Friday, August 27, 2010

Darkest Africa

This update is brought to you by the Malawi Electric Company.

My only light sources at the moment are the computer screen and a rapidly dying mini-lantern. Apparently none of the previous occupants of the house thought to stockpile candles and matches. Or, if they did, they took their supplies with them. I tried sending the caretaker’s wife for batteries for the larger lantern, but the grocery nearby was out of stock and she didn’t want to range too far with her infant with her. I’m hoping that the caretaker will return soon to save me.

To jump ahead a little, I’m now in Zomba, in the southern region of the country, at the house that I’ve rented for a month. It’s a rather large, old colonial house in the center of town. It’s well-maintained, if not particularly well appointed. The owner just installed a fridge and freezer before I moved in; the cooker is just a two-burner gas range (and currently the gas tank is empty). The linens are threadbare, the furniture is sparse, but I have hot water and a sort of a shower (a handheld shower head that doesn’t extend high enough to stand, so to wash my hair, I have to sort of crouch in the tub).

I’m here by myself at the moment. I was supposed to share the house with another graduate student, but she flaked out on our agreement after finding a better housing situation. I should have known that I couldn’t trust her---she’s in political science, after all. (I can’t say I entirely blame her; I probably would have bailed also if I hadn’t already paid the month’s rent up front.)

It’s quiet, which I like, but lonely. Despite assurances from the locals that this area is safe, I don’t feel particularly comfortable with going out after dark, so I’m basically trapped inside from about 5:30 in the evening. With no television, no radio, no Internet, no housemates, and the occasional blackout---I think I’ll go stir crazy within a fortnight.

I am so not cut out for this anthropology stuff. Not two weeks have gone by---most of which I’ve spent in rather comfortable digs (the guest house and a middle-class house)---and I’m already pining for the comforts of home. And I’m supposed to move out to the village in a few weeks?!

In the meantime, I’m still in clearance limbo. Every time I think I’ve submitted all the paperwork I need, someone decides that I need something else. I had planned to be out in the village in a few weeks, but I may still be here in Zomba, chasing down approvals.

I’m sorry this is such a downer of an update. I’m sure once I start the actual research, time will go quickly, and I’ll have more interesting and exciting things to write about. At the moment, my days are a series of frustrations and annoyances (such as flaky grad students bailing on me; institutions creating new and fun hurdles for me to jump through) and my nights are endless hours of solitude, which I’ve chosen to fill with a series of pity parties.

How did I get into this?

How do I get out of it?


At 9:11 PM , Blogger Charitie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:13 PM , Blogger Charitie said...

I read posts backwards, but there is such a different tone from this one and the next one at the wedding - having a festive moment seems to have lifted your spirits. :)

I hope everything works out for you soon with all the bureaucracy - have you ever read Kafka's The Castle? It probably won't make you feel better about paperwork now, but maybe when you get back...

I have dept gossip/drama btw. I guess best way to share would be via email.


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