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My Second First Day

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Grace Sichinga

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Expect the unexpected.” I am sure that many of us have heard this phrase, if not used a couple of times. My experience getting to my site two weeks ago truly gave this phrase its meaning.

I was in the first phase of deployment. Deployment day couldn’t have come any quicker. That day, I woke up nervous and expected that I would be spending my first night with my host family. Prior to that day, I had already started picturing my site and forming expectations. My host family consisted of a teacher (host Mother), and my host Father is ‘a mfumu’ (chief). I later learnt that he is not a chief in the typical sense.

The plan was to drop two Volunteers in Machinga and Zomba. I was going to be the last to be dropped off. Before leaving and during the trip we were trying to get in contact with our host families. However, my host family could not be reached all day, so we left Lilongwe with the hope that by the time we were in Zomba, we would have been in contact with them.

It was around 7pm, when we had just made it to Zomba and we gave up calling my host family. I couldn’t make it to my site. I thought to myself ‘what if they have changed their minds, what did this mean for me? Would I have to go back home until they found me a new host family?’

Luckily, since there was another Volunteer in Zomba, I spent the night with her and her host family. Her host family was amazing. They received me with kindness, although I was not in their plans. After meeting them, I started to wonder if my family will be as welcoming.

Spending my night with her helped me to relax. The next day, my apprehension was back. Early that morning, my host family contacted us. So we started off at 06:30am and arrived there around 07:45am. I was nervous the whole way. When we arrived, I was welcomed by the host father and his sister-in-law.

I spent the day with his sister-in-law who is only a couple of years younger than myself. We bonded easily. We went to the borehole (well) to get water, then the market and we cooked. It was a great day and all my nerves were gone by the time it was midday. In the evening, it was a full house. The parents were back from work and children were back from school. The house was filled with warm welcomes and happy chatter.

The family did not match my expectations, they surpassed them. I learnt that evening that the ‘a mfumu’ was just a title given to the host father because of how he relates and makes people feel in the community. He is actually a truck driver.

My first day in my community was nothing like I could have imagined, I even got the day wrong. This just reminded me that my service will be filled with so many unexpected events. These are the things we need to embrace, life is boring when we know what is to come. Embracing uncertainty will always leave you better off.

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