Mad March News
Languish By The Lake
fish curry at the Ice Cream Den was delicious" More...
To Ntcheu and Back
needed a fun-fix and sort of had one" More...
It Aint Always Like This
day in the life of More...
only one learning, though, is me" More...
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...
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)!
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!
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.
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!
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