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Feeling Full of Beans

Sonya (AAT)
Good Health Youth Organization, Malawi

29th November 2012
I’m settled into a nice little routine and I am extremely comfortable here in Kasungu, Malawi.

'Friendly, polite and extremely kind' is how I would describe Malawians. I know I’ve said it before but it’s such a pleasure to meet and exchange greetings with people who are genuinely interested in you. I can spend a whole day in the UK passing people, even in my own working environment and not even exchange eye contact! We even email each other when we’re in the same room! What’s all that about? A smile costs nothing and it makes you feel great.

It's certainly not money that makes the people of Malawi happy. Today I learnt that a good job in Malawi can earn you a whole £1.50 a day! Now compare that to the price of fuel here at £1 per litre!

Communicating here has been quite a challenge! English is Malawi’s 1st language but they also regularly speak a national language. I’ve had to speak VERY slowly and pronounce all my words very clearly. Sometimes when they don’t understand they repeat what I’ve said and I do go into fits of giggles listening to my accent being repeated to me. The other day Blessings seemed to attempt an English accent and I was soooo tempted to say “you sound like you're from London”. You’ll get the joke if you’re a film fan but I realised they won’t. They pronounce words very differently E.g. we say English, they may say Engwish, or Engrish. Salad is pronounced saladeeee (sing the eees) and 30th is 30 ttt.

Working in Malawi has highlighted how many expressions we used which are not understood. At first I ‘stopped myself in my tracks’ to think about what I was saying. Then I chose to just say them then explain what I mean. They’re enjoying that because Gentry came to work the other day and said “I feel full of beans today”. Others I’ve used are ‘in a nutshell’, ‘you’ll soon get in a pickle’, 'having the gift of the gab’, 'we can take a horse to water but we can’t make it drink'.

Work has been extremely positive. Blessings and Charles have given me their undivided attention and are quite exhausted! I don’t think they’re used to working solidly 5 days a week. They’ll be glad of the rest tomorrow because I’m off! They’re fast learners, they can see the benefits of the bookkeeping systems and procedures we’ve put into place and how they’ll translate to donor records and most of all they’re extremely appreciative.

Before I came to Malawi I was really concerned if I had the skills to do this job, if they would be transferrable and if I could make a difference. I seriously considered this but being here has actually made me realise how skilled we are so I have benefited significantly too! It’s down to our FREE education and the opportunities we have (that they don’t) to continually educate ourselves and develop in our profession. Education and training cannot be taken for granted!

I’m really trying to get them motivated and to start forward thinking. Today I reviewed some adverts, shared some marketing strategies (such as selling benefits and not the features of their training) and some simple design skills in Word. We had a team meeting and I started drawing a mind map to collate ideas and soon discovered they’d never seen this technique before! Charles thoroughly enjoyed perfecting his mind map making it extremely visually attractive and even used eagle's highlighter to add colour. Nobody noticed so of course I highlighted Charles' skill and suggested they take advantage of it.

Speaking of eagle's pens - they love their four colour pens. Today they turned up to work with their pens in their top pockets. I have my name written on mine (so I know which is mine in our eagle office, sad I know), so they've labelled theirs too!

So that’s enough about work. Tomorrow I’m off on a luxury 5 star safari weekend. I’m really excited and hope to be able to share lots of pictures with you when I return.

Have a great weekend everyone.

A big THANK YOU to AFID who have checked on me nearly every day.

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