It has been an emotionally taxing week with Chris’s father’s coronary bypass surgery and Chris’s remorse over being a continent away. But we have learned something from living in South Eastern Africa for two and a half years, and that is that a positive attitude can help overcome life’s greatest struggles. We have lived amongst subsistence farmers who struggle to pay for medical care and their children’s education, but whom always maintain a cheery composure. Therefore, I present some happy moments from the past few weeks:
|Tiger and Wilo playing with our food.|
- This week I
worked with the teachers and the community-based organization that runs the
pre-school to plan an opening celebration for the pre-school classroom which
was recently constructed and the third full-time teacher that was hired. The pre-school is supported heavily by the
organization I manage, and the teachers are employed by us. During our meeting, we were planning the
menu. I suggested nsima, the staple food of stiff corn meal, together with Chinese
cabbage, a goat, and several chickens that would be killed for the event. Chris and I are addicted to nsima and other local foods. The teachers and community-based organization
protested the idea of nsima, insisting
that such an event required rice, a luxury food. I reluctantly agreed. On the day of the event, as the teachers were
preparing the feast, the head pre-school teacher started heating a small pot of
water over the fire, sprinkling in a bit of corn meal. She smiled at me and said, “I’m preparing
nsima for my abwana.” Abwana
is a Swahili word meaning boss, which the pre-school teachers often call me
affectionately. It was nice that amidst
the bustle of preparing lunch for 50 people, she made sure that I received an
individual-sized portion of my favorite food.
The feast; an after shot of the goat above
|Chris also took a turn at tormenting the goat.|
Chris has recently been hired as the guesthouse manager and marketing assistant at the organization I work for as field manager. This position allows Chris to get a salary for taking photographs and the freedom to work on his other interest of agriculture by creating a garden at the guesthouse. Chris worked with three of the groundskeepers / security guards at the guesthouse to make compost out of kitchen scraps, dried grasses, rice husks, swamp muck and cow excrement, in preparation for the permaculture garden they will create in the rainy season. Making compost using this method is novel, and the guards were excited to learn this new agricultural technique from Chris. He saw some of them reading the agriculture book he had lent them to learn more. One of them collected cow excrement in sacks from his animals’ pen, and another drove with Chris to the flood plain to gather material (He later used their conversations during this time to create a lesson plan entitled “Adventure in the Marsh” during our ChiChewa language lesson). As the compost decomposes, it becomes very hot to the touch. Chris had told them to expect this during the demonstration. Several days after its creation, all of the guards that worked with him approached him individually and commented on the temperature enthusiastically. They were surprised at just how hot it had grown, and were even more motivated to learn further lessons from Chris.
On the national holiday of Mother’s Day, we visited a crocodile farm that produces meat and leather. The volunteers had never tasted crocodile before, so I used the money allotted for purchasing meat each week to buy 2.5 kg of crocodile meat, which was half the price of the beef we usually buy in town. We proudly presented it to the guesthouse’s cook, who takes our weird mzungu, Western ideas in stride. However, she didn’t know how to prepare it, as she has never tasted crocodile meat. I put Chris in charge of helping her cook lunch for the five staff and twelve European volunteers. He referenced a recipe for crocodile curry online, and together they hacked through the tough spine to debone the meat and simmered it with potatoes, tomatoes and spices. Chris liked working with her, combining her expertise and his vision to create a hearty curry stew. All twelve of the volunteers, who are somewhat picky as to what they eat and complain about eating local food, devoured the curry with gusto.