Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm leaving on a jet plane don't know when I'll be back again

Well today is the day.  I have a few short hours left in Dalton.  Then its off to Albany to catch my plane to Philadelphia to meet the rest of the group, start medicine, and get injections.  Saturday we wake up before most people are home from the bars and travel up to NYC to JFK to fly to Johannesburg, 15 hours - YES! Then a quick jaunt up to Malawi and the adventure begins.  During training I don't think I will have many opportunities to update my blog so bear with me for about 9 weeks or so.  Well, I need to get everything ready.  Talk to you when I can.

-Matt

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dalton man plans Peace Corps trip to Africa - Berkshire Eagle Online

Dalton man plans Peace Corps trip to Africa

By Amanda Korman, Berkshire Eagle Staff

DALTON -- Tent? Check. Sleeping bag? Check.

Silly Bandz?

There's only so much you can do to prepare for a 27-month stint with the Peace Corps in Sub-Saharan Africa. For Matt Dindio, who leaves for Malawi next Thursday, the kids' rubber bands shaped like animals, the candy bracelets and the bottle of bubbles in his luggage are for the children he'll encounter working as a community health adviser in a nation ravaged by HIV and AIDS.

"I'm not going in trying to save the world," said the Dalton resident. "I'm a realist. I think it's more that you do something to help out."

Dindio, 29, is already intimately acquainted with some of the odder wonders of the United States -- he was a public affairs specialist for the snafu-ridden Big Dig while a student at Suffolk University, and after earning his master's, he spent six months driving a tram at the parking lot of the Animal Kingdom in Disneyworld.

But Malawi is literally a world away. Dindio is preparing to be without running water or electricity for the extent of his trip.

"I wanted to go do something different," he said. "Whenever you travel, you don't get the whole. You don't see the culture of it. This, you're living the exact same way as your neighbor."

Scattered across his parents' living room floor are stacks of items waiting to be packed up. The gifts Dindio is bringing for children will hopefully ease some of the difficulty of what is likely ahead of

him, as his father, Ross Dindio, pointed out.
"I think he's going to see people dying right in front of him -- little kids," he said. "He's going to come back a different person."

Malawi is ranked ninth in the world for HIV/AIDS infection -- almost 12 percent of adults have the disease. Due to the high mortality rate, the average age of the 15 million people is 17 years old.

As a community health adviser, Dindio will work with families in which the heads of household are 13 or 14 years old, their parents dead from AIDS or malaria. A former public affairs aide to Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, Dindio will be putting his communications experience to work through outreach and education with the Malawian community and clinics.

The challenge ahead of him will also be difficult for those he leaves behind.

Asked how he was dealing with his son's pending departure, Ross Dindio said his feelings were mixed, then choked up.

Elaine Dindio picked up where her husband left off. "We're going to miss him terribly," she said.

Dindio has been living at his parents' Dalton home since ending his three-year stint as Ruberto's aide.

Having him at home means his departure will feel like losing him all over again, Ross Dindio explained.

"Being a parent, we support what they want to do. That doesn't make it easy," he said.

Dindio won't know where in the country the size of Pennsylvania he'll be stationed until seven weeks into training. His parents won't find out until weeks after that -- and even then, communication will be scant and slow. The Peace Corps has instructed them that no news is good news.

In the meantime, the Dindios are enjoying their last days with their son before he is changed indelibly -- by the dry heat, by the taste of Malawian's corn food staple called nsima, and by the disease epidemic in which, Dindio acknowledges, he can only begin to make a dent.


Story featured in the Berkshire Eagle.

-Matt

PS - 6 days in the countdown.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Malawi seeks to outlaw 'passing gas'

LILONGWE, Malawi, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika's administration is proposing laws to criminalize passing gas to annoy others and insulting women's modesty.
The proposed laws, which are written into the Local Courts Bill set to be introduced to the incoming Parliament, include measures to ban "passing gas" with the intention to "mold responsible and disciple citizens," "insulting the modesty of a woman," "disturbing religious assemblies" and "trespassing on burial places," Afrik.com, Paris, reported Monday.
Opposition leader John Tembo said the bill, which would also impose penalties on people posing as fortune tellers, would create a "kangaroo-like court" that would "not be ideal for a democracy."
© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
As you can clearly see above, things might get difficult in Malawi.  From what I've read beans are one of the staples.  So stay tuned and keep your eyes on the international news, who knows if something happens President Bill Clinton might have to do another rescue mission, and save some Peace Corps Volunteers.

PS - 22 days in the countdown.

-Matt