With less than a month left in my Malawian experience, I am currently sitting in an empty office. With most of my colleagues gone for the day, I figure there’s no better time to write a blog post (since I haven’t done one in what.. a month?) and reflect on what I’ve done to this point. In my last post I mentioned travelling to Liwonde, so let’s start with that.
A while back, my companions and I travelled to Liwonde Safari Camp (approximately a 4 hour drive south of Lilongwe). It is a universal fact that when you go to Africa, a safari is mandatory; to say I enjoyed the weekend would be an understatement. From stunning sunsets to meeting fellow Canadians to the presence of alcohol, this experience proved to be the perfect remedy for my over-cluttered mind. The camp had several super cool observation decks, and some amazing looking trees. There were elephants, gazelles, hippos, and crocodiles. One can not describe the peacefulness that accompanies standing on an observation deck in dead silence listening to elephants roaming around below at night. It really was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
It wasn’t until after Liwonde that I really began to feel close with my host family. Being the very sarcastic person I am, it took a while for my family to begin understanding my sense of humour. Now that my jokes are followed by laughs rather than strange looks or silence, I really do feel at ease. I have been told by several 9 year olds that I am “bad at football”, and I am constantly beaten by my 6 year old neighbour in Bawo (a very addicting strategy game). The feeling of coming home and having 4 kids running at you for hugs / wrestling will never get old. At this point in the summer, I have begun thinking about how I could possibly say goodbye to these kids, and let me tell you it will not be easy.
It’s amazing how quickly one can feel at home. In 21 days, I will have to say goodbye to Kasungu. I will have to say goodbye to my coworkers, and to the wonderful people who have so effortlessly accepted me into their family. They have not only given me food and a place to stay, but they have given my a place to call home for the past 3 months. I cannot begin to thank them enough, and I thank God for providing such an amazing family for me to spend my time with here in Malawi.
As I sit here reflecting, I look back on the three months that I’ve had here in Malawi. At the start of the summer, I had a set reasons/insights on why I wanted to go on this journey, and what I wanted to accomplish. Here are some reflections:
- I wanted to enjoy my work. With this being my first experience with anything related to international development, I was very skeptical about what I would get out of this experience. I can say with confidence that I absolutely love the work that I’ve been doing this summer. While the work may be frustrating or slow at times, there is a real sense of accomplishment in the little victories that come with doing work. While progress is often not seen until further down the road, knowing that the work you’ve done can and will be sustained is an awesome feeling. I will be doing an all-encompassing blog post on the work that I’ve done this summer closer to the end of my placement.
- I wanted to be a part of a community. When I first travelled to Kasungu, the first person I met was Winkford Kadakwinda. This man had a huge smile on his face, and greeted me with a huge hug (even though I had no clue who he was at the time). I could not understand how so much joy could be bundled up in such a small man. I was later told that this man was my host father, and that I would be staying with him and his family for the next 3 months. One thing that was really important to me coming into this summer was keeping in touch with my religious values, and being able a part of some religious community. I was pretty happy to find out that my family was religious, and that I would be able to attend church services with them on a weekly basis (weekly bible studies were just a bonus). But outside of a religious context, the sense of community was also felt. The area that I live in is very much communal, with 4 houses sharing one major property. This results in the families being very intertwined, acting as one large family. There was no better feeling than coming home from a long day of work or spending a weekend with laughing faces and just being in a very positive environment.
- I wanted to transition to the Malawi lifestyle well. This has been the first time that I have really travelled, and I was really worried about the culture shock that I was going to face coming to a brand new country that I had no knowledge about (probably should’ve done so more research before coming here to be honest). But I can say with all honesty that it was not difficult for me to adapt to my temporary lifestyle. I feel so at ease in this country. It can probably be contributed to how friendly the people are, and the fact that I have not once felt in danger; or it can be contributed to the fact that I had 4 other amazing individuals going through the exact same thing that I was. Either way, I am now a Malawian (jk Canadian forever).
- I wanted to see some sort of personal/professional growth. Identifying personal growth is important in setting goals, and realizing one’s potential. This is something that I think will take longer to evaluate, and will be seen in the long term. In the short term, I have tried my best to make the most of the opportunity. For now I can just look at who I am as a person and be content with what I’ve done here in Malawi.
- I wanted to love this experience. As mentioned above, I wasn’t sure how I would transition to the new lifestyle or how long it would take. I jumped into the deep-end with my eyes closed. As I sit here with a cup of coffee feeling relaxed, I can say with EXTREME confidence that I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Living in Malawi has been like nothing that I have ever experienced. I have stepped outside of my comfort zone, and have loved every minute of it. The everyday joy that I have lived my everyday life with while here in Malawi has been a different feeling. I look forward to going to work, and I look forward to seeing my host family at the end of the day. I am truly happy, and I hope that more opportunities like this arise in my life.
DC, signing off!