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Diary of a Volunteer

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NOW WHAT?

Feb 1997
Jan 1997
Dec 1996
Nov 1996
Oct 1996
Sept 1996
Aug 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
Feb 1996
Jan 1996
Nov 1995
Oct 1995
Sept 1995
Aug 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995
April 1995


Books


Mad March News

Languish By The Lake
"The fish curry at the Ice Cream Den was delicious" More...More

To Ntcheu and Back
"I needed a fun-fix and sort of had one" More...More

It Aint Always Like This
Another day in the life of More...More

More Spoon-feeding
"The only one learning, though, is me" More...More

 


Mar. 1996

Beautiful Lake Malawi

As I was coming to terms with being single again, news spread from England about Mad Cows Disease (surely not related - ed!)

Languish By The Lake

'Mad-March began with celebrations: our first anniversary of being in Malawi. It coincided with a bank-holiday weekend too; a good excuse for a reunion at the lake. We even had a lift - perfect! I say we, because I went with some Blantyre VSOs, a Canadian volunteer-type called Tony, and... Rachel!

We arrived in Mangochi late afternoon, after a slow hot journey. We savoured the first of the weekend's three ice cream dinners, at Mangochi Ice Cream Den, and then lolled into Nkpola camp site. Heather, Dane and Simon were waiting. Katundu was un-packed and tents clankily erected - into a veritable '' of tents. (No cuddling with Rachel, though - I was in Simon's tent!)

With the weekend exertions over, we now had to decide what to do with all those baking hours. Should we read, or take a beer? Should we swim, or play volleyball? Should we play table tennis, or even darts? On Friday the answer was play darts (and of course imbibe some brown stuff). We played 301 and 'Cricket', both of which were abandoned due to incompetent darts throwing. Me, Tony and an American lassie called Amy misspent our Friday evening thus.

Other days required similar choices - though I did manage to 'lose' the darts. The Chambo (fish) curry at the Ice Cream Den was delicious (however many times I ate it); the lake was warm and clear; and the bonhomie flowed. I even managed one of those infrequent 'man-talks', with Tony (you know, where all you do is talk about women), and a quiet talk with Rachel. Shame the weekend had to end really, but our rations of hot food had long since run out - and I couldn't face another crisp sandwich (celebration or not)!

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To Ntcheu and Back

ONE Friday afternoon I left for Ntcheu, 200km away, and returned the morning after. It was something to do, and it took my mind off things. I hadn't expected to return so soon (or expected to arrive so late). It just happened.

I went with Canadian Tony, a kind of grown-up Milky-Bar kid, with easy charm and disarming smile. He just felt like gettin' outta Blantyre too.

I needed a fun-fix, and sort of had one. When our coach scraped into a Mercedes Benz after 20 minutes, it was sort of fun. (The driver misjudged his 'squeeze' past some maintenance men painting white lines in the middle of a busy road. The 'fun' came as we blocked the road for an hour whilst the matter was resolved.)

It was fun to arrive in Ntcheu in the dark, and head straight for a bottle store and some Peace Corps. women friends. We visited all the bottle stores that night (all 3 of them!).

We couldn't dance All Night Long either because we had to be up at 7 the next morning. Our driver - the 'Reverend Jim' - had to be back in Blantyre by 9.0am. More fun. I will go again, but for longer!

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It Aint Always Like This

I WAKE at five thirty-something AM, every day. It's just minutes before my short wave radio cum alarm-clock switches on, with Focus On Africa. So I focus on Africa for a while, slowly waking to another new day. By 6am I'm up and at 'em. Breakfast is usually a hot bowl of porridge, followed by slices of marmalade toast. Then it's drink coffee, clean teeth, fill water bottle, pack fruit and a clean work shirt - all organised in some order or another before departure.

I try to leave at 7am - on mountain bike - to arrive twenty minutes later. Sometimes I make it, and sometimes I'm lazy or disorganised, or it's so hot that I have to cycle slow. Sometimes, I arrive late. I do still cycle to work, and I do still pass colourful African scenes. And my route still undulates more up than down, but I'm a Yorkshireman and wouldn't have it any other way.

On arrival I head straight for the toilets. A splash of water hits my bare torso, and I quickly dry myself (a half-naked man is a culturally awkward sight). On go the trousers, shirt and tie. Work begins once my cycling clothes have been squashed into my top right hand desk-drawer. I switch the PC on - "Starting Windows 95...", no less - and it's time to work. This could be course material corrections, or ideas for a C Programming course, or I could even be teaching.

The working day is from 7.30am to 5pm, with 1/2 hour tea-breaks at 10am and 3pm, and a 1 hour lunch break. Staff 'retrenchments' last year now mean we must take all our breaks in the dining room. Tea and lunch is now a self-service ritual. Gone are the intimate huddles over tea in the store room, and gone are the animated conversations. Students and lecturers amble together to the dining room. We take tea, or eat; and then we return. It's much more sober.

I enjoy this working day (because I enjoy my job). And I enjoy the occasional conversations with colleagues. But I enjoy home-life too. Cycling home is more fun, as it's mainly downhill - and the warm glow of evening is even more seductive than morning time.

Night duties consist of bathing, cooking, 'Delling', reading, chatting, footballing or just exercising. Most days I do at least one of these, with the radio for company. The World Service tells me all: from another military dictatorship gone sour (again!), to how Town did at Norwich. (And of course, I know all about your Mad Moo-moos!)

Cooking usually means a tomato sauce dish with beans or lentils, or I reheat 'something I made earlier'. Football is now a Tuesday or Thursday affair, at the Blantyre Sports Club. Young and old, Malawian and ex-pat - the standard is a good one. Other social opportunities are limited to a neighbourly visit to Pam and Lorraine (more VSOs). We catch up on gossip, or simply have a much-needed giggle.

And after all that I usually find time to 'Dell'. To 'Dell' is to use the Dell laptop to write letters, to play games, to desk-top-publish or other such stuff. To 'Dell' is to talk to you, so I'm not such a sad boy y'know!

Phew! what a busy day, especially if I've cooked. So, bedtime is any time between 9 and 11pm (and it has been later than 12!). Good night.

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More Spoon Feeding

THERE'S a poster in my office that says: "Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon". I've often smiled, but wondered what it meant. It turns out to be simple. It's about education. It's about how you teach your students. I know this because I've taught twice this year, and twice I've been guilty of spoon-feeding some of my students. Literally, I've explained a subject and then had to laboriously explain how a certain task is done. Over and over, I repeat the techniques. The only one learning, though, is me - how to teach a particular subject, and how to remain patient.

To be honest, it wasn't the student's fault. They shouldn't have been attending my Introduction to UNIX course, not until they had attended an Introduction to Microcomputers course first. It was still exasperating, and exhausting for me though. And spoon-feeding doesn't work. Each time we'd eventually arrive at our 'solution', and lo and behold the next - quite different - problem would have the same solution. Aaargh!

End 

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