…But it’s not goodbye forever. I would be back in Malawi in less than 2 months, doing my project with International Service. For now, I just had a few more days to hang around Blantyre before my flight back to UK. I was kind of ready to leave, in a way – I find travelling totally exhausting. That’s why I prefer to have a base when I’m abroad, just like I did in China and Australia, so there’s a home to come back to and some familiarity. Africa has been a whirlwind. But now I’m back in the UK I can’t wait to get back to Malawi again, especially since I found out my project will be in Zomba, where I’ve already spent a bit of time. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to do this trip before going over there to live for 6 months. I’ve learnt so much, made so many good friends, and understand a lot of the issues I will potentially face during my time as a team leader.
I will also be blogging during my charity work, so I’ll talk more about that when I’m back in Malawi. The last bit of time in Blantyre, I spent with Diana and her kids, as well as their neighbours. I had a bit of a crisis once I got to her village near Mangochi, because I couldn’t remember where her house was, and she wasn’t answering her phone! As a white gal wandering around the city suburbs by myself, I attracted a lot of stares, and was starting to feel a little anxious. The afternoon turned into a kind of treasure hunt, as I tried to jog my memory and find people who knew Diana or her niece who also lived nearby. My treasure hunt took me to a school, where Sabita (Diana’s niece) was studying. I walked in during the girls’ lunch break, and they all knew her but weren’t sure where she was, or her phone number. The matron ended up calling the headmaster, who said he would come and give me her details, so I hung out there for a while waiting. This headmaster never materialised, but the matron told me to go down to the church, find a man selling clothes on the corner, and ask him, because he lived close to Sabita. It was getting weirder and weirder! As I walked down, I came across a woman selling spices – I knew she was friends with Diana because Diana often came to buy spices, so I asked for her help and finally, finally arrived at the house!
The reason Diana hadn’t been answering her phone was because she had been checking out a new mosque that day, and there was no signal there. She wasn’t back when I got to the house but all the local kids were so happy to see me, so we played outside for a bit. Then Diana came home, dressed in the most elegant outfit and full of apologies, and we decided to climb the ‘mountain’ just next to her house. It was one of those moments I felt pure elation; with about 12 kids in tow, along with Diana and her friend Elizabeth, we walked along the village streets singing “Let’s go climb a mountain, let’s go climb a mountain!” Astonished locals stopped what they were doing to look, confused, at this procession, and kids ran up to us to join in. At one point I looked behind us and there were 20 children following! Before we started the climb, we had some help from a guy who advised that the younger children should wait at the bottom, because the climb would be too hard for them. They patiently sat and waited, and the rest of us went up. Farmlands covered most of the mountains now, but Diana told me that there were once lions here, and there are some folk tales about how it became barren and dry. Sadly, I think the most likely tale is that the people have ruined the land by cutting away all the trees… but, people have to eat. It’s really difficult to think about. We watched the sunset from the top, and could see all the way to Zomba. We waved at the little ones who were shouting at us from below.
I slept so well that night, and rose early the next morning to walk the kids to school. One of Diana’s kids, who was a total drama queen, had taken a shine to me and screamed and cried when we left her at the gate, knowing that when she came home from school I would be gone. I really feel like that child is gonna go somewhere – she has a spark about her. I met some of Diana’s friends and we went back to the house for some tea and bread. Later, we went to visit her father, who is one of the most intelligent men I have ever met! His English was impeccable and he knew so much about what was going on in the world, through newspapers and radio. I can definitely see where Diana gets her worldliness from. We discussed philosophy and politics among other things. He was a tailor, and his small house was dominated by his trade, as suits and shirts hung down from the shelves and his sewing machine took up most of the living room. It was really a pleasure meeting him, and I hope to see him again.
Meeting Diana and her family was definitely a highlight of my trip, and there have been so many other times that people here have shown me such kindness, and been so accommodating. It leaves me with a warm feeling in my heart. This is how people should be; we are all together in this weird experience that we call ‘life’, and sometimes we need to help each other out, or show some acknowledgement towards each other.
Each trip I take gives me a totally different kind of education. Africa, you’ve been very special. See you again soon.