Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lights. Camera. Action?

by Jodi-Ann Burey

Last Saturday, I woke up, ate breakfast, scrubbed my clothes and hung them on the line. But this wasn’t just a normal Saturday morning in Balaka. This particular Saturday was my live TV debut! My workmate’s wife, who is a local TV host and editor, invited me to be on a program at Luntha TV. I had no prep and had no idea why I was asked to be on the show besides the fact that I don’t speak Chichewa and the station had been looking for a way to incorporate more English into the lunch hour program.

Luntha TV Entrance

I arrived at the station about 30 minutes before show time. Everyone seemed relaxed. No one seemed worried that the clock was ticking and their guest had no clue what was to happen next.

The producer, Kisswell, eventually introduced himself to me. When I didn’t understand his name, he started blowing kisses in the air saying, “Kisswell. Muah. Muah. Kisswell. I kiss well.” Harmless, of course, even funny now that I look back on it, but in the moment the feminist and New Yorker in me starting rising in my gut like a hot flame. Luckily for both of us, my anxiety about being on the show spared him my wrath. Five minutes of prep and he left me in the hallway to wait for my segment.

5 minutes.

15 minutes.

25 minutes go by.

Kisswell comes out of the studio and sits next to me. He informs me that they’ve experienced a technical glitch after the first segment and the IT guy is out of the office. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. My debut had been cancelled.

Fast forward to today…

Despite the fact that it is NOT the rainy season, it’s been raining here all week. I tell people it’s because Balaka is crying since I’m leaving the district for good on Friday. It’s gloomy and rainy and certainly not the right conditions to motivate me to dress up and look pretty in the morning. I throw on some plain Jane clothes, no make-up and prance out of the lodge with my hair looking as it did when I got out of bed. I get to work, set up my computer and start typing away. My workmate enters the office to break the news that his wife has me scheduled for a live interview with her in 3 hours. The debut is back on!

Trying to do SOMETHING in the mirror.

Getting ready for TV!
Needless to say, I am not prepared. But I know her and feel more comfortable chatting with her on live TV than with some guy named Kisswell. We’re friends. I’ve eaten at her house. Her kids fall asleep in my arms! I will even be going to a wedding with her this weekend!

Moments before our interview, she asked me to talk about the importance of young girls delaying marriage and learning more about the goals that they want out of life. This is a heavy message to give and I would have preferred more prep time to develop a responsible framing strategy. I felt apprehensive to get on TV and wag my First World fingers at young Malawian girls about not getting married and having babies too soon.

I decided to focus on the benefits of being in school. Each additional year a girl spends in school helps to improve her health outcomes and the health decisions that she makes for her family. Each additional year a girl spends in school she discovers more about herself, can decide her own goals and learn more ways to achieve them. I told them that who I thought I was before I came back to school is completely different from the person I am today.

I stopped and waited for the host to translate my message into Chichewa. She turned back to me and asked about my experiences in Malawi.

I spoke about my hike up Mt. Mulanje last weekend and admitted that although I am not a hiker, I wanted to do something that would challenge me. I related it back to setting a goals and working hard to achieve something that many may not expect.

I stopped and waited for the host to translate my message into Chichewa.

She asked if I had anything else to add.

I added that I understood the value and importance of having a good role model, but these girls don’t need to wait for a role model to do something different. They should feel confident to be their own role models, set goals for themselves and pursue their dreams, because there are other girls watching what they do.

I stopped and waited for the host to translate my message into Chichewa.

She thanked me. The TV monitor faded to black. My segment was done.

Saturday’s glitch was supposed to happen, I think. Because of it, my friend and I were able to have a girl power hour (okay, 10 minutes). It was incredible.

Balaka is so tiny, I’m sure a lot of people in the district will see the program. I don’t know if what I said will have an impact on anyone. I hope it will. But even if it doesn’t, I did walk away feeling more confident about my ability to encourage others to pursue their dreams. After all, isn’t that exactly what I’m doing now?

Me and Mphatso at the end of our segment!

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