In a burst of whimsy (or stupidity, jury is still out), I agreed to play soccer for my project’s “rec team” this weekend. We loaded up the minibus and drove to a “field” (a very liberal interpretation as there was next to no grass and a fairly substantial network of deeply indented foot-paths running through it) where we faced off against a more professional looking team wearing matching jerseys. And thus, with little ceremony save for the occasional amazed “wazungu”s coming from our medium-sized crowd, I was introduced to the world of VERY amateur sports in Malawi.
Okay, I will freely admit that soccer is not my greatest sport. The required combination of depth perception, grace, and coordination does not exactly suit my natural temperament. Nonetheless, the game was fun, I pulled my weight (insofar as I through my size around a bit and knocked over 2 tiny Malawian men), and we went home defeated but in good spirits. The arrival of a startled and stubborn cow on the pitch livened things up in the second quarter and I was, to everyone’s amusement, assigned the job of cattle herder (don’t they know I’m from Van, not Calg!). In other news, it wrong that I took such perverse joy in being the only female on the pitch? Maybe, but that hasn’t stopped me yet!
Last night we were also treated to a meal of goat (freshly killed and previously owned by my Danish co-workers) and nsima. Goat is not exactly the most tender meat but BBQ-ing by charcoal has a certain carcinogenic allure to it. The event was quite fun and allowed me the opportunity to re-connect with Dr. Susan Watkins, who was one of the first Malawi-focused professors I met in my senior year of university (4th year for my Canadian brethren).
Thoughts about fieldwork & project progress
– It isn’t always easy or fun being in the field. After 8 (or so) straight days of 5am-9pm work (9pm is an early estimate, most days 10 or 11 might be more accurate), I am desperately in need of some rest. We are working to complete the CSPro templates and get data entry started but the process is not helped along by delays in field work, printing (try fixing a printer in rural Northern Malawi, not fun), and many hold-ups on all ends of the telephone line (Malawi to Denmark to Italy to England and back).
– CSPro has met it’s match. The program is unbelievably antiquated and, naturally, time consuming. Still, I am no stranger to highly detail oriented work and derive a strange and immeasurable pleasure from seeing the program bend to my will. Think of me as a reverse-7of9… You will be de-assimilated, illogical computer mind!
– I only have 8 full days left in Malawi. How did this happen! I am excited for German food (fresh bread, cheese, sausages… om nom nom) but I am nervous that things up here will not be 100% wrapped up by the time I leave. These fears seem compounded when more than 1/2 of the questionnaires coming in from the field have simple calculation errors (since when did [20+40]/2=25??) or blatantly disregard important skip patterns (>>Q41 does not mean skip this entire section and eat nsima with the respondent!). Anyhoo, this business is supposed to be challenging and draining or else everyone would do it!
– Finally: I have plans on Wednesday to peek in on one part of a nation-wide protest against government overspending, parliamentary holdups, and the many shortages (fuel, forex, and food being the big 3). My much beleaguered survey manager has promised to take me to Karonga to do some business, check out the situation, and probably to protect me from my own tendency to prioritize curiosity over good sense. I promise everyone reading that I will stay safe and keep an eye out for any change in the weather. Should things appear to be deteriorating into violence of any sort, I will relocate ASAP. That being said, Malawi is a VERY peaceful country and I expect it will be less dangerous than, say, a UCLA-USC football game!