We were sworn in during the first week of May as Peace Corps volunteers at the US ambassador’s residence in the capital city. Our group of 36 divided between health and environment specialities accepted the responsibilities and challenges offer offered by Wyoming’s US senator Mike Enzi. We are given two years to leave our mark on Malawi as well as be have Malawi become part of our lives forever.
What’s changed for us is our understanding of why Malawi is called “The Warm Heart of Africa.” Here, it’s common practice to greet everyone with the simple phrase “Muli bwanji?” – how are you?. Conversations with total strangers are nothing out the ordinary. Now that we begin our placements across Malawi this week, our communication with the world beyond Malawi will improve. I’ll be living in Ntcheu, located about 120 kilometers south of Lilongwe, collaborating with one of the larger organizations working on AIDS/HIV, low birth weights, nutrition, and community service issues. Our group of volunteers will be placed in hospitals and clinics while others will be in villages and national parks. Thus far, Malawi has been the experience of a life time, and promises to enrich our lives while opening our hearts to the potential for its future.
Now with eight weeks of training and language, all 36 in our Peace Corps group are to be sworn in on Wednesday, May 2nd at the US Embassy in Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe. Our group will be scattered throughout the country for the next two years working in the areas of health and environment. We are a changed group and have come to understand and appreciate the people of this country.
We started as strangers from all over the US and have grown to work together and support each other, especially on the long days when running water and electricity were unavailable in the villages where were we lived for the training phase. The past weeks of training were somewhat like the effort to get ready for a marathon. The difference was that our usual surroundings and supports were 8000 miles away while we were training to live in this new culture. We depended on each other to move forward in this country where public services we take for granted in the United States are hard to come by. Poverty is not hidden here.
Finally completed training and living in Ntcheu south of the capital city by about 120 miles. Just getting adjusted to my new surroundings and will be working for the Dedza diocese Catholic Health Commission in the areas of HID/AIDS, children nutrition, community development and connecting with other non-profit and government agencies. Living in a temporary location until my new residence is completed. Will get busy posting and exploring the world of Malawi with the Peace Corps.
Finally get a chance to have internet access while being here during the training phase in Malawi. Our group of 37 is the best – young, creative and full of energy and a great source of company during some of the difficult training days. Hoping to get greater access soon to pass along all that is Malawi. Maialwi is called the “warm heart of Africa” and truely deserves that title. It’s richest resource is it friendly and welcoming people. It is almost impossible to pass someone without some sort of greeting. This country give new meaning to the word poverty. Thanks for hanging in there with me and I will have better communications in the upcoming weeks.
Staging was held today in Philadelphia for those headed to Malawi. The group of 39 arrived from all parts of the US each with the expectation of achieving Peace Corps goals for their soon to be new home for the next 2 years. The sessions included a basic orientation to the goals and expectations for these new volunteers. Tomorrow (Wed) we’ill board buses at 2:00 AM and head to JFK airport in NY for a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Arfica followed by a two and a half hour flight up to Malawi. By then it will be noontime Thursday. About 25 of us headed out tonight to a local Philly spot for some food, drinks and shared stories of what brought us to the Peace Corps. Already there is a great spark of energy from this group who will be in Malawi with me until the spring of 2014. 24 hours ago we were strangers and today the bonds of a new friendships were developing. They are young with great expectations. This will be fun.
Last morning run – just cold enough with a clear sky. That was the final sprint before starting the long journey to Malawi. The best part of today will be not having to think about what to bring. If it’s not packed – too late. Nervous, apprehensive and excited to begin a new venture to Africa. There will be scores of new folks to meet. It will be hard not seeing now so many faces of my friends and family who have marched with me on this Peace Corps trip over the past year and half. Thank you all and I will carry you in my heart as together we start the next chapter.