Hey everyone! I survived the wedding and it was absolutely perfect! It was everything two girls could ask for! I know that I promised you pictures, and I will get more of them to you when my photographer gets the to me. Here is a sneak preview.
In the mean time, my friend Donald, who is incredibly talented and doing more interesting things in one afternoon than most of us do in a year, agreed to write a guest post about his time in Malawi, Africa. Here he is below teaching his class in Africa.
When Becca asked me to write a guest blog post she noted my out of the norm perspective as a reason. My initial reaction was “What do you mean out of the norm? Everyone I talk to is living in a foreign country!” I have now lived in a small central African country called Malawi for over a year now. At this point in my service, daily life in the village has become normal. I do all the same things in Malawi that I did in the States (just differently). I cook (over charcoal), bathe (with a bucket of water), buy veggies (in an open air market), talk to people (using chitumbuka), go to work (at a rural highschool), and sleep (under a mosquito net).
It is now a strange notion that an American I know isn’t in Peace Corps. All of my grad school classmates are also in a Master’s International program and are currently in Peace Corps. All my friends that I talk to on a daily basis are PCVs in Malawi. Realizing that my life isn’t particularly normal to most people came as a bit of a shock. Of course it was also a strange day when I realized my life in Malawi felt normal, not only normal, but more real than America. Fast food and convenience is a strange, half-remembered dream. Family and friends in America are memories, so far removed from my daily realities that conversations are like post cards- comforting and nice but devoid of context.
Life in America used to be normal for me. All of the infrastructure, personal mobility, opportunities, and experiences I took advantage of without a second thought seem fantastic. For example: American houses fulfill all basic needs or wants nearly instantaneously. One year of living in Malawi has taught me how to achieve the same effects as a water heater, tap, stove, oven, etc. but doing so requires far more effort. Food, especially, takes a lot more planning. I buy vegetables once a week, and come up with meals based on my available provisions and estimation of when they will expire in the current weather conditions. No refrigeration means I can only cook enough food for two meals , and because it I takes a while to light a fire and get the charcoal going I only cook once a day. When I decide I want to eat, it is a minimum of an hour from the time I start a fire to the time a dish is prepared and typically takes 2 or 3 hours. I used to decide I was hungry and have a burrito, burger, pizza, or sandwich within 15 minutes. And you can have any food regardless of the season. Stateside, seasons only really affected what clothes I wore outside. Now they affect where I can travel and how difficult it is (rainy season), what food is available in the market, and because my house is little more than walls and a roof, hot season means I do nothing but hydrate for the hottest parts of the day. Rain has also become far more important in my daily life. The borehole where I collect all my drinking / cooking water was broken for about 3 months. Luckily this was during the rainy season, so I was able to collect water by placing buckets under the edge of my roof. Never before had my health and general well-being depended directly on consistent and plentiful rainfall. Americans have successfully insulated ourselves from weather, seasons, and most natural cycles for so long that we don’t even think it is unusual. At least, I had never stopped to consider it before Peace Corps.
Chikurya Alipo? Muli na vichi? Translation: Is there Food? What do you have? These are requisite questions when entering most restaurants in Malawi. It is far more accurate to assume that what you want is not available, in every situation. If it is available, buy it NOW ‘cause it won’t be there long. Back home, I never worried about the availability of anything. Electricity, water, food? Of course it’s there! The most disappointment I dealt with was a store not having a particular brand of whatever product I wanted, and they’d order it if I asked. Appreciate the little things. This is what gets me through each day, that and the rest of the rules from Zombieland. (Seriously, it is the perfect guide for coping with living in a foreign culture but more on that another time.) Anecdote! Large bitey ants recently invaded my bedroom which, even after living with insects for a year, is unacceptable. I got out my bug spray and began taking my space back. The can was nearly empty to start, and was quickly finished. It was 8pm. Dark. No way to get more until the next day at the earliest. So I retired to the living room and considered my options. Hide in my mosquito net? Try to squish each ant individually? After a few minutes I noticed my mosquito repellant, which is in an aerosol form. Aerosol = flammable. Suddenly hunting down and eliminating the invaders became fun, as I waged war with a flamethrower. Finding ways to cope with stressors in life (like large bitey ants) is how I have survived Peace Corps thus far.
I have lived in Malawi long enough that I can’t even recognize half the things that have become normal to me. I’m sure I’ll get lots of strange looks when I enter restaurants in the States and ask if they have food, forget that I can turn on lights and search for candles, not to mention all the speech habits I picked up to make communication in Malawi easier. Re-adjusting to what is normal in the states is going to be difficult. Entertaining for everyone else though!