After six months of staying in Malawi, we had our first break.
There are beautiful aspects of Malawi, but all is unfamiliar. The cars drive on the opposite side of the road (and most of the time recklessly)…the avocados taste different (but are still wonderful)…the water feels funny (when it is working)…the electricity has power surges and sometimes just turns off for five minutes (or five hours)…the bugs are bigger…the education system is broken (not that it isn’t at home too, but it’s much worse here)…in Malawi people keep chickens in the city, at home chickens are mostly kept in the country and slaughtered before purchase…women are treated as second class people in Malawi, at home women have equal rights…in Malawi there are live-in servant staff, at home there are maids and gardeners…in Malawi butter goes out of stock from all the stores for weeks…no one says “please” or “may I”…in Malawi there is no sense of urgency…and the concept of promptness is foreign…
So, after living amid all that is unfamiliar, it was refreshing to be in such a beautiful place. For the first time in six months, I felt clean after taking a shower. For the first time in six months, I had privacy. For the first time in six months, when I walked around outside, sweat did not drip down the back of my legs. There were trash cans on the street corners and inside every building. Everything seemed so clean. I could wear contact lenses again without worrying that bacteria would somehow get into my eyes. I even felt comfortable enough to enter a public restroom. Even more, inside the bathrooms there was ample soap and water to wash my hands. The ocean air was fresh and the breezes cool. The food was delicious. I got to eat sushi and quiches and drink lattes. But most of all it was refreshing to be with people who understand me. I didn’t have to worry about offending someone because I wanted to wear pants or drink a glass of wine. I could hold my husband’s hand and not worry that it was culturally unacceptable. For the most part, the people we met spoke English that I could understand.
This little excursion to Cape Town was also a good way to prepare me to return to the developed world…where media, money and materialism rule. While at Cape Town’s Waterfront, we walked into the mall and at first I noticed the smells of new clothes, perfumes and sweet foods. But after a few minutes, the bustle of people, images, and music gave me a little light-headedness and I had to go back outside. No place in this world is perfect. There will be challenges and struggles wherever we live.
This vacation was not only some much needed rest and relaxation, but it was also a taste of returning home.
Seven months down, three to go.