Hey guys,

Just wanted to start this off by letting you know this might be my last post in a while. It is apparently difficult to get a hold of people while we are in our three month training (an intensive language/culture/skills learning thing) so this may be bye for now but I wanted to let all of you know what I’m up to.

After a 5 hour waiting time at LAX (flight delay) and a 6 hour flight, I arrived at the beautiful Holiday Inn in Philadelphia for an orientation/staging event. The hotel  is surprisingly close to the all the historic crap in Philadelphia that I would have cared to see had I had more time.

The staging was alright. Pretty much your run of the mill orientation. A few ice breakers, some “interactive” lectures, and a lot of small group drawing activities. The usual. As for the other volunteers, the all seem cool! It’s only been a day or so since I met a lot of them, so no in depth bonding yet, but it is awesome meeting people from so many different states. As my fellow Bruins know, UCLA is pretty much a bunch of Californians so haven’s had too much experience with out of staters!

I have also been trying to “live it up” in the states while I’m still here. Below is a short list of my hedonistic activities.

1. Ate a hamburger. A large one. Gots to get my protein and prepare my formerly vegetarian stomach for any food item.

2. Drank some microbrewed beers. We stopped by a brewery in Philly and imbibed. The beers weren’t up to par with my  much beloved California and Colorado brews, but weren’t bad.

3. Took a long shower. Maybe my last for a while.

4. Plugged electronics into a wall! (Don’t know when I’ll be able to do this magical act again!)

 

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FAQs

February 25, 2012

Hey guys!

As all of you checking out this blog probably know, I’m headed of to Malawi soon to serve with the Peace Corps. As I’ve been saying my goodbyes, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and thought I would make my first post an answer to some of those “FAQs”.

Q1. Where is Malawi?

A1. Here it is!

Q2. How long will you be there/when are you leaving?

A2. The term of Peace Corps service is 2 years and 3 months. The first 3 months is an in-country training where I am expected to learn, in addition to other skills, one of the languages spoken in Malawi.

I’ll be leaving on March 5th for an orientation in Philadelphia and will be leaving from there for Africa on March 7.

Q3. How can I contact you?

A3. It looks like I’ll have some kind of access to internet, so the best way to contact me will be via email. I’m not sure if my connection will be fast enough for skype, but I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on that front. If you want to send me packages (I would be forever in your debt) I will also have a mailing address.

My contact information is conveniently listed on the “Contact” page of this blog. I’ve also it listed below in case you need to reach me right now or something.

Email: iwellst@gmail.com

Mailing: ‎Ian, PCT
Peace Corps/Malawi
P. O. Box 208
Lilongwe, Malawi

Q4. What will your living situation be?

A4. For the training period I’ll be living with a Malawian family. For the rest of my service, I will likely be in a rural village living in a mud hut or rustic house. I probably won’t have running water and there is a good chance the only electricity I’ll have will be provided by my awesome portable solar panels. I’ll upload plenty of pictures!

Q5. What is Malawi like?

A5. Can’t really know until I’m there and it looks to be pretty diverse but from what I’ve read online (oh the hours!) it seems to be an interesting place.  Lake Malawi, which boarders the country to the east, is supposed to be beautiful, I hear there are lots of pretty fish. I promise better descriptions in the future. Also, elephants live in Malawi, which is sick, but apparently only in a few parks and reserves.

Economically, Malawi is pretty undeveloped, about 80 percent population lives in rural parts of the country and survive on  substance, rain fed, agriculture.  Corn is the staple food.

Probably the feature that has most shaped the country in recent history is the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Estimates place the HIV/AIDS infection rate at somewhere between 10 and 20 percent. A big difference from the US where about 1.2 million out of the over 300,000,000 of us have the virus.

Despite all of that, the people are supposed to be really friendly. For this, Malawi is nicknamed “the warm heart of Africa” and Bill Clinton has made the claim that Malawi is probably the country with the highest rate of people who wake up every morning with a song in their heart.

Doesn’t the lake look awesome!

Q6. What are you going to be doing as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

A6. My official Peace Corps status is that of a “Community Based Natural Resource Management Extension Volunteer.” That sounds long and complicated but it basically means I am expected to work with my host community on projects aimed at sustainable use of resources (it will probably be focused pretty heavily on agriculture and forestry). I’ll likely be working with a non-profit or with a Malawian government agency in addition to working on projects of my own. If it sounds like I really don’t know what I’m going to be doing (there are a lot of qualifiers in this paragraph) it’s for good reason: don’t exactly know what I’m doing. Sites have yet to be assigned  and any good project will be molded to fit the needs of my community.

You will be sure to see plenty of blog posts about my projects when I’m working on them, but if you want some reading on non-profit work concerning agriculture and forestry in Malawi, I’ve posted some links below.

Clinton Foundation

Ripple Africa

N2Africa in partnership with the Howard G. Buffet Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Q7. Are you scared?

A7. It’s taking most of the courage I have to not shit my pants in fear.

Q8. What’s going on with law school stuff?

A8. I took the LSAT in October and did well so I’ll be applying while I’m in Malawi! Should make the application process more difficult, but I may take my vacation time to go somewhere with fast internet and comfortable hotels to send them out.

Q9. Didn’t you graduate like 6 months ago? What have you been doing with your life since then?

A9. I spent the first 3 months or so after graduating studying for the LSAT (what could be more fun in the summer after graduation?) and spent another month volunteering for the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County. The rest of the time I was what some people call bumming around but I prefer the term “urban backpacking. ” I couch surfed between friends houses in LA (a big thanks to all of you who opened your couch to me and Laura at times), visited my sister in San Francisco, and took a road trip to Denver with Laura who is currently rocking nursing school out there. It’s been fun but I am excited to actually do something again.

Q10. Will you have a blog?

A10. Yes. You should follow it!

To those of you who read all of that, I hope there weren’t too many spelling or grammatical errors.

All the best,

Ian

P.S. Here is a picture of some elephants I hope to make friends with!