When Did It Get to Be June…and How Come No One Told Me?!
That’s right. It’s June. Pretty sure I missed the memo.
Also, I take back my comment about winter in Malawi. I’m cold. There isn’t snow… But it’s not what you would deem warm though either…
Yesterday we went to Kambalani village to attend the launching of their community Home-Based Care program. This was Jillian’s third trip there, having been last week to distribute T-Shirts and information for the local volunteers, and Eric and yours truly’s second. Kambalani village had actually been one of the first places we had gone to on the Study Tour and also holds the distinct honour of being where we first tried nsima.
It was quite the afternoon. There were lots of presentations and speeches. Certificates were handed out by the one of the Kabudula Community Hospital’s Senior level HSA (Health Surveillance Assistants) and Joseph Zimba from CPAR-Malawi. There were educational dramas about good health practices. A team of boys that could give most of the groups on Randy Jackson’s America’s Best Dance Crew a run for their Kwatcha danced to the heavy pounding rhythms of a drum and percussion ensemble. There was singing and dancing, and if I’m not mistaken, a poetry reading. The only real downside was that none of it was in English. I didn’t expect that it would be, and don’t wish that it had been (as it would have been highly ineffective in terms of community message dissemination if it had been in English)… but I wanted to know what they were saying if only to understand what the jokes were about…
It was also a significant afternoon for another, more personal, reason. When we had been there the first time we met was an elderly woman named Sabina, who could not have been more wonderful. Although we had said hello in Chichewa, she was quick to employ her English and wanted to carry on a conversation. She was not a village chief or headwoman, but was clearly the grandmother in charge. There was just something about her that was special.
Yesterday, after loosening our cramped bodies from the long ride and disembarking from the car, we prepared ourselves for the long line of handshakes that we have become accustomed to. And there, in the queue, was Sabina. She greeted all of us by name. “Jill, how are you?”. “Hello Lauren!”. “Eric, my son”.
During the ceremony she sat with the volunteers, across from us, on a mat. Every so often as I glanced around the crowd that had gathered I would catch her looking at us. She would look me in the eye, not breaking the stare, and I had the feeling that she had been somehow able to get deeper. Without having ever really spoken much, she totally had me figured out.
When we left, the village chiefs and headmen walked us to the vehicle. The volunteers shook our hands and we wished them good luck in all of their work that lay ahead. Jokes were exchanged with CPAR staff and forms and receipts were signed.
As I gazed into the crowd of easily a hundred people, I saw Sabina. Still looking back, still smiling. Without even thinking I waved, unintentionally including all the community in my gesture that was really only meant for one.
I know there are lots of images that will stay with me after this adventure has come and gone. The one with a throng of people and Sabina in the centre, with one old hand waving rapidly in and amongst loads of staring faces will surely be one of them. She knew that I was waving goodbye to her, she was the only one that waved back. She knows that we will probably never see each other again, as my time in Lilongwe is almost done. She knows how strange and redundant I feel some days and how lucky I feel the next. And though I have yet to figure it out, I think I may have learned something from her yesterday.
But to be fair, she probably knows that too.