I may not know how to dress a chicken…

Oh how I wish the thunder I am listening to would turn into rain to cool off the house! The thunder is really rolling! I have had a very busy week at the College and I got to meet the first year students! They aren’t so sure about being physio students. Basically they were selected to come to the College of Medicine, took the first semester of general medical science courses with all of the other students, and then they learned what they would become: physician, lab tech, pharmacist, or physiotherapist. Since there are only 25 PTs in the whole country, no one here knows what we do and it’s hard to generate enthusiasm for a profession you’ve never heard of, especially when you have just learned you aren’t going to be a medical doctor…but opting out would mean going back to the village. Knowing this, I told them I was right now missing out on selecting our incoming class of physio students. We had over 350 applicants for 36 positions and my colleagues were now in the process of interviewing the top 100 so they could eventually select the top 36. So, I congratulated them for each having what are highly sought after slots in the US. It was nice to see them light up. I will give a lecture to them next week and then in April I’ll teach a combined class of 1st and 2nd year students for 8 weeks. I can’t wait! For now I am keeping very busy with the new curriculum committee as we develop student-learning outcomes and a rationale for the course sequencing. I am enjoying it, but it’s not nearly as energizing as being in the classroom with students.

Yesterday I walked to the market with my colleague Margaret and we took a short cut through what felt like a little village right in the middle of Blantyre. The homes lacked running water but each and every one had a satellite dish. I know logistically once a neighborhood is developed without water or electricity the electricity is easier to add (above ground). But it made me wonder, if we had to give up one or the other, which would it be? Our lights, climate control, microwave, stove, oven, refrigeration, computer, battery chargers AND television? Or, the sink, shower, AND toilet? Feel free to comment which you would prefer to do without: running water or electricity?

Today I went with two colleagues to visit one’s niece and nephew in separate but neighboring townships. Both had moved their families into new houses in December. The aunt had not visited either since they moved, so it was a sort of a housewarming trip. I was impressed with the formal greeting I received from the young children. Once we were seated in the living room each came up to me without a parent’s prompting, stuck out his or her hand and very shyly said either “Muli bwanji,” or “Hello, how are you?” The first home was in a high density community, had no running water and no ceilings, and the pit latrine was outside. The second house was in a more rural area, the house was quite large (2000 sqft?), and each of the 4 bedrooms had its own bathroom, complete with shower, sink, and toilet. What these homes had in common were immaculate floors, bed nets, windows, corrugated metal roofing and no electricity. Both were wired inside for power, but they would probably have to wait two years for the electric company to provide power to the house.

At the first house we were served freshly roasted peanuts and juice. While we enjoyed our snack we discovered through conversation (thankfully and not through a test of skill) that I would not know what to do with a live chicken if it were given to me as a source of food. Yes, I understand it would need to be killed and plucked, but no, I have never seen it done first hand let alone done it myself! And what a shock it was to hear that I didn’t think my mom had seen it done first hand and I was nearly certain she hadn’t done it herself!

It was a lovely visit and we said our goodbyes and thanked our hosts for their hospitality before piling into the aunt’s minivan to head for her nephew’s home where we would be served a delicious full lunch: chicken (already taken care of), rice, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, chambo (one good sized whole fish for 8 of us), juice, and bananas and pineapple. But not too long after we left the heavily rutted and very rough dirt road and joined the paved road the car began to handle funny…we pulled over and lo and behold a flat tire (down to the rim). While the aunt called her nephew, her daughter and I seemed to be on the same wavelength. Yes, long story short, I may not know how to kill, dress, and cook a chicken, but I certainly can change a tire!


About malawinotmaui

I'm an extremely fortunate person who has been given an opportunity to live, work, grow, and learn in Malawi as a Fulbright Scholar.
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5 Responses to I may not know how to dress a chicken…

  1. Bill Herrin says:

    Cathy, I’m very much enjoying reading your posts. sort of living vicariously through you right now. I’m going to email you an interesting piece by two very prominent development economists that will shed some light on the issue of satellite dishes with no running water, etc. Your posts are wqonderful. Keep them coming.

  2. Paul says:

    Cathy, thank you so much for your updates. We are really enjoying following along with your experiences. You are a terrific person to do what you are doing. Especially giving up all of the creature comforts we take for granted. But I am sure the enlightening experience is well worth it.

    Love Paul

  3. Jan says:

    Hi, Cath! The blog is wonderful and I certainly appreciate the time and care you take to writing about your experiences and impressions.
    Do the students speak English, then?
    Your provocative question about whether I would choose water or electricity has left me pondering. I would choose potable water, as it is necessary for survival. I assume I could not have water from other sources such as that trucked in to my personal water tank (as in Vietnam). We Americans have no comprehension of needing to make this choice, really. I don’t think electricity would be necessary for basic personal survival. Water is needed to generate electricity in many areas..that said, I would choose H2O! What would you choose? What do you other blogmates choose..
    Please keep up the diary. Love, Jan

  4. John says:

    Hi Cathy! Also enjoying your posts. Just got around to reading this one, and your experiences really sound intriguing. My spring break in the first week of March…do you think there are any special Spring Break fares to Malawi? Just kidding of course, but I am impressed with the work you are doing, and love hearing about your experiences. Running water or electricity? Well, at my house if I don’t have electricity, I don’t have running water. As for TV…could do without it for sure. Keep up the good work! Love John

  5. Gary Gillis says:

    After spending a week in India on a PolioPlus NID, I vote for running water. As in “running into” the house and then the bad water “running out”. In the slums of Delhi, water is running in a ditch and the water is the drinking and bathing water AND the sewer. Yikes, it is no wonder that over half our team of 37 came down with girardia. You blogs are forming the basis of a great book. I look forward to talking to you when you return.

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