Friday, May 16, 2014

This is Africa: Solar Dehydrators, Showers, and Beaches

One of the NuSkin employees told us a story last week. He described an experience from his first trip to Malawi, where he was on a bus headed to Zambia. Visas for Americans expire after thirty days so it is often easier just to leave the country and then comeback rather than renew. On his trip, the bus was overbooked and there were about fifteen more people than seats. Like many other Third World countries, some of the hygiene of other passengers was offensive to his American sensibilities. The bus eventually overheated and broke down. A journey that should have taken eight hours ended up taking seventeen. He was frustrated and tired, but as he sat the woman sitting next to him slowly fell asleep on his shoulder. Another American intern also nodded off and rested her head on his other shoulder. He stopped and thought about everything occurring around him. There was a strange beauty around it. He changed his perspective of his current situation and firmly stated, “This is Africa.”

I share this story because “This is Africa” has become the motto of all of us interns. The water doesn’t always work, the internet (although surprisingly available in rural Africa) will crash, plans fall through, and miscommunication abounds. There would be a lot of things to be frustrated about if one had the wrong perspective. We knew that Africa wasn’t going to be like the United States when we decided to take this internship and there really isn’t any point in getting upset that it is different. 

Solar dehydrator
Everything that has happened since my last post has been great. We have been able to prepare the solar dehydrators for use in about a quarter of the time that I thought it would take. In case you aren’t a food scientist, a solar dehydrator concentrates heat from the sun (black spray paint is super good at this) and heats the air around a sample of food. As the hot, dry air flows over the food, it removes some of the moisture. Leave food in there for a few days and you’ll end up with some really tasty dried fruits and veggies. SAFI has three dehydrators and I was able to get them all prepped and ready to go for next week. All I need now are vegetables to start drying and students to teach. Also, the staff wants me to use the dehydrator to make rabbit jerky. I made a deal with them that I would make the rabbit jerky if they taught me how to skin and gut a rabbit (I’ll actually make it no matter what but I think it would be fun to prep the rabbit myself).

We actually play volleyball almost everyday. At first I didn't want to play because my inability to speak Chichewa has been frustrating me, but once we started playing, language really didn't matter. If there is anything that we can't figure out, at least the staff here can translate for us.

I now need to share my true, “This is Africa” moments from this week. The first includes some of the massive spiders here. The SAFI staff promises they aren’t poisonous but if I see anything eight-legged creature as big as my palm, I’m going to assume it doesn’t want to be my friend. I’ve seen them hanging around bathrooms pretty often but when I noticed one in my room, life got interesting. I had an inner debate. “Do I kill it? If so, how?” “Should I befriend it?” “Is it radioactive? Can I date Emma Stone if it bites me?” In the end, I grabbed a bottle of Raid and nearly emptied it on the poor guy. He barely lasted thirty seconds after I sprayed him, but as revenge for his death, he strategically landed directly on my flip-flops. This gave me a little panic attack, so I quickly grabbed my flip-flops, ground them together and crushed my little friend. Once I was convinced that he was thoroughly dead, I went to bed in peace.
One of my shower buddies
I am convinced that my eight-legged friend cursed me, leading to the second “This is Africa” moment. The next morning, I walked into one of the showers and closed the door behind me. I took a very normal shower but by the end, I noticed there was no handle on the door. I had locked myself in the shower. In the dorms at SAFI, nine-foot walls enclose the showers, leaving about a two and a half foot gap from the ceiling. I realized my only means of escape was by scaling the walls in nothing but my sandals and a towel wrapped tightly around my waist. I nearly made the trip over the wall when I realized I had left my shampoo and other toiletries inside so I jumped back down into the shower, threw the things over and started climbing again. The scaling of the wall wouldn’t have been so bad except for how close the ceiling was to the top of the wall. I ended up scraping both the back of my neck and my butt pretty hard on the top of that concrete wall. I made it out of the shower, still naked, but I felt more like a man.

Tropical Beach? In Malawi? Yeah, they exist
Friday, we enjoyed a trip to Lake Malawi. The tropical surroundings make you forget you are in Central Africa, and you feel like you are on a tropical beach. The water was mostly clear and cool. This led to quite a bit of beach fun. Probably the most entertaining thing was teaching our driver, Kelvin, how to snorkel. Using a snorkel seems so normal to us Americans but he found it to be the most incredible experience to see the lake through the goggles and be able to breath with his head underwater. It was so much fun, even when we found out that a light was left on and the car battery was dead. It took about an hour to find some one to jump our engine but we ended up getting to Lilongwe intact but exhausted.

Week one of my three-month adventure is already over. I am excited to keep working with the SAFI staff and students and hopefully, we can continue to have as much fun as we did this past week.

1 comment:

  1. You should be making friends with the spiders because they'll eat the mosquitos in your room. I had a pet spider while I was there