Dear people sat in the rain, it's hot here.

We've had a busy week meeting new friends, learning the language, understanding the Malawian culture and sweating! Mums - you'll be pleased to know we are all still in one piece so stop panicking! Dads - none of us are married yet, so no dowry cows coming your way... sorry!

We spent our first couple of days doing some orientation training, which helps with understanding the dynamics and how to integrate into a typical Malawian family, along with learning other cultural customs. Some of these we were prepared for, but others were a bit more surprising to us.

Did you know?! - The position of a Chitenge (traditional Malawi dress for women) can signal if a lady is pregnant and how far along she is by the way it is worn?!

We also had a PRETTY INTENSE day of learning the Chitumbuka language, “nivokusuzya yayi pala wa sambira!”

The training really gives you a chance to acclimatise and deal with any initial homesickness, as you’re all living together and the rest of the UK volunteers are as clueless as you!

We can all agree this training has been pretty useful in making the transition from in-country orientation to being a member of a host family a lot easier and smoother. After four days of training in Lilongwe, we travelled by bus to Mzuzu, where we all met and settled in with our host families. All our host families are really different, but as we were all told, there is nothing to worry about. They have all been so welcoming and we feel like we’ve become part of our families already, chores and all.

This week is our first week with Tovwirane (or THAO) the organisation we will be volunteering with, and we have met the staff that we will be working with for the next 10 weeks and are getting some insight on how best to provide the community with information surrounding the issues of HIV and AIDS and the skills to do so. At the moment, the pace of life is quite slow and we are getting plenty of time to explore Mzuzu, however this has mainly been trips to Shoprite, a one stop shop for all your needs!

The national volunteers have been very helpful in showing us around their hometown. We’ve had lunch in Coffee Den, which is a cool place to get food and plan the week ahead, and visited the Post Office in case we need an emergency care package (Marmite and Jaffa Cakes, life essentials).

So for you, future volunteers that are worried about being thrown in the deep end, chill out. All will be fine.

Top tips:

• Bring toilet roll, or at least lots of tissues, you never know when a bathroom just won’t have any.

• Everyone dresses smartly.  So shirts, dresses and skirts will all be welcome attire… unless you are prepared to look scruffy compared to the national volunteers!

• Manage your expectations, you can expect a toilet, not necessarily one that flushes or a seat.

Written by ICS Team Kutukula