September 27, 2013: Recognitions and Good Byes

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The last official day of our World Water Corps (WWC) assignment was a day of recognitions and good byes. The day began with my usual 1-hour run going in a circle around the neighborhood, followed by the same omelet breakfast I had the past two weeks … I can’t wait to go back to my usual breakfast concoction of cottage cheese, yogurt and berries. After learning the day before that a guy at our lodge was robbed a knife point in the middle of the day, I asked Andrea if she wanted to walk to the WFP office with me to avoid being out there by myself. After reviewing the latest version of the comprehensive memo summarizing our findings and recommendations, some of us went shopping with Pattie as our guide. She knew the sales person at the first higher-end shop we stopped by (I swear it seems like she knows everyone in Malawi) so she was able to negotiate a deal for me. We returned to the office in time for an early afternoon party with everyone who took part in the field work performed as part of our assignment. We surprised all team members with cake and sodas. We sang together, shared stories about the last two weeks, took team photos, listened to Pattie’s endless “poem” (she call it a poem but in was more like a speech), which was way too much about me, and said our final good byes. Although I was embarrassed by all the attention Pattie gave me in front of everyone, I kept the script of her poem as a memento. My team also sang and danced for me, which I have on video. I think there is a good chance I’ll be back to the Heart of Africa for another volunteer assignment so I’m hoping I’ll get to see Pattie, Chicco, Jimmy and Andrew again.

My four volunteer colleagues and I met with Aphron (WFP-Malawi Program Manager) and Muthi (WFP-Malawi Grant Director) late afternoon to go over our field observations and some preliminary suggestions. We had a long discussion about the politics associated with the distribution of safe drinking water to various communities and the challenges of WFP-Malawi faces in relation to the Blantyre Water Board. I find it fascinating how regardless of socio-economic conditions, politics always seems to come into play. Aphron made note of all of our recommendations and indicated he would follow up on a number of them. We also talked at length about how best to structure future WWC assignments to maximize the expertise and capabilities of volunteers. This is something I feel pretty strongly about and have a number of ideas that I intend to share with WFP staff in Denver.

The last day of our assignment ended with a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. With the exception of our friends from WFP-Malawi, patrons of the restaurant were pretty much all expats so you had the impression of no longer being in Africa, which felt weird to me. Before we left the restaurant we exchanged parting gifts with our hosts. I’m really excited about the hand-painted cup I got with WFP’s campaign slogan “Everyone Forever.”

After dinner, Alyssa, Andrea and Reid decided to check out Blantyre’s Friday night club scene. Although I was curious about the scene, I was just too tired to follow. Instead I enjoyed the great African music coming from a nearby neighborhood party from the lodge’s patio, while staring at the City lights below.

Description of a Few Photos:
1) Patty giving her speech at the party
2) Jimmy (from my team) and his son
3 and 4) Rob (from Connecticut) and his team
5 and 6) Steve (from small town close to Boston) and his team
7 and 8) Alyssa (newly moved to NYC) and her team
9 and 10) Andrea (from LA) and her team
11) My team: Andrew, Chicco, Jimmy and Pattie
12) Parting photo with everyone

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