Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 17 The Final Report Feb 2, 2011

      As out meeting with the board wasn't to start until 11:00 we had some time to kill this morning. We did decide to go a little early to make sure all was ready when we arrive. Also, yesterday when we had them print the report, they had to bike uptown to get printing paper as they didn't have any left at the office, something we're not used to seeing back home for sure.

   When we arrived at the office there were several people around, so we visited until all the members we were to meet showed up. As we were meeting with them, a photographer came into the meeting and was taking all these pictures, a little bit of interruptions to say the least. On top of that, the board members kept sending notes around and then their cell phones would ring.....it was getting quite funny. (Thankfully my part of the presentation was over). One of the notes came around to us coaches and it was what kind of a drink we would like. The manager and one of the board ladies were discussing our gifts at one point. It just seemed very strange as this board appeared very professional and organized, but all these distractions were comical. Anyway, the whole thing went very well. They presented us with Chitenje cloth that they had made for their SACCO, which is the cloth that they use to carry their babies or wrap on their heads to carry things, or even just cover their clothes so they stay clean. We took a bunch more photos with the photographer and said our goodbyes. This was the last of our organized trip to the SACCO's and it was finally setting in, which made leaving tough.

    From the meeting we were off to Mzuzu for a night, and to help break up the trip back to Lilongwe. It would save us an hour, which means a lot in this country. And yes the air, internet and menu was great!!

Day 16 Our final day of work. Feb 1, 2011

    As i look at the date I think back to home and how I always say that you can really only tell the days getting longer on Feb 1, before that it isn't much difference. Well today is Feb 1st already and I have been away from home 2 weeks. Here the days stay pretty much the same all year long give or take and hour.

    Other than our meeting with the board which is scheduled for tomorrw, our last day of work is today. We were at the office early again and met with Elina and also Brendan, a teller, to do some more analysis of their operations. Again from what we heard and have found, they are doing very well, but do have some things we believe we can give them some advice on. Although today was slightly slower, it was still a very busy day for them.

   Town was very busy today and the restaurant was full, but seeing as we have been regulars the last week, the waiters had us a seat in no time. What an awesome crew of young men that are always happy and how they love getting their picture taken. None available to post...Sorry. As we were leaving lunch a young girl on her bike thought Scott was her father and stopped us. Sarah, who is with the Peace Corps, and is from Idaho, is in Malawi for 2 years. She was living with a mother and 14 year old daughter but since the mother has died, so the daughter and her are living together now. Talk about life changing. She live 15 kms from Rumphi and only has a bike. She is paid about $125.00 a month to live on. I had to run back to the office to print the report and on the way back, Sarah was leaving town. I stopped and chatted with her some more. She couldn't believe we were only staying 2 weeks and I couldn't believe she would be there 2 years. An interesting story for sure.

   After supper we had a couple of drinks and called it a night. Tomorrow we meet the board to deliver the report and start our journey back to Lilongwe. Our first stop is Mzuzu and both of us can't wait for air conditioning, internet, and a different menu to eat from. But will miss Rumphi for sure as it has become our community for the last week.

Day 15 Visit to Teacher's SACCO Jan 31, 2011

     We had planned to arrive at the SACCO at around 9:00 - 9:30 but both had woken up early and headed to breakfast before 7:00. By 8:00 we were at the office and ready to offer or assistance. As you can see the office is very nice and they are proud of it as they just recently built it.

     We met with Elina Zimba, the manager of this SACCO who employs 5 staff and today ended up being one of their busiest of the month as it was payday. WE were able to steal 90 minutes of her time but felt guilty as in addition to managing, she is aslo the lender in the branch. They do about 400 loans a month and to top it off about 70 teachers payroll got missed this payday. (I can't imagine what would happen in Canada if this happened).

     As we couldn't get more of Elina time and had reviewed the financials along with board reports, we decided to head for lunch at 1;30 and then start to work on the report from the information we already had. It wouldn't be too large of a task as this SACCO is very strong in pretty much all areas of their operation. Just as we were about to leave it started pouring rain. We thought we would wait it out, but after about 20 minutes decided it wasnt going to let up, so we started out. We got wet to say the least.

    After lunch and a couple of hours of work we decided to try the only other spot we thought safe to eat and it was a taxi ride to get there. You guessed it Matunkha Lodge. Today the lady for mthe Netherlands was the only intern there, the rest had left for Lilongwe. So the three of us had a nice Dinner as she shared some of the frightening stories of what her experiences have been. Also, by the sounds of it, we are staying in the nicest place in Rumphi at a cost of $19.00 a night including breakfast. Wow.

Day 14 Trip to Nkhatabay Jan 30, 2011

   Today was another day off and we decided to make the trip to Nkhatabay and also check out Chikale Beach. The 110 Kms took us just over 2 hours but the time went fast as the scenery was again hard to realize the beauty in it all. In many places there were settlements that were being farmed in hills larger than the Qu' Appelle valley hills (sorry for those who aren't familiar with these), and in many instances steeper and they were armed top to bottom.

  It was nice to get to the lake, Lake Malawi, which is I believe the largest lake in Afica and if it isn't, it is one of the largest. The sand here is much coarser than back home but very white. There were several home made boats, more like canoes back home, that the local took out into the water to fish in. No life jacket or anything. One has to wonder how many people drown here, but those types of things either are not considered or too expensive I would guess.

   We drove through a market, which is a mob scene, and out taxi drivers friend bought a Chambo and tied it to the side mirror for the ride home. I don't understand how people here don't get sick from the way the fish are handled. In the markets there are fish laying in the heat all day long and the smell in itself would suggest things are decaying.

   Upon arrival home, we did some prep work for or next SACCO visit for tomorrow, ventured up to our trusty Chef's Pride restaurant for supper and called it a night soon after.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 13 This Mzungu skin got color today Jan 29, 2011

    We took the safari ride today and although the pictures may not tell the whole story it will tell a lot. It was very good and our tour guide Vasco is a book of knowledge on all of the marsh. Here we go...... I may post more pics later as Scott got some good ones and he has a better camera.

                                Our tour vehicle and about the only one I've seen in Malawi with more than an empty tank of gas.

        Hippos in the water.
              More Hippos
              Sam our ssecurity person in case of a charging animal on our walk. Comforting.
                  A Hippo footprint.

     Velvet monkey.
       Termite hill.
            What Amaretto is made of and it is a similar name. This is the seed. Funny thing is it ferments and elephants eat it and Vasco says they are noisier in that season. And after the elephants digest it, the Baboons will dig through their dumpings and eat them yet. Sick. Also the difference between tracking a male elephant and a female elephant is a male keeps walking and the females stop to take a dump.

        The above two are chalets available at the marsh.
       We got stuck. Got out though.

Day 12 Last day at Phindu Jan 28, 2011

    I woke up at 3:00 today not because of any animals or the time difference, today there is yet another reason. I finally got my bed net last night and to put it up I had to move my bed beside the window. Now it is only a foot closer than usual but the sound of lightening hitting too close for comfort certainly would wake anyone. Funny how  the mind builds all these little things up that at home a person would just wake up and say it was a poor night.......maybe cuz there has been so many or so it seems.

    I did get back to sleep and woke up in time for the traditional 7:00 breakfast. On the way back we sw a guard sitting outside our hotel. We stopped and talked with him for a while and noticed that there were men in white clothes working across the street which houses the prison. We asked what most of them were in for and he said murder. Yeah... the look on our face was GREAT. Most of them had sickles to cut the grass and he was sitting there unarmed. Very interesting.

    We got our ride to the SACCO and met with Patrick and the BOD. They were very inviting of our recommendation and appreciated our input into improving their operations.

     We went to Matunkha for dinner and met up with some interns from the UK and Netherlands. Now they had some interesting stories about the hospital they are working in. they are here for 2 months. Note the color of my vegetable soup.

 Tomorrow our Safari tour is planned.

Day 11 Our day at a Malawian farmer Jan 27, 2011

     I woke up at 3:30 as I couldn't sleep and started working on the info to put in the blog....when I get internet access. I will have a big chore ahead especially with my typing skills. I thought I would put a smile on the faces of my co-workers.

    We went for breakfast at our usual time of 7:00a.m. which works out to 11:00 p.m. home time. We headed to Phindu by 8:00. Today was kind of an off day for me and Scott and I often discussed what we thought was happening at home and were wondering what they were thinking. If they were concerned as we hadn't contacted anyone.

   We worked at the SACCO until lunch and appear to have our report pretty much complete and just to fine tune things.

   We found a new place to eat....YIPPEE. Patrick accompanied us for lunch and we went to Matunkha Safari Lodge. Scott and I both ordered an American burger...what a delight. Scott also got some info. on a Safari tour that one of the people there hosts. Sounds like a plan.

   After lunch Patrick had arranged a trip to visit a farmer. We went to visit his Maize and Tobacco farm along with visiting his home. We never got to go inside but were welcomed outside by his wife, children, brother and sister-in-law, and mother who is 73 years young. His home was plain but was of higher stature as it had a steel sheet roof. Harrison who is in his mid 20's has farmed tobacco since he started and even though the past several years has been tough, still believes in the crop. By what you see ( a tobacco press, a wagon, his house), he has been successful, as few farmers enjoy these, and I can see where it is hard to move from what has provided these successes in the past. Unfortunately, our review of the SACCO has shown that this SACCO has been severely hit by the tobacco industry, and with the worlds anti-smoking campaigns, it is hard to see it returning to previous profits. It would have been a real missed opportunity not to vist a farmer and we were so welcomed by Harrison and his family, as we are pretty much all of the Malawian people.

   We went to our staple restaurant for supper, as it is in walking distance even though that may be challenging, and had a glass of wine...then called it a night. Tomorrow we do the final touches to the report and meet with the board.

Day 10 Our work begins Jan 26, 2011

     Today was our first day working with the SACCO to see what their needs were and interviewing staff. We met with interim manager, Patrick Chingwa, to review the operations of their SACCO. As the SACCO is 15 kms from Rumphi we decided to be there early and leave at 1:30 to have lunch in town.....you got it at Chef's Pride, the only place we know to eat so far.

    After lunch Scott worked on the report as I check my eyelids for cracks....for just a short bit.

    You can guess where we did dinner and we were back to the hotel. It was just after 7:00 and very dark to walk back. What complicates it is that the traffic here and pedestrians all share the same space or lack thereof.....makes for interesting walks.

Day 9 Trip to Rumphi January 25, 2011

      Today we made our way to Rumphi where we will be viisting our SACCO's. We checked into our Hotel and the look on our faces told a lot of stories. This would be our home for the next 8 days. When you leave a country like Canada, you get used to some many things that become expectations......and it's not fair to judge but the sheer fact that that is what we know, takes some getting used to. Scott's room doesn't have hot water, my shower head falls off on me, the towel is just bigger than a face cloth, we have no TV, Internet, Radio or other outside form of communication. (Note that is why Day 9 is being posted on Feb 2nd, so you all have lots to read or at least those who are checking if I'm still alive.).

   In the hallway outside my room I hear Scott trying to explainto the lady that he needs washing done and has 5 shirts, socks and underwear....and it is a struggle. He finally succeeds and asks when they would be done, as he has clothes for 2 more days and that's it.......that's when I break out histarically. We are getting to know way to much of what was a complete stranger a little over a week ago.

   We also met both boards (BOD) that we will be working with in this region. The expressed some of the concerns and problems they are facing which layed the pavement for our studies.

   We walked up town had dinner at the Chef's Pride Restaurant (which we would visit frequently during our stay), and then I picked up 3 beer for 375 Kwacha which is about $2.00 Cdn.

   In addition as we were walking around, we noticed several interesting shops, one of which was a local butcher (they have a few in town), and we talked to the butcher. We talked about how meat keeps in this heat along with what they do with the, for lack of better terms guts, and they said they use tham. As we are walking back to the room, Scott mentions that he thought the guts were referred to as Offals. Check what the specials were that night at the restaurant!!!

    That in a nutshell was our day and keep reading as I will have posted more entries.