Tomorrow I will get on a plane and leave Malawi. The past few days have been filled with goodbyes to the people and places that have become a part of everyday life. As I reflect, I am struck by the number of stories that I’m bringing back with me. Naturally (for a 22-year-old), many of these moments were captured in selfies
When my colleague Jocelyn left the office, the staff at the National Youth Council of Malawi went outside to take goodbye pictures. This shot happened spontaneously after the bulk of shoot, which explains why Jocelyn (back) isn’t actually paying any attention.
Taking the picture is my supervisor Promise, who is NYCOM’s officer for Research and Evaluation. As an intern in his department, my main task was to read the reports sent in by youth organisations across the country and send feedback on their work. The others in the picture Brenda, Felix, and Charles (front to back), support much of the rest of the Council’s work, which includes registering and training youth organisations across Malawi. Over countless cups of tea and avocado sandwiches, the group has become very close, and I will miss them a lot.
Working for NYCOM had its adventures. The picture on the left was taken just after a we had gathered a group of civic leaders and youth together for a forum on youth involvement in volunteerism. It was inspiring to meet and hear opinions from youth leaders from across the city. After the event, everyone piled into the back of the old NYCOM truck- known affectionately as “the Lawnmower”- for a ride home.
The picture on the right was taken a few months later, when a group of us met to draft a national framework on volunteerism based on some ideas that emerged in the forum. What better place to draft a framework than the UN offices? We played it cool during the meeting, but some friends from Makwelero and I had to stop for a picture in the lobby before leaving.
The picture above was taken at a training for AWANA leaders at my church. Just after Christmas, I signed up to help lead the churches weekly kid’s program. I was incredibly nervous when I sat down at this training, but by the end of the session, this close knit group had welcomed me in. Over the next months, I got to know them better as we spent hours leading relay races, teaching Bible verses, and fighting for team points (Go Blue!). Between this group and a Tuesday night Bible study, I was graciously welcomed into the church community, and saying goodbye has been hard.
This picture is amazing because Jocelyn actually snuck up behind me for an underwater photobomb. So impressive.
We were snorkeling off of a little island in Lake Malawi- probably Africa’s most underrated tourist attraction- where we we had come for a weekend away. Traveling in Malawi always has its adventures, including attempting to hotwire a Hilux and pass police checkpoints with eight in a Corolla, but this particular weekend was all blue skies and calm water.
These pictures are of going out for dinner with my housemates. I spent the last eight months sharing life with two university classmates (Amy and Rachelle). We were joined by Tanya (Sept-December) and Jocelyn (January-April). Through culture shock, power outages, and stress at work, going out to eat became an important way to decompress. Notably, here we are eating pizza (left) and curry (right), which represent the
sum of best of Lilongwe’s dining options.
While we may have gotten bored with Lilongwe’s restaurants, we managed to stay interested in each others’ lives. After eight months, we can answer for each other’s favourite Hogwarts professor, brand of apple juice, or flavour of Fanta, but we still genuinely enjoy each other’s company and have become our own type of family. This will be the hardest goodbye.
As life in Malawi closes down, these captured moments become increasingly precious. This has been a unique chapter of life and there’s lots of change ahead. Looking back reminds me of how much I’ve grown and learned this year. Each of these pictures remind me that in a place where I expected to be an outsider and find difference, every relationship marked by welcome, beauty, and similarity. In Africa’s ‘warm heart’, I was surprised to experience a piece of home.