Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. James Matipwiri
Waking up every day in an isolated, rural community, surrounded by farms and bush has now become a routine. It’s been more than three months since arriving in this hot part of Dedza District. The singing of birds, the mooing of cattle, the bleating of goats, and the clucking of chickens have become my favorite sounds and a normal part of life.
A lot has changed in my life during this time. Living in a new environment has taught me a culture I used to only hear existed beyond my home district of Nkhotakota. Chichewa “a national language” is spoken in an unusual way here, with small accent variations. I have adopted it as a part of my speech now, such that I can add some fancy vibrations to syllables containing the letter “t”. For you to pronounce the word “tea,” you have to remove the sound of the letter “t” and replace it with something that will sound like “rrhi“. So whenever you want to drink “rrhi” in the morning, just remember to brush your “rrhith” with your “rrhith”-brush, hahaha.
My favorite part about living in this community is the opportunity to attend some cultural dance performances. The Chewa people (a local tribe) organize weekly events for their famous dance called Gule Wankulu for entertainment. Men, women, boys and girls gather to sing, beat drums, and clap their hands for Gule Wankulu’s breakdown. Gule Wankulu and it’s Chewa tradition is so powerful and symbolic that it is usually included as part of important events, such as initiation or death of Chewa chiefs or renowned members of the tribe.
Times when I am not engaged with community members or doing personal activities I sometimes feel low in energy, the boredom kicks in, and the day goes at tortoise speed. But recently, I have discovered a way of relieving myself from these boring situations. Now, I can’t help but go cycling around my community when I find myself feeling alone. I find it the best option, and that one lap greeting my community, waving at folks, clears my mind, and makes my day perfect.
Things that used to take some time getting used to here, are now things that I am telling my friends about. I enjoy the learning about the differences between my current community’s culture, and the culture I was brought up in. From subtle differences to big ones, I’ve realized that my service here will teach me a lot.