On November 21, this blog turned one! It’s crazy to think that I’ve been sharing my story for a year already. With the time zone differences and when I got the notification, it was also already Thanksgiving Day here. It seemed appropriate to make this blog about the things I am grateful for in Malawi. The intention was to write it the day of the anniversary, but life happens and here we are one week later, oh well!
One of the things I am grateful for here is the pace of life. There’s no real need to rush here. Things move at a slower pace and that’s ok. Yes, there is somewhat of a schedule that I need to keep with things like school and church, but really outside of those two things time is pretty wide open. There is enough to do, but it can get done in the timing of my choosing. What I like about this pace is that it gives me time to reflect.
Reflection has been a significant part of my experience here the past four months and I know it will continue to be for the rest of this year and hopefully beyond. The two significant forms of reflection I’ve practiced have been journaling and prayer. I started consistently journaling on day 20 of being in Malawi, and I’ve completed about 110 entries so far. This routine includes an entry for each day where I look back on the significant parts and then a second section where I write a prayer down. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the time and opportunity to build the figurative muscles I needed to sustain this practice and that through building these muscles, I will be able to carry on this practice at home even when the pace of life speeds up. The other consistent prayer that I now practice daily is at meal times. My roommates and I sit down for every meal together and we take turns praying. This gives us all an opportunity to reflect on what we are grateful for at regular intervals throughout the day.
Meals and food in general are the next things I am grateful for here in Malawi. When I was getting ready to come to Malawi food and cooking were two of my biggest concerns. I didn’t have a great idea of what kind of food would be available and I definitely didn’t have confidence in my cooking skills. I’m happy to say my cooking skills and confidence have greatly improved and the food available is more than sufficient for our needs. Necessity really is the best teacher and we enjoy every meal here. Through that skill development and the fact that there are very few unhealthy choices available in Nkhoma, the part of Malawi I’m living in, there has also been a happy consequence that has developed. I have lost over 40 pounds in the four months I’ve been here. I am beyond grateful for that. I feel so much better, I have so much more energy and I feel so much more confidence about myself.
The last thing, and perhaps the most significant thing I am grateful for are the relationships that are developing here. Of course, I am grateful for my roommates, and I’ve written a lot about that already. I’m also so grateful for the teachers at school. I would say in the last month or so, we’ve really started to understand each other and have become friends. We have Bible study together, we share meals together and we’ve been able to have honest conversations with each other. It’s been a real privilege to go deeper with them. The next group of people I am grateful to develop relationships with here are the other ex-pats who are here for a significant amount of time. They have been so kind in welcoming us, giving advice on how to navigate life here, and again, just getting to know each other on a deeper level. The last group is the kids. Honestly, they make everyday so special. Whether it’s walking into school in the morning, leaving in the afternoon or just walking to the market, there is a guarantee you will hear at least once, but more likely 10+ times something along the lines of “Hello, Teacher Amy!!!” yelled at the top of their lungs, and almost always followed up with one of the best hugs you’ve ever received. Being a teacher here in Nkhoma is like being a celebrity and I just feel so loved and appreciated by the kids every single day.
A slower pace of life, time for reflection, a healthier lifestyle and significant relationships have all contributed to an amazing four months here in Malawi so far. None of this would be possible or matter without God at the center of all of it. I am so very grateful that God called me here and that he has made this time so significant and meaningful. I am a little over 1/3 of the way through my time here, but I know the things I am learning, changing, developing about myself and the relationships that I am building are going to have impacts that will last the rest of my life. I have so much to be grateful for.