Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Sibongile Nyirenda
I must admit that it was really hard to move away from my family to a new community. The period of integration though exciting did not come easy for an introvert like me. Dear Reader, do not think I was locked up in my house all the time. No, I embraced the challenge and enjoyed the idyllic activities of rural life such as attending community meetings, chatting with the women at the community borehole, and participating in community events. My all-time favorite activity, however, was going to the community trading center to buy snacks.
Being in a community where you need to learn a new language and interact with people you barely know, it is important to find new ways to cope and adapt. I have had tough moments where I doubted myself and felt like quitting. It was during these moments that I relied on the little things that put a smile on my face to overcome my apprehensions.
Firstly, I am learning how to bake a chigumu (local cake) using a mbaula (local stove). This is particularly exciting for me because baking is one of my favorite hobbies and I have always used an electric stove. I am also learning to prepare local foods I have never cooked before. Secondly, I have partially adopted my neighbors’ two cats. I love pets hence the daily visits and snuggles from these furry friends puts me at ease and make me feel less homesick. Thirdly, I volunteer at my community’s health center. The sense of helpfulness I get after every shift puts a smile on my face. Thirdly, I have a personal kitchen garden. When I cultivate a variety of crops, I look at each product I get from the garden as an accomplishment. Fourthly, I am in constant communication with my fellow volunteers. The calls and chats are so therapeutic and they are definitely something to smile about. After every call and chat, I feel motivated to continue being a CorpsAfrica Volunteer. Lastly but not all, a friendly greeting from a community member always lifts my spirits. I believe a greeting should never be underestimated because they are usually conversation starters and welcoming.
These little things that make me smile might not be extravagant but they are something. As I embark on a new phase with my community of project identification, project proposal writing and all the works, I leave you with the words of Andy Rooney, “If on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness”.