Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Our last few days in the Warm Heart of Africa

This was our last week in Malawi, so we had just two days left to get work done. We planned out our first remaining day for community surveying and the last for a wrap-up meeting with the committee.

The van pictured is how we've been getting around the community throughout the trip. The guy in the pink dress shirt is Paul, our main translator throughout the trip.
We piled into our van for our final opportunity to get our questions answered by community surveying. This community was further away to the center of Kumponda compared to the other communities we've visited before. In our discussions with the villagers there, we found out that the villagers will pay around 600 kwacha to have their maize transported to Kumponda and back for milling, before the milling cost itself. This is pretty exciting news because it improves the business case for our maize mill project.
The committee
We surveyed one family while sitting on a bamboo mat, which is apparently called a 'bango' in Chichewa. We got all of our last questions answered for our projects, and thanked the family who helped us.

And then Conner threw up.

On Tuesday, we met with the committee, Fanta in hand, and wrapped things up with the local leadership. It turns out that there was a crop infestation problem in the community and a majority of the committe had to deal with the issue during the meeting, so there weren't quite as many participants as there were in the first meeting. The meeting went quite well: since the initial disappointment at the first meeting, it seems that they understand EWB's mission and limitations and will have realistic expectations in the future. They emphasized a number of times that they wanted us to remember them and their concerns. We reassured them that we will me maintaining contact with AFES, who will communicate our progress to the community.

By that evening, Conner was feeling much better, so we decided to have one last dinner out downtown. There was only one problem: Daniel was sick now! We resolved to get a taxi ride to Bombay Palace. Taxis here are harder to get ahold of than in the US though: there's no central number you call to get them. They're just guys with cars and some time. Thankfully, we were able to contact Paul and have him get a taxi for us. He came along for dinner, which was really nice. Throughout our trip, we've been working with Paul in the community and have had less time to get to know him outside of work than we'd like. He's a really nice guy, too.

It is now Wednesday, the day of our flight. We're all packed and ready to return to the states. Daniel is picking us up soon and Mike is quite sure that he won't arrive until I finish writing this blog post, so I'll call it a day on this one now.

Thanks to everyone who supported us on this trip: Daniel and the AFES staff, the Kumponda committee and villagers, EWB Cal Poly, and of course our friends, family, and donors back home! We'll be back in the Warm Heart of Africa before you know it!

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