Ok, so I'm hoping it will just be something to laugh about, but it appears that my new colleagues at MANASO think that their program officer, Heather, and their acting director, Donald, picked me for this post just because of my name! Fingers crossed to laugh it off when I start work on Tuesday morning.
Monday to Thursday of this week, Dominique and I had our in-country orientation with WUSC, who organize our job placements with their partners. We met with a CIDA rep, and found out that Malawi is only a "country of modest presence" for Canada, so the nearest Embassy is actually in Maputo, Mozambique. Health and Nutrition briefing: Check. Discussion of work expectations and mandate: Check (thank God). Review of living and working here: Check. Chichewa lesson: Check (and excited that it is similar to Swahili!). There was supposed to be a vigil-type protest for civil society here on Wednesday, so most people stayed home for the morning, but nothing really materialized in the end. More on that in a later post.
I have been a little worried about work because I know former volunteers have had difficulties with their placements in Malawi. But I said months ago that I was looking for a professional challenge - so I'm facing this one with my head up and with a positive state of mind.
It was a great introduction to the HIV/AIDS sector in Malawi to be able to participate in WUSC's annual sector committee meeting with its partners last Friday. Mostly partners made presentations about volunteers they've had, their work in the last 6 months, and the plan for the next 6 months.
|Getting used to eating Nsima, a maize staple that always |
reminds me of firm, gelatinous mashed potatoes
WUSC has two main network organizations that it works with MANASO, who work more at the community level, and MANET+, the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, who work more at the national level. I guess there is tension between the two, since the government and the National AIDS Commission, is giving more funding and participatory opportunities to MANET+, meaning that MANASO has severely downsized recently. I hope that staff can still be passionate about their work despite the changes.
So it's off to Blantyre, my permanent residence, tomorrow morning to a guesthouse for the week. My first week of work this week, and then hopefully I'll be off to Lake of Stars Festival in Nkopola this weekend (accommodation is booked!)