EWB in Malawi – Water and Sanitation 2010
A weblog by Shehin Rahemtulla – University of Victoria Junior Fellow for Engineers without Borders

Azungu Kumozi (A foreigner in the village)

After intensive training in the capital (which included Chichewa lessons, sector specific training with Malawian faciliators and much much more..) I arrived to my Village in Nathenje (pronounced Na-TEN-jay)

We drove past goats, chickens, stray dogs and villagers and into pot holes and droppings.  Everyone was staring at the azungu (me) in the front seat.  Our office consists of 4 brick walls, electricity (sometimes), a desk, some pens, some calulcators and some spare parts for repairing bore-holes.

My host mom, Ms. Kachingwe had to leave town for the first week so I stayed with my co-worker, Mr. Julius Masebo.  He’s got a wife and 3 awesome kids: Lucy (pronounced Rucy), Grace (pronounced Glace) and Promise (pronounced Plomise) and if I had to guess, Id say Julius is around my age.  My other co-worker is Mr. Chombe Chulu who is pretty much village chief of his tiny village consisting of about 7 homes.  I’ve seen his village a few times because he’s invited me for lunch.  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner usually consists of Nsima (maize flower and water) and some kind of “relish” which can be okra, eggs, meat, rape (its a plant), or beans.

Where I live, there is no electricity and no running water.. meaning the toilet is a cockroach and spider infested hole in the ground and the shower is a bucket of water.. both are located outside as is the kitchen, where cooking happens over burning wood or over burning harvested maize cobs.
People stare at me in the village because Im the only foreigner around.  The kids yell AZUNGU as they point at me and the adults whisper it to eachother as I walk by.  I’ve even been called ‘China’ a few times!!  Not many people can speak English here.

Work is going slowly but surely. I’ve been to a few village meetings where the village is reluctant to pay to have their borehole fixed so instead they draw water from an unprotected source.  Other villagers are keen on having safe water and therefore mobilize themselves to contribute financially to have the well fixed.  I’ve visited a few area mechanics ( those in charge of fixing boreholes) and I’ve been to the selling points where spare parts are sold.  As of now Its been alot of learning and all external meetings are in Chichewa (which I am picking up slowly because of the village kids who love teaching me).  I promise more work related details in the next entry, as of now I have to catch a minibus on the other side of town so I can get home before dark!

I miss you all very much,  my phone number is 088 125 1102 (country code for Malawi is 265 i THINK) and it is turned on sometimes.. but no guarantees.

Love,  Shehin

3 Responses to “Azungu Kumozi (A foreigner in the village)”

  1. Hey Shehin,

    Amazing stuff! Omg, cockroach and spider infested? Are they the big cockroaches? Like the big brown flying ones? Man, you are SO very brave! Can’t wait to hear more about your work!
    See you soon!


  2. Ah muzungu. How are you? Oh okre… definitely my least favorite relish, though wait until you get kapenta! Thats pretty awesome that you are getting to spend so much time in the field, such a fun way to learn.

    So I thought the whole time I was in Zambia that burning corn cobs was good because they would never compost and the ash was useful for making compost. Turns out that is completely untrue, but its a really common myth, and if you do it properly they decompose really nicely.

    On a related note, do they have those huge mud-encased mounds of compost with the stick in the top of them near your village? I remember how proud people were of their compost mounds and how they would always build them near the road to show them off!

    Keep up the awesomeness

  3. -Kal, yea the cockroaches are huge, brown and they fly! Those don’t bother me anymore though. I’m more concerned with scorpions since I found a huge one in my room the other night!

    -Hey Mike, So thats what those “huge mud-encased mounds with the stick in the top of them” are! They are all over the place and I had no idea what they were!

    Okra (we call it Terere) is also my least favourite relish! Its incredibly slimy. I remember when I was young, my Grandma used to cut it up and we would stick it onto our arms to make them look like dinosaur horns! One of the JFs described it as the only food that can be inside your stomach, in your hand and on your plate all at once!

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