I am down to my last few days in Malawi, a time that invites reflection. I was chatting with an American friend (a nurse who’s been here for a year now) about trying to keep up with writing a blog while I’ve been here, and she said, “I did that too, for my first few months or so, and then realized that I had shifted…from observer to resident. Once that shift happened, I didn’t feel compelled to report or write anymore.” I think the same can be said for my sporadic reporting and for my reluctance to take too many photos – not wanting to feel like a gawking tourist, or objectifying the people/scenes around me. But I have been jotting things down, so I have images of the things that I didn’t record digitally: the amazing loads that I’ve seen transported on bikes – double beds (frame and mattress), enormous stacks of charcoal and wood, goats (yes, more than one at a time, dead and alive), dozens of chickens (who looked quite unhappy… maybe because they intuited their impending demise or didn’t like riding around upside down… or both), and people. And all types of staggering loads in old trucks, vans, and cars. I will never feel crowded in the back seat of a car again (unless there are more than half a dozen people in it).
I’ve also been keeping a list of some of the interesting t-shirts worn in the marketplace, the lithesome teenage boy sporting: “Crazy Cat Lady”, and his friend with “Trust me, I’m a doctor,” and his younger sister with “Bad Motherfucker.” And a list of interesting names of people I’ve met: Wisdom, Pride, Joy, Glory, Jealous, Charity, Proud, Soft, Justice, Preacher, Budget, Loveness, Hope, Seven (the seventh child, born on July 7), Gracious, Happy, Righteous, Gift, Winner, Innocence, Blessing, Trouble, and the guards at one of the hotels where I stayed: Major, Shame and Comfort.
As with most goodbyes and chapters that close, there is a bitter sweetness surrounding my departure. I’ll miss the liveliness here, and a place where joy bubbles up, without filters. Though I can leave now knowing that seeds have been sown, and they will be tended well by the folks whom I can now call friends, no matter their names.