Sunday, January 6, 2013

Home sweet Home

It’s funny how quickly you can call a place a home. I have been in Malawi now for 9 months but I consider Malawi my home. I am now returning from my trip from the Republic of South Africa (RSA) feeling well rested and motivated. Not to mention this was the first time I have seen my husband in 9 months J the last few months have been full of many triumphs and challenges as to be expected in Malawi. Highlights include: the opening of 2 under 5 clinics in two villages that I helped supervise and organize the community. I don’t feel as though this is an accomplishment of my own but one of the community. I just stood by, motivated, gave instructions, organized the community with the help of my colleagues and brought supplies. My other accomplishment was the of motivating the communities to start medicinal gardens in their gardens. I hope in the future I can use these as I have successfully motivated others in the communities to start in hopes that they will motivate other individuals in their villages. I have cooked Nsima (the staple food of Malawi) by myself, not to mention many of the times where I missed one step turning my Nsima to mush. Or not to mention when it wasn’t quite right and tried to serve it to my fellow Malawians, they politely made rice J but finally with the supervision of my Amayi (my village mother) I succeeded!  I also successfully killed my first chicken: / I felt as if I at chicken I should at least be able to kill it. My friend came to my house one day and said hey I brought you something it’s behind the seat. I went to go look and to my surprise and slight yelp, it was a chicken. Beautiful matured female chicken. I asked what should I do with it? He replied “eat it!” I knew at that moment what the fate of this young chicken. I like to name my chickens so I feel that I can have a humane dialogue with it before I decide its fate. As we have seen from the past I don’t always have the best luck with chickens….Amayi Mazira (mother of eggs who was stolen in the night…etc.) But I decided that I just had to get it over with. I put on my rain boots, chitenje (fabric worn around a woman’s waist) and grabbed the sharpest knife I could find. I explained to her that I’m sure she was a nice bird but, I was hungry and so were my friends. I gathered my friends to coach and assist me to make it as quick as possible. Not to be too graphic but it was quick and nice (if that is possible). That was the easiest part I soon discovered. You must de-feather it and then butcher it. I tried my best to assist my friend but was not of much help. We cooked it and when dinner was ready. I just sort of starred at it and unsatisfying ate my meal. Two weeks later a nice man from the village gave me another chicken. I gave this one as a gift to my friends. And when they asked what part I wanted I declared that I was working on being a vegetarian again. I must back up and explain how I got the chicken. There is an NGO called Heifer International which gives milking cows to HIV families to help supplement their incomes. Because HIV/AIDS is a debilitating disease, despite ARVs (which sometimes cause the worst side-effects) there are many IGA (income generating activities) to help these families. If you are too sick to farm, then you don’t eat in Malawi pretty much. So I went around with the NGO to look at their progress and see the cows. I came across this young milking cow. These cows were like the cows of India. They were not just livestock they were prized possessions that were the very livelihood of these families. This cow looked into my eyes, licked my hand and like my family dog asked with the nod of its head for affection. This too has also influenced my 2nd thought to become a vegetarian… I hope to also work with this organization as much as possible in the future. My challenges aren’t important because my successes outweigh to the point where they become insignificant.
But I do feel like Malawi is my home, and my village as my hometown. I missed little things while I was having an incredible time with my husband. Listening to Chichewa, woman selling mangos on every corner, the lack of structure (I know it sounds crazy). I didn’t realize how much of a Malawian I was until I was late to the bus going back to Malawian when this South African woman was so upset because I arrived 2 minutes to departure. In Malawi 1) I would have been early 2)instantly met with a smile 3) instantly forgiven .There are down sides to these cultural norms, but I know at least now I have assimilated. With the rains the landscape has changed to a beautiful green as everything comes to life! The corn is growing, mangoes falling from the trees and everyone hard at work to make a good harvest. This is a vast change to my morning routine during the dry season as they days were also shorter.  In the village I awake to the rooster crow, do my daily chores and water my garden looking up at my papaya tree to see the moon and stars at 5am. Now I can be a little bit lazier. I don’t need to heat my bathing water ( it’s too hot), I don’t have to water my garden  ( the rains do it for me), this gives me an extra 1hr to sleep inJ so now I wake up at 430 or 5 instead of 330 or 4.

RSA was beautiful. It was like being in America, Europe and a little bit of Africa smashed into one. I didn’t want to do much. Just eat good food, go for nice hiking (table Top Mountain, which is 6 times older than the Himalaya’s) and catch up on movies missed in an actual movie theatre. I missed the sound of the rooster in the morning, the rooster crowing, the smell of the landscape after it rains, the Malawian music (that they play over and over again on the mini buses), greetings of everyone wherever I go, the smiles of the people and the happiness of the children (even though they have nothing, maybe didn’t eat much that day and are playing with plastic bags as a toys). Those are the unexpected things that are etched into your heart that become part of you. I look in the mirror and see my history and am very proud of my heritage. I see my mother’s family who came to a land from Germany to escape religious persecution or maybe to seek a better life. I see the picture of their lives that they made in the Midwest as farmers. The land the sweated and tilled so their children could have a better life. Or my father’s family who struggled to make a best life on the West coast of Africa in Ghana. Did my ancestors know that they would have a distant relative who would travel to Africa and live again? Did my blonde hair blue eyed ancestors know that they would have a brown skinned, curly hair relative. The interesting thing about RSA is there are people that are of every color and nationality. But because their families have been there for so many generations and they are mixed with so many ethnicities it’s hard to tell they ethnicities. During the apartheid there were many different classifications for race and ethnicity, which I understand now. But after almost 20 years of the end to the apartheid you see the need for importance slowly fading away. If you ask a South African what is your race, the smile (because they know this kind of still matters in America) and say “I’m South African”. Enough said. In America as a bi-racial child dealing with so many identify issues growing up; coming here has given me peace to this issue. I’m not a black American or a half-cast as they call me sometimes in Malawi (out of ignorance). I am an American.

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