This is my last post; I should have posted something weeks ago. I’ve had a hard time coming up with what to write. I thought about using my flight home as the main subject: the knee, thigh and ass of my pants disintegrated in Addis airport. Over the course of my flight to London the entire left thigh and right cheek of my pants tore open. With my flight leaving two and a half hours late (Ethiopia Airlines) I ended up running through Heathrow in flip-flops with my pants in shreds. I looked like one of those granola munchers you have to endure in 101 classes – the type who takes a moment to stop listening The Greatful Dead on their iPod to tell you that you’re a slave to your possessions. They typically drop out after first year to join community farms. I missed the flight. I could stretch this story out but it’s more of a Facebook update than a full post.
I hoped reverse culture shock would provide something worth writing about but it hasn’t. New mothers wearing tight jogging clothing while pushing thick-tired baby buggies and checking themselves out in Starbucks windows was weird to see but that was weird to me before I left. Digression: little kid sunglasses are stupid.
I’ve been at a loss about how to end this but recognize I need to get it over with. So, I have turned to my new training. If the international development sphere has taught me anything, it’s that when all else has failed, use the image of a child.
I introduce Ndaziona. I worked with some amazing people, made some good friends, and came to appreciate the country’s beauty but Ndaziona is what will stick in my mind when I think about Malawi. She is a terribly unruly child. The literal translation of her name is ‘I have seen.’ I asked around and a daughter is typically given this name when her mother has endured a significant experience in her life and feels the birth of the child marks closure over that event (or people were messing with me). Based upon my exposure to Ndaziona I expect her mother may name her second daughter Ndaziona after the experience of raising her first. Ndaziona’s nostrils were perpetually flared when I saw her. Despite her tiny stature, any slight against her was answered with fists, feet and shouting; she was the boss of the yard.
Her interaction with me began with her running up to me and yelling ‘How are you’ at the top of her lungs whenever I passed – a very typical thing for a Malawian child to do when encountering a foreigner. I would reply with ‘I’m fine, how are you?’, my role in completing the first English exchange Malawian children learn. For about 3 months, this would stump her. Occasionally her older brother would stand next to his sister and whisper, “I’m fine,” into her ear. Ndaziona, as was her fashion, would then attack and pummel her brother for assisting her. Eventually Ndaziona learned the proper exchange and, with new confidence, she began holding my hand whenever I passed by her house. She was the first to do this among the children and initiated the inevitable handholding that then accompanied my presence in the area. She grew bored of me and stopped but most of the others did not.
Ndaziona’s brother, Mphatso (Gift), shares none of his sister’s spitfire. He was afflicted with cheeks so enormous that it is physically impossible for him to do anything with his face other than smile. He is gentle and hilarious. One day I was losing at a game of bao and absently watching him. He walked up to a much older boy, perhaps 10, and smiled up at him. The boy was preoccupied, staring at something else and paid no attention to Mphatso. Mpatso, grinning, tilted his head down, raised his hand and flicked the boy’s penis through his pants. Startled and in pain, the boy leapt back a bit and holding his crotch with one hand slapped Mphatso in the side of the head with the other. Mpatso fell to the ground but got up quickly and lumbered away clutching his head. Despite being in obvious pain he had a wicked grin on his face. He made eye contact with me and ‘it was worth it’ was pasted across his face. I laughed out loud.
These two kids made my day, every day I was in Zomba.
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