By Jae Oh
On May 29th, with 9 other enthusiastic and spirited prospective teachers, I arrived at Lilongwe, Malawi. I set my foot on Africa for the fourth time, surrounded by warm welcomes just like the weather. For a few hours, I lived in my old memories as an 11-year-old girl wandering in small alley ways along the Nile River and the pyramids, an 18-year-old safari adventurer sweating on Mountain Kilimanjaro, and a 20 year-old intern teacher working at a local kindergarten near Nairobi, and finally returning back to a 23 year-old myself researching in The Warm Heart of Africa. Everything seemed new and old; I felt like I finally came back home after a long break.
Living up to their reputation, people in Malawi, especially the residents of Makupo Village are not shy to show their warmth of heart. No matter how many people they meet, they would greet each individual person and shake hands one-by-one, with gentle and kind smiles on their faces. This is never an exception even when I was being unintentionally rude by not knowing how to greet them back in Chichewa, the local language. Every time, they would patiently remind me and be happy that I was trying. Each village is like a one big family, where one finds joy in helping another and shame in pushing their responsibility to others. These friendly, hardworking people are the real jewel I found in Malawi.
As it has been for millions of years, Mother Nature is the source of everything to the people, even the faraway travelers, from tasty meals to nightmares at night. Sand, sky and trees become friends as well as teachers to children and coworkers to adults in the farms. And even though I thought I knew what to expect and felt prepared, I couldn’t fully appreciate all I received. Among all the extra giant, fast and scary looking insects, I got a nightmare about a big flat venomous spider which welcomed me on the first day. Yet, brushing teeth under starry night sky never gets old. Each day, I get more used to the Malawian routine of waking up at 6 am and going to bed at sundown. I have indeed started to appreciate little things in my old and new life.
Soon the group will start working toward the goal of developing curriculum for first grade students. I’m less anxious than before because all the group will be working together, gathering knowledge and skills. My personal focus is developing science curriculum and making comparisons with the Quebec Education Program, Kenya Education Program and Malawi Education Program in hope to benefit not one but all. For now, my goal this week is to get over my nervousness and culture shock so that I will be ready to spend some valuable time for me and the future generation.
Tionana bwino! See you soon!