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White Women Cry Too

Posted on 15 December 2016

By: Sarah

I’ve been in Malawi for over a month now; it has gone by so fast. So much and so many feelings that it gets overwhelming to try and put them on paper. I’ll try my best.

Being able to go back and revisit a country is such a special feeling. You forget little things about countries that make them so special, and then when you revisit you think “How could I have forgotten about this!” Great example is- coconut cookies in Malawi- they are delicious, and for that matter the gin too!

I started off my trip by going to a major festival called Lake of Stars. I had never heard of it, but I happened to be at the right place at the right time. People come from all over the world for this festival; it was a pretty magical experience. I highly suggest you attend one year. As much as I enjoyed the festival, I wanted to get to Mzuzu to see my girls.

Finally the day came when the girls spotted me and came running up, I gave big hugs and pretty soon I found the guesthouse full of 8 girls. I spent every day with them while in Mzuzu. Having to say goodbye the other day was not easy, but I don’t think it’s the last time I will be in Mzuzu before I go back to Canada…I just have a feeling.

This year I have learnt a lot more about the girls in detail. They confide in me, and I in them. The older girls are able to explain themselves in limited English and translate for the younger girls. This year one of the grandfathers of the girls came into the guesthouse and started talking with me. I told him that I was so excited so see the girls and I will be so sad to leave again. I mentioned that last year I cried when I had to say goodbye. He smiled and said “I know, the girls told me, they said it was very strange and they didn’t know what to do, they said- the white woman was crying”. He explained to them that yes, white people are humans too and cry. Then of course the next day I left and so the girls thought that maybe they had done something wrong! Luckily the grandfather explained that it was my time to go.

Kids in Malawi are raised so differently than in Canada, I don’t know many 8 year olds that once they finish the food I gave them take their plate and the others girls and start washing the dishes, even the pots and pans that I used to cook. By the time I come into the kitchen, all my dishes are done, dried and put away. Every day when I am back from the project they come running up to my car and fight over what they can carry into the guesthouse for me. A 13 year old taught me to cook on a charcoal stove and to light the fire I was trying to use paper and small kindling, Jesse just took plastic and started burning that… her’s worked faster although I’m not convinced it’s good for us, or the environment. They watched and observed everything I did in such detail.

I started precooking my meals. I had a fridge and some containers so I would cook rice, lentils and a veggie mix and keep it in the fridge. That way, whenever I didn’t have electricity, which was almost every other night, I could use the small charcoal stove to heat it all up. When the girls saw me putting food into containers they said “What are you doing?” I said precooking my meals. “So the food you are cooking now, you are going to eat tomorrow?, No, Sarah, you must eat the food you cook today.” They couldn’t understand my future planning. The girls would help me cook sometimes as well, as they pointed and whispered to themselves one of them finally asked “Sarah, what is this” I said- It’s broccoli, and this one is cauliflower. After cooking I gave them the mix and they reluctantly ate the broccoli. I laughed to myself because broccoli is an unliked vegetable for kids in all countries it seems haha.

I would have a sleepover with the girls sometimes, they LOVED my shower. Last year, when the girls first had a sleepover I made them shower because their clothes all smell like urine. So now they know the routine, they come into my room strip down as fast as they can and run into the shower, they love it! Three little girls screaming and playing under the water, as I pass them soap and tell them to put it on their bodies. Then the girls stand in the bathroom with their fingers out, I have taught them the finger brushing method with my toothpaste. They usually wake up around 5:30am rustling around. That is when I kick them out and send them home so they can get ready for school.

I was sad to say goodbye, I will miss our cooking days, our mini school lessons and our dance parties. I care for each one of these girls, and even a few boys have started to join the group. Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, as Jen took her small little hands and would wipe every tear that came out of my eyes. She didn’t take her eyes off of mine, partly because she was observing every angle of my face and was so intrigued as to how white women cry.

The girls are a huge part of my time in Mzuzu although it is only part of what I do in the North. My actual job is with the water project, which I work with everyday until around 4pm when everyone technically finished work. We have just installed 49 filters in a new region called Kabwafu, it’s super remote and very few NGO’s have ever stepped foot in this region. I felt like a celebrity, I had literally arrived 15 minutes prior, I was in the guesthouse putting my bags down when all of a sudden a giant truck with about 10 kids all yelling “Mzungu, Mzungu!” Which means, white person, white person! I have no idea how, in a matter of 15 minutes everyone knew 1) that there was a white person in the village and 2) Exactly where I was staying. It’s pretty impressive that the word can get around so quickly in the villages. The water that people have to drink in this area is awful. The biggest complaint is that it is full of salt. I visited holes in the ground that the villagers had dug themselves to fetch water, since in the dry season the boreholes dry up and they have to look elsewhere. I’m really happy our project has moved into this area, the people are really supportive and want us there, and we want to be there helping. Our North team is great, and the project is expanding, as it should!

I am now on my way to the southern region of Chikwawa. First thing everyone says when I mention I am heading down there is- That’s the hottest part of the country…Last week every day was 45 degrees. Wish me luck.

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