I recently celebrated my seven-month Malawiversary by spending the day sick in bed, which gave ample time to think about everything that feels so far away, but also to take stock of all the gifts that have been ushered in.
[Inspired by the lovely Rita, whose blog can be found here: http://malawhee.tumblr.com/. If you don’t know her that’s really a shame because she gives great hugs and her favorite song is “Ignition (Remix).”]
I ache for:
- The easy, unapologetic intimacy that only comes with people you’ve known and loved for years.
- Libraries. Bookstores.
- Transport that does not feel like one of Dante’s nine layers of hell.
- Knowing what is going on, exactly when it is going to happen, and being able to count on that.
- Foods that are the subject of many lusty daydreams, including but not limited to: whole wheat bread, dark green spinach-based salads drizzled in balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkled with sunflower seeds and feta cheese, pineapple pizza, salmon, tofu stir fries, chocolate chip cookies, macaroni and cheese, asparagus, brownies, baked potato soup with cheddar and chives, grilled cheese, honey mustard, poppyseed muffins, burritos, yogurt, General Tso’s chicken, chocolate milkshakes.
- Fast-paced banter. Wordplay that needs no translation.
- Resources. Everything classrooms have that I always took for granted: posters, markers, crayons, books, paper, electricity, running water.
- Feeling truly head-to-toe clean.
- The United States as an idea – what we’re about, where we’ve been, and what we can be.
I really appreciate what I’ve gained, though:
- a community.
- a belief that humans were meant to live in villages like this.
- a general laissez-faire joyousness.
- a work environment where people come in laughing and leave laughing.
- a fruit lover’s paradise, with pineapples, mangoes, papaya, and avocado galore depending on the season.
- a renewed conviction in the transformative power of education.
- a feeling of adventure that permeates even the mundane (e.g. riding the bus! ordering furniture! buying tomatoes! look at me, look at how integrated I am!).
- the ability to walk everywhere I need to go on a daily basis.
- 100 funny, sweet, generally hard-working students who are openly appreciative and (usually) a joy to be around
- prowess in a minority language that is spoken by few outsiders.
- a taste of what it feels like to be a local celebrity.
- the feeling that I have become someone that 10-year-old me would have wanted to meet: an independent woman doing interesting things while surrounded by animals in a small African country.
- an untouchable inner strength, getting steelier with every passing day.