I’m BACK! Well, I’ve been back for about five days, but let’s not split hairs here. My body is still seven hours ahead of CST, and I’m paying for it dearly. With that being said, my trip was FANTASTIC. It was inspiring, humbling, and a bit difficult. I traveled with Habitat for Humanity within their Global Village program. We directly served the Orphans and Vulenerable Children poriton of this program, and what I came back with is so much more than I can write about.
It was magical.
If you’re just finding me, we’re a Habitat for Humanity partner family living in Chicago, Illinois. We had a long journey, and well, it’s still going. Mr. Houseful and I decided that we wouldn’t just stop being a part of Habitat For Humanity after we signed the closing papers, and this year, I took that vow and amped it up by traveling with a group to Malawi, Africa to our sister affiliate. It was amazing. The backdrop to the village that we were building in was gorgeous. Baobab trees everywhere. The villagers grew staples such as cotton, wheat, maize, squash and fruits like papaya. As much as most Americans would have thought that the Malawians were without, they more than made up for in community, and just sheer ingenuity.
Two weeks ago, I took off early in the morning to fly to Lilongwe, Malawi to meet with the local affiliate there. We were greeted by Consolata and Emmanuel, and they would host us for the week. We then loaded up on a bus for a three hour journey south to Salima, Malawi where the village we would be building in was located.
Our instructions were pretty straightforward. Build two homes, and basically fellowship with the villagers while on location. I wasn’t prepared for how much they would imprint on me. One of the main things that I didn’t want to do was make anyone within the village feel like we were using them as exhibits – something that I felt sometimes happened while we were building here in Chicago – but that we were truly there to work with them. I didn’t expect to get a type of fast lane education about all things that happen in the village. Pounding of maize, carrying water to the houses, and picking cotton and all things like that. I got to do it all. They allowed me to do it all. The women of the village were so welcoming and warm. It felt like home, quite honestly. You know, huge family reunions with lots of singing and dancing, and children running everywhere while you’re building two houses in the middle of the village.
I’m don’t proclaim to be very good at many things. I tend to dabble in a lot, and this trip kind of had me dabbling in more than my fair share of things. Photography, a new way of home building, leadership, quiet, and communication. The main language is Chichewa, and while I’m far from a quick study, I did learn that the language of song and dance was very well understood. I hopped right on that, because, seriously, who doesn’t love to dance while surrounded by dozens of kids giggling and clapping along. I also didn’t expect to fall in love with very specific children. You never want to do that, but I did, and you’ll learn more about her, and why we always managed to find each other for six days during our time in the village.
You want to know if we did any real building though. If we finished any of the two houses that we started on at the beginning of May. If we left feeling exhausted yet complete. If we would do it again. Well, I can only speak for myself and answer with a resounding YES. These were our results after one full day of building. It was glorious. Working with a team of individuals who had a Habitat for Humanity background really insured that we got some great results.
This trip was my first international trip. My first of many things. First time flying to another country without my husband. First time pushing myself to do something so different as a married woman. I know that lots of people say to travel while you are young. I fully agree with that. I agree with traveling before you get married, and have children. I also subscribe to that small group of folk who tend to do things the way that they want to. Rebels if you will. Travel after you are old(er) travel WITH kids and even without. Travel alone while you’re married. Travel and always make a difference. Make the place that you’re visiting better because you’ve been there. You don’t need the recognition I promise you don’t. I guarantee that if you do that, the places that you visit will also leave an imprint on you. Your heart. Your mind. Your soul. And you will be better for it.