The district offices take up quite a bit of space. Each sector of government has its own building and the district assembly (the head honchos) have a building too. It would be the equivalent of an office building, but there are no two or more story buildings, so it’s all spread out on a large plot of land.
I’m not sure why, but the water office is way out in the boonies. Upon arrival to the district offices, I walk down a path, basically through someone’s back yard, to reach my office.
The guards are out front and have already swept the area. Even though the ground is dirt, it’s common to sweep the ground of leaves and garbage to keep the area looking tidy.
I say hello and chat for a few minutes before I head into my office.
I sit down at my desk which I share with a printer and a scanner and greet Edgar, who I share an office with. We chat about the evening or weekend and then get down to business pretty quick. He asks me my plans for the day and I tell him.. sometimes we need to work on things together so we figure out when we can do that, or, sometimes I just need to work on stuff on my own or with other people.
I pull my lap top out of my bag, start her up and hope that she works. Often, I’ll start the computer and the touchpad will not be working. When this happens I’ll shut it down and start her up again. Sometimes this happens three times before success, sometimes I get it first try. Luck of the draw.
Next I get started with my work. I consult my “week plan” that I’ve made either the previous Friday or the Monday of that week. I find week plans are the easiest way to have some direction to my work. It’s a completely self guided project which is something I really love. There is no one to give me assignments… I have to figure out and execute the tasks on my own.
Obviously I’m not working with blinders on as I would have no idea what to do without the help of others. At the beginning of the placemen, Sydney, my EWB coach, Edgar and I sat down and figured out the goals of the placement. I also consult a lot with Sydney about what I’m thinking, and I also consult a lot with Edgar about what we need to get done and how to go about doing it.
At any rate, my day to day tasks are usually set by me and vary greatly depending on the day.
One thing that is consistent is that I text the other JFs a lot during the work day. It might sound like a bad practice, but it’s okay… I’m still doing a lot of work. It’s really nice to keep up with the others and see how their day and their work is going. After all, we are a water and sanitation team!
Airtel, the network provider in Malawi, has this crazy promotion where, if you send five texts a day, you get one hundred free texts to use in that day. I don’t think I have had a day in Malawi where I didn’t receive the free texts.
At lunch time I have a few options. I can buy some fresh bananas from across the street, come back to the office, sit outside and make a peanut butter and banana sandwich using the stock of peanut butter and bread I keep at my desk. I can go across the street and buy some chips (fries) and salad with a fanta. It’s not my healthiest option but sometimes I’m just in the mood. I can walk into the BOMA and go to a restaurant to buy nsima and beans or chicken or whatever. OR, I can go to the market and pick up something to eat there – usually avocado and tomato to make a sandwich.
Most people go home for lunch, but since it takes me 45 minutes to get home, that option doesn’t really work for me. I usually have a book so I’ll sit outside and read… or I’ll go inside and mess around on the computer. Sometimes Edgar has internet which he lets me use… so lunch time is a good time for that.
After lunch, it’s same same as the morning. I work on whatever needs to be done that day and sometimes I’ll start on my next day’s work as well. I also take time to write blog posts, write out emails and do other things to prepare for when I have some internet time.
Also in the afternoon I like to go out and chat with the guys outside. That’s a really good way to learn things about Malawi, about the water office, about culture… about everything really. Plus, I just like talking with them because they are all good people.
Any time between 4:30 and 5:00 is when I knock off. (Malawians all say “knock off” to describe when they are finishing work – I really like that phrase). I then start my walk through the path, down the main road and through the village to my home. The sun is setting by this time so it’s a nice walk – not too hot. As I’m getting home it’s getting dark… but there is always a bit of sunlight left by the time I arrive at my home.