Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Sellah Kantayeni
My heart felt a heavy weight at the announcement that I would be there for the next 10 months Volunteer in Rumphi. I recall wishing not to be placed anywhere in the northern part of Malawi. It was for the obvious reason of language. A typical Chewa (local tribe), raised among the Chewas would definitely find it hard to blend in among typical Tumbukas (local tribe). Well, not all wishes come true. Surprisingly, I embraced fate quicker than I expected. Reality kicked in again on the day we left the Pre-Service Training venue for Lilongwe for the swearing-in ceremony. “It is really happening,” I whispered to myself. The thoughts of the adventure we were about to undertake got me teary-eyed. “We are really doing this, guys. Brace yourselves.” I audibly repeated these words as I watched our bus depart for Lilongwe.
I got almost a similar response from every friend I told that I was relocating to Rumphi. “Koma ndiye kutalitu!” (meaning that’s very far). I remember my closest friends having a long conversation about my relocation on our WhatsApp group. They assumed the worse. They jokingly give me sarcastic counsel like, ‘Take heart and enjoy the network and electricity while it lasts…you will not have these when you go to Rumphi.’ We laughed about it. My parents encouraged me to embrace the journey as it is the beginning of maturity and independence. A fortnight and some days passed and it was time to begin the journey.
I loaded my luggage at the back of a Toyota Hilux. I almost filled it up alone. We then picked up two of my fellow Volunteers and we were ready to hit the road for Rumphi, Karonga and Chitipa. Chatting along the way kept my mind at ease. However, every time silence crept in, butterflies kept knocking on my stomach walls, reminding me of why I was on the road to the north. Finally, we arrived at my destination.
After covering quite a distance on the off-road to my site, I realized that it was far from the tarmac road. There was no sign of immediate means of transportation. Surrounded by farms, the place looked so isolated. It seemed different and hard to dwell in. I snapped myself out of the negativity and engrossed my mind with thoughts of integration and adaptation. People live here just fine. I can and I will too. Then I recalled what we usually write on our job applications: ‘I easily adapt to new environment.’ Right in front of me was an opportunity to truly live this out.
I stayed with my host family for two weeks and they made me feel at home. I felt privileged to be placed in a caring family. I must admit, communication is not easy as most community members hardly speak and understand Chichewa (local language). I feel out of place sometimes, including during church services as I only grasp very little of Tumbuka (the community’s dominant language). I have a full belief that things will get better with time and I will learn Tumbuka. The community is warm and welcoming.
So far, so good. The journey has begun on a good note. Let’s do this!