Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Emma's class trip to Namizimu

After a couple hours in the bus, we got out to stretch and eat lunch at Cool Runnings, a restaurant at Senga Bay on Lake Malawi.  Unfortunately, we couldn't go into the water since we only had an hour to eat and get a lesson from Sam, the owner of Cool Runnings.  She was telling us about how she spent a lot of time working with village children and sometimes teaching them how to make art from all the rubbish laying around, and sometimes she would have to drive somebody to the nearest hospital in her car.  She told us about how when they were 13 or 14 the boys of the village would go to a ceremony, get circumcised, and learn the responsibilities of men.  She had just gotten back from driving a boy to the hospital who had not learned how to clean his wound properly and it had gotten infected.  She also told us about how many people die of malaria, and about how mosquitoes breed.

We reached Namizimu Forest Lodge at 4 or 5 on Tuesday afternoon and had to hike up to the plateau.  It felt good after sitting in the bus so long, though some people complained most of the way up.  Some of the workers carried the tents and luggage but we carried our backpacks.  They would have a suitcase on their head and another in their hand.  We had to set up our own tents and unpack, and then it was time for supper already.

After supper we finished unpacking and hung around the campfire, and Group 2 entertained us with several skits.  Then it was time for bed, which I was quite ready for and I'm sure others were too.  Anna (my British tentmate) and I were quite cozy in the little 2-person tent you see in the picture.  At least, it was supposed to be 2-person but I think it was more like one and a half. 

We didn't sleep very well that night because some of my classmates woke up in the night and felt it necessary to wake up somebody else to talk to, and in the process woke up nearly everybody else.  

The next morning after breakfast, we sat around the dying fire and Mrs. Drower (my teacher) explained the day's activities.  We were already divided into three groups with a teacher in each.  My group stayed around the campsite for the first activity, sketching and coming up with scary stories to tell around the campfire.

Then it was time to hike back to the plateau, put away our sketchbooks and materials, and hike down to the pottery.  We learned how to mix two types of soil together with the right amount of water to get a good sturdy clay.  Once you have some of both kinds of soil on the large rock, you sprinkle on some water and start pounding at it with sticks.  The women of the village would add some of one kind of soil or the other until the mixture was right, always stopping to pick out roots or sticks from the clay.

Then it was time to start shaping it.  Those who were interested watched one of the women shaping pots and copied, receiving help when necessary.  Tara, who runs Namizimu, told us that they make a big bonfire to fire the pottery.  However, it has to dry first and they wait until they've got a big load to fire.  

Mrs. Drower went back the next week with another class and got to go to the firing.  She said that they had the big fire going and they would drop the plates on top.  Some of the pots didn't make it back to our school in one piece, but thankfully mine did.

((Insert picture of Emma's dish))

The group that was at the pottery before us stayed there, so we hiked up to Azuzu Ridge together after lunch.  There aren't any pictures, but it was REALLY steep.  Nearly all of us had to use our hands going up, and some of us ended up butt-sliding on the descent.

Then we had some time to swim in the "plunge pool", but it was rather crowded because 24 kids don't fit very well in a pool that small.  If you look closely you can see the black bathtub next to it, to give you an idea of size.

Then we had to hurry out of the pool in time to dry off to meet the Standard 6 students of Chowe School, who had hiked up to the plateau to meet us.  There was a brief introduction, an exchange of gifts, and some music: they sang a welcome song and a couple members of our class shared music also.   We divided into groups and played some games.  Our group did the name game, some relays, and finished by teaching them how to play Simon Says.

That's me in the blue shirt.

  When the school left, we took the opportunity to hunt for marshmallow roasting sticks.  I started first and got several, which I kept and gave to friends who needed them.  After supper, we got out the roasting sticks and roasted marshmallow, and roasted more marshmallows, and kept on roasting.  There were a LOT of marshmallows!  There were still a couple left over for the next night.

The next morning, we headed down to the village after breakfast and took part in the assembly at Chowe School.  There are over 1500 students in that school, and seven teachers!  In order to give them some power, the teachers carried sticks with them as they tried to get everybody organized for assembly.  During the assembly, the Standard 6 performed their welcome song again, and several students were invited up with a speech or poetry.  The headmaster spoke in English but they had a teacher translating it into Chichewa for those who did not understand.  Standard 6 is the same as Year 6 and fifth grade.

After assembly, we followed the Standard 6 into their classroom and learned about introductions in English with them.  Our three teachers got a surprise then, because the Chowe School teacher invited them to come forward and help teach!  So we learned not only about "Hello, how are you, I'm fine, and you?" but we learned about "my favorite color is" and "my favorite sport is" as well.  Then we went outside for some games.  We did most of the same games as the day before: some relays, and finished with Simon Says.  However, we had to constantly stop and shoo the younger children away because curiosity is curiosity, and they probably hadn't seen many white people before, and certainly not interacting with the students during class time.  Their classroom was not furnished with tables and chairs, as ours is, but with mainly picnic tables and spare benches, with a white board at the front and back.  As you can see they don't have glass windows, just fancy brick things that allow air to circulate.  There weren't a whole lot of books that I saw, but I was one of the last ones in and it was crowded.  Even though they had about 40-50 kids in their class (there are a LOT more kids in lower primary than upper primary, probably because as they get older they have more responsibilities at home and some drop out), add that to our class and it's a lot of people for that size classroom.  It was fairly hot, and I was glad I'd brought my water bottle.  
You can see in this picture the brick vents.  This picture was taken outside a classroom.
 Then we said goodbye to the rest of the school, and our class and the Standard 6 class walked over to the chief's house for lunch: nsima, beans, and greens.  (Nsima is a porridge made of corn flour, with sort of a soft rubbery texture and a bland taste.  It's the main staple in Malawian food.)

 By the time everybody was done eating, it was time for another activity in groups.  We were rotating between playing Indian tag, getting a tour of the clinic, and carrying water from the borehole (well) to the clinic on our heads.  Mrs. Drower didn't get any pictures of the clinic.  That wouldn't be the clinic I would want to go to if I was sick, because it doesn't have very many supplies, but there aren't any other clinics for quite a ways.
Indian tag.  That's me in the pink skirt.

A bucket of water is HEAVY, no matter if it's on your head or in your hand!  

Anyway, by then it was getting really hot and it was time to say goodbye and head for the campsite.  Then we had some more free time, in which I made a stop at the pottery place to fix my pot and then headed to the plunge pool.

That evening after supper, most of us went to the lookout to watch the sun go down.  It was our group's turn for entertainment, and Mrs. Drower knew a skit which she taught us, and I also knew a skit from Laurelville Summer Camp which we performed.  Then we roasted the last marshmallows and went off to bed.

The next morning we had to pack up, take down the tents, and climb down the mountain to the bus.  It took us longer to get home that expected, because a) we started about half an hour late, and b) the one tire got flat so they had to stop and put the spare on instead.  But then a tire blew later on and there wasn't another spare.  It was a tire on the luggage trailer, so the aisle of the bus got packed full of suitcases to make the trailer lighter, and they put the flat tire back on.  But we finally ended up back at the school.  Then my family and I had to negotiate our way back to Bunda trying to avoid the worst of heavy traffic.  It felt good to be home and have a bed...yawn...if you'll excuse me now, I want to take a nap!

Emma did have a great time but she was SUPER tired by the time she got home!  She proceeded to get sick and miss a couple days of school, and felt pretty miserable over her birthday, but she does have good memories of that trip.

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