Malawi seems so long ago, yet so close. It was this time a year ago that I was preparing to travel seemingly halfway around the world to help my local Habitat for Humanity affiliate build homes for a small village. You always think that you’re going to make a difference when you don’t realize that the difference that will be made will be in your heart, mind, and soul. As simple as that. I looked forward to visiting with the children and their parents every morning so that I could learn more dances, more names for everyday objects and how to just be. The smiles were contagious, and given that most charitable organizations always want to show children from any African country as being unhappy, unhealthy, and unloved, it was refreshing to be able to see firsthand what so many do not.
I think about all of the fears that I had before traveling to Malawi. Being on the plane for hours. Traveling to a place that I had never been before. Staying in my lane. Not being so American. Being willing to listen more than I talk. Sitting in the moment, and not pulling my camera or my cell phone out to always document. Being able to savor the stories that I would be able to tell my children, their children and their children’s children. Being able to see the beauty in nature. As simple as it is. These baobab trees were MASSIVE. Yet, there was a calm around them that couldn’t help but be passed on to the observers.
There is something about traveling alone in the midst of a large group. I was one of half of the people that traveled without spouses. Everyone else had their spouse or a member of their family with them and it made for a very interesting balance of ideals and comfort I’m sure. I was also one of the few people who had never been to the continent of Africa before, and stories flew about hiking and participating in safaris more than once, and I felt that I had missed out on so much. Especially traveling back to a continent that my people originated from.
I learned to face my fears. Which included sleeping in a cottage with frogs, listening to baboons run across a tin roof, and hoping to the good Lord above that I didn’t tick any flying bug off. I was able to work in the hot sun an appreciate nature in its purest form. Seeing elephants, giraffes, leopards, and other native animals up close and personal was phenomenal. The beauty that lies on this planet makes you hold your breath just so you don’t disturb the groove of the universe.
Let’s not even mention the way the stars looked each night as we sat on the beach to discuss the happenings of the day, and marvel at just how many stars seemed to be stuffed into the night sky. It was a deep black inky sky, filled with what looked like star dust, and it couldn’t be photographed. All I could do was drink it in, and then close my eyes to make sure that I remembered enough of it to describe when I got back home. The star GLITTERED and it was magnificent.
My trip taught me to stop and take in everything around me. Everything that I participate in. To drink in everything that I lay my eyes on. I can’t feel lucky because of all of the “stuff” that I have. Mind you, the stuff is nice. The stuff is comfortable, but I wasn’t thinking about the stuff I was missing while I was dancing traditionally with families that were kind enough to let me into their circle. To share food with me. Break bread with me. In my family, that’s a HUGE deal, and I don’t take it lightly.
I was taken aback when I found myself crying upon both my arrival and departure from that tiny village in Malawi. A village that looked out for each and every person there. Made sure that every neighbor had food, and clothing, and shelter. Realizing that our extended family in Africa were way richer than I could ever hope to be.
I can’t wait to go again.