November 12, 2008

did you know?

i decided i still have more to say. my previous blogs were a journal of my experience as a peace corps volunteer in malawi. i saved my first and last postings. i also saved a picture of arlo because he is so gosh darn cute.

did you know that the democratic republic of the congo is in shambles? don’t worry if you didn’t until now, a year ago i didn’t know either. i went to the congo to climb an active volcano, brave enough with the ignorance of youth to enter a country plagued by a decade of civil war.

after living in an african country for nearly a year and a half i was rarely shocked. my calm attitude followed me on my travels as well. in goma the streets were literally crawling with united nations vehicles, but i went about unfazed on a mission to get my climbing permit. but i got fazed in goma...on the back of a motorbike on my way to climb nyiragongo i saw my first refugee camp. after the climb i was confronted and surrounded with men holding a buffet of weapons, from a rocket launcher to machine guns with clips for miles. goma is not the africa to be comfortable with.

during my stay in goma i met a young man named leon. he worked at the guesthouse where i collapsed at the end of each day covered in the soot of the 2002 nyiragongo eruption. my first interaction with leon was to negotiate down the price of the room to a painfully low number, and i’m pretty sure i wasn’t his greatest fan. but after a few days of smiles and playful conversation we exchanged emails, a similar guesture i had shared with so many other africans during my travels. the difference here was that leon actually emailed me.

leon and i have been emailing back and forth for over a year now. simple hellos and how do you dos, how is volunteering in malawi from him, and as time progressed more and more are you safes from me as i check in on him from time to time. i am including a portion of our dialogue because his emails encouraged this posting:

Date: Sat, 24 May 2008 04:38:02 -0700
Subject: RE: Greetings

Dear Corie
How are you doing now?
I’m very glad today to get this wonderful moment to send you my warmly greetings
I’d like to announce you my Birthday for to tomorrow, this is to express my happiness and my gratitude to you for the hope you have given me and which makes me to survive . Many young people in our region have lost their hope and joint rebel’s armies group and many have died. I thank God for this opportunity , the gift of life. I have appreciated so much your voluntary and humanitarian spirit that you have shown to many hopeless people in Africa and around the world and I encourage you so much.

I mean you safe and all your relatives

Best Wishes
Yours sincerely
Leon / C/o Bird Hotel Goma DRC

--- On Sat, 5/24/08, corie eastridge wrote:
From: corie eastridge
Subject: RE: Greetings
Date: Saturday, May 24, 2008, 8:34 PM dear leon,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!! i am so happy for your strong desire to live a peaceful and loving life. please remain strong against the pressures to join in the destruction. you are always in my thoughts, and i am very thankful for your friendship.

my best to you and your family, corie :)

Date: Sat, 5 Jul 2008 03:32:09 -0700
Subject: RE: Greetings

Hello Dear Just to wish you a happy indenpendent day to you and your country I'm bit ok and I will never forget you , soon

--- On Sun, 7/13/08, corie eastridge wrote:
From: corie eastridge
Subject: RE: Greetings
Date: Sunday, July 13, 2008, 6:20 AM

hi leon!!!!

great to hear from you. i'm in malawi now finishing up some of the projects i had to leave when i got sick. i think of you often, and am always hoping to hear that you are happy and healthy.

peace and love, corie :)

Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2008 03:36:54 -0700
Subject: RE: Greetings

How are dear , are u still in malawi , how is doing your project

best wishes

--- On Wed, 8/27/08, corie eastridge wrote:
From: corie eastridge
Subject: RE: Greetings
Date: Wednesday, August 27, 2008, 10:20 PM


great to hear from you! i'm back in the united states at school to become a nurse. how are you? are you still working? is the country more peaceful? please email me a mailing address if you have one so that I can send a postcard with pictures from where I live.

wishing you all of the best!
corie :)

Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2008 07:16:40 -0700
Subject: RE: Greetings

I'm glad to read dear, I'm bit safe, but today war has started in rutshuru 50 miles far from goma government army and rebelles, here we are well , we hopa things will be ok; It is a good idea to be a nurse I wish you a good course This is my mail box : B.P. 234 Gisenyi, Rwanda
My hi to all your relatives
Soon ok
Kind regards leon

Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2008 04:19:08 -0800
Subject: RE: Greetings

Hi dear corie How are u doing now, I'd like to get your news, are you still in malawi? at my side, I'm doing bit well bisides the fearing for our security that we have now,as u can listen through radio the rebelles are near goma , and many people have fleed . hope things will be fine ; Thank you

leon Goma ,DRC

--- On Wed, 11/5/08, corie eastridge wrote:
From: corie eastridge
Subject: RE: Greetings
To: "leon goma, drc"
Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 7:06 PM


thank you for the message. i am sad to learn that the rebels are near goma, and that you are afraid. please remember to remain brave, but also to remember that the safety of you and your friends and family should come first. i sent a postcard from my home here in new mexico (in the united states) to the address you gave me in rwanda. i think i will visit malawi again in the next year, probably for christmas. i hope to hear from you soon because i am very worried about you leon. stay safe! and do your best to remain happy and healthy!

i'll be thinking of you, corie :)

RE: Greetings‏ From: LEON SIMWERAYI (
Sent: Sat 11/08/08 4:59 AM
To: corie eastridge (

Thank you so much for your sympathy , we have fleed in Bukavu in south kivu , we are waiting and see how things will go. Thank you again , pls keep in touch leon

after receiving leon’s most recent email this past saturday i was very upset. i do not know if i have ever felt so conquered by an inability to help in my life, to actually be so useless to a friend. i called my mom because i couldn’t understand what i should do, how can i just sit here in my comfortable safe life while my friend is driven from his home by nkunda’s rebel army in a war that has killed five and half million people? did you catch that? five and a half million people in one country in one decade. and now leon is a refugee. will he ever email me again? has he escaped the bullets and blows of the machete only to fall to dysentery?

my mom was only able to listen because the truth is that right now, at this moment in my life, i cannot help leon. i am no match for a rebel militia, and only a quarter of the way through nursing school i am not fully qualified to match dysentery.

now you know my leon too, one of many leons in a country that continues to experience one of the greatest human catastrophes in history. i don't know what else to say, but i am asking you to please think about what you have read here. question the world...

"life is calling, how far are you willing to go?"
-peace corps

January 27, 2008

you might have heard i run with a dangerous crowd...

we ain't too pretty, we ain't too proud. we might be laughing a bit too loud…aw but that never hurt no one. lately this really gets the dance juices going.

my peace corps service officially ends today (january 26th). i think most all of you should know that, but i’m posting because it would frankly just be mean to leave the rest of you in the dark. if you’ve read this jibberish for the last two years, you sure as heck deserve to know my business.

i debated about the best way to post this blog. i mean i know i haven’t been the best blog-pal, but i do believe you have come to expect my large time gaps and strange spazzy language. i toiled with the idea of posting a video of myself laughing and dancing as real proof to show that i am doing good. that i’m still me, still happy. but if you know me, you know that…it just seemed the easiest way to show that all the new medical mumbo jumbo i spit out does not define how i actually am.

my exact diagnosis is still unknown, but the easiest way to understand is just to know that my pituitary (located behind the imaginary line between your eyes) is inflamed. the inflammation has caused some cellular damage where my primary symptoms are diabetes insipidus (NOT mellitus) and adrenal insufficiency. SO BASICALLY i take pills to set the meters all back to normal. pretty dang easy. and for that i am humbled.

the simple truth is that i was not ready to leave malawi. gearing up for a third year i was mentally only about half way finished, and having absolutely no choice in the whole matter was the hugest blow i’ve had to swallow. but as i preached with my application to join the peace corps, our lives in the united states are blessed with opportunity. better to have it cut short than to miss out entirely, and boy would i have missed out on some of the best days of my life.

i received some encouraging feedback a while back after posting the description about a funeral i attended at dan’s site up in mwazisi. so i decided to repeat my methods to leave this impression of malawi with you all for now:

my favorite morning is my favorite because it is so ordinary for what my life was like in maliera village. i myself was in good shape, freshly scrubbed and dressed for the day. i was taking six of the kids down to preschool on my way to the (peanut butter) project site, and with about an hour left before leaving i knew i better give them the final warning (i had already given them the get moving speech as i returned to my house earlier that morning from a run).

i walked onto my porch to see who was in view, and spotted dalitso next door, “dalitso, mubwera kuno.” like magic he comes. so funny in malawi, the kids always listen when i ask them to come, but take none of my awkward attempts at authority seriously when battling for them to leave at the end of the day. “arlo ali kwa, laka, limba, kata, chifu, doreen?” asking him where all the rugrats are, i already know the troops will be scattered and unbathed, highly unimpressed with my initial warning. but dalitso is probably the most reliable of the entire bunch, and without confirming that he will get me the answer i want he is off. i return inside to begin my daily sweeping ritual, the never ending battle of the brown dust that coats malawi.

minutes later i hear the “odi, odi, odi” of very little voices. odi is the malawian version of “i’m here, come see me,” but you can probably imagine that in repetition the point of the word is lost to the slowly elevating aggravation as the word continues. and continues. “eh,” i respond. i’ve become so lazy with my language, too native. eh is so ambiguous, but i use it to answer questions, deflect confrontation, pretend to understand conversations. i love eh. i am welcomed outside again by a few very dirty little girls. at three and four, limba and laka can really only giggle as the white girl next door begins to tell them again about the importance of school. “tipita ku sukulu posachedwa, mupita kusamba tsopano!” a final instruction, with some umph to get the crew cleaned and going. they agree, and are off.
i should know better, but i return to my sweeping and collect together a backpack of essentials for the day. my small blue plastic container is on top of my pack, purposely placed to trigger my memory. i debate with myself about the appropriate amount per child, and end up pouring in about a kilogram of peanuts for snacktime. i know that i shouldn’t let the parents get away with abandoning every responsibility, but leaving six children embarrassed and hungry among the 60 other classmates is not worth the greater issue.

“colee, colee, coleeee!!!!” it’s arlo. the r’s and l’s in chichewa are very interchangeable…with words like rice and phrases like fresh meat this becomes quite funny. i respond with the infamous “eh.” he has the sweetest little voice, “amayi anga anapita ku ntchito mmawa.” turns out his mother has left him and doreen, his two year old sister, alone this morning in her attempts to provide some type of meal for the day. amayi a arlo directly translates as arlo’s mother, her birth name being replaced as “the mother of dalitso” when she became a mother nine years ago at the age of 13. the three have different fathers, the most recent of whom practices plural marriage, and typically only contributes anger and fear with his rare visits. she is so limited by her financial struggles that she must live for each day, is often frustrated, and has little patience for crying babies. but she always gives me a great big smile, we have a friendship based on greetings, but it is enough.

“chiyani?” i step outside to get more details of the news my five year old best friend has come to deliver. “doreenie sanasamba.” learning that doreen is unbathed i take a closer look at arlo. he seems clean enough. i check, “munasamba?” he giggles. again with the giggling. “eh,” he confirms my assumption of having bathed. ok, one clean, five to go. i quickly go back inside, toss on my backpack, grab my bike, and lock my door…i’m off, or so i think. i poke arlo in his belly to extinguish the last of the giggles (yeah right) and follow him out of my gate to the small channel of water where the others are lined up. we have half an hour before class starts, and with so many little legs, the walk to preschool will take at least ten minutes. in malawi life does not hurry, and by this point in my service, i have lost my american urgency…a few minutes late is just as good as being on time. we have half an hour.

“ah iwe!” i laugh because i can rarely portray the negative connotation of this word. in malawi, iwe is the derogatory term for “you.” iwe is reserved only for animals, primarily dogs, and children. i became so comfortable with my very best friend in the village lucy that we would sometimes exchange iwe’s, but only amidst the loss of control that comes with the great excitement in some conversations. i would never ever call an adult in malawi iwe, and would stop on a dime to correct any child who mistakenly used the word to get my attention. i may act much younger, and have lost the full portrayal of being an adult in my village due to my unmarried status, but at 24 i am not an iwe. “iwe, tidzachedwa kwambiri lero. mumva?” i do my best not to laugh as i explain our need to hurry.

it seems all of the mothers are off today. off collecting firewood, washing clothes at the river, standing in line to fill large plastic buckets at the borehole, farming, selling one thing or another down at the main road…the women in my village are multi-tasking power houses. with the mothers gone i seek a very popular option, “seka ali kwa?” seka is the younger sister of arlo’s mother. she is 12, and unwilling to continue her education beyond standard one despite my pleading and bribery, leaving her to hold down the fort as mother hen on most days. “sitikudziwa?” her location unknown, i look around. the other older girls are my pride and joy, ndife and enalessay are actually at school, which severely limits the options available to get these five small children scrubbed down in time. the commotion of the chatter following my arrival on the scene brings the answer, and a few fathers peer around the corner of kitchens and bafas. i know just what to do, “iwe, mufulumira kusamba.” the guilt factor of my pleads towards the children to bathe kicks in and the fathers come over to help.

“limba, laka, mubwera kuno.” the girls don’t listen, so their father repeats his command as he reaches to grab a bar of soap. kata’s father follows suit, “kata.” kata starts to cry. she really does not like school. yesterday was thursday, the day that I volunteer at the school. on thursdays kata puts on her best miserable face, but does not cry. but kata had a bad day yesterday. after our rounds outside singing “if you’re happy and you know it” and “heads, shoulders, knees, and toes,” i noticed she was missing from the crowd. i found her crying inside against the back wall. “kata, osalira. mulira chifukwa chiyana?”she didn’t respond so i bent down to pick her up and noticed she had peed on the floor. “kata, munakhosa?” we go over the situation, and i do my best to convince her that when she feels the need to pee she should tell the teacher. she nods in her quiet way. at two kata has mastered silent survival, and rarely speaks.

the fathers take limba and kata to bathe them at the nearby homes. this eases my load, leaving me with laka, doreen, and chifu. i look closer, and sigh with relief. chifu looks clean, and i remember why i love ndife so much. she is a people pleaser, and at ten has taken the responsibility to get her three year old brother chifu bathed and in clean clothes for school because she knows i want that. phew. laka’s father takes a break from bathing her sister limba momentarily to hand laka a bar of soap and a scrubbing rock. laka begins her task slowly. this leaves me with doreen. “doreenie, zili bwino ndikusamba inu?” i seek permission from a two year old to give her a bath. i made my living as a teenager babysitting up and down my block, but until this moment i have never bathed a child from a small stream with a rock. i decide the fastest route will be to clean her legs, arms, and face, the portions of skin not covered by her tattered dress. laka and i pass the soap and rock back and forth, and after a few very awkward minutes of crouching down at the edge of the water i feel i have embarrassed myself enough in front of the invisible audience. i probably would have been better off had i taken off my backpack. oh well. “chabwino, laka mumaliza?” laka is surprisingly meticulous, but nods that she is finished. with five minutes to go we’re ready.

kata is clean, but is crying again. she can sense the imminent departure to the dreaded destination. but we came up with a very malawian solution to the tears weeks ago. i untie the chitenje cloth from around my waist, and finally do take off my backpack. i walk over, convince her to let me pick her up with a big smile and soothing promises, toss her on my back, and tie the cloth over one shoulder and under the other. “kata, muli bwino?” i check to make sure her positioning is ok, put the backpack on my front and grab my bike. we’re off!!!

we walk in a straight line down the shortcut through the tea fields. this image is so comedic to me. the white girl has a backpack on her front, a baby tied on her back, and is being followed by five small people whose heads only occasionally pop up above the tea plants. “doreen, mutopa?” doreen nods that she is, in fact, tired. she is normally last in line, but today we have to keep stopping more often than normal to make sure she never gets out of sight. “chabwino, mufuna kukwere njinga anga?” she nods again, and i load her onto my bike seat. she leans forward, grabs the handle bars, and wiggles around to find her balance. i can’t wipe the grin off of my face. my life is such a simple chaos, and i absolutely love the grace of chaos.

i think it is inevitable that i will forget names and lose large chunks of my experience as a peace corps volunteer in malawi, and such details may change over time, but i will hang onto this morning forever. i hope you all have a morning to remember too.

more than anything else i want to attempt to express my gratitude to the friends who let me cry, made me laugh, and made it all ok. i love you so much!!!!

one who deserves more than a special mention is dan. i believe in superheroes now. sometimes it is hard to admit that we need to be rescued, like it is some admission of defeat. but wow, does it help. and you know what he did to top that off…he wrote this:

i will be going back to malawi at some point before the summer ends. i am not sure what the next months have to offer, but i am ready. i’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading…will you?? i'll put together the details and look over the pictures of our peanut butter project just in case.
and from the top...i love these three pictures. the mess we made making paper charcoal at my house, a smiling cutie on the back of a matola (flatbed truck) in the north, and my beautiful best friend lucy on our rare dip into luxury at lake malawi.
watch out 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
corie :)

August 22, 2006

a b c d...a b c d...

as promised. arlo.

February 25, 2006

dear chicago...

well i just got back from dinner with the parents at a bar over on roscoe...and know what i saw in the bar?? a baby. no lie. so on the walk home i was like, "hmm, baby in the bar." and my mom goes, "yeah, i used to take cassie to the bar when she was a baby." turns out she was being serious.

i am about to continue my adventure in the battle of me versus the bags i am losing. it seems even my massive strength won't get me through this one...did i mention i bench 350. oh you know it. i guess i better get back to it...and maybe some more loving phone calls. earlier today i was talking to unnur on the phone when she says, "hold on one hear that?? that is me slapping you in the face." and i was like why?!?!?!?!?! HAH.

i will be sending out my training address soon so wipe away those tears.

and if you ever miss me...just remember a few of my many flaws:
i am evil.
i dress up my cat.
i steal catch phrases from go girl. that's how i roll. cold as ice. LEZZ!!!!!

if you are reading this i probably LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!