A candle burns at the upper-right-hand side of my dining room table, its soft glow dancing to the erratic rhythm of the cool evening breeze. It casts a shadow on a mess that has accumulated over the last week, one that I intend to tidy away tomorrow as I plan to take it easy around the house and get things in order. The last week has been filled with many ups and downs, and I feel I’m long overdue to catch everyone up to speed.
Last week Wednesday, I came down with a nasty case of dysentery. It came on fast in the morning and hastily had me begging for mercy by the noon o’clock hour. When one becomes sick like I was in a modern setting, it is easy to throw some chicken noodle soup in the microwave, eat some bread, stay hydrated and make it the 15-feet or so to the nearest bathroom that has running water and such. Being able to recover is an endeavor here. I had no bread handy, to cook would mean I would need energy enough to start a fire and prepare a meal, water has to be boiled and treated to be drank and the pit latrine is a good 30 meters away — a green mile (pun intended) when nature comes a-callin’.
By three o’clock, I had my Malawian counterpart knocking on my door with transport ready to take me to the district hospital. The hospital is in rough shape, lacking anything of modern technological achievement except perhaps for a landline phone and shoddy light bulbs dangling from exposed hot leads. I knew the trip was for naught but did it anyways in the chance that I could buy some bread. Long story short, I ended up seeing a lovely Doctors Without Borders’ (Médecins Sans Frontières, as it is originally known in French, or MSF for short) doctor named Dr. Joe (we had met each other’s acquaintance on several occasions). I was fine by the next morning. Thanks again, Doc.
I spent the next morning and afternoon recovering and regaining strength. It was planned that I would go to the marsh with a volunteer near me but we changed plans considering my illness. I spent the evening in the trading center with a local NGO called GOAL Malawi, where we played a hilarious game of Cards Against Humanity. Every time I play that game my face hurts immensely. Lord forgive me.
I won’t go into detail about the visit to the marsh. I’ll save that for the next post that way I can expound on some detail further. Stay tuned!
After the Marsh visit, I spent most of Monday in the field, planning the garden and tilling the rows by hand. I have a goal of reducing my food costs to zero by the end of the rainy season which starts in November/December and lasts a couple months until harvest. Right now it is technically ‘winter’ here but by the benchmark of winter I have known all my life back in Michigan, it is a cool, early-to-mid fall with temperatures still reaching 80-degrees Fahrenheit or so by mid-day.
Tuesday I made my way to the bank to get my meager wages, which is an all-day affair, costly and tiring. It is nearly 100 kilometers north to the nearest branch so I have to plan considerably. I made plans to spend the night at an orphanage where 116 kids are staying with a missionary couple named Will and Pam (Pam is a fellow Michigander, her stomping grounds in the K-Zoo area). I retrieved my money (imagine the DMV) and kicked rocks to the orphanage, where I put up for the night. I’ll also save the details of this adventure for another post.
I made it back today, weary and aching to relax.
Some other interesting tidbits and trivial musings:
When I first arrived to Nsanje, I was told of a sacred shrine that I would have to visit in order to appreciate the culture here in Malawi and the southern region/Nsanje generally. The idea and adventure has been festering ever since so about two weeks ago, I inquired to my friend and landlord Mr. Sampson about checking it out. I was told that it was part of “traditional African beliefs”, that I would have to take off my sandals when I entered and that it would cost me a bit of coin. I paid the way and got to enter the shrine. I won’t explain the details as it is something to experience firsthand. I passed the initial rite of passage and was asked back for a second time, to see more of the shrine and to participate in a sacred ritual. It was an honor that I was accepted into this seemingly clandestine and tightly-held ceremony. I look forward to it.
I’m so glad I brought my guitar. It has brought me great joy. For all of those lemmings that say, “I wanted to play guitar some time back” or, “I’ve always wanted to buy a guitar” — go do it! Start right away. If you have even a sliver of patience and a real passion and desire to play, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor immensely. I know I have! I don’t think I’m good or have a great voice or even consider myself a musician — I play for me and it is that lonely fact that has kept me sane here when I thought I may lose it. I’ve heard the two mutterings above too often and it is frustrating to me — what holds you back?! You?
I’ve been increasingly fighting with issues of faith. It’s tough. Finding a path on the high road is a tribulation, it is true.
The independence days of America and Malawi from Britain are only a couple days away from each other, 4 July and 6 respectively. This makes this weekend an extra-long holiday for me. I have no plans. Perhaps I’ll wave my American flag bandanna around a bit and drink a cold one. ‘Merica! As for Malawi, this is the 50th anniversary of their independence but I have heard absolutely nothing regarding any kind of ceremony, celebration, or recognition from any Malawian. I assume folks either don’t know that it is the 50th anniversary or they couldn’t care less: it’s just another day, the same as the rest (birthdays and even big holidays like Christmas are scarcely celebrated or recognized here). At any rate, congrats Malawi and keep kickin’ America.
Stay tuned for posts on the marsh adventure and the night at the orphanage!