What am I doing here, anyway?

So I’ve been in Malawi for three weeks now.  I still feel like things are moving really slowly – particularly on my research project – but I am beginning to get a foothold here.  My accomplishments are small things:  I’ve mastered tying my bed net into a knot without struggling.  I believe I may have found a place to live in town (rather than staying at the college all the time).  I have a few leads on the buying-a-car front, nevermind that I’ve never bought a car before.  I know at least some of the students by name and consulted with a couple of them on their articles for the student magazine.  I’m beginning to get to know professors and staff around campus and I’ve met with the librarian and the Vice Principal.  Maybe by the time I’ve been here 10 months, I’ll actually have a handle on things?

Most of you are probably wondering exactly what I’m supposed to be doing here anyway, and that’s a good question.  After Fulbright awards the fellowship, they don’t actually have many requirements.  I, however, am hoping to conduct research here to use for a Masters degree, or (at the least) to figure out if a Masters degree is the next step.  My proposed project looks at how different development aid schemes affect crop diversification on small farms.  Since I arrived, I’ve been working on completing my literature review, identifying key actors, and preparing to make contact with donor agencies.  I’ve also been reviewing a larger body of literature about food security generally, and food security in Malawi specifically.  I’m contemplating doing some additional research on farmers’ role in policy-making (which seems to be implicit rather than explicit) and the potential role of biotechnology here.  All of this basically means that I’ve been spending a lot of time in the library combing through donor and government PDFs.

I’ve also realized I can’t spend all of my time here working on my research projects, so I’m looking for volunteer opportunities at the college and beyond.  Thus far, I’m involved with the student magazine on campus (as a “special assistant”).  I’m also contemplating the possibility of offering some sort of more formal writing tutor program if one doesn’t exist on campus.  The curriculum here is more test-based than writing-based, and because it’s a science college, it seems like 10 page writing assignments are rare.  Still, if the students are planning to go to grad school, I think brushing up their writing skills may be a useful endeavor.  (Plus, you’d be surprised how much you can get away with if you’re a decent writer.)

The students are on break next week, so I imagine things will be pretty quiet around here.  Some of them stay on campus, I think, but even today the library seems pretty quiet.  I don’t have any exciting plans for the weekend, and Monday is a holiday (Mother’s Day here).  I’m hoping to get to town to check out the house where I’ll potentially be living and perhaps do some car reconnaissance.  Wish me luck on this car thing!

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One Response to “What am I doing here, anyway?”

  1. Linda Says:

    a writing program is a great idea – I bet there are also a lot of grants out there that you could help people apply for, if there’s interest.

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