Random Updates II

I’ve been thinking recently that my last few posts have been pretty idea oriented. I thought it’d be worth a minute to give a few more updates about my daily life for any “friends and family” types that may be reading this.

1. Where I am

Right now I’m based about 70% of the time in Chikwawa District. Chikwawa is in the south-west of Malawi. I’ve coloured it a shocking share of green on the following map:

imageMap of Malawi showing Chikwawa. Also shown: Lilongwe (capital city), Blantyre (largest city), Thyolo (district where I used to work), Machinga (district where I work about 20% of the time). 

In Chikwawa I’m working with the District Water Office to help them establish a monitoring system for water access in the district. Essentially we’re trying to figure out two things:

  • where broken water infrastructure it (so it can be fixed)
  • where underserved areas are (so new infrastructure can be directed to them)

The people I’m working with are awesome, so the work is progressing quite well.

Meanwhile, my home life has me living in a small house about a 40 minute walk from the office. The house is quite small and simple, but at least the rent it good (about $4.50 per month!). It’s also good because being in a more rural setting lets me practice my Chichewa, and also forces me to cook over a fire, and do other things that I might not otherwise experience.


My new house. Pretty cozy. There’s a small ecosystem of bugs sharing it with me right now, but I hope to start winning that battle soon.

2. Malawian Carpentry

If you look at the above photo, you might notice a pretty nice bench in front of my house. It’s perfect for chilling out and playing guitar, cooking food, etc. Definitely beats sitting in the dirt.

In my last house in Thyolo, I definitely fell into the “I’ll only be here for two months” trap. As such, I didn’t buy any of the things I needed to be comfortable like…furniture. Two months sitting on the floor was not fun. This time I was determined not to make the same mistake again.

Little did I realize how easy it would be to address this problem. Yesterday I wandered over to an outdoor carpentry workshop near my office and asked about the price of a bench. K350. About $2.80. “When can it be ready?

This afternoon.

Awesome. Just goes to show that the problem in Malawi is not the skill or work ethic of average people. Seriously, take a look at this thing. Pretty solid for $2.80. I’m having a second one made this week.

SDC14886Why did I ever live without furniture?

3. Back to School

Well, kind of. My major toss up when deciding to extend my contract was this: grad school, or another year in Malawi. That decision kind of got made for me though, because I wanted to do grad school in economics – I quickly learned I wasn’t qualified for any programs because my undergrad was in engineering.

Well, all that’s about to change. I just got a letter of acceptance after applying for this program, a Diploma in Economics for Graduates from the London School of Economics. What makes it really cool is that I can do the program by correspondence, and that they have a testing center in Malawi. Once I’m finished the program then I should be qualified for a full grad school program in economics, and have learned a tonne of cool stuff too. Problem solved.

4. NHL Hockey

Seriously, it’s killing me not to be home for this. Sens are 1-1 though, so already doing better than last season. I hope it continues. Enjoy it for me.

5. Successes in African Development

This work is really hard sometimes. Some days hope is all that really keeps me going. Hope that something will change.

I saw this link on Twitter the other day. Definitely worth checking out if you have a minute. We rarely talk about the successes in African development, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Well, that’s it for this edition of “random updates”. Until next time.


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