Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Simple Things...and other thoughts

Since I last posted we are back at SAFI again! I felt like I had been traveling non-stop for more than a week, because I kind of had been. Since I left on Friday the 9th for St. George and didn't stop traveling until Sunday I was pretty pooped. I am so beyond grateful for that extra night over at Korea Gardens especially since it has been a little crazy. Also, After being at SAFI one night, I can see now how Korea Gardens is such a luxury! Hot showers and softer beds as well as a restaurant - which means Coke Light which is ice cold.

It's all in your perspective and expectations. One thing I have really wanted to get out of this trip is getting back to a more simplistic lifestyle and remembering to let go of excess. It has not disappointed. When I travel, particularly developing nations traveling, you truly learn the meaning of letting go of the comforts of life for the greater good. Some things are definitely easier than others to do without, but you appreciate little things so much more. You also learn to make good with what you have, and I so often forget that at home.

One thing I am so incredibly grateful for is getting a different mattress! The mattress I had before was so thin and badly damaged that I would equate it to sleeping on top of maybe a blanket or two folded in half. That on top of essentially just slats of wood were definitely not very comfy. Mostly it hurt my back because of getting stiff from my surgeries and my hips from laying on my side. I was OK, and I knew I was going to live through it - especially when I know many of the children that I work with probably don't even have a blanket. It's hard to be too uncomfortable when you consider that. However, we found an extra mattress that was super thick and able to go underneath. I thought I had died and gone to heaven last night! I slept like a rock. Like I said, it's those little things you're grateful for...or actually, a really big thing.

One thing I don't know if I will ever get used to is the bugs...AKA mammals because they are so huge! In all my travels, I never really saw bugs. I always thought I would, and prepared myself for it, but never really dealt with them.  I kind of assumed it would be the same here - but I was hugely mistaken! Our personal favorites are the giant wasps that sound like lawn mowers and are the size of (what feels like, but an exaggeration) a small bird. Poor Danielle in our group came into my room in a panic and asked me to help her kill a few one night. Mind you this was after an extremely long and funny day and she had just helped me clean up the bathroom I just flooded with my first shower. Go figure. Anyway, I wish there was some kind of security camera to watch back as we run and scream through the halls like crazy Azungus. I don't think either one of us was proud of the language that was unintentionally used and saved for great distress, and how ridiculous we both looked with our brooms, shoes, and "doom" bug killer spray. I will say that I killed - count them - 8 ginormous wasps. I can barely do it because of how loud and big that crunch is, which has led to unfortunately beheading them because I felt like it was less suffering for the poor thing and somehow less gruesome. The thought of it really gives me the "willies". We also saw a giant tarantula, leaf bug, frog, and lots of lizards. I don't mind the frog...but that's about it. I stop there. It's amazing how safe your little bug net can make you feel and how small comforts of home like a fleece sleeping bag cocoon gives you some piece of mind that it may keep bugs out. I am covered in mosquito bites that are finally healing up, but definitely not normal bites on me. Must be allergic to them here. Always a good time in Malawi!

There have been so many funny things that have happened here and I wish I could bottle them all up, but one in particular happened yesterday. Obviously we are always looking really crazy and funny here, especially with the kids. They think everything we do is absolutely ridiculous...because it probably is. Especially when we try to speak Chichewa, which I suck at, can be really entertaining. Anytime you just walk anywhere, or show your face kids are laughing at you and yelling "Azungus!!". It doesn't bother me at all, maybe because I have missed it so much and longed for it for so long. Also the kids are just so darling to me....but I can see for how some of our group it could be frustrating to be on display all of the time with such a huge language barrier. Now the teenagers, well, maybe they don't like us quite as much as the kids? Or maybe they want to be tough? I don't know, but I will get them to warm up to me if it kills me! But yesterday I was sitting in the dirt with the kids drawing pictures and learning Chichewa and teaching English. It worked really well! One of the teenagers came up in between and wrote a word in Chichewa in the dirt...duh I should have known better. But I kept sounding it out and trying to say it and the kid's faces got worried. Obviously I stopped saying it and moved on. When Calvin came later that night, I just wanted to ask him what I had been saying over and over. He said, "come again?", so I sounded it out for him...multiple times. He then proceeded to tell me what I had been saying, and of course it wasn't pretty. The big topper of all words. Dang teenagers!! But, hey, at least I won't fall for it again.

We also did bubbles last night which are a huge hit. There was one little girl in the group that is maybe 2 that seriously thought it was the funniest and most fun thing she had ever seen. Every time I blew a bubble and everyone ran after it, she went into the deepest belly laugh I have heard in a while. Pure joy and the cutest thing in the world. We are going to try and make giant bubbles with dish soap one of these days and I think they will love that!

Finally, we went to church in Lilongwe and it was amazing! The spirit was so strong and it was so amazing to partake in the goodness that came from that chapel. They have a few missionaries out, and one who has one of the strongest testimonies I have ever heard, is preparing to leave. He is so excited! And it is great to remember some of the basics of the gospel that I sometimes take for granted. Maybe the difference of language and culture helps to break down some of those cultural barriers we have. I loved it so much.

So this week the families should be back from the holiday and the elections so Macie and I will be able to really get started on our project. We have a lot to do but are kind of stuck til the families are home. The elections are today and they are saying that there could be some violence of Joyce Banda wins again. They said the only way she could win is if she rigged the elections, which it sounds like she is doing. Malawi is a very peaceful country, but nothing like political uprising to change that. We will be in country so I don't think we will run into it even if it happens, but it will be interesting to see. We were so lucky to be at that political rally, and people here are very educated on politics! It's an interesting time to be in Malawi!

More soon!