There and Back Again (A PCV's tale of Malawi)

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Location: Virginia, United States

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Let's get the preliminaries out of the way

This initial post is meant to get everyone up to speed concerning those circumstances which relate to my fast approaching departure for Malawi.

When do I leave?
I leave the 25th of September for Philadelphia, PA, where I will participate in a three day orientation with a group of other volunteers also heading to Malawi. On the 27th of September we will head to New York's JFK airport by way of bus, from which we will fly to Lilongwe, Malawi. It will take about 3 days travel time in total, with layovers and such.

What will I do?
I will be an Education Volunteer for the Peace Corps. My primary subject will be math, but I will also likely teach other subjects: hopefully English, but probably Chemistry or Physics seeing how there is a lack of scientific and technical talent. I will teach high-school-aged children, and high-school content to boot (several people have assumed I won't teach anything beyond basic math, but from all accounts I will have sections of algebra, trigonometry, and calculus). I am also expected to involve myself in some secondary project, based on the local needs of the community I will live in.

Where will I live?
I will live in a rural village in Malawi. Here is a map of Malawi, where you can see it is dominated by a large lake, and bordered by Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. I will not know which village I will teach in until after training, but I was told not to expect running water or electricty.

What am I doing to prepare?
I have done a great deal of gathering, purchasing, and packing, and more is yet to come. The first thing I set about, however, was learning as much as I could about Malawi. The Peace Corps gives one precious little information in advance, but I was able to learn a lot from the internet.

I have been told to expect my school to have scant resources, and few books, so shortly after I accepted my assignment I got it into my head to start a library for the school and the community. So far my efforts have produced a box of wonderful books from a college friend, a box of Dover Thrift books I bought, and a promise of two shipments of books from an aid organization.

The most important thing I am doing, however, is learning Chichewa, the language many people in Malawi speak. I just started a few days ago, so I don't know much and I'm sure my pronounciation is horrible, but I think it will serve me well to get a headstart on the language. If anyone reading this is destined for Malawi, here is a good resource I have found for introducing one's self to Chichewa.

How can you reach me?
My address will be:
Stephen Rawls, PCT
Peace Corps
P.O. Box 208
Lilongwe, Malawi

Letters take 3-4 weeks by mail, and should be marked air-mail. You can also try srawls@vt.edu, but I can't guarentee I'll be able to access e-mail frequently or cheaply.

Introduction

I thought I would do the hip thing and start a blog of my Peace Corps expiriences. There are two reasons for doing this: one, so friends and family can check up on me and read about my life, and two, so potential and soon-to-be Peace Corps Volunteers can get some idea of what the Peace Corps is like. I will be teaching math at a Community Developed Secondary School in rural Malawi, so my access to the Internet will be somewhat limited--but I will update you, dear reader, whenever happenstance allows; likely on visits to Lilongwe or Blantyre.

But here I am, getting quite ahead of myself. Let me introduce myself: my name is Stephen Rawls and I am about to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, a small, beautiful country in Eastern Africa. Welcome to my journal. If you are curious, by all means, read on.