argument appears to break down. uses machines to construct the baskets.
What about teachers? Malawian A transport company uses trucks
teachers provide an inestimably driven on paved roads, a practice far
valuable product and produce it at pro- more efficient than carrying freight by
ductivities roughly equivalent to their hand over rough ground. Observing
higher paid American counterparts (In the consequences of low productivity
some instances the teachers in Malawi in Malawi has given me a new apprecia-
may actually be more productive due tion for the touchy issue of automation
to larger class sizes). If compensation in the United States.
is related to productivity, why then are
Malawian teachers paid 2,500 dollars a Whenever a new machine or process
A rural hut and grain silo. The elevated silo allows farmers to store grain
year while American teachers receive away from flooding and, if a dog is tethered close by, rats. eliminates jobs in the United States
more than ten times as much. I only saw there is public outcry. Generally such
the reason after I accepted that teachers, like other service professionals, don’t occasions are viewed as evil companies maximizing profits at the expense of
really produce anything. Now this seems harsh, especially given my current workers. I don’t really care to debate the morality of businesses, but looking at
occupation. But to admit that teachers (and people in other service professions) the end result of automation is instructive. Let’s assume a new machine is created
are unproductive is not to say their labors are without value. Education and that eliminates the need for bank tellers (okay this has already happened, but it is
other service sectors are like oil to the economic engine; it aids the productivity a good example nonetheless). The most visible consequence is lost jobs and this
and functionality of the engine, without actually providing the power or means is unfortunate indeed. However, people often fail to follow the less visible con-
of movement. The educational sector trains workers and develops production sequences of automation. Some of the money once paid to employees will pay
technologies. The health sector keeps everyone alive so that they can continue for the ATMs, which will inevitably fund new jobs in the growing ATM-making

85 85
86
A farmer’s house and freshly tilled vegetable or corn plot.
Malawi Buildings
Pictured here are Malawian brick houses at various
levels of completion. First, mud is formed into bricks
using wood molds and allowed to sun dry in neat lines.
The bricks are then gathered into large piles and fire
hardened. The fire is maintained for several hours but
the piles remain hot for days. Finally, the bricks are laid
using mud or cement mortar (or a mixture of both) and
plastered with something resembling the consistency of
the mortar. Most roofs in Malawi are still thatched, and
require re-thatching every 2-3 years. Often old roofs will
be patched by throwing excess thatch on top or by using
black plastic bags. Thatch is harvested long before the
roofing season, so for several months you will see large
bundles of thatch leaning against houses. Most middle
class homes and professional buildings use metal corru-
gated roofs which are hotter and louder, but more reli- 87
able.
industry. The bank, at least in the long term, will also realize an increased profit
since the ATMs must cost less than humans to justify their use. The bank can
then use that profit in three different ways: it can lower bank fees (effectively
raising the income of everyone that uses banks), it can reinvest in the company
(creating more jobs), or it can invest the money outside the company (creating
jobs in other industries). Even if banks choose to lower bank fees, jobs will be
created because consumers will now have more money to spend or invest in
different areas of the economy, growing employment in those areas.

However, the most important effect of the ATMs is an increase in productivity.


The banks continue to operate at the same capacity but with fewer employees.
The laid-off workers (or to say it nicer, “liberated human capital”) can now be
employed in new fields that provide new products to society. Imagine if all those
people were employed at a new electronics company that produced wristwatch
televisions. Everyone could have a wristwatch television; wouldn’t that be great?
Well, maybe not. But some of the people could also become therapists and spiri-
tual leaders to help people cope with the societal consequences of ubiquitous
wristwatch televisions. My point is, is that liberated human and physical capital A view of the MCV sign; made of plastered mud bricks. NGOs like MCV rep-
can be used in new endeavors to improve everyone’s quality of life. resent 15% of the Malawian economy.
receives so much outside aid that it accounts for 15% of the country’s nominal
This process of ever increasing automation, efficiently, and productivity is what GDP. The money certainly assuages some human suffering, but after a year as
has allowed the United State to enjoy such a high quality of life. The absence of an aid worker I question its long-term effectiveness. Fifty years of aid-culture in
such a process in Malawi has left the country devastatingly poor. In the devel- Malawi has bred significant dependence and done very little to progress people’s
oped world, the effort we spend castigating companies for improving efficiency standard of living. There are of course pockets of success, but by most social
at the cost of jobs would probably be better spent helping the now unemployed measures the country has stagnated for the past 50 years. Much of the humani-
workers retrain and retool. If you question whether this process of ever-increas- tarian aid that enters Malawi also has the downside of being unsustainable, a fact
ing productivity is worth the turmoil caused for employees and their families, I that was painfully revealed to MCV (and many other NGOs) during the latest
have one bit of advice: come to Malawi. economic recession.

Most Malawians (almost 80%) live a rural subsistence lifestyle, largely due to 30
Another way to increase quality of life is to increase productivity. This inevi-
years of economic and social policy under President Banda. Because of Banda’s
tably involves moving people away from a traditional lifestyle towards a more
policies, Malawi represents the starting point of economic development. Theproductive and developed economic system. For this to be realized you need
humanitarian costs inherent in such a state of existence are staggering. The low
technology, you need the tractors, machines, and factories that fuel affluent
productivity and ensuing poverty means that many are malnourished, health- lifestyles. Unfortunately, Malawi lacks the capital for the significant internal
care services are appalling, and the education system is accessible to few. I think
investment needed for development and consequently requires external input.
few Americans would find the standard of living in Malawi acceptable. In short, the economy needs to become more open to investment. Before
coming to Malawi, this investment-economic approach to achieving humani-
The economic question de jour then becomes: how can the quality of life in tarian aims always gave me pause. It always struck me as exploitive. International
Malawi best be improved? One approach is outside humanitarian aid. Malawi companies extracting huge profits while the locals receive a pittance. I was also
88 88
concerned with the reports of cultural disintegration and the dilution of tradi- the prowl for new
tional beliefs with the popular culture of the western world. My angst with both religions to try;
criticisms of development has been tempered, though not eliminated, by my religions are almost
time in Malawi. viewed as an a la
carte offering. Jes
Let me begin with the argument that development and globalization destroys is constantly being
traditional culture. Every night outside my house I am serenaded by the singing asked to start up a
and drumming of the female boarding students. Their performance is nearly Jewish group and
always prompted by the nightly hour-long brownout. In the unlikely event the half the teachers
Malawi Power Board avoids a blackout, the girls remain inside and the air is hold strong convic-
silent. The other night, as I sat listening to their performance in my sweltering tions that I should
hut, I began to wonder how much singing and dancing is afforded nationwide start a congrega-
by the regular blackouts. What effect would just one more hour of electricity tional church so
have on the cultural heritage of Malawi? Who knows, but I suspect the singing they can have a
outside my window would stop. As people’s lifestyles change it seems inevi- go. Religion here
Mr. Mtemangombe gives me a quick lesson in drumming .
table that beliefs and behavior will follow. However, I doubt that this cultural is a smorgasbord
change will morph Malawi into a nondescript country without any semblance of options and even the imported religions like Christianity and Islam have a
of locality. strong local flavor. Overall, I would describe the religious culture here as more
interesting and unique because of outside influences. As more culture and tech-
The missionaries who came to Malawi started the process of globalization over nology is imported into Malawi I do see some traditional culture disappearing,
150 year ago and still the religious character of Malawi remains as unique as ever. but just as often I see new ways being blended with old to make a culture that
Yesterday, I was relaxing under our school’s baobab tree with other teachers in a is uniquely Malawi. Last night I saw a group of students singing and dancing
vain attempt to escape the mid-day heat. As the conversation turned to religion around the tinny drum beat of a cell phone speaker, giving me hope that the
(as it so often does when a heathen such as myself is present) I asked what effect bane of development will fail to usurp the vivacious character of Malawi.
they thought Christianity and Islam had on their traditional religions. I thought
the biology teacher had an interesting point; he said that the evangelical reli- From more cultural concerns, I would like to move on to the argument that
gions brought new options that were relevant in some, but not all, situations. He investment led development is inherently exploitive. When outside companies
appreciated both his Christian and traditional beliefs and embraced both ways (usually manufacturers) enter a developing country the rewards of the partner-
of thinking without any apparent contradiction. People in Malawi are always on ship often seem one-sided. When a company ships manufactured goods from

89 89
the 3rd-world they attach an enormous mark-up, little of which is seen by those allowed the sewing program to train and employ a roomful of people, giving
actually making the product. When I walk into an American department store skills and a dignified livelihood to individuals who previously had none. Even at
and pay 50 dollars for a new pair of jeans, the thought that those making the a dollar a day, employees can save for the future, pay for their children’s educa-
jeans are paid less than a dollar a day is a little unsettling. Such measly wages tion, and appreciate the stability of an income. Now when I walk into the sewing
seem immoral. However, after living in Malawi for a year that dollar-a-day figure shop there is a positive vibe; people are in a great work environment and proud
doesn’t have the same shock value it once did. In Malawi, there is nothing insult- of their vocation. The biggest complaint I hear in Malawi is that there is no work.
ing about paying a worker a dollar a day; in fact, it is a good wage that many People want and need employment.
would be happy to receive. I can actually foresee it being socially disruptive to
pay factory workers significantly more than the local market income. What sort As long as a humane work environment is maintained, I see nothing immoral
of harmful incentives would be created in an economy where a seamstress in with outside companies bringing factories to Malawi. This may feel exploi-
a textiles plant makes four or five times as much as a teacher or nurse? Is that tive, but for all its evils this type of investment-led-development has helped lift
justice? Regardless of how one-sided the rewards of third world investment millions out of poverty. China, and to a lesser extent India, have both embraced
appear to be, it is wrong to assume that local communities do not benefit; they this style of economic development and have seen their incomes and access to
actually benefit a great deal. basic services increase dramatically. Meta studies have consistently shown that
developing countries with open economies and high levels of external invest-
The MCV sewing program recently made the choice to enter into what is called ment post much larger economic and humanitarian gains than countries relying
piece work, basically a compensation system where companies (often inter- on internal investment alone.
national) auction out large sewing orders at very low per item rates. The piece
work system is how most commercial sewing is conducted and has a stigma I still have reservations about the future of development in Malawi. If wealthy
because it produces a ruthless bidding system that leads to low wages (at least by companies enter Malawi, the lopsided power between companies and employ-
American standards). MCV is making prison uniforms at 70 kwacha a piece, or ees could easily create an environment where workers are exploited in ways
about 50 cents. The people working in the sewing program start at 170 kwacha a far more damaging than low wages. I would be most concerned by inhumane
day (about 1 dollar) and are expected to produce a certain number of uniforms, working conditions where a disregard for human dignity could quickly nullify
though I don’t think a quota system is in place. Although piece work has a any humanitarian gain offered by increased wealth. I think that Malawi’s develop-
stigma, I actually applaud Nettie’s (Nettie is the director of the sewing program) ment needs to move forward cautiously and deliberately. To not move forward
decision to change the sewing program. Previously, the sewing shop was rou- at all would be robbing people of a proven path towards increased productivity
tinely empty as the tourist orders on which the program relied were infrequent. and prosperity.
“Piece work” may not have the same cachet as “tourist boutique,” but it has
Below: Laundry day on lake Malawi near Monkey Bay.
Right: Laundry day at Jes and Jesse’s hut.

90 90
Generosity…in Moderation
Ever since childhood we are taught that sharing is a good thing. The idea is so
engrained that just last week I found myself reflexively chastising two toddlers
in the nursery for hording the Tonka truck. I think that an ethic of sharing is
necessary for a successful society and that people everywhere are taught, in one
way or another, that sharing is important. However, after living in Malawi for
nearly a year I have come to the belief that Americans are not the world’s most
prolific sharers. In the United States there is a sanctity of ownership and a belief
that what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. There are certainly many
generous Americans (many, I suspect, are reading this blog), but their generos-
ity is viewed as a choice, not an obligation. In Malawi, the culture of sharing is
embedded within a system of property ownership that is much more nebulous.
The boundary between personal and communal ownership has an equilibrium
that is forever moving, ebbing and flowing in response to the changing needs
of individuals and communities. I have observed that there is an unspoken rule
that when you have something you are expected to share, with the expectation
Mr. Moto, Mr. Kambalame, and Mr. Malukula eat beans and nsima out that others will do the same when they are able. I suspect this ethic of sharing
of the communal pot at Gracious Secondary School. evolved from the need of communal societies to temper the ups and downs of
a subsistence lifestyle. Even if the generosity of Malawians emanates from the
need for a social safety net, the result is nevertheless heartwarming.

When teachers buy sodas or popcorn, they always buy several and surrepti-
tiously place them on other teacher’s desks. During lunch you often see a
group of students huddled around a plate, one student sharing their meal with
their fellow classmates. Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk grading papers while
other teachers ate lunch. I hadn’t paid for lunch because I couldn’t face another
day of nsima and beans. I have nothing against nsima and beans, but the heat
compounded with the culinary monotony is sometimes enough to make me
skip meals. Peter, realizing that I didn’t have lunch, brought some food over to
share with me. Even though teachers pay for lunch separately, the food always
arrives in a communal pot and is shared by all. Even when a teacher collects
their food separately they quickly surrender it to the big bowl on entry to the
teacher’s room. I can never bring myself to eat on days that I haven’t paid, but I
Bicycles are shared commodities in Malawi, often by two or three
people at the same time. am alone in this respect. Probably only 2/3 of teachers pay on any given day, but

91 91
the communal bowl usually has enough food. Jes and I secretly grumble to each that forcing students to share school supplies is unfair. However, I am willing to
other on days when the communal pot is kuchepa (Chichewa for insufficient), acknowledge that my opinion is colored by my upbringing in the United States.
often absconding to our house for a few biscuits to augment the paltry portions. I understand that what is fair and unfair in Malawi is governed by a different
If other teachers share our frustration, it is well hidden. I suspect most teachers do covenant than exists in the United States.
not feel entitled, as I do, to a full lunch simply because they have paid. If you are
able to pay, you do, and if you can’t, you don’t. Morality aside, I worry that obligatory sharing often does more harm to the bene-
factor than it does good for the recipient. Many teachers with long commutes ride
This unconditional generosity is one of the most beautiful things about Malawi. a bicycle to school and park it in the teacher’s room. Almost daily, a teacher will
Unfortunately, this is often the only perspective taken by outsiders. Visitors nearly rush into the teacher’s room with a worried look on their face and exclaim, “where
always laud the generosity of Malawians, and really, how could you not within the is my bicycle!” Turns out, many of the teachers who commute on foot (and live
confines of traditional morality. Although I am honestly touched by the generos- close by) like to borrow the bikes to nip home during breaks, but don’t think to ask
ity of Malawians, I do see negative consequences of sharing, both societal and permission. Sometimes the bikes disappear for only a few minutes, but last week
personal, which deserved to be acknowledged. one was gone for five hours. By the time the bike was returned the bike owner
(who rides 18km to and from school each day) was seriously inconvenienced.
One problem I see with the sharing culture is the entitlement people feel for the The bikes have also started returning with flat tires or broken spokes with no one
possessions of others. The other day at school Jes passed two students quarreling taking responsibility for the damage. A bike may seem like a minor possession in
over a book. Finally, one student turned to Jes and said, “make her lend me the the United States, but near Mangochi it is often teachers’ only mode of transport.
book, she should share it.” Apparently the girl owned a biology book but didn’t The teachers who bring bikes to school do so because they need to. It is impossible
want to lend it to her class mate. “But madam, he never returns my book when I to walk 20 or 30 kilometers each day. Conversely, those who borrow bikes do so
lend it to him,” said the girl with the book. Jes, bemused by the entitlement of the only for convenience and, through their actions, cause a large inconvenience for
boy, rebuked his request and explained that the girl could do with the book as she the bike owner.
wanted. The boy stared at Jes in disbelief; it was obviously not the response he
had expected and probably not the reply he would have received from a Malawian The manner in which the bikes were borrowed is clearly inexcusable, but one
teacher. I don’t think a Malawian teacher would have gone as far as to forcibly take could argue that extensive sharing, even if it causes some inconvenience, would
the book from the girl, but they would pressure the girl to share. This may seem be necessary with scarce (and expensive) items (such as bikes) in impoverished
innocuous enough –it certainly would be in the United States– but in Malawian areas. Unfortunately, I worry that in many instances the scarcity of commodities
culture a recommendation of that sort would be tantamount to an order; it would is actually amplified by the sharing culture. Pens, which any teacher can afford in
be deplorable to refuse. I see this type of forced redistribution all the time at school. copious quantities, are always a scarce commodity around the teachers’ room.
Teachers are constantly scouring the room and rooting through desks looking for
In my form 1 class there are about six students, out of 50, who own calculators. extra pens. I often find that my personal stock has been pillaged from my desk. It
During exams and problem sessions these six calculators get passed around the feels like stealing to me, but I don’t think the other teachers see it that way. I suspect
room with seemingly no preference given to the student who owns the calculator. they would happily return my pens if I had the need, but are happy to ‘borrow’ in a
Even during the national exams (test which are extremely important to the future semi-permanent fashion as long as I still have pens aplenty. There is no reason for
of students), I have seen teachers take calculators from students, without asking, a pen shortage among teachers; they are cheap and available at nearly every local
and give them to students across the room. It would be comparable to having shop. I think the scarcity of pens stems from teachers’ assumption that they will
your calculator whisked away without your consent during your SAT math test. always be able to borrow from someone else. The teachers also realize, rightfully
I personally believe that individuals should have a right to their possessions and so, that even if they came to school with extra pens they would not be reserved for

92 92
their exclusive use. The sharing culture actually generates a strong disin-
centive for bringing pens and, in doing so, creates an artificial shortage
which frequently disrupts the workday.

I fear the sharing culture causes far more widespread problems than
simple pen shortages. Teachers are constantly complaining that they are
unable to save for the future because the moment they accumulate any
capital, be it goats or money, they are expected to provide for an ever-
increasing proportion of their family and community. One employee at
MCV was recently forced to rent a personal apartment in a nearby town
because whenever he brought money or personal items to his home
village, they were taken from his room and ‘redistributed’ within his
family. If an individual cannot have personal ownership they cannot rely
on their innate ambition to better their condition, they cannot plan for
the future or invest prudentially. If capital is dispersed the moment any
concentration of it exists, it prevents the type of long term investments
that are needed by an economy. Imagine a shrewd farmer who dreams
Mr. Moto, Mr. Kambalame, and Mr. Siwande share the computer. They are almost
certainly playing Zuma instead of working. of building a granary or opening a market. Both endeavors require that
the farmer save his resources so that he may afford the upfront costs. If
the resources are wrested from the farmer the moment they accumulate,
the granary and the market will never be built. The money will instead
be spent on smaller items which almost certainly contribute less to the
economic development of the region. The economic development of a
society and a country begins with the economic efforts of individuals
and without an incentive for these efforts the economic progress of the
country is stymied. I think this is happening in Malawi.

I am still impressed by the generosity of Malawians. I still believe sharing


is a good thing. But within these beliefs I also see drawbacks of exces-
sive sharing. I can appreciate how communal ownership and sharing
obstruct the progress of Malawi, and I can appreciate the value inherent
in moderate selfishness. Living in Malawi has made me recognize the
credence and insight of Adam Smith when he wrote, “it is not from the
benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our
dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest… Every individual
endeavors to employ his capital so that its produce may be of the greatest
value…by pursuing his own interest he frequently promoters that of the
Jes’s birthday dinner. society more effectively that he really intends to promote it.”

93 93
YARD SALE YARD SALE YARD SALE
Jes and I decided to hold a yard sale with the items that would not be returning with us to the United States. Selling our unneeded clothes, books, school supplies,
and food might seem cold hearted in the midst of such poverty, but I believe it was the best way to transfer our possessions to our Malawian hosts. We considered
having a free sale, but the several times we had observed such events in Malawi, the first few shoppers indiscriminately took everything and later resold most of what
they had taken. We also considered gifting away our things, but after seeing several volunteers/visitors depart in a flurry of gifts we decided against it. Their departures
became overshadowed by
people worrying about who
was going to get what gift,
and the materialization of
random people with way-
ward connections who felt
entitled to free stuff. We
did quietly give away a few
items that were particularly
well suited to close friends,
but most everything else
was sold at the yard sale.
Lastly, we considered giv-
ing everything to MCV. Al-
though probably the best
alternative mentioned thus
far, we were not keen on the
idea after witnessing how
things often disappeared
into storage. By charging for
our possessions we ensured
that people only took what
they actually wanted and
could use. We tried to miti-
gate the negative aspects of
the price system by employ-
ing a generous sliding scale
that varied on ability to pay
and on need. This ensured
that anyone could afford
what they truly wanted. At
the end of the day we do- Jes and I stand with James, an employee of MCV. He is wearing a pair of shorts that he bought at our yard sale.
nated all proceeds to MCV.
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siCkness
I made a personal promise to myself at the beginning of the year that I would her customary pre-bed shower.
not let these blogs digress into a commentary on my gastrointestinal tract. If you
have appreciated this goal then read no further. For those of you who are still with“When did it start?” She yelled over the shower water.
me, welcome to my level. During my first few months in Malawi being prepared “This afternoon at Ayub’s… I think it’s just gas though.” There was a pause in
meant carrying toilet paper in my back pocket. I never had serious intestinal the conversation as Jes rinsed her hair.
problems, but I never knew where or when Malawi’s microscopic populace “Where does it hurt?” I moved to the left side of the bed so that I was visible
would hold a party in my gut. As time went on one of two things happened. through the open bathroom door.
Either my body dominated the locals or, as is more likely, the locals setup shop “Right here,” I said, jabbing a finger in my lower right abdomen.
inside my intestines and decided to exist in a continual state of asymptomatic “Huh, weird,” said Jes, as she turned off the water and began toweling off. I went
parasitism. back to massaging my abdomen for several minutes until Jes walked by on her
way to the kitchen and said in an offhand way, “isn’t that where your appendix
The problems which marked my first few months in Malawi had nearly faded is?”
as I entered the home stretch of my time in Africa. Aside from the heat, which
drenched my shirt everyday by 8 am, things were going well. I had discovered that My heart did one of those sudden big lub-dubs that is followed by near normal
my neighbor, Ayub, had the best fan in a 20 km radius and I had consequently heart beats and a feeling of anxiety flowing from your heart to your extremi-
taken to absconding to his house in the afternoon. On one such afternoon I ties. I had actually already noticed that the pain coincided with my appendix but
was basking in the afterglow of a huge afghani meal when I began to feel a dull somehow having another person make the same observation added to the cred-
ache in my gut. I initially passed it off as the result of overstuffing my shrunken ibility. The pain was pretty minor though, and I convinced myself that it would
stomach, but later that night the pain returned. After dinner I laid down on the
bed and began massaging my abdomen and complaining to Jes who was taking

95 95
probably subside by morning. It didn’t. hope for the best.

The dull ache in my abdomen continued throughout the next week in both a I woke up Sunday morning and the pain was worse. I tried to tell myself that it
very reassuring and disturbing way. The pain didn’t get any worse, a fact that I was worse because I had spent the last week pushing and prodding my abdomen,
used to rationalize to myself that I was okay. The pain also didn’t get any better, a but the time for rationalization was quickly passing. It was at this moment that
most unsettling detail that provoked worst-case-scenario dramas to play out in I realized how nominal my ‘health insurance’ really was. Jes and I had both pur-
my head as I tried to sleep. chased catastrophic travel insurance before we left the states. The policy, aside
from having a high deductible, was pretty good. It would airlift you out in case of
My medical options were slim; I could try to get the problem looked at locally emergency and would pay up to two million dollars. Yet before you can be flown
or I could go to one of the private hospitals in Blantyre. When Jes had gone to out of country you need to find a plane, that means Blantyre or Lilongwe. Both
Koche, the local clinic up the road, the young man examining her had proudly cities are hours away on bad roads and I sincerely doubt a leer jet is standing by.
announced that he was going to be taking his MSCEs soon. The MSCEs are As comforting as those travel insurance plans feel, I suspect Jes and I were, and
high school performance exams so Koche was obviously not a good option. The are, at the mercy of local medicine in nearly all emergency scenarios. As I faced
Mangochi District hospital was a little bigger and a little farther away but also the prospect of acute appendicitis, my options were really no greater than a well
did not have much to recommend it. Mangochi District Hospital serves 50,000 to do Malawian.
people and has three doctors. An American medical student who worked there
once recalled to me that he had seen ants crawling inside an IV tube attached I decided that I had to act now as it would take a considerable amount of time to
to a person. I had heard good things about the hospitals in Blantyre, but they access medical care. I talked to Jes and we made the decision to go to Blantyre if it
were a 5 hour bus ride away, a journey not to be taken lightly. I didn’t feel justi- was appendicitis. Mr. Sibale, the director of MCV, was at the campus on Sunday
fied going to Blantyre since the pain was, admittedly, pretty minor. I had heard and we discussed my options. He knew a doctor at a local private clinic that I
horror stories from a friend in college who had had appendicitis and my lacklus- could probably see Monday morning with little delay. ‘Little delay’ was key since
ter symptoms didn’t seem to compare. I decided to hold out a while longer and a visit to the district hospital could mean waiting the better part of a day. Every
time I walk past the district hospital I see a meandering line of people emerging
from the entrance, baking in the blistering sun. The line moves so slowly that

96 96
people can be seen sitting or sprawled on their backs as they wait. I resigned there were two women, a small bed, a scale, and an old-school blood pressure
myself to the fact that I would have to wait until Monday for any answers. Much machine. I immediately realized this was not the doctor’s office, just the pre-doc-
of the country closes down on the weekends and this, to some extent, includes tor screening. I guess there are hoops to jump through in every country. I was
transportation and medical services. weighed (147lbs, okay I have lost some weight on the beans and rice diet) and
had my blood pressure taken (120/80 – pretty good numbers, guess I am not
Monday morning came and the pain was worse. As I went to the breakfast table dying yet). I was then ushered to the next, longer, line of chairs. To my relief, the
I felt my abdomen jarred by pain from the movement of walking. Jes joked that door at the end of this line read, “doctor’s office.” Forty minutes later and I was
it was probably because I was so heavy footed, but her teasing manner couldn’t face to face with a doctor with just enough gray hairs to exude a reassuring and
mask the nervous edge in her voice. I didn’t feel like eating so I drank a protein competent manner. I had done some research on appendicitis and so tried my
shake while Jes picked at some bread and mangoes. Sibale arrived at 8 am. I best to convey actual symptoms without imagined or embellished details which
stepped gingerly into the front car seat and bade farewell to Jes. We had both always occur after one reads what they are ‘supposed’ to be feeling. The doctor
decided she should stay and pack incase we had to go to Blantyre. The 30 minute asked me some questions and did all the physical appendicitis tests. “Well,” he
drive to the clinic was mostly paved but bumpy dirt patches caused me to rise off said, “I think you have acute appendicitis.” He started writing in my health book.
the seat in a vain attempt to shield my abdomen from the rough road. Reading his scrawl upside-down I saw the entry: refer to Mangochi District
Hospital for management.
The clinic is part of an Islamic charity that has a large compound with a school
and a large garden. The school and the garden looked well maintained and I “So you think I should go to Mangochi District Hospital?” I asked. He looked
became hopeful that the clinic was equally cared for. It was, but unfortunately up, a bit startled that I had been reading his notes.
quality does not go unnoticed in Malawi. Several men were sprawled out on “Mangochi is where we refer appendicitis cases,” he said in a voice that sounded
the front steps and every available seat and patch of floor was occupied by sick like he used this line frequently.
looking people. I was ushered over to the check-in desk where the attendant “So they can treat appendicitis at the district hospital?”
promptly asked to see my health book. A health book is a small notebook used “Well, it is where we refer patients for appendicitis.”
for medical records. It has things like your weight, age, sex, and notes from past “I heard that,” I said, “but would you recommend going there?” He stopped
clinic visits. Never having visited a Malawian clinic in a patent capacity, I had no writing momentarily and fixed me with a gaze that for the first time suggested
health book. Every clinic is pretty strict about patients having their health books he was pulling out of automaton mode.
and seeing as I have chewed out patients for not bringing them I really couldn’t “Well, if you need surgery you may want to go to Blantyre,” he said.
blame the attendant’s instance. Fifty cents later and I was the proud owner of a “Do you think I will need surgery?”
Malawian health book, yahoo, only $2499.50 more until I satisfied my insur- “In my experience most appendicitis cases are surgical.” He paused again, and
ance deductible. I was then ushered over to a line of chairs against the back wall. then said in a rather frank voice, “You should go to Blantyre.”
After several minutes of waiting someone came out of the door to the right of “That’s what I needed to know,” I said, and thanked him for his assistance.
the chairs and the person seated next to the door rose to enter the examina-
tion room. Immediately, every other person in line shifted to the next seat with He gave me some useful information on hospitals in Blantyre and within minutes
amazing speed, considering most were probably sick. I was reading at the time I was on the phone with Jes. “We’re going to Blantyre,” I shouted into the phone
and kind of missed the cue so was leapfrogged by the woman behind me. ‘Oh as the SUV bounced along the bumpy road. Jes had spent the morning wrangling
well, I’ll get it next time,’ I thought. transport and had serendipitously been connected with Octavio. Octavio is the
former ambassador of Portugal and I had spoken with him on several occasions
After five or six more seat changes I was the one entering the examination as he often stays at his lakeshore chalet near MCV. He happened to be returning
room. I was pretty thrilled; the queue had only taken about a half hour. Inside, to Blantyre with his wife and, upon hearing about my medical predicament, had

97 Right Page: To the clinic97


we go.
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moved up his departure time. get better we will operate tomorrow.” The surgeon left and I picked up War and
Peace and prepared for a long night in the hospital.
I decided to remain in Mangochi since it was on the way to Blantyre. I waited on
the dusty steps of Peoples, the local quickie mart chain. The sun was overhead A small placard on the wall said, “Visiting hours strictly enforced. Patients will be
and the temperature was steadily climbing into the mid-nineties. I pushed on billed for unauthorized visitors present outside of visiting hours.” The approved
my abdomen to see if the pain had gotten better. Ouch! Still there. After about visitation times were very short and I thought the stipulation seemed rather strict.
a half hour of imagining a gruesome death on the steps of Peoples, Octavio’s Visiting hours were also maintained at the hospital I worked at during college,
gleaming Toyota Land Cruiser arrived. Octavio was dressed in a smart polo and but the rules were pretty lenient and almost anyone could visit at anytime if they
the air conditioning was blasting. As I stepped into the car I felt as if I was also checked in. The rules at the Adventist hospital also seemed at odds with the
stepping out of Malawi…well, at least out of Mangochi. In just two and a half attitude of my doctor, who had encouraged Jes to stay with me, even through
hours –a full three hours faster than the bus – we arrived in Blantyre. the night. The rationale behind the visitation rules became clear when, at 5:30
pm, the hospital was besieged by an army of visitors. The halls were suddenly
Jes and I had decided upon the 7th Day Adventist hospital which came with filled with a mass of talking bustling people darting in and out of rooms. My
good reviews from everyone we talked to. Their slogan is: we care, god heals. roommate had about 30 visitors crowded around his bed. Visitors entered the
I secretly hoped the hospital also healed, but was prepared to accept interven- room single file dressed in their Sunday’s best. They all spoke with my roommate
tion on my behalf from any source. After proving that we had adequate financial briefly, then relegated themselves to the far side of the bed and stood in respect-
resources (in my case, being white was enough), I was ushered back to a waiting ful silence while others took their turn. Visitors entered in phases, and although
room that was so cold I was shivering within minutes. In retrospect the room there were never fewer than 20 people in the room, it was obvious the different
was probably in the 70s, but these days anything below 80 is too cold. visitors belonged to different spheres of my roommate’s life. Some groups inter-
acted with the intimacy of family, while other groups were clearly professional
My doctor was a young and very nice Chinese man with an American accent. associates. Many visitors, upon noticing my glaring lack of visitors, came over
He became excited upon hearing that I was here volunteering for the year. to talk to me. It was quite nice to have the company and I ended up meeting the
“That’s how I started out in Malawi too,” he said, and then with a sheepish look author of the biology textbook Jes uses in her class. As much as I have bashed
added, “and I never left.” After a bit of poking and prodding he said, “I am going Malawian textbooks in past posts, his is one of the better ones. Upon hearing I
to admit you and call the surgeon for a consult, it does present like appendicitis.” was from Oregon he became excited, exclaiming that he had done his under-
The doctor seemed worried about my condition and before I left the exami- grad at Whitman; small world.
nation room the surgeon had been called and was on his way. I was promptly
put in a wheelchair and wheeled to the ward, a trip that actually involved going After the half hour visitation period had passed I gained a full appreciation for the
outside and down an alley. Nice to know I am still in Malawi. As I was taken strict rules enforced by the hospital. All the people were nice, but very exhaust-
down a barren but very clean hallway I couldn’t help but feel as if I was in the ing. United States hospitals can escape with lenient visitation policies because
1950’s. Nurses (all female) walked up and down the corridors wearing white no one comes to visit. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but in the entire year
dress uniforms with little white hats. My room was painted white and was barren I worked at Penrose St. Francis Hospital in Colorado Springs I did not see as
except for a curtain and an old-style iron frame bed. Behind the curtain was my many visitors as I saw in just a half hour in the Blantyre hospital. I have come
roommate, an older and well-off Malawian man. to the opinion that everyone and their uncle, their neighbor, and their distant
cousin visits hospitals in Malawi. Seeing the positive effects these visits had on
The surgeon also poked and prodded me and after asking several questions my roommate really made a strong case, in my mind, that we need to step it up in
said, “I don’t think this is appendicitis; wrong place, wrong symptoms. It could the old USA. The visitors even improved my mood since my roommate, in true
be an infected caecum. We will give you IV antibiotics tonight and if it doesn’t

99 99
Malawi style, shared his extra visitors with me.

My first night in the hospital (or any hospital for that matter) strangely
reminded me of trying to sleep on a long airplane flight. People kept waking
me every 3 hours to take my blood pressure and refilled my IV. Jes, feeling
guilty about sleeping in my bed in the presence of sisters (all the nurses are
nuns), had been sleeping on the cement floor but after several hours her for-
titude was overcome with weariness. The nurse, upon entering the room to
find Jes in my bed, made a comment along the lines of: “what took you so
long.” Morning came slowly but was punctuated by another half hour of visi-
tation when my roommate once again entertained dozens of guests.

I spent the following day in the hospital in a manic cycle as my abdominal


pain fluctuated from better to worse to better. By the end of the day the pain
was a bit better and the surgeon decided that my problem was actually an
intestinal block which should pass with proper medication. I was pretty stir-
crazy by this point so was very in favor of being discharged. The surgeon
agreed that I was probably safe to leave but recommended I stay close by until
the symptoms completely disappeared.

I am feeling completely better now and am back in Mangochi. The expe-


rience made me appreciate how accessible quality medical care is in the
United States. I was in one of the best hospitals in Malawi and there were no
CAT-scans, no MRIs, and I suspect, few specialists. There was a poster on
the wall advertising the visitation of a neurosurgeon to Blantyre. Apparently
a neurosurgeon from South Africa spends part of his year visiting, for several
days each, seven sub-Saharan African countries. The poster listed the dates
he would be in each country and stressed he was only doing consults. While
this neurosurgeon is shared by seven countries, my home town of 50,000
people has two neurosurgeons to itself. The level of care available in Malawi,
even at the best institutions, is limited. Imagine having access to care only as
sophisticated as a community clinic in the United States. How would your
life be different if your health was constrained by these limitations. Such is
life in Malawi.

Right:100
Jes takes a picture while on the road to Dedza. This is in no 100
way connected with this blog post.
hoMe
“Hey man, how’s it being back?” Or my personal favorite, “how was Africa?” showers did not define my Malawi experience; it just makes easy conversational
Shit, I don’t know. Not exactly the response most people are expecting, espe- fodder.
cially not medical school interviewers. So I fabricated answers. As time went on
I developed talking points that fit with what people expected; a nifty collection In the five months since my return to the United States I have struggled to
of stories and insights that portrayed a challenging but positive experience… untangle the mess of experience and emotion which surrounds Malawi in my
blah, blah, blah. Not exactly prevarication, but not exactly candid. The truth is, mind. I have tried to distill the elements of Malawian life which were meaning-
I don’t know how to encapsulate the experiences of an entire year into a terse fully unique and which transcend the superficial descriptors to which travelers
narrative. Ignoring this challenge, a larger obstacle remains: I’m not sure what so often digress. It was, and is, a personal question, one which I hope to com-
aspect of my time in Malawi was truly meaningful. No doubt it felt impactful, municate here with as much clarity as my mind allows.
but the stories I have been telling about power outages, matola rides, and cold
showers are superficial. Day to day occurrences of this sort, though novel at first, At many times throughout these blog posts I have commented on the oppor-
have a way of fading into the background and becoming normal. Taking cold tunity which Malawi afforded me to think and, in retrospect, this was one of

101 101
the most meaningful parts of the past year. I didn’t fully appreciate this until I had a business to run, a family to take care of, a house under construction, and
had been back in the United States for several months. Even without the help an active role in his community. I had none of these things.
of a full time job I still managed to fill nearly every second of my day, be it con-
structively or otherwise. There is always a new book to read, a new friend to For the first few month of college I had noticed a similar phenomena; a plethora
see, a new email to respond to, or some other industry of life. Malawi is a far of free time arising from the fact I had not yet chosen where and how to exert
less stimulating environment than the United States but more importantly it is myself in the new environment. Since life in Malawi represented an even larger
a different environment. There are different ways to spend one’s time and they departure from normality than beginning college, my idle time was even more
were not endeavors to which I was accustomed. Given several years I expect abundant. Remove, family, friends, Gmail, television, and facebook from your
that I would have filled my life with commitments analogous to those I have life and you save a prodigious amount of time. Just as the novelty of Malawi was
in the United States, but in just eleven month my time remained remarkably affording me an idleness I had never before experienced, it was also presenting
unrestrained. Mr. Mtemangombe, a fellow teacher, once commented that I had me with a cornucopia of challenging and thought provoking ideas. Although
more time than him because I didn’t have a real life; an astute observation which the majority of my time in Malawi quickly became “ordinary,” with uncanny fre-
he intended without judgment. When Mr. Mtemangombe returned home he quency Malawi’s many idiosyncratic quirks would emerge from the mundane
and leave me scratching my head. The result was a year of engaging philosophi-
cal thought and learning that differed markedly from the type I had experienced
during my formal education. Without the accountability of a teacher or an

102 102
assignment I could take the time to allow questions to appear, rather than forcing environment and interacting with people from entirely different backgrounds.
them to do so. I could spend an hour entertaining an idea in the hammock; take Just as in Malawi, an offhand comment by a coworker would give me something
the time to read several book on a topic; write down my thoughts and ideas to ponder for the rest of the day. There was nothing inherently stimulating about
without the need for a conclusion or the exigency of a deadline. The blogs Malawi; except in the sense that it utterly ravaged my autopilot and forced a
provided an outlet for some of what I was thinking, but for every page posted clean break from the regimen of routine. This opportunity allowed for a change
online there are countless pages on my hard drive written without purpose or in perspective that was very stimulating and, I think, enabled the presence of
intent. It was learning for the sake of curiosity with a lack of deliberateness in mind I enjoyed in Malawi.
which I had never before had the pleasure to indulge. It changed my day to day
experiences in a way that remained novel, even as the more superficial parts of Retaining my Malawian mentality was also mired by the manner in which I
Malawian life faded into the background. These periods of introspection and returned to the United States. For better or worse, I didn’t have time to transition
contemplation defined my time in Malawi in a way that is personally meaning- from Malawi to America. Literally days after arriving home I began a marathon
ful up to this day. of stressful medical school interviews. Nothing fosters genuine reflection less
than the combination of severe jet lag, coffee jitters, and a medical school admin-
I left Malawi with grand aspirations to continue this new found intellectual istrator asking you to summarize the most meaningful aspect of an entire year in
diligence. In most ways, I have failed. It is no coincidence that this blog post Africa in one minutes or less. Now that the dust has settled, my year in Malawi

comes more than 5 months since my return to the United States and more feels dislocated in my memory. It is as if my brain compartmentalized itself into
than 6 months since my previous post. I kept telling myself that I wanted to give American life and Malawian life. This made my transition back to the United
my feelings from Malawi time to “sink in,” before I put them down on paper. In States almost too effortless, since I essentially left much of my Malawian persona
reality, continuing the introspection and contemplation I valued in Malawi has behind and slipped back into the person I was a year before. I became involved
been much more difficult than I expected. with friends and family, and also the daily distracters such as email, computer
games, television, and facebook. With the benefit of hindsight, I now recognize
I am realizing how important the novelty in Malawi was to sparking my thinking. that when I left Malawi I also left behind a part of myself, a part that I hope to,
Since Malawi, I first felt compelled to write a blog post after I began temping in with time and due diligence, incorporate back into my life.
the seedy world of Chicago construction. Although quite different than Malawi
(well, the corruption is a striking parallel), I was once again operating in a foreign
103
First stop USA, Seattle.
103
104 The next stage, Duke University Medical School.
104
105 105
A b o u t t h e a u t h o r
a n d sp en t th e fi rs t four years of
ss e w a s b o r� in S ea ttle, Washing�on e age of four
Je o th er a d u lt s. A t th
o p er a ti ve h ousehold with 8
his life in a co
m o ve d th e fa m il y fi rst to Oly�pia,
e’s fa th er re t� r� ed to school and is that Jesse
Je ss o n . It w a s in C o r� a ll
g �o n , a n d th en to Cor�allis, Oreg in the Boy
Wash in ti o n . H e w a s a ct iv e
is p ri m a r� a n d secondar� educa
complete d h
. A ſt er g �a d u a ti n g from Cor�al-
u ts a n d ea r� ed ea gle rank at age 17 p rivate liberal
Sco C o ll eg e, a sm a ll
o l, Je ss e en ro ll ed at Colorado
lis High S ch o
s th er e th a t h e m et his f�t�re wife,
s sc h o o l in C o lo ra d o Springs. It wa Neuroscience
ar� w it h d is ti n ct io n in
e g �a d u a te d in May of 2008
Jes Co yl e. Je ss
s re se a rc h in g L o u Gehrig’s disease
n d sp en t th e su b se quent six month a lw ays dreamed
a te G ra n t. H a vi n g
a rd H u g h es Medical Instit�
under a H o w
Je ss e a p p li ed , o n ly to be kicked out
e Peace Cor�s,
of volunteering in th ti n g to g o w it h h is girlfriend Jes.
th s b ef o re h is d ep a r��re for reques iv ing speech-
mon se ve ra l m o n th s g
d ed , th e t� o spent the nex�
Not to b e d is su a
ei r d re a m . A fe w sh or� months lat-
n d p re se n ta ti o n s f� ndraising for th ing science
es a en t th e ye a r te a ch
Je s fl ew to M a lawi where they sp
er Jesse a n d
o o l. In a d d it io n to teaching, Jesse
ci o u s Secondar� Sch
an d m a th a t G ra
C V cl in ic . U p o n h is ret�r� to the
a y a w ee k w orking in the M
spent a h a lf d
a r� ed h is m ed ic a l d octorate at the
n ited S ta te s Je ss e m ar�ied Jes and st s her PhD in
U e Je s w o rk s to w a rd
U n iv er si t� S ch o o l o f Medicine whil al school,
Duke fi rs t ye a r o f m ed ic
N C C h a p el H il l. Cur�ently in his
biolog� a t U
a n d n eu ro sc ie n ce research.
rs u ing global healt h
s in te re st s in p u
Jesse ha
106 106
THANK YOU!
Special thanks to Jes Coyle, Patrick Athey, Wendy Woolf, Tommy O’Malley, Tom Nighswan-
der, and Ruth Nighswander for the use of their wonderful pictures, as well as all the donors
that made this experience possible.

107