Well, my time in Malawi has come to its inevitable conclusion. Two weeks have flown by as if they were mere hours and now I’m preparing to depart this beautiful country. The experiences I’ve been able to have on this trip are truly unique and unlike the adventures a typical visitor to Malawi would have. As I begin the process of packing my luggage to begin our journey home I can’t help but look back and think fondly of the two weeks.
One of the most insightful experiences on this trip came from the series of interviews conducted in the three villages of M’bwana, Jamali and Mwanzama. Throughout these interviews Clark, Professor Yull and I held candid conversations with the men of these villages discussing the realities of their lives. Following the conclusion of these interviews Clark and I found ourselves touring the villages. What struck me through this experience was the kindness of the men who toured us through their homes. Despite the extreme hardships these individuals face when it comes to their daily search for food, work, and water they still too the time to give us this tour.
At the home of one of the men we explored his workspace, a wooden table from which he conducts his carpentry. After this, the carpenter journeyed to a tree and returned with an entire bag of nuts for us to take back to the lodge. The generosity did not stop here as when we ventured further into the village men at the local hangout allowed me to partake in the home-brewed beer. One quick swallow of this fermented and creamy grain/sorghum based alcohol was enough for me, but it only further established the kindness and generosity of these people. They were just merely appreciative that we were there listening to their concerns and treating them as human beings with real issues.
Located about an hour away from Blantyre in the Chikawa province Mulanje Mountain is the highest point in the country, and one of the highest in all of Southern Africa. Leaving from the lodge around 6:30 A.M. we drove through a number of small towns encapsulated by the morning fog until we reached our destination: the behemoth granite mountain of Mulanje. Our hiking expedition didn’t last as long as originally hoped for, however the most magical experience of this trip came after the climb. Our driver, Alistair, decided to take us to the home of his aunt and uncle.
It was here that we had conversation for nearly an hour while devouring fresh fruit from their papaya and grapefruit trees. We walked amongst the rest of their garden consisting of a smorgasbord of tropical fruits: passion fruit, papaya, banana, lime, and mango. By the conclusion of our time at their home we learned about their lives in Zimbabwe, how they came to own the house, and Clark and I left with a bottle of homemade hot sauce made with chilies grown in their backyard. It was a unique experience that allowed us to gain some insight into the lives of the average Malawian.
By far, however, the most meaningful experiences of this entire trip would come from the Malawi Children’s Mission. Arriving on that first Monday I wasn’t prepared to develop the level of attachment I did to the children of the center. Throughout the course of the two weeks each of the members of the Binghamton team found themselves with a number of children who formed our own little cohort. We would pull up in the mornings and the children would immediately come, grab a hold of our hands, and take us through the school to begin our day with them. I became essentially the King of the Swing Set during my time for my ability to push the children to the highest level possible of the swings. One of the young women of the mission even developed a crush on me whilst teaching me words in her native language of Chichewa. The children’s scream of “Uncle Matthews” and “mzungu” as our Toyota pulled up to the center each morning is something that I’ll remember fondly forever.
I’m extremely grateful to Binghamton University, Professor Blitz and Professor Yull for this opportunity. The adventures that I’ve had on this trip are not the norm for the average visitor to Malawi and for that I’m truly appreciative. The two weeks that we had in this friendly and inviting country will stay with me for the rest of my life. This isn’t goodbye Malawi, instead this is a tionana, or see you. I can’t wait until we meet again and I can continue my exploration of the Warm Heart of Africa.