My Heart has Been Warmed by the “Warm Heart of Africa”

By Dale Perks

A new experience

A new experience

Singing, dancing, chanting, and clapping….this is how the villagers of Makupo greeted us as we arrived in the village and stepped off the bus. Although we were complete strangers to each other, a certain “magic” was transforming at that very moment, with a feeling as though we’d known each other for a lifetime. As we awkwardly attempted to speak Chichewa, such as “moni” and “muli bwanji” (which is hello; how are you) the villagers reciprocated with warm hand shakes, hugs, and smiles. It’s hard to put these feelings into words, but perhaps it could be humbly described as “heart-warming.”

Despite all of the preparation that occurred before departing on this trip, I do not think one could ever be fully prepared for the cacophony of sights, sounds and emotions that one experiences in such a place. It’s been a struggle for me about deciding on what to write in this blog, as I have had so many enriching experiences already. So, instead of recounting every event, I’ve decided to focus on writing about some of the feelings that I’ve experienced in relation to some of the special moments in hope that it will give others a sense of this amazing project and the incredible journey I am on, thus far.

One of the prominent feelings I have felt so far has been joy, which has been elicited at varying moments, such as when I’ve woken up to the sounds of the women singing as they go about doing their chores; when I’ve watched children playing soccer and interacting with the students; when I’ve gazed at the beautiful sunsets and sunrises in the African sky; when I’ve observed the interesting insects that wander about including the varieties of spiders, praying mantis and colourful butterflies;  and when we participated in a large community meeting with neighboring villages whereby the senior village chief spoke to all the leaders, welcomed us and expressed his enthusiasm and support for the Praxis Malawi project. It brought tears to my eyes to see the expressions on the faces of the men and woman who listened so attentively and expressed a desire to collaborate as a community with all of us in our goal of moving forward with all of the various projects.

Perhaps the strongest feeling that I have experienced so far has been a sense that my heart has been “warmed” by the people of Malawi. For example, during one of the visits to a neighboring school, I was overwhelmed by the reception we received. I must say, being surrounded by hundreds of children all at once, who wanted to hold my hands, touch my white skin and give me hugs, was exceptionally heart-warming. I will particularly cherish the moments when I danced and sang with some of the children from a secondary school. Another exceptional moment was when we climbed Mount Kasungu, which was quite a challenge. As we finally reached the top of the mountain we gathered in celebration by joining hands with some of the villagers that had guided us up the mountain and we did a group “high five”. There was no distinction of color or race….just feelings of unity and warmth. Another special moment that stands out in my mind is when we visited the district hospital in Kasungu. At one point during the village I stopped to say hello to a woman who was bedridden on one of the wards. We held hands and when I asked her how she was feeling, she smiled looking deeply in my eyes and replied with a hopeful expression “ I am trying to be well.”

I have also experienced feelings of uncertainty and fear at various points since we’ve first arrived in Makupo. For example, the first time I encountered  a “sausage bug” in the house I’m staying in, I was a little startled. Luckily Professor Stonebanks came to my rescue, explained how these insects are harmless and he gently scooped it up in his hands and released it the wild. I’ve since become an expert at catching and releasing these critters that seem to make their way into my house in the evening. I also had a close encounter with a six inch worm-like creature (it was actually a millipede) that was hiding behind the wipes that I reached for in the outhouse.  It scared the ‘begeegees’ out of me! I ran out of the outhouse in a panic and went looking for Dr. Stonebanks. Thankfully it turned out to be the harmless type, unlike its distant relative which apparently has fangs and bites. I mustered up the courage to hold it in my hands and then set it free. Most recently, I discovered a spider spinning a web between two posts outside my house. At first it was thought to be a harmless spider despite it’s scary looking legs, but it was later confirmed by the Chief that in fact it was a poisonous spider and had and had to be killed. Another scary moment for me was during one evening, shortly after we arrived in the village, when I was walking from my house to the student lodge in the pitch dark. Unfortunately,I took the wrong path and realized I had no clue where I was. At the very moment I was feeling stressed one of the security guards who figured out that I was going the wrong way escorted me to the lodge.

Finally, I’ve also experienced feelings of intrigue in relation to the many new things I have witnessed and experienced. For example, it was interesting to eat goat and nsima for the first time, as well as bathe (and wash my hair) with a simple bucket of water in an outside bath house. I’ve been intrigued by how the village woman cook over a fire and make the most delicious meals and how they carry water in buckets on their heads without ever spilling a drop, and how bricks are made with water and sand and laid out in the sun to dry.

It’s been an interesting and wonderful experience so far, and I hope to continue to share with all of you some of my experiences, as we move forward with this brilliant project and continue on this very special journey.

 

10 thoughts on “My Heart has Been Warmed by the “Warm Heart of Africa”

  1. Fintan Sheerin

    Can’t wait to join you all over there. I am frustrated here in Ireland, and the day seems as far away as ever 🙁

    I hear you are all getting on well and my thoughts are with you all. Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday.

    Fintan

    Reply
  2. Nancy

    Dale, you have done a wonderful job of descibing your emotions over this first week in Malawi. I look forward to reading your next blogs.

    Nancy

    Reply
  3. Kathleen

    Hi Auntie Dale! It was so wonderful to read your blog entry. It was so well written and really painted a picture of your experience so far.
    Im glad you are safe and feeling welcomed in Malawi.
    Good luck on the rest of your journey there.
    Kathleen

    Reply
  4. Amanda

    Hi Mom,

    I am so glad (and relieved!) that you have had such wonderful experiences already. The way you have described your experience so far tells me that you are exactly where you should be right now. I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences. I miss you and love you so much! Keep safe!

    Reply
  5. Jimmy

    Dale, I loved reading about your feelings of the heart. Very beautifully written. Somehow, although you have had some anxious moments with new insects, it sounds like you are a natural in the African setting amongst the villagers, the leaders and most important of all, the children of the region, which stand to gain the greatest impact of the efforts from you and the project team you are with. Keep blogging. You are in our prayers. With love, your brother, Jimmy.

    Reply
  6. Rose Mary

    Hi Dale and all the Praxis members

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings and experiences with us. I feel priveleged to read your blog.
    Dale it sounds like you are exactly where you are meant to be! Embrace this life altering expetience and know you are in my thoughts and prayers.
    Looking forward to your future entries.

    Rose Mary

    Reply
  7. Josee

    Dale,
    Your dream has finally come true and you are exactly where you should be…
    How beautifully you have described your journey so far – you and the team will learn so much from this and so will the villagers from you.
    Stay safe – don’t get lost anymore!
    All my LOVE, Josee

    Reply
  8. Sophie

    Oh man! The infamous sausage bugs! I remember those! Haha. I had the exact same reaction as you when I first encountered them and then I learned to scoop them up and put them outside. Your post has made me reminisce about my own experience in Makupo. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  9. Sarah

    Hey Mom,
    Amanda, Dad, Charles and I read your blog together and were so happy to hear that your adventure in Africa has reached new heights. It seems that these people are making a huge difference in your life as well as you are in theirs. Where ever you are you never fail to invent new words to go along with your experiences but at least you can somewhat find them!
    To keep you updated seems while you were away Amanda, Charles and started to play Tennis together nearby and if all goes well tonight I’ll have more good news for you when you get back:)

    Keep blogging, love you xx

    Reply
  10. Donna and Denis

    Hi Dale,
    We read your blog with great interest. I am glad you chose to express your feelings of your daily experiences. It makes us feel like we are actually there with you. We will continue to follow your blog and wish you and all of the people, especially the children our love, hope and good will. P.S. from Donna, I don’t know if I could take those bugs Dale lol. Your very brave. hugs and kisses
    Donna and Denis and Baby bird. 🙂

    Reply

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