In Malawi there are many instances that you must be culturally appropriate no matter how much of an “Azungu” (a foreigner) that you are…A Maluwa or funeral is one of these occasions. Maluwa is coincidentally the same word for flower. There are many interesting things at a Malawian funeral looking at it from cultural stand point. I will try my best to describe the events and cultural practices of the mourning process in Malawi. When someone dies there is a mourning ceremony at the house of the deceased with family. The women sit with the women in a room together while they cry or wail the whole day until midnight. The men sit separately while chatting and mourning. You walk into the room with your hands behind your back to show concern and respect. You greet the most senior woman that is mourning and send your condolences. You then sit and sing songs with them for at least for an hour to show respect. The next day is a daylong of mourning and ceremonies. You mourn at the hospital or wherever the body is by sitting as the women cry and even the men as well. People bring cloth for the woman to wear, but nothing is required for you to bring. Just your presence and concern is enough. There is a committee of women who come to support women in the event of a death. But the crying is not always followed by tears but with a loud distinguishable wailing. The sound of a mother crying for her child that has died of malaria is one that cuts through your soul. They then cook Nsmia in huge Mpikas (large clay pots) and sing even more beautiful hymns. Then they proceed with a church ceremony with more crying and wailing while the priest gives a sermon. But in between you see the woman laughing and making jokes. It is interesting to see how quickly the emotions can change. Finally you proceed to take the body to the grave yard. The interesting thing about grave yards is that you always no one once you can distinguish one. In a country with a big problem of deforestation it is the only place where there are a lot of trees. It is bad and forbidden to take trees from the graveyard. The body is laid to rest and family members place flowers hence the coincidence of flowers and funeral as the same word. Then you go home and move on. It seems that in America we don’t really mourn like they do in Malawi. In this ceremony processes you grieve get it all out and then you move on. It’s not held inside and reserved it’s all there for you too seen and feels. Who and I to say which one is the best.
Living the green life
In America we are obsessed with living green as much as possible now. But here I do so because it’s the path of least resistance. Every drop of water I use I have to carry so you can imagine how that makes you really appreciate water. They say here “Madzi ndi Moyo” which means water is life. IT truly is. If there isn’t enough water your crops fail, your harvest fails and you may not be able to feed your family for the year. If you don’t have enough water you are forced to take water from unsafe places which can put you life in danger. I find myself collecting rain water that I can use to wash my dishes to then use for my garden. My water that I bathe with is also used for my garden. If I make a charcoal fire I use every bit of the charcoal to heat something that I may need at the moment or for tomorrow. I use a solar charger and keep it charged along with all my electronics in the event (which usually happens every day for at least 3 hours) that there is a blackout. My remains that are appropriate are used for my compost which in turn I use for my garden which in turn provides me with nutrition. I find myself only using and taking exactly what I need and not more. This is not done because I struggle as much as the average Malawian does but because I have a better respect for resources that I use now. Have you ever tasted fresh beans taken from the pods? Village rice is the best. But it only the best if you have to pick out the rocks! Walking outside my house to find vegetables that just grow everywhere during the rainy season. It’s nice finding food right outside your porch. Life is good during the rainy season! Oh and it just finished raining and we saw the most beautiful double rainbow. Whenever I worry or get sad I just look outside and God always says in his own way that….everything is going to be alright. Or as a peace corps volunteer once said I just outside and let Africa find me.