Thursday morning musings

For anyone concerned about my interrupting my sleep schedule with presidential debates and (likely) ensuing rage, rest assured:  the cable in the guest house has disappeared, so there will be no debate viewing for me.  My housemate, who has been here several months, reports that the cable goes out every few months.  She has already began fighting to get it back, though I’m not clear if the problem is on the college’s end or with the service provider.

I met yesterday with my supervising professor.  It wasn’t a long meeting; he basically handed me a thick document on poverty reduction and told me to come back on Monday.  We did work out some logistics, though:  I now have a mailing address at the college (email me or comment if you want it), so I can receive package mail and letters where I am living.  (This will require international postage, though.)  The professor will also write me letters of introduction to various campus entities, including the library.  I can stay in the guest house as long as I want, provided I let them know how long I’m staying: we decided that maybe I should stay at least a month, so as to get settled.  I’m still weighing the benefits of living in town versus living here.  I imagine that a car will eventually become necessary for my research, so it’s really just a question of which way I want to commute.  Though everyone at the college has been very nice, intergration into the ex-pat community (in Lilongwe) may be more conducive to staving off homesickness/making friends then living here.  Expect more rumination on this in the coming month.

Yesterday also marked my first foray into local fruit.  I came back to the guest house around noon, and the housekeeper was carrying a strange, shiny, green fruit:  paw paw.  (I actually knew that there was a paw paw tree outside the house, but my housemate had reported that the monkeys swipe the fruit just as it is getting ripe.)  The housekeeper offered me some, so I took her up on it.  After it was cut up, it looked like mango, but tasty kind of like papaya – maybe with a little stronger flavor.  (Obviously, I can only describe it in terms of what I already know – I was going to post a photo, but the internet is too slow today.)

I also realized the great key of living inexpensively here:  buy local.  (I know, I know – this probably should have been obvious earlier.)  I mentioned to the American professor that I needed something to use as a yoga mat, and he told me he’d ask his houseboy to look at the local market.  This morning the American professor appeared with a mat made of woven grass (or maybe palm fronds?), probably 5′ X 2.5′.  How much was it?  K300.  (A little over $2.)  It’s already making my room smell nice, and should work pretty well for yoga.  I may put a blanket under it for a little cushion, but it will solve my main problem:  slippage.  (The floors here are concrete – the very smooth and slippery kind.)  The most interesting thing about the mat is probably that it came rolled up and tied with a little piece of very tough black string, which is actually a piece of tire tread.  The vocational school outside Lilongwe (and probably other places, too) shred (untread?) worn out tires into long strips and sell the rubber to use as string, fencing, etc.  Malawians obviously have confidence in its strength; yesterday on the way to town, I saw a man on a bicycle with probably 12 dozen eggs (in flats) tied to the back of his bicycle with two pieces of the same rubber.

Though the various tourist guides I have caution that many Africans feel that conservation is luxury they cannot afford, they are great recyclers – and, it seems, often recyclers of discarded first world goods.  I had to smile a rueful smile when I saw a man on a bicycle wearing an 80s nylon Wisconsin Dells jacket, because I doubt he could locate the Dells on a map or had ever visited.  Rather, it was likely a castoff of some American thrift store.  This phenomenon creates an interesting and sometimes jarring contrast: it’s common to see t-shirts with “Brat” emblazoned across them worn with traditional skirts, and American 5K race t-shirts 6000 miles from home.

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One Response to “Thursday morning musings”

  1. Rachel Says:

    Very interesting. This seems to be coinciding so much with what we discuss in class…it is crazy.

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