Sarah’s Weblog

Swen goes to Africa

March, April, May, June…UPDATES! June 25, 2009

Filed under: In the Village — Naphiri @ 11:44 pm

May 2009


Elections!!! Grrr…elections, the whole country was dysfunctional for over a month and at a standstill for the whole week before and of elections. It was impossible to do any work and also not allowed for us to leave our sites or travel. As for any African election up rival, there was very little and in my village almost none. I just made sure not to go to any rally of either party. It was interesting to hear people’s view on either side especially in my area since it was split almost half and half. At one point there were flags of blue on side of the tarmac and flags of yellow on the other. I think the most interesting part was how interested I was in the whole election process and who was running. I think since just coming from an exciting year of elections in the states to a small country where you are immersed into the politics, the last year has certainly gained my interest in politics to some extent. After all of it though I can say I am happier that they are over. People are now almost back to their normal lives and work.

Also in the month of May, possibly myself running away from all of the election drama, I went with the scouts into the Rhino sanctuary to go Rhino tracking. So the first day we set out in a direction I have no idea why but I just trusted the trackers. We ended up finding a day-old spore (rhino track) that was actually going in the opposite direction. To make sure that the other family of rhinos were not in the direction we were going we kept going looking for any other clues. We followed all the way to where the rhino’s had slept the night before and then decided to head back since we knew by then which way the rhinos had gone. When we reached camp we had some tea and waited for lunch to be cooked. Since the bwanas came too we ate like kings! The next day we set out at 6:30 am, this time in the opposite direction with the bwanas and with more determination. We luckily found a fresh spore in some mud at one of the waterholes. We followed its direction until we found the freshest spore yet! After circling back to the waterhole we realized that they had to be in a different area. So we split into two groups to cover more ground. The group that I went with was instructed to follow a dirt road until we hit a certain tree and then turn back until we met back up. While walking down this road we didn’t find any spores but we did run into some buffalo. They were quite far away but I got some good pictures. When walking back we shortly ran into the other group and talked about our new plan. We decided that my group had not gone far enough so we should keep going. This time on the way back the buffalo that we had ran into were much closer. When they spotted us they were a bit alarmed so they started to charge. I had orders to run, so I turned faster than you could imagine I could and started running. In front of me was a scout with a gun who abruptly stopped to scare the buffalo away so I had to dodge him by ducking left and hopping over some thorn bushes. When the three scouts with guns stopped and cocked their guns to scare them they stopped and turned away. We waited a bit and then continued on our way. As we follow the same way for a while Christopher, the head tracker, spotted another fresh spore. We then turned left to follow the spore. When we hit a gully we split again to find the direction of crossing. Christopher’s group went right and our group left. We had only gone about 100 meters before Christopher had called us back to tell us he had found the path. We regrouped and followed the new spore to a small hill. We climbed on top to see if we could see anything. With nothing in sight, Christopher decided that we should split up again. This time it was Christopher, Patrick, Mr. Skawanga and myself. We had only traveled for a short distance when we found the sleeping spot of the rhinos. About 2 seconds later, we heard a noise, we stopped to listen, and then Christopher took off running. So of course what did I do? I followed in the same direction chasing after the RHINOS! At this moment I am really asking myself what the hell I am doing chasing after rhinos, I mean in all honesty that doesn’t sound like a good idea at all right? I was out of breath trying to keep up but I felt somewhat safe since Christopher was in the front and Patrick in the back, both with guns. We finally stopped and realize that it was impossible for us to actually catch them. Apparently when rhinos are spooked, they take off running and don’t stop for a very long time. So we kept going until we found the next dirt road and followed it to the meeting point and sat down. About 2 or 3 minutes later the other group comes walking down to meet us. They didn’t see anything either but they did hear them run off in the opposite direction. We also all agreed that we were finished for the day since the rhinos were long gone by now. The walk back to camp was long but along the way we ran into some roan, eland, and zebra, which are all endangered species. We went out the next day as well and didn’t find anything but day old spores. Needless to say it was an adventurous week!


June 09


Yeah for 24! This I have decided is my birthday month! The first weekend we went to a Malawi Flames football (soccer) match. We actually did tailgating and ate pizza…it was almost like we were back home. I thought I had told a friend to get a ticket for me but of course the txt didn’t go through. So I get there and find out that I have no ticket. I had to go across the road and find a scalped ticket which I managed to buy for only 200MK more. Not bad if I don’t say so myself. Then the next weekend for my actual birthday I had a party in my village. It was interesting holding a party in a totally different culture but over all it was a blast. We killed 3 chickens and 1 duck, which is quite a bit but I knew that there would be lots of guest there. I also made a local juice from baobob and peanut brittle for dessert. Everyone loved the food, as they should since my amayi did all of the cooking. We finished it off with a dance party with the kids and a couple scouts who had came.

The next weekend, friday we had another party in Liwonde at my friend’s house for PCV friends, malawian friends, and the like.  We killed a goat and made potato salad and bean salad. Kory, my site mate also baked like 3 or 4 cakes, including the funfetti one that Jolynn sent me (thanks you are the best!) and the best part was that we were smart and hid some of the food and cake for the next day.  The party was a lot of fun for sure and they sang happy birthday for me…have it on video so I will have to figure out how the heck to get it on here for you all to see.

Now I am at Mvuu camp doing some work and visiting friends who live up here and typing this up for all of you.  Next week we head to Lilongwe for 4 of July so I will try to also update you all on that as well!  Loves to all and just so you know I am going to go on a trip to Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, pry in August until September.




Almost 1 year… February 23, 2009

Filed under: In the Village — Naphiri @ 1:17 am

February 23, 2009

Two days before one year…this weekend I am in the Capital City Lilongwe both welcoming the new environment volunteers and writing a VAST proposal in order to run a HIV/AIDS prevention training, 3 awareness rallies, and an open VCT-testing day. I am working with my Community Based Organization on this program and also starting an income generating activity baking bread and scones to be sold in the villages. I also work with a women’s group who has started baking scones in a tray in the ground but they are very successful in selling nonetheless. I am in the process of helping them build an oven made of a 50-gallon drum and bricks. I will also hold a business training next week to teach them how to maximize their profit. This is also the time I can find material to make charcoal from agricultural waste such as maize or sugar cane. This is very important where I am located because I have Liwonde National Park just north of me and Liwonde Forest Reserve south of me. Deforestation is a major issue here in Malawi but instead of cutting people off of what they know we want to provide them with a different option. Those are my major projects, but I also work with 3 different wildlife clubs and a boys football club who meets once a week to talk about HIV/AIDS prevention. As for work that is about it, well there are always those random meetings in different villages to explain what I am doing here and what I can help them with if they want me to.

On a personal note, I am very happy here in Malawi just as I have told you all last year. There are defiantly difficult times but nothing I can’t handle. I have been lucky and not gotten too sick, had too much stolen, or too many lies. Favorite motto here is “such is life” because this is just how life is here and you can’t live in a different culture, country, area and expect the same life. My favorite thing to do here in Malawi is just talking to people in the local language. I played softball and volleyball in Lilongwe last Friday and Saturday, it was such an amazing feeling. It has really been a long time since I got to play sports and I realized how much I miss it. I am still sore although and moving any part of my body hurts but it was well worth it. I just bough a net ball and volleyball today so when I get back I want to start a net ball (like basketball without dribbling) and volleyball team. I think this year I can finally focus on what works for me and what I want to do for work. Last year it was mostly trying out everything and I really felt scatter brained but now I am focused on a few key projects, which makes me so much more motivated and happy. I have to get going to pick up my clothes I had sewn. Thank you all who have helped my projects and I out. I will try to write again soon.



Thanksgiving November 26, 2008

Filed under: In the Village — Naphiri @ 12:42 am

9 Months…

I have been busy and not all at the same time.  One would think after nine months being in country I could give a pretty good description of what exactly im doing here but in all reality I still am not quite sure.  I was warned that this would happen but I didn’t listen.  All I can say is that I am doing a lot of little projects right now.  I was doing soap making but now the problem is that we don’t have any money to buy more materials sad huh.  I also work with my bee keeping committee which we will harvest next month.  Two weeks ago I had a drum donated to do charcoal demonstrations but unfortunately it is the wrong time of the year so I will wait for harvest season in April.  I am also helping with a trust called Chinguni Trust which was started to train people around Liwonde National Park how to manage and conserve their resources.  Informally I am practicing permaculture at my house and hopefully by next year I can show my neighbors some positive results.  Sorry i am jumping…  I have a plan for next year to hold an environmental rally on Earth Day April 22 mainly for people living around Liwonde to teach them about the effects they have on the environment.  The biggest hurdle I will face is funding.  If any of you have any ideas of who to contact for funding help let me know.  I will keep you updated on if it will go or not since I came up with this yesterday.  Well I hate to be short but i’m very hungry so I should be going but I will write again tomorrow.

loves me


6 months September 12, 2008

Filed under: In the Village — Naphiri @ 5:56 am

September 4, 2008

First and foremost sorry for taking so long to write you all, I have actually been really busy and honestly it is expensive and difficult to get on the Internet. Well we just finished our 6-month in-service training last Saturday. I can’t believe we have been here for 6 months now, the months flew by and I know the next 19 will as well. We learned more about Permaculture, which is awesome! Nature is so freakin cool! Haha I sound crazy but its true, it’s the only thing that really makes sense on this earth. Now that I have been back home for four days I have started to map out how I want to plant my gardens in my yard. After I lay out the bricks how I want them I will start to “feed” the soil. I will then wait till October for the rains to come to plant my food. I want to use my house as a demonstration plot and then hopefully motivate my neighbors and whoever else is interested in following suit. I am also going to make a solar dryer to dry fruits. That is what I am doing right now at my house.

In the community, I was making soap with my VNRC but I have now realized that it is not feasible. The transport costs are too high. On the up side I have been making mud stoves that use 2/3 less firewood than the traditional 3 stone fires the villagers are used to making. I am also experimenting on which design is most appealing to people in my area. In a couple weeks I want to travel north to Nkhata Bay to see how another Peace Corps Volunteer makes his mud stoves. I will also start working with my wildlife clubs again since “winter” break has ended and I am now back from training. I want to do as much environmental education as possible with the children because I feel like they are the ones who will really grasp what I am teaching.

Other than work I have started to plan my traveling. At the end of the month I am going north to Nkhata Bay as I said earlier. October I might go even farther north to Chitipa for some more volunteer training. For Thanksgiving we all will be in Lilongwe at the Ambassadors house. For Christmas some friends and I are talking about going to Mozambique and if not then maybe to the lake. I’m not sure for New Years, but I think maybe to Lake Malawi. Hopefully we can find a small-untouched island. Then in January or February I will go down to Mount Mulanje. March is Pre-service Training for the new Enviro 09 volunteers. April-July hopefully I will have visitors from the states. 😉

If you are interested in coming please let me know roughly what you would like to do so I can start investigating costs and prim spots to see.

Update on weather, winter has ended and I guess you could say we are into “spring.” At 8:00 PM it was 80 degrees the other night, just to give you an idea of spring weather. Needless to say, I don’t travel in the afternoon too much anymore. The rains are supposed to start in October so everyone has started tilling their fields to get ready. I have also found out that when the rains do come the main road to my house is turned into a river. Good news huh!

IST: We started with a trip to an ex-PCV’s house where they practice and teach permaculture. On Tuesday we headed to a village mushroom farm and then back to Dedza the Peace Corps training site. In Dedza we learned about solar drying and had some free time to visit our families from Homestay. On Sunday we went straight to church since the church in Mpalale blows any other church out of the water. After church we went to our family’s houses. My family was very happy to see me as I was to see them. I noticed that they all were much fatter then in April and May. I was very pleased because this showed that they have been eating well. I brought them gifts including soap, one chitenje, and some playing cards. I also found that one of my brothers moved to his wife’s property, which is typical. When I left they gave me gifts. Later that day our counterparts came to the college to join us for the 2nd half of training. Whenever we had spare time we went up the mountain behind the college. After training I decided on staying one more night to be able to have a full day for travel. There were six of us who stayed so we went up the front side of the mountain this time. Unfortunately we realized that it wasn’t possible so we kept going around at the base. About halfway around we found some caves. We stopped there for a while and watched the sun start to set. When deciding to leave we chose to keep going around the mountain. As time wasn’t on our side it was dark by the time we got back. That basically sums up training. On the way back to site I had the worst time tryin to get a ride since it was Sunday. I left Dedza around 8:00 AM and didn’t get home till 3:00 PM. It should only take 2-3 hours. Well I need to go to a meeting so I will try to write again soon. I miss and love you all!

Loves me


Ohh…AdVENtureS June 5, 2008

Filed under: In the Village — Naphiri @ 11:37 pm

June 1, 2008


            Yesterday was an adventure and a half!  It started out with my normal routines of waking up around 6:00 AM, washing dishes, making breakfast and then chatting with the neighbor kids.  Kory (my site mate) was over so we headed to the market to have her skirt hemmed and buy some vegetables for lunch.  After her skirt was done she went on her way back to her house and I to mine.  Then through some bargaining I made a deal with a friend to trade my pen for some groundnuts.  He came back in the afternoon with a bag full. I told him I would teach him how to make groundnut sweets, so we started cooking them as soon as he arrived.  Earlier at the market I also had told some women that I would be at the ground to play netball (similar to basketball but with no…battery died…net and they are not allowed to dribble).


June 4, 2008


            So as I mentioned earlier the battery died sorry for jumping around.  Anyways I had an adventure Saturday as I ventured to my counterparts house around 3:30 in the afternoon.  He lives only a few kilometers away but it gets dark around 5.  I got to see his house and met his wife, she fed me peas and offered me tea but I had to politely refuse since the sun was setting.  Unfortunately we had left too late because only a few minutes later I could hardly see anything, but luckily I did bring my headlamp.  As the batteries are low it helped only a little.  I can only try to explain how much I was laughing and say what have I gotten myself into?  Don’t worry though, my counterpart and neighbors escorted me all the way home.  Then Monday I headed to the park to meet Kory and also learn to make jam.  Today, Wednesday, we headed into Lilongwe.  We lucked out and got a free ride which is nice since I have just ran out of money.  Friday I just found out that my friend has a concert so we will go to that and then on Sunday there is a 4 of July party at the ambassador’s house.  It has been nice seeing everyone after 6 weeks in the village.  I took some pics of my friends in the village so I will also try to load those.  I miss you all and hope to talk to you soon.  I am fine and am having a blast so don’t worry.  Also thank you all that have sent stuff it has been nice receiving letters and boxes.  My new address is:


Sarah Swenson, PCV

Liwonde National Park

P.O. Box 41

Liwonde, Malawi


P.S.  I am planning on having a birthday party next Saturday in my village with nsima and okra.  My neighbors take care of me!


Love you all!!!



Learning the language is key! May 24, 2008

Filed under: In the Village — Naphiri @ 1:26 am

May 19th

Yesterday I realized how much Chichewa I am going to need to learn to be effective here in Malawi. I attended my first meeting alone with the bee keeping and tree nursery clubs. I can understand most of what they say but then they asked me to say something and I was totally speechless. It took so much brainpower to decipher what they were saying and then I was supposed to respond, what kind of world is this? Hah! Well I tried to say what I could but we both decided that it would be best if my counterpart was there with me, which I would have planned on in the first place but he had another meeting at the same time.

Another dilemma I am facing is paraffin because I cannot get it here in my village and unfortunately I didn’t pick some up the last time I was in town and now I have ran out. There is a vehicle coming today but I am not sure if they will be able to bring me paraffin. I guess I will have to just eat with my neighbors since I don’t have any way to cook. I could always search for wood but one of the main reasons I am here is because of deforestation. Also, furniture is a huge issue. They don’t make it in my village and I don’t have a vehicle to transport it from Liwonde (25km). I know it all will work out but like many things here they all take time, lots and lots of time.

So tons of people keep asking me what to send. I have come up with a small list of things that will never get old for you to send.

Jelly Belly’s

Peanut M & Ms

Beef Jerky

Tea (peppermint, greet, ect.)



Interesting news articles


Mixed tapes (cds)


Yet another day in the life of a volunteer: well the dirty kid is finally healing May 11, 2008

Filed under: In the Village — Naphiri @ 10:55 pm

May 10

My house is coming along slowly. There isn’t much in my village so it is hard to get my house set up. I still have no furniture but hopefully I can get the park to transport it to Molipa for me. Other than that I think things will come together quite smoothly. Last week we had an introductory meeting in my village, which went very well. At the meeting my counterpart informed the committees that I was interested in starting and coaching a volleyball (net ball) team. So from then on the topic of every conversation has been when are we going to play netball? A few days ago around ten or eleven I was laying on my porch reading when about 30 amayi’s came to my house to play netball. Although I had a lot of fun playing, I think we must pay a visit to the basics. One woman was quite enthusiastic when playing; she would almost through the ball and then mock me as if she had done the best job ever. I would just laugh. Then she would just bust out dancing (my radio was on) and ask me to join. My excuse was, “I don’t know how to dance in Malawi so I need her to teach me.” She took up the offer and boy was it a site to see. All the women were so amazed that I could actually dance. Then they asked me to show them how to dance ku America. I taught them to walk it out since it is probably the easiest dance to do. They were so thrilled! I think next step is the soulja boy.

Yesterday I visited the local nursery near the boar hole. The teacher speaks English so when she asked if I would come by I gladly accepted. It was fun meeting the students. They are orphans or at-risk children ranging from 1-6 years old. One of the boys is deaf; I hope to teach him some simple sign language, which is if I find that Malawi has sign language. Their class takes place in a small brick building that provides shelter from rain and sun. The materials consist of one ball and one stool. As the teacher asked each student to come to the front of the room to introduce oneself, I sat with joy watching each one shyly whisper their name. There was one boy who lay upon his sister’s lap with his eyes closed in the fear of the Azungu (white person). I understand that this is the first time that most of these people have ever seen a white person and the children must fear the unknown but it is still unsettling hearing a child wail out in tears in fear of myself. My goal is to befriend this young boy.

Today I hitched to LNP (Liwonde National Park) to meet up with my site mate and watch the park’s soccer game. It was a lot of fun. Their warm up consists of some running and then dancing, quite entertaining actually. When they score, all the fans rush the field swinging their arms above their head with excitement. Today I rushed the field on the winning point. The last two games I have watched have ended with arguments over scoring/refereeing. After the game we headed back to the house to cook dinner. Shortly after we ate dinner a light appeared about almost as if it were saying “mwwaaahhh” in a godly manner. Yes the electricity came on so now I sit here on my computer with a single light above. It’s 8:30 and past my bedtime

Loves Me