Friday, November 6, 2009

Rain rain come again...

This is the first time I've seen the rain fall in Malawi-- it's glorious. The temperature has cooled down tremendously and the air is crisp and fresh. I anticipate and look forward to more frequent rains but I admit once again, I am afraid of the potential hazardous health and environmental conditions we will all face in the camp. When the gutters and loose dirt marked with animal feces and the like fill and mix with water the rate of sickness in the camp will rise and other diseases like cholera, yellow fever and malaria will likely become more common. We shall await the rains and see.

After a dry and lengthy lesson on conjunctions, I took 10 minutes to ask each one of the students what it is they like about living in Dzaleka refugee camp. I know it’s easy for people to describe what they dislike or more accurately, what they hate, so I wanted to encourage them to find the positive aspects of their life here. I am happy to list the student’s responses:

  • Peace
  • English
  • Togetherness
  • Hope
  • Learning about our culture and country from discussing with others
  • Relationships with others
  • Language and independence
  • Protection
  • Culture
  • Social interaction with people you’d never otherwise have the chance to know in your country of origin
  • Tolerance of others and peace
  • Free food
  • Hopefulness

After each student had responded I was asked the same question in return. My initial response was this: I LOVE, not like, LOVE, coming to school to see the students and to learn and teach with them. I am happy here because I have had a wonderful opportunity to foster relationships with people and I also feel good knowing that for the most part people are honest. I appreciate honesty and told them it is all of this and so much more that makes me smile at the end of each and every day.

As I headed to my teacher training course I thought longer and harder about how I feel here. Upon further reflection—and as I suspected—my thoughts go far deeper than the initial response I provided.

I am touched by people’s generosity. Although one may have little to offer he is still willing to give you want he can or extend a hand.

I am encouraged by the curiosity that inspires critical thinking and questions. I am astounded by their interest in culture, including mine, as well as each others—friend and foe alike.

I am taken back by the smiling faces that will always greet you on the road, in the classroom, in the market or anywhere; though there is much suffering here people express their kindness through the simplicity of a smile and shake of a hand.

I feel understood by those who have taken the time to know me here and the sweet exchanges that take place with many is something I feel is life giving; I’d give anything to feel a genuine sense of togetherness

I am honoured with the generous invitations to people’s homes for dinner, drinks, biscuits, tea and the like, it helps to reinforce their sense of dignity and I believe that is something which should be fostered in each and every one of us.

I feel comforted that I never feel alone wherever I go; there is always someone with nothing but patience and time determined to extend along their love even if only for a moment.

I appreciate the little boy who is no older than 12 years old who calls my name when he sees me walk by his family’s shop in the market and who calls to me from a distance to simply say hello and inform me how he is. Though his tattered clothes hang loosely on his small frame and he’s eaten only chips for lunch, his energy for me is gracious.

Lastly, I love how greetings are exchanged here, how uninhibited and free people feel to say hello and ask how one another is doing. I’ve always been attracted to this act of’s a feeling of respect that I wish could be instilled in the North American context .

I know that I am nowhere near ready to leave what I’ve come to love and am sure I will suffer from the longing to share life with people I’ve come to know as well as the many others I might never speak with face to face but whom I know fight to exist within the boundaries of this camp.


  1. You have been blessed since you have been in the camp and I can see you have gained some new insights. May you continue to grow in love and understanding of your "little family" in Dzaleka camp.

    Love you,

  2. Thank you for your comments you two. This post is one of the more beautifully sincere pieces I've written so far as it's an accurate description of how I have been touched by people living in the camp. I'm so thankful that you've been following this experience with me; it means so much to read your words of encouragement and support.