“How can I possibly condense 6 months of emotions, memories, and encounters into a few paragraphs? It’s a task made impossible by the vast number of amazing experiences that living in Bwengu, a remote Malawian village, gave me.
Should I write about the smiling faces of the children that banged on our door every day so that they could see the azungus, draw and play games? Or should I write about the amazing scenery that we saw every morning on our walk to school, the kids that insisted on carrying our bags when they saw us, the girls with dolls hair, the boys who carried their books in sugar packets? Should I write about playing board games and cards with Auscar, Matias, Tchiyiwe and Aggie, playing handball with Miriam or cooking with Thocco and Jennifer, singing and dancing traditional songs with Charlene, Trancy, Eddie-Johnie and Lufi or practically living at Jungle Home with Jastan and his family? Or maybe I should write about eating lunch with the girl boarders, preparing the church for graduation or volunteering at the health centre, teaching at both the village high school and primary school and playing sports and skipping with the learners?
It is impossible to condense these memories because they were all so individually special. Through living in a foreign country I learnt a new language, and a new culture and discovered a host of new skills I never knew I had, but I also learnt so much about myself and my country, the meaning of life and happiness, and made so many new friends. Most of all it was a reminder to appreciate the small things in life, the little things that make every day special and unique. Daily life in Australia and Malawi might be incredibly different on so many levels, but laughing, singing, dancing and appreciating life is something kids and adults alike can enjoy the world over. We are certainly more similar than we are different.
One of the most special ‘little’ things for us was our ability to make everyone smile just by using our cameras. We took hundreds of ‘snaps’ of the kids who’d smile so brightly into the camera and get so excited to see their faces on the screen that they’d run off telling all their friends what had just happened. When we gave out instant photos, they’d hold them all day, just showing every person who happened to be near. When we took videos, they’d demand we’d replay them until the battery ran out such was the joy at seeing their faces on screen and hearing their voices.
Just before leaving, as we sat in our rooms reminiscing about our experiences, tears running down our faces, we got a message from one of our closest friends in the village, Tchiyiwe. She wrote:
God is so wise that he never created friends with price tags because if he did I couldn’t afford a precious friend like you.
We left the next morning absolutely devastated to say goodbye to everyone and everything about Malawi but happy that we’d been able to share a part of our lives with these amazing, happy and kind people.”