For some reason, since coming back to Malawi from my trip home in January, I’ve had a hard time motivating myself to write anything for this blog. I keep putting it on my to do list, and then never quite getting around to it.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been writing rather a lot for work – keeping up Kusamala’s blog, re-doing the website content, working on project proposals – and when my spare time comes I need a break. Or maybe it’s that life on the farm has settled into a comfortable routine, where I have a hard time believing anyone would be interested in reading about what has become my everyday life.
However I prefer to believe that my hammock is to blame. A Christmas present from my sister, the hammock is now where I spend the majority of my weekend hours. Hanging about, under the trees, with a book in my hand, is much more enticing than just about anything – even keeping my loved ones back home updated on the Lilongwe permaculture scene. It’s a damn good hammock.
However I felt, on the occasion of my 29th birthday, I should probably make amends and write a post from my hammock. So here goes.
On Thursday March 8, my birthday, I woke up at 6:20 as usual. Rolling out of bed, I opened the curtains, washed my face, put on some clothes, brushed my teeth, and made a pot of coffee; my usual morning routine. Once the coffee was ready, I headed up to the stables – an approximately 100 meter walk, which houses our interns and our office.
Seated at my desk, checking my email as I do in the mornings, Kristie, one of our interns, brought me a slice of coffee cake made by another intern. Somehow, over the past month, our interns have gotten very gung ho about making bread in our terrible little toaster oven. I can’t say I share their enthusiasm, but I have been enjoying the fruits of this new obsession.
At 7:30, everyone – staff, interns, and volunteers – broke into chore teams. For the month of March, I’m leading the seed saving chore team. We also have teams dedicated to compost, pest management, chickens, and the tree nursery. We spent the first official hour of the work day wandering around the gardens, collecting, drying and storing seeds. It’s a very relaxing job and one that starts my day off pleasantly.
Once we did our hour of chores, I headed to the office to do some quick emailing before 9, when I joined the interns in the common room for our permaculture design course. The first two weeks in March, Kristoff Nordin, a permaculture trainer and practitioner who has been working in Malawi for about fifteen years, is leading a permaculture design course for our interns, Marie and myself. From 9 to 12, Kristoff taught us about soil and water management, using the centre as a demonstration of different techniques.
Lunch brought the typical Thursday rice and beans while the afternoon brought the stress of a deadline. Jo, an intern/nutritionist, and I were co-writing an article on malnutrition and permaculture as a potential potential solution in Malawi for a blog on the Guardian website, where she has some connections. The article was due that afternoon, and up until 3pm we were still waiting on quotes and data we wanted to include. While the hot afternoon sapped my energy, scrambling to edit, re-edit, and re-re-edit the article fried my brain.
Finally 5 o’clock rolled around, our deadline, and we sent it in – both of us so fuzzy brained that neither of us were sure what we’d written. Fingers-crossed it makes it onto the blog!
I then headed out for a quick run to clear my head before my parents made their birthday phone call.
After a shower and a chat I went to the communal kitchen where I found everyone hard at work on creating a Mediterranean feast – but not so hard that they didn’t all have a drink in their hand. Joining in, I made myself a drink and set about roasting red bell peppers on the stove.
Once the plates and plates of food were prepared, we all sat around the table and dug into the meal. Talking, laughing, and enjoying the champagne that Marie had brought, we stayed up past our usual 8pm bedtime – all the way until 9:30!
It was a long day of work, and a very enjoyable evening. While not the most eventful birthday I’ve ever had it was a good reflection of my life here, with all its opportunities for learning and laughing, challenging and enjoying myself.