By Ryan Moyer (Bishop’s)
Through my visits to various villages surrounding the Transformational Praxis: Malawi campus, it has come to my attention that access to fresh water is a huge issue for the Kasungu population. The lack of safe drinking water is usually the first issue that comes to light through dialogue. The guilt hits as I sip fresh water from my Nalgene; the upper middle class version of a water bottle.
My water bottle is more outdoorsy than me; for shame. As I walk for hours a day through ferns and plants, and wildlife I’ve never encountered, I am beginning to feel a greater connect with the outside world, with mother earth. Okay hippy! But seriously, moments experienced walking through the Malawian countryside has really calmed me. The more I stay contained in the hostel, the more my thoughts do too, as they seem to flourish as much as the surrounding plants. But…streams are scarce. And in case you have forgotten, as some of my colleagues who wash their clothes every day have, water is important.
Conversing with local community has begun to elucidate the seemingly obvious, yet infrequently considered by some, intersections of the issue of water with other issues. How can one farm produce efficiently if their water is breaking their body down? These conclusions, some coming from visuals of ‘boreholes’, have begun to break me down as well; much faster than last year. I find myself choking back tears as I explain that I cannot provide immediate relief. But who wouldn’t? The Honeymooners! Need to work out, can’t start yelling already. I don’t know how Dr. Stonebanks is so relaxed when witnessing laughter instead of anger. I suppose both are powerful and motivating. Who am I to judge? I was emotionally schizophrenic last year. I wish the first years luck.
This ‘emotional schizophrenia’ has lead me to understand rather than get angry with members of other Praxis Malawi teams who have looked the same villagers in the face after hearing their life threatening issues and promised them wells, boats and boat motors. It is the subsequent travelers that must begin, not with a fresh slate, but with deep trust issues to combat. Trust issues that are amplified due to our Western/European roots. I would be angry too. Seeing anger amongst villagers is refreshing. The local community knows they have been screwed; on both a macro and a micro level; over and over again. How many times can a man be lied to before projecting complete apathy and indifference?
I believe it was the monarch and eloquent philosopher George Bush who publicly proclaimed that “You can fool me once, you can fool me….you can fool me….but I’m…I’m not going to be fooled again!”
Pederson, P. (1995). The five Stages of culture shock: critical incidents around the world. Westport, C.T: Greenwood Press.