Greetings from Fisherman's Rest. We've had the opportunity to enjoy our first week together here, in Blantyre, Malawi. Fisherman's is a fifty-acre nature reserve overlooking the Great Rift Valley, and and have accompanied us during our journey to orient ourselves to the TTS lifestyle...
The ladies of TTS24 took the long trip to Africa in stride, relishing the chance to get to know each other a bit – between airport scavenger hunts, Harry Potter marathons, and 2am mid-flight wake-up calls. Upon our long-anticipated arrival in Blantyre, the girls were positive about conquering those first-week fears, and jumped into a game of Capture the Flag to shake off the plane legs. Throughout orientation, we wanted to be sure everyone was on the same page in terms of TTS practices and policies. Through skits, debates, conversations, and written reflections, the group was able to focus our energy on important opening topics. We considered the relevance of culture and what it means to be a U.S. citizen; shared our hopes and fears for the semester; wrote letters to ourselves; read advice written by TTS23 students; and spent time getting to know each other in mentor groups. What mentor groups, you might ask? Here they are for the first quarter!
Maris, Sydney SG, Hannah L, and Violet are “Shades,” with Sarah and Quinn...
Maia, Sydney M, Ava, and Claudia are “Robe Nation,” with Beth...
Sarah, Marley, Kait, and Hannah W. are “Channel Four News,” with Katie....
Caroline, Sydney L, Marisa and Baylie are “The Big Five,” with Mary Reid!
As you can see, the inside jokes are developing nicely, and we are happy to be starting with our crew rotations in which students lead the charge with particular chores, such as cooking, cleaning, and packing (all completed, thus far, whilst singing Disney songs).
(We are still working out a great system for having three Sydneys and two Hannahs!)
After our first tastes of classes, we set off down the road to get to know some local kids at the community center, called “Tilitonse,” meaning “We are together” in Chichewa, the local language spoken in this community http://malawi.tripod.com/chichewa.html. Our group was introduced to a rousing game of rhythm and mimicry called “Like I Do,” a popular local pastime with children and adults alike, we are now realizing. The next few days were busy with more classes and more outings into the community. We were set up for success by the careful instruction of our Chichewa teachers, who came on a daily basis to work with us on our local language skills – and had everyone speaking in basic phrases by the end of the week.
We visited a school that is under construction, and we helped to rearranged bricks in long fire lines with the locals. A certain highlight so far was dancing around in the mud at the site, creating the material to stuff into brick molds. Our team (TTS + community members) made over 700 bricks in one hot day.
Boreholes are a source of life in this part of the world, as they provide safe drinking water to rural communities. Students of TTS24 were motivated to find out more about these important resources and had the chance to become more expert in the function and repair of a borehole.
During other excursions, we painted classrooms, read books with children, taught computer lessons, and played games (especially “Like I Do”). The girls reflected on what community service means – both for them personally, and in the places we visit – a conversation that will certainly continue throughout the semester.
Our last experience in the area was at an orphanage, a touching and poignant experience for all. We joined the children in a church service filled with heartfelt songs, dancing, and a dramatic play.
On to the massif!