Because of the injury to my hand, I was able to attend the swearing-in ceremony with the rest of my cohort at the U.S. Ambassador Jackson’s residence but unfortunately was not able to swear in with them because I needed to finish Pre-Service Training. The leadership at PC/Malawi was agile in conjuring up a plan to get me from being a Trainee to a Volunteer. This plan included putting all of the material of the 2.5 weeks of PST that I missed into an intense one-week remedial jam session. The week included round-robin assessments, a technical presentation spoken in Chichewa and a final formal language exam and assessment. I studied and prepared hard and passed everything. I swore in this last Friday in front of a few cohort PCVs (thanks for the support y’all!), the Country Director, and the rest of the PC/Malawi staff.
I was told that as a Trainee, I had stayed the longest in Lilongwe (the capitol), ever. Lilongwe was both intense (from a studying and preparation standpoint) and fun (from a nightlife standpoint). I woke up early to study before breakfast and spent the days from 8-5 p.m. in class, studying and training. After 5, I would typically stay in the city center to study. At around 8, I would meet with PCVs in the Lilongwe area for dinner and unwinding from the 10 hour school day.
We met up a couple times at this particularly charming place called The Living Room Cafe. This cafe is predominantly frequented by well-to-do Malawians and foreign expatriates. It is reminiscent of a modern bar lounge back in the States. One evening, the Malawian Artist of the Year showed up for an acoustic shindig, singing both originals and American popular culture singles. After a couple glasses of wine and edge-of-my-seat admiration, I stammered up the fortitude to play a few songs for the 100 folks in attendance! Other than swearing in, this was definitely a highlight of my Lilongwe stay!
Though the city life in Lilongwe – with its’ electricity, running water, and convenient shopping malls – was exciting and fun, this was not the Peace Corps experience I signed up for. To me, the privilege of serving meant integrating with a rural village by creating sustainable and capacity-building programs at the grassroots. I was ready to get to site and to start making my house a “home”.
I said my farewells, packed all my worldly possessions into a PC transport and made the 8-hour drive to the southern-most district in Malawi and the location of my new home, Nsanje.
The last few days have been jam-packed. I have met multiple times with the senior chiefs and traditional authorities, held a community forestry committee meeting where it was moved that old leadership be dissolved and new elected, I visited the Shire River nearby and did some fishing, built a dish rack, and unpacked all my belongings.
As I write this, it is 3 a.m. A heavy rain has (fortunately) blown in and the pounding and patter of the raindrops on the tin roof here under my mosquito net on my newly constructed and very comfortable bed is both a comforting and exhilarating experience. Moyo wabwino (life is good)!