Feeling full of beans, motivated and productive - a great week!


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Africa » Malawi » Central » Kasungu
November 29th 2012
Published: November 29th 2012
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The main road in KasunguThe main road in KasunguThe main road in Kasungu

I don't thing there is anything you can't buy in Kasungu apart from a dongle when you need one!
I feel full of beans this week!!! It was clearly heat exhaustion that I suffered last week and thankfully I’ve made a full and rapid recovery! I’m settled into a nice little routine and I am extremely comfortable here in Kasungu, Malawi.

FRIENDLY, POLITE AND EXTREMELY KIND is how I would describe Malawians. I know I’ve said it before but it’s such a pleasure to meet and exchange greetings with people who are genuinely interested in you. I can spend a whole day in the UK passing people, even in my own working environment and not even exchange eye contact! We even email each other when we’re in the same room! What’s all that about? A smile costs nothing and it makes you feel great.

It's certainly not money that makes the people of Malawi happy. Today I learnt that a good job in Malawi can earn you a whole £1.50 a day! Now compare that to the price of fuel here at £1 per litre!

The bicycle taxi men are beginning to recognise me now. If they see me coming they all pedal like the clappers to be the first to take my fare! I’ve felt safe on most (considering we have passing speeding traffic including heavy goods vehicles). However, this week I rode on a dodgy bike (falling to bits) at speed. I didn’t realise a bike could go so fast with a heavy passenger, laptop and backpack! I really did begin to consider bailing should we come into difficulty. I have plenty of experience of this as I bailed from a horse in the UK recently, at speed and survived! Speaking of horse riding, my skills have come in handy. You have to be extremely flexible to get on and off these bikes without tearing your clothes, so my leg over technique has been very helpful!

Communicating here has been quite a challenge! English is Malawi’s 1st language but they also regularly speak a national language. I’ve had to speak VERY slowly and pronounce all my words very clearly. Sometimes when they don’t understand they repeat what I’ve said and I do go into fits of giggles listening to my accent being repeated to me. The other day Blessings seemed to attempt an English accent and I was soooo tempted to say “you sound like ur from London”. You’ll get the joke if you’re
Traffic Traffic Traffic

The traffic we have to negotiate on bicycle taxis!
a film fan but I realised they won’t. They pronounce words very differently E.g. we say English, they may say Engwish, or Engrish. Salad is pronounced saladeeee (sing the eees) and 30th is 30 ttt.

Working in Malawi has highlighted how many expressions we used which are not understood. At first I ‘stopped myself in my tracks’ to think about what I was saying. Then I chose to just say them then explain what I mean. They’re enjoying that because Gentry came to work the other day and said “I feel full of beans today”. Others I’ve used are ‘in a nutshell’, ‘you’ll soon get in a pickle’, 'having the gift of the gab’, 'we can take a horse to water but we can’t make it drink'.

My dear friend Fiona Talbot (a business language expert and author) will be enjoying this blog! Fiona, I’ve shared word power skills with my friends in Malawi this week when we spoke about marketing and promotion!

Work has been extremely positive. Blessings and Charles have given me their undivided attention and are quite exhausted! I don’t think they’re used to working solidly 5 days a week. They’ll be glad of
More trafficMore trafficMore traffic

They find it amusing that we ride horses and bicycles for pleasure. All animals work here! If you own a horse you're a very important person here.
the rest tomorrow because I’m off! They’re fast learners, they can see the benefits of the bookkeeping systems and procedures we’ve put into place and how they’ll translate to donor records and most of all they’re extremely appreciative.

I have to say, we’ve had to undo and redo the records a couple of times because even though I ask a million questions I keep discovering new information! Even today something appeared that I didn’t know existed. They are very amused at my vigilance. They can’t do anything without me saying, let me see that, what is it, let me check it…. Today Charles was chuckling to himself when he saw me pounce like a ninja when he took something out of a draw!

I’m repeating over and over again how important it is that they are methodical and maintain the systems and procedures 'to the letter' (another expression 😊 ), otherwise my trip half way across the world would be wasted and when a future volunteer comes, they’ll be 'back to square one' (see another lol)! They agree with everything I say even if they don’t agree sometimes so I’m constantly reinforcing important points in several different ways
Team meeting this weekTeam meeting this weekTeam meeting this week

The meeting I called, two staff are hiding behind the screens
at several different opportunities.

Before I came to Malawi I was really concerned if I had the skills to do this job, if they would be transferrable and if I could make a difference. I seriously considered this but being here has actually made me realise how skilled we are so I have benefited significantly too! It’s down to our FREE education and the opportunities we have (that they don’t) to continually educate ourselves and develop in our profession. Education and training cannot be taken for granted!

Speaking of taking things for granted. Charles mentioned that it would be nice if the charity owned some books so they could learn from them and so that they could share them with their students. I commended him on his idea. It takes such courage for him to make suggestions as his English is very basic. Then I cringed at the thought of all the books that are disposed of in the UK. At eagle we had a clear out recently 😞 If you know about any schemes to enable us to send books overseas cost effectively do let me know.

Back to skills….there’s LOTS of idle time here (full
A very clear messageA very clear messageA very clear message

On the office wall
days sometimes, they generally don’t use their initiative), few people participate in meetings (they come to listen but don’t appear to contribute), they don’t maximise use of resources (no such thing as lean management), they don’t develop people (if a job needs doing with a slightly different skill requirement they believe they need to bring in another member of staff).

I’m really trying to get them motivated and to start forward thinking, but it’s extremely hard. Today I reviewed some adverts, shared some marketing strategies (such as selling benefits and not the features of their training) and some simple design skills in Word. We had a team meeting and I started drawing a mind map to collate ideas and soon discovered they’d never seen this technique before! Charles thoroughly enjoyed perfecting his mind map making it extremely visually attractive and even used eagle's highlighter to add colour. Nobody noticed so of course I highlighted Charles' skill and suggested they take advantage of it.

Speaking of eagle's pens - they love their four colour pens. Today they turned up to work with their pens in their top pockets. I have my name written on mine (so I know which
Hotel depositHotel depositHotel deposit

It's strange paying for everything in cash! As the machine only allows max 40000mk I had to put my card in 3 times! Then the same next week.
is mine in our eagle office, sad I know), so they've labelled theirs too!

So that’s enough about work. I’m delighted that Blessings came to the hotel to speak to the manager about my accommodation and the manager agreed to allow me to stay. Today I paid a significant deposit for it because I’m confident if I don’t secure my room, it will be given away in my absence!

Tomorrow I’m off on a luxury 5 star safari weekend. I’m really excited and hope to be able to share lots of pictures with you when I return. Note, I added pictures to previous blogs just in case you didn’t see them!

I’ve also asked Blessings if we can tour Kasungu again next week so we can take lots of pictures with me in them! He’s delighted to be able to 'escort' me. So I hope my final blog will include lots of pictures of the town.

I’m quite nervous of taking pictures because I’ve been shouted at in India a few times before and I can see they are uncomfortable with their picture being taken. So I’ve avoided it!

PLEASE do send me your comments,
A room with a viewA room with a viewA room with a view

My posh hotel :)
it’s so nice to have contact with people from home. I am receiving and accepting comments even though they’re not showing. I have replied too – don’t know if you’re getting my replies.

Have a great weekend everyone.

A big THANK YOU to AFID who have checked on me nearly every day.


Additional photos below
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Certificate givingCertificate giving
Certificate giving

Not sure if this showed the other day. It's the certificate giving ceremony for out of school students that have learnt computer skills.


29th November 2012

Hi Sonia It sounds like you are having a great expeirence and making a difference at the same time. I have enjoyed reading your blogs. Becky
2nd December 2012

Thanks Becky!
Thanks Becky, it's good to hear from people from home. Had a great weekend...one more week of work! :)

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