Wrapping it all up?

I think this is going to be my last regularly scheduled post (“regularly scheduled?’ you say, “It’s been more than two months since the last one!”)

I know, I know. But darn, somehow blogging just didn’t make it into the top slot on my list of priorities in my last weeks in Malawi, when I was closing up my work there and enjoying last adventures. Nor did it make it onto the list during my first weeks back in America, when there were many friends and family members to hug, craft beers to be guzzled, and delicious meals to be consumed.

There was also the small task of moving to New York City and beginning grad school…

So I feel that this will be a post that mostly relates recent activities rather than neatly summarizes and cleanly wraps up my Peace Corps experience. (Though I think you’ll have to look pretty hard to find a PCV that can ever neatly encapsulate their service into one blog post of a reasonable length, to be honest.)

Here we go:

My last few weeks in Malawi were spent finishing up school, grading exams, and preparing my site for a replacement. This involved great resolve to keep teaching at school when the students and other teachers were totally checked out, but grading my last set of exams had the joy of “this is the last time I’ll ever have to do this!” Making arrangements for my replacement meant a lot of phone calls to my APCD and a lot of help from my head teacher, but the housing eventually got up to PC standards and now the new volunteer is there and teaching!

My last few days in country were spent in Lilongwe, where my cohort and I had lots of paperwork to complete, staff signatures to sign, and zitenje to buy. Some gooodbyes were exceptionally difficult, but in the end, I successfully closed my service, and after a final dinner together at the country director’s house, I was off to Joburg.

This time, my travel plans didn’t hit a snag until I got back to the US – made it to DC just fine, but my flight into the large, efficient, glorious University Park Airport in State College was canceled. The only way to remedy that without spending another night in Dulles was to change my flight to Harrisburg and have my wonderful parents drive to come get me, which they did. I was greeted by my smiling mother and father, ho also may r may not have been holding a welcome sign and waving an American flag.

(My first meal at home was salmon and asparagus, with a GLBC Dortmunder Gold, and it was just as great as I remembered.)

The next few days in State College were kind of a blur, but involved examining all of the clothes that I’d left at home and deciding that I didn’t really have any reason to keep most of them – I also washed everything I brought back from Malawi. I continued eating well, catching up on TV, and trying not to die as I attempted exercise.

Just a few days later, I was off to NYC, where a whirlwind weekend included: signing the lease to my apartment, eating burritos and drinking margaritas with my brother, making the trek to Ikea, and reuniting with my BFF at a rooftop bar in Chelsea.

Back to State College, and it was time to pack for real, while watching as many Olympic events as possible. Went to the dentist, got a haircut, and conducted other errands before making the real move to the city (that’s what I call it now that I live here).

Before I started orientation on August 29th, I also managed to: assemble my Ikea furniture, reunite with more hometown friends, attend my cousin’s beautiful wedding in California, and make my way to Target and Trader Joe’s. During orientation, my classmates and I were introduced to the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health through a wide range of activities including lectures, yoga classes, lots of free food, and others.

I journeyed to various parts of Manhattan to collect craigslist furniture and tried to make my room look like a real person lived there. I ventured to the Bronx Brewery and sang horrible karaoke with new friends. I went the wrong way on the subway for an embarrassingly high number of stops. I found the way to the beautiful running path along the Hudson River that’s only a few blocks from my apartment.

Since classes started last week, I’ve gotten back into the swing of being a student – reading hundreds of pages for my “Foundations” classes in history, ethics, and human rights as they pertain to public health. I’ve been really surprised to find that I’ve enjoyed health economics the most so far. I’ve figured out where the best places to sit are in the various classrooms, and mustered up the courage to introduce myself to people sitting next to me.

In the last few weeks of endless introductions, a lot of people have asked, “How has the transition been?” And honestly, it’s been great. There have certainly been times  of overwhelming feelings, like “wow I miss my friends in Malawi,” and “how the f is a coffee that expensive,” but it’s been good overall. I’m certainly not complaining, and I’ve already connected with a community of other RPCVs in my classes that provide a venting outlet, when I really need to talk to someone who actually gets it.

I’m doing well and having a great time, and I wanna give one last shoutout to my family, friends, and other random readers who have seen this blog along the way. Thanks y’all, I appreciate you taking the time to read my words and try to learn about my journey.

 

Peace!

 

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View from the Top (Almost)

Paul and I spent the 4th of July weekend climbing Mount Mulanje, the massif that I’ve been living in view of for two years. It was a great trip, though our summit bid was spoiled by poor weather. Pictures are the best way to tell this story, so here is a pic-heavy post:

The Last Term

After a final VAC meeting in early June, I returned to site and prepared for the home stretch. Some PCVs have already finished all of their projects by the time they make it to the last few weeks at site, but that was not me, for better or for worse.

One of the things I had to wrap up was the construction and painting of a malaria mural at my school. I had enlisted students to help design the mural, and using their ideas as well as ideas from previous PCV murals, we came up with a good sketch. I also had students and teachers help with translating the malaria prevention messages from Chichewa to English and back – this ensured that the message would be easily understood and was locally appropriate. When it came to the painting, I did the base coat by myself, and faced many questions from students: “Madam, can we help?” “Madam can we paint?” I explained that their turn would come on the weekend, when we planned to actually do the mural, and they seemed eager to help. So naturally, when the weekend arrived, a total of zero students showed up to help. Shrug.

Luckily I did have great help from Paul and my sitemate, Noah. Between the three of us, we used a grid to enlarge the drawings on the wall, on Friday, then painted most of the pictures on Saturday. We arrived on Sunday morning to find iwe handprints all over one of the pictures, from small children who had watched us paint, then found it very amusing to drag their hands through the not yet dry paint after we left. The damage was minimal, and easily remedied by another coat of paint. On Sunday we finished the pictures and did the lettering, and later on I painted a small Peace Corps logo to make it official. Pictures of the process and final product are below:


The community response to the mural has been positive – at least in the respect that I’ve observed many passersby stop and read it. The monitoring and evaluation of mural projects is difficult because while many people may read it, without further follow-up, there’s no way to know if their behavior has actually changed. It certainly adds color to the school and I’m very proud of it, at the very least.

The rest of the last school term was full of interruptions of one sort or another – the Form 2 and Form 4 students both took their national exams, so only Forms 1 and 3 remained at school until the end of the term (for national exams students have to go to more central testing centers). The Form 3 students also decided that they were pretty much done for the year, and exhibited some frustratingly poor behavior – trying my patience until the last day. I also wrapped up my grant completion report, complicated by some power outages.

I dutifully wrote and then graded all of my final exams before departing from site – one last round of the tedious and depressing task that I hated most as a teacher. However, my Form 3 students did surprisingly well on their Physical Science and Life Skills exams, so that was a nice way to wrap things up.

Monsters Inside Me: Schistosomiasis

Before I started my PC service, my older brother was working for the TV production company that makes “Monsters Inside Me,” an ultra-dramatic show that details crazy stories of people becoming horrendously ill from various parasites and other microorganisms. It’s a documentary series on Animal Planet, and I love it! I remember specifically watching one episode about a PCV who suffered an infection so severe, she had to have part of her intestine surgically removed. She also had to ride her bike 20km while violently ill in order to get cell service good enough to call PCMO. *Shudder*

I have been fortunate to remain relatively healthy during my service, and have avoided such horror stories (knock on wood). However, after COS conference, PCMO told me that I had schistosomiasis, a common parasitic infection in this part of the world. My case was asymptomatic, but acute schisto often causes GI and urinary symptoms, and can do permanent damage to those organs if left untreated for long periods of time.

PCMO treats PCVs if they develop symptoms, but schisto is so common in bodies of water here (including Lake Malawi, the main tourist destination and PCV gathering hotspot) that all PCVs are treated presumptively at the end of their service. I received treatment in early June, and though I probably won’t be in the lake again, I’ll also receive a second round of treatment with the rest of my cohort at the end of July. The treatment, praziquantel, can cause fairly unpleasant side effects: headache, diarrhea, achiness, fatigue, etc, but I only had a slight headache and felt tired. One interesting thing (at least to me) is that the side effects are not just from the drug, but also from the host immune response provoked by the dying parasites. Meaning, if you have a high parasite load, when the medicine works and starts to kill them, their dead little parasite bodies can make your immune system work extra hard, which can make you feel sicker.

Those side effects are something that I observed second hand at my school: the Ministry of Health in Malawi conducts mass treatment campaigns, aiming to treat all students in schools once a year. I’ve been present for the treatment at my school both years, and school was closed early both times due to student complaints of illness. (I suspect that not EVERY student actuall felt sick, but that some did, and the rest chimed in when they realized that they could get a day off if they complained.) I’ve also witnessed that some students are very reluctant to take the medicine, especially the older ones, who regard schisto as something that only affects children who play in dirty puddles of water. These comments resulted in an impromptu biology lesson from Madam Lee, as I explained that everyone in Malawi is at risk, and it was their responsibility to take the medicine.

I realize that my fascination with schisto (and other parasitic infections, to be honest) is likely not matched by all my readers. But if you want more info, look here and here.

COS Conference


In the middle of May, my Ed 2014 group had our COS (Close of Service) conference in Senga Bay, Salima. The picture above shows our training manager, Fexony, getting a surprise shower after we completed a fun team-building activity. Fexony is in charge of all the trainings, and has been dealing with us since PST, so it was very fitting for him to get this drenching – luckily we made sure he didn’t have his phone on him, and he was a great sport about it.

COS conference is the last time in a PCV’s service where the whole cohort is together – normally groups actually leave the country at different times, or a few people are leaving early for jobs or school or whatever. So for Ed 14, this was the last hurrah of sorts. Also notable: at least in PC Malawi, COS conference is always held at an extra swanky hotel, for us it was the Sunbird Livingstonia Beach – so nice! We all enjoyed the lovely rooms and excellent food.

What COS conference is actually about is preparing us for the end: we had some final security, medical, and logistics sessions, and spent the rest of the time talking about the future, about life after PC. I’m a rare PCV who has had my plans for post-service lined up for the whole time (I’ll be pursuing my MPH at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in NYC), but resume review, interviewing, and career planning sessions were very helpful nonetheless. One of the highlights was a panel with RPCVs who are currently working in Malawi – two who served in Malawi, two who served elsewhere. They’re all working in different fields now, and were happy to share their re-entry stories with us (both funny, happy, and a little scary). They also talked about how their PC experience has shaped their career paths, and emphasized the importance of connecting with other RPCVs upon return to the US.

Also at COS conference: poop cups! Aka stool samples – all COSing PCVs have to submit three different stool samples so that PCMO can check for any critters that may have found their way into our bodies during service. I learned upon returning to my site that I was harboring schistosomiasis (bilharzia), one of the less serious parasitic infections that usually only causes serious damage in chronic cases. I was treated and have detailed the experience in another post here.

After our few nights in Senga Bay, my group returned to LLW to have our close of service medical appointments, and I was able to kill two birds with one stone in having the PCMO complete some grad school medical paperwork for me at the same time. I also participated in my final Stomp Malawi meeting, and it was good to make a few final contributions for the future of the malaria team.

Fight the Bite

In early May, I finally got rolling on some malaria activities that have been in the works for a long time. Another PCV, Alex, and his counterpart, James, came to my site and facilitated a Grassroot Soccer PC SKILLZ Malaria intervention, and it was awesome!

Finally doing a GRS program at my site has been a long time coming, because I’ve had a big crush on this NGO for a long time, since I went to a Dartmouth soccer camp in high school and listened to a presentation about GRS. In college, the Case student athlete association was planning to host a 3v3 tournament to benefit GRS, but had to cancel at the last minute. And unfortunately for me, I missed the GRS training that I was eligible to attend in Malawi due to my time in DC last year.

However, at long last, I finally got my GRS wish. The reasons I like this org so much are numerous, but mostly have to do with the fact that it combines two things I’m passionate about: soccer and health education. All GRS programs use soccer as a basis for the activities – they’re active and fun and generally a big hit with kids. Not to mention that the facilitators are “coaches” and each session is called a “practice.” Heh. In Senegal, I was trained in GRS facilitation, but I didn’t have a host country counterpart with me at that training, so I felt uncomfortable trying to run the activity myself. That’s where Alex and James came in.

I puzzled for a long time over how to ensure that students would attend the activity. One of the challenges I’ve faced during my service is getting kids to show up for activities taking place outside regular school hours. So this time, I used the lackadaisical scheduling of the Malawian school day in my favor, and convinced the other teachers to let me work with the form 3 class for one whole day. They agreed, and we also decided that if we told the students ahead of time that they wouldn’t have regular classes that day, but would be doing a special activity, they wouldn’t come. So we made it a surprise, only letting the students in on what was planned when it was time to begin the activity.

Alex and James arrived from Chikwawa, and we split the class of 50 students into two groups: Alex and my counterpart, Mr. Lubaini, worked with one group, and James and I worked with the others. We each went through the 4 SKILLZ Malaria practices, combining the whole group for certain parts, but maintaining the small groups for other parts. I think my favorite practice was one that involved the students creating and performing short skits to model good malaria prevention behavior – Malawian students generally REALLY like skits, and though my group performed theirs mostly in Chichewa (which I couldn’t really understand), the raucous laughter and actions let me know that they were doing well.

Part of the GRS model involves doing a pre- and post-test with all participants, much to the delight (chagrin) of my students. Though I tried to explain as best I could that the test wouldn’t be marled for a grade, I could tell as they were taking the pre-test that cheating was rampant (facepalm). I also know that some students struggled to take the test in English, as evidenced by them circling both “true” and “false” answers (facepalm again).

When I graded the tests, the pre/post change was not as big as I had hoped, but I know that the students really enjoyed themselves. I also know that though they may have heard some of the information before, the GRS activities hopefully presented it in a new, fun manner, one that will hopefully help them remember it better than just listening to a teacher in class.

Quick note about Malawian culture: I don’t exactly know why this is, but Malawians in general LOVE certificates. Certificates of completion, of achievement, of appreciation, whatever, they are always a big hit. So although it took a while for me to get them properly printed and laminated, when I distributed the certificates to the students, they were ecstatic. Much yelling, chanting, and dancing ensued, despite my pleas to hold applause until I called each student’s name.

The funds for GRS at my school came from an umbrella grant that I wrote in the fall – a PC Small Projects Assistance (SPA) grant funded by USAID. The grant is known as an umbrella grant, meaning that it encompasses multiple projects completed by multiple volunteers. I wrote the proposal in September, but did not receive the funds until November, accounting for some of the delay in completion of the projects. As I write this, the grant as a whole is in good shape – we’re on track to have everything completed in time for me to write a report and close it out before I leave the country.

Boring grant-related note: part of the delay in getting funds came because of Peace Corps HQ’s seemingly sudden decision to stop funding umbrella grants, when a very similar one had just been funded in Malawi a few months prior. Additionally, this type of grant had been very common in a lot of PC countries, because it allows a bunch of smaller projects to be funded under the same proposal. Umbrella grants place a lot of responsibility on the PCV who is the primary author, and they are responsible for disbursing the funds and then collecting receipts and balancing things after the fact. (I’m coming to understand this more as I begin the closing process myself.) This type of grant supposedly has always been against policy, but that policy has only been enforced relatively recently, and in Malawi I think my proposal was the last one to wriggle through under the wire.

And now the photos of my lovely GRS participants:


Things PCVs Brag About

One observation that I’ve made about the culture of Peace Corps Volunteers (in Malawi and other countries) is that we tend to brag about some really stupid stuff.

It’s almost as if, in signing up for “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” we must constantly prove to our peers that we are indeed tough. Toughness or grit is just one example, but we also can sometimes be competitive in other equally silly areas, and I am certainly guilty of this at times.

For your edification (and amusement, really), I present a list of actual things that I’ve heard PCVs brag about, with explanatory comments/examples where necessary.

Things PCVs brag about:

  • Having shit their pants
    • This is known as “becoming a real PCV” in some countries, “getting a gold star” in others
  • NOT having shit their pants
    • Must be nice
  • How little they paid for something in the market/transport/curios (souvenirs)
    • A point of great pride when you can share your lower price for the same good or service
  • How much they were able to reduce the price of something with their excellent bargaining skills
    • Bonus points if you use the local language or at least throw in a few phrases
  • What cool designer stuff they found in the market piles of secondhand goods/at DAPP
    • Italian leather handbags FTW
  • How big the vermin are at their site (rats/cockroaches/camel spiders/snakes)
    • “I swear the rat was a foot long…”
  • How numerous the vermin are at their site (rats/cockroaches/camel spiders/snakes)
    • “Last month I killed 10 camel spiders in one week!
  • How sick they’ve been in country
    • “I had diarrhea 18 times in 24 hours…”
  • How infrequently they bathe
    • “I wash my hair once every three weeks, and even then, I only use vinegar…”
      • Some PCVs do indeed fit the dirty hippie sterotype
  • How many times they’ve been to the capital city for medical visits
    • Bonus points if your medical problem required a trip to a different country
  • How many passengers were crammed into a minibus they rode one time
    • “I was sitting on someone’s lap AND holding two babies and a chicken…”
  • How clean their feet are
    • Most often heard from education volunteers
  • How dirty their feet are
    • Most common from environment volunteers
  • How isolated their site is
    • “It’s 60km off the tarmac in a minibus, then another 2 hours on a bike taxi”
  • How NOT isolated their site is
    • “It only takes me two hours to get to [insert major city]”
  • What awesome goodies they got in their last care package
    • “I got a bottle of Jameson and aix pounds of cheese powder!”
  • What (very expensive) American junk food they found available for purchase in country
    • “I found double stuf Oreos in the capital!”
  • How difficult it is for them to access electricity
    • “I have to ride my bike two hours each way…”
  • How many vacation days they have remaining
    • “I’ve still got 40 days left…”
  • How much clandestine travel they’ve done (without office approval)
    • “… even though I spent two weeks at the lake and climbed Mulanje!”
  • How poor the cell service is at their site
    • “I only get 2G if I go to this one tree in my village”
  • How good the cell service is at their site
    • “I get 3G that’s good enough to stream Netflix”
      • Bitch
  • How not afraid of getting in trouble with the office they are
    • “There’s never a vehicle down here in my region…”
  • How many phones/computers/ipods/other electronics they’ve gone through
    • “My first phone was stolen, then I dropped the second down the latrine, then the next randomly stopped working, then the fourth one fell in the lake…”

Hopefully this has amused you, or maybe it’s horrified those of you that are less familiar with #PCVLYFE. Shrug 🙂

Maize and Malaria Musings

“Agogo, muli ndi neti ku nyumba?”

“Grandmother, do you have a net in the house?”

That was part of an exchange that occurred earlier this evening between my landlady (my Malawi grandmother) and myself.

It’s harvest time in Malawi. Everyone is busy, and all of the families in my compound are hard at work: making the trip to their land a few times a week, working in their fields to bring in the crops, then hand-processing the staple crop, which is maize. Maize is the core of the Malawian diet, the lone ingredient in the food that everyone in the country eats nearly every day of their lives: nsima, a sort of cornmeal mush (like grits, except not as tasty).

Now what exactly does processing maize entail? And how could maize and malaria be included in the same post? I’m getting to that.

When the people in my area of Thyolo district, southern Malawi, harvest their maize, they do the shucking on site, at least a that I’ve witnessed. So when my agogo and her family bring the corn back to the house, they’re bringing back the shucked ears. The ears are dried in the sun for a time, sometimes on straw mats, but often in the dirt. After the ears are dried, the kernels of corn are removed from the ear, a process that in my observations usually involves a group of women sitting and gossiping all day and doing the removing, a process called kutongola. Once the kernels are removed, then they must be dried in the sun too, before they’re stored for the long term.

While the ears of corn can be dried directly in the dirt, the kernels are almost always dried on a mat of some sort – spread out in a thin layer so the hot sun can reach every last kernel. Now this requires a significant amount of space for all the corn, which means a significant number of mats or ground coverings.

This is where the mosquito net comes in… Turns out that a rectangular mosquito net, of the sort recently distributed by the Malawian government, makes a pretty good surface for drying maize. And this evening, as I cooked my dinner, ate, then washed my dishes on my porch, facing the men of the compound collecting the maize from the mats and funneling it into bags, I watched my agogo trail after them, picking up stray kernels and cleaning and folding each mat as it was emptied.

As she got to the mosquito nets serving as mats, I finally approached her and asked the question: “Grandmother, do you have a net in the house?” My local language skills are admittedly basic, and my agogo is at least 70 and hard of hearing, so this seemingly simple question took several minutes and the help of a neighbor to really get through. She answered yes, after laughing at the neighbor’s explanation that I wanted to make sure she was safe from malaria. “Chabwino!” “Good,” I said, giving the thumbs up, to another round of laughter, before I retreated back to my porch and finished my dishes.

It seems so darn simple, sleeping under a mosquito net, it really does. And while great progress has been made in Malawi, with the help of Global Fund-backed national net distributions like the current one, there’s still a ways to go in terms of fighting malaria and getting people to use their nets for the intended purpose. From the malaria-free, privileged position of the US, it’s even easier to wonder why people still don’t practice this behavior to protect themselves and their families.

The answer to that question is more complicated than one might think. The factors that determine the choices people make relating to their health are incredibly complex. Think, for example, why some people still smoke cigarettes, despite the overwhelming evidence that they cause cancer and shorten your life. Why do people smoke? Maybe there is social pressure at their place of work, maybe they grew up in a household of smokers, maybe their perceived risk of cancer is low.

Similar types of factors can affect behaviors related to malaria, complicated by the resource-poor nature of areas most affected by the disease: low perceived risk for adults, the utility of mosquito nets for other purposes- especially those that may contribute to family income. Local dwellings constructed with limited resources don’t help keep mosquitoes out, and small huts may be dominated by the large silhouette of a net, discouraging  their use even more. And just as people know that smoking causes cancer, most people in Malawi know that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes – it’s the gap between knowledge and the change in behavior that is most puzzling, fascinating, and important to target.

I could go on and on, but I’ll bring it back to my agogo: if she had said no, that she didn’t also have a net in the house, that using it for the maize was more important, could I have really argued with her? Not sleeping under a net every night might eventually lead to malaria, but not processing corn in an effective and efficient manner would certainly lead to problems – hunger problems much more tangible than potential malaria. Shrug.

There are so many layers here, and yet malaria is a disease far less complicated than the other demon of sub-Saharan Africa, HIV. That is, behaviors related to malaria aren’t wrapped in the utter maze of social, cultural, and psychological factors surrounding human sexual behavior – so why have we still not eradicated malaria?

I am certainly not in any position to answer that question in one measly blog post, but hopefully I’ve at least presented a somewhat interesting perspective from my place as a Malawi PCV. Today is World Malaria Day, and though I’ve got some malaria projects in the pipeline, my poor planning means that they’ll be taking place in May, not a part of April’s World Malaria Month – I’ll let you know!

Q&A

On Thursday this week, my last class of the afternoon was interrupted by visitors from CAMFED, who brought employed women to speak to the female students at school as role models. Of course this was an interruption that I’m totally fine with – except that many of the male students took this as a “get out of school early” pass and left. So, I had about 12 male students in my Form 3 class just hanging out, and instead of leaving them to “study” (aka dick around and then also leave school early), we wended up chatting in the classroom in a pretty informal way.

What began as me asking them some questions about malaria and their families then turned into them showering me with questions spread over a huge variety of topics. The questions ranged from testing my knowledge to actual curiosity to totally strange and random. I did the best that I could to answer all of them to the best of my ability, telling the students when I didn’t know.

I don’t need to bore you with my answers to all of these, and I’ve smoothed out and corrected the English significantly, but here’s as full a list of their questions as I can recall:

  • What do the letters AM and PM stand for?
  • What, besides bilharzia, can cause a person to pass blood in the urine? [I prefaced this answer with “When a person passes blood, they need to go to the health center and get treatment!” The questions sounded a lot like “Now I’m asking for a friend…”]
  • In what year was the first case of HIV discovered?
  • How does a dog protect itself from its enemies?
  • Why does an HIV positive person sometimes not transmit HIV to his/her partner? [This answer was prefaced with “ALWAYS USE A CONDOM, always use a condom, always use a condom]
  • What exactly are mutations in biology?
  • What is evolution? [hoo boy – this led to me explaining the “theory” of evolution and also explaining that it conflicts with what the bible says regarding human origins]
  • Why are people different – why are some people black and some people white?
  • What are bronchi and bronchioles?
  • Is emulsification a function of the liver?
  • How long does it take from fertilization to the birth of a baby?
  • What happens if a woman delivers a baby before the whole time [nine months] passes?
  • What causes a baby to be born early?
  • What is the fluid that a man produces before he produces semen?
  • What is radioactive decay?
  • What is the fluid called that women produce during sexual intercourse?
  • Is it possible for two monkeys to give birth to a man? [after my explanation of human origins and the evolution of our species]
  • Can a mosquito transmit HIV from one person to another?
  • Is the malaria parasite born in a human or born in a mosquito?
  • What is the name of the capital city of America?
  • What is the function of amniotic fluid?

As you can see, a wide range of topics. I tried to make my answers appropriate for them and relating to topics I know they have studied in school, and I think they were getting most of what I was saying, as I did my best to simplify. However, for all I know, some of the students went home and told their parents “Madam Lee says that people came from monkeys.” That’s a risk I’m willing to take 😉

North of the Wall (in pics)

   
Lake Malawi from our chalet at Mushroom Farm

 
Not hard on the eyes, is it?

   
Peering over the edge of Manchewe Falls

 
Hanging out behind the water

   
Hiking, day one

 
Passing through fields and villages

  
Taking selfies during breaks

  
Alfred, our porter, carrying Paul’s pack

   
The rolling grasslands of day three

 
  
Our line zebra sighting, as we drove out of the park (rain and wind kept most animals in hiding during our visit)