Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmas!

Today is Christmas, although it really doesn't feel like it.  It's summer here and we haven't had a chance to decorate.  We did make a tree out of a box and some paper we were hoping to put lights and/or a star on, but getting to the store has been difficult.  Daniel has been busy trying to find a new office for AFES and we don't have the number of the minibus driver who's been taking us to the community.

This week has been pretty interesting and we've gotten a lot done.  Since getting back from the lake on Sunday (which was amazing), we got right back to work.  Monday was busily spent land surveying at the reservoir we found last week to map elevation changes and distances.  We hope to set up an irrigation system in the fields below the dam side of the reservoir.  Dan suggested using a siphon system to get water over the dam without having to cut into, and possibly destabilize it. This is a much better option that doesn't have the risk of flooding the land the community wishes to irrigate and a couple houses in that area.  Surveying took us a few hours and we had to hurry to map as much as we could before it started to rain.  The rains came right as we were finishing up and we had to cover the equipment and book it back to the van.  Of course, as soon as we pack everything up and all pile in it stops raining.

Tuesday we went to do some community surveying for the maize mill project in Zwanya.  Zwanya is a very beautiful village, it seems more fertile and green than other parts of Kumponda.  To get there we had to cross a small stream that the locals tell us gets very large in the rainy season; so large that they can't cross for days at a time. Building a bridge there may be a future project, but it is far to big an undertaking for us at the moment.  In Zwanya we first met with the chief who spoke very good English.  He had worked at the airport when he was younger and learned the language there.  He also seems to really understand the EWB mindset and wants to help as much as he can.  For instance, when we asked about a building to put the maize mill in he, our AFES contacts, and a couple other villagers spent ten minutes pricing out exactly how much it would cost.  After meeting with the chief we went to survey some of the locals.  We stumbled upon a few at a well and started asking them about their corn consumption and farming habits.  Dan had brought a bag of candy from Bakersfield and started handing them out to the kids there.  Word of this seamed to spread quickly because within a few minutes kids started coming from everywhere.  The candy ran out pretty fast that day.
We wanted to do something special that night because it was Dan's last day in Malawi, so we went out to dinner.  Malawi has some really good Indian restaurants because there are a lot of Indian immigrants, so we looked online for the best.  We settled on Bombay Palace and set off in Daniel's car.  None of us really knew where the restaurant was, just a general location, so after some exploring and driving the wrong way down a one way road (to which Daniel says "it's ok, it's night") we found it. We ordered family style so we could try a little of everything.  The food was Delicious, some of the best Indian food I've ever had and a nice change from our usual (poorly) home-made meals.  We had garlic naan and rice with chicken tikka masala, curry, mutton, lentils and more. All in all, a good night.

Christmas eve was less fun, we couldn't do much because the community was all busy preparing for Christmas and Daniel was taking Dan to the airport. We tried to go see a movie at the theater, which happened to be one sketchy door in an underground parking lot at the mall.  Sadly it had been closed for what look like a long time, so we did a quick shopping run and went back to our apartment.  We were supposed to go out to a local restaurant, Doogles (McDoogles as Connor calls it) that night because apparently Christmas eve is a night everyone goes out here.  Sadly Daniel got tied up and we weren't able to get a ride there.

Today promises to be much more exciting since we have plans with another Cal Poly student group here.  The Peanut Butter Project is a nutrition organization that uses peanut butter to help malnourished children.  The group in Malawi is almost entirely composed of Cal Poly grad students and we are meeting up with them later today for Frisbee, football, and Christmas decorating.

Merry Christmas!


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