So I failed to mention that the first school has about 60 students all between 2 and 5 years old. The “classroom” has nothing other than one small black board and a torn grass mat where the kids can sit during lessons. OK so on to the next. If you can believe we drover even further into the middle of nowhere down a road that now had become not a road at all. Good thing we had the car we did because we were down driving over very tall grass on a path not much bigger than a bike path.
We drove about 20 min not because it was very far but because the road was slow traveling with the bumps and holes and spots where really there was no road at all. Andrew and I kept saying “where on earth is she taking us!” Now this school was the one not yet established so it was my impression we would show up see the sight speak to a chief or two and then be done. Not a chance! We pulled into the small village to see 10 chairs set up in the dirt and a group of 80-100 children and every member of the surrounding villages along with every chief (about 6 in total). We were greeted as soon as we got out of the car and asked immediately to sit in the chairs provided.
I sat first in the “wrong” chair and was quickly directed as to which chair I was supposed to sit it. The one in the middle of course and the one that a foot stool provided. We began just as we had at the last school with a prayer. Then each chief was introduced and Ann Marie introduced myself as well as Andrew and Isaac. Now the speeches were to begin. We were told that they wanted to build a school because there was no school for the young kids and without one they would not properly be prepared for regular school when they were old enough. This also would be a school for children 2-5 years old and teachers would be volunteers from the villages who would attend training with Ann Marie. At the last school Andrew had inquired about the cost of building a structure like the one we were in. $4000 we figured….$4000 and a SCHOOL can be built! Again a lump arrived in my stomach. My mind continued to turn with these figures in my head and what an impact can be created with such a small amount of money…. After the first speech they asked if we would say a few words and talk about why we were there so that they could assist us is getting what information we needed. I was asked to address the crowd.
On the way to this 2nd site I had told Andrew that as long as I was not asked to speak I would be fine and I had been glad at the first stop I had not been. Now here we were in front of a large crowd of villagers who had no doubt planned for days for my arrival and I was being asked to speak. Those who know me know that isn’t in my nature and I become very nervous. Andrew leaned over and said “I hope you have words prepared” with a sly grin of course. I quietly begged him to do it on my behalf…he looked up at Ann Marie and said “Yes, Erin will now speak”..mortified I begged again under my breath as if this was life or death…”please Andrew, please do it” and he then stood and took the floor. He did well explaining who I was and why I had come. I had not come to help, but to investigate the possibility of doing something for them. We could not promise what we could do or even if we could help at all, but we were thankful they had welcomed us and we would take back what we had learned and seen and make a decision.
Once done Andrew came back to the seat next to me with a choice word under his breath, but kidding of course. This site there is no school building but they have begun making bricks. There are 100 or so children now being taught just under a shade building which isn’t really a building at all just sticks with grass over top to shade them from the sun. This is truly a project that is in the very early stages and needs assistance. After a few more speeches and another prayer we were done. Andrew showed me some tobacco leaves that were drying outside one of the huts and explained the process to me (while all 100 or so people watched). I shook hands gave some high fives to the children took a picture of the group and as we were getting into our car a woman came and let me know that she hoped I liked pumpkins because they had a gift of several for me which had already been loaded into my car.
More pumpkins…more food from people who are literally starving…a nice gift…one I didn’t want to take….one I had to again take and no doubt when their pumpkins were loaded into the car I’m sure they had a look at the pile of pumpkins already there…ugh! How to feel?? Tuff…but grateful for the kind gesture I thanked the women, hugged them and told them we would see each other again someday. The drive back to the city was as wonderful as the drive there had been. A day that was perfectly Malawian, perfectly beautiful, perfectly heartbreaking….and had given me so much to ponder…again my list was out in the car and I was jotting ideas and speaking to Andrew about possibilities….Isaac dropped us at the restaurant and Andrew did a bit of work and then we came back to the house. It was late we hadn’t eaten so we heated up some dinner had a bite a glass of wine and watched some tv with the children and Susan.
Off to bed tired and with my head full of what I had seen and experienced. This morning I was treated to my FIRST warm shower which was AMAZING!!! I am clean and off to see another project and have a stop back at Mtendere to see the friends that were missing the other day. Love to all who keep up here with me. p.s I apologize if words are left out or misspelled…I have little time to type and little time to edit so i just post quickly and hope it all makes sense!