By Louisa Niedermann
Religion is a big part of the culture in Malawi, whether in be the church they go to or the bible knowledge that they learn in school. We were fortunate enough to get to go to the Presbyterian Church. We all got dressed in our nicest clothes and walked to the church. As we walked in the wonderful voices of different choirs were singing. We walked right in and sat behind the students that we had seen a few days before from the school for the blind. Different groups took turns singing before the mass started. The mass was in Chichewa and although I did not understand what they were saying I sat there taking in everything. The singing was beautiful, their voices echoed throughout the church. The pastor welcomed us at the beginning of the ceremony. A bunch of baptisms were talking place today, so there were many screaming children. Although a baptism is a ceremony that I can see in North America it was a great experience to see all the baptisms taking place here. The pastor invited us in front of the whole church, so everyone could see us and welcome us. None of us were expecting it, I think my heart jumped for a second. Everyone was looking at us, we were sitting in a spot where not everyone could see us. When we got up in the front of the church we saw the whole church and we were not expecting it to be so big. The pastor had us speak in Chichewa and I think we all blanked on what to say but we all went one by one and said “Muli Bwanji.” I was so nervous being up there in front of so many people. The ceremony was really long but the singing was amazing and each choir had their own touch. One of the choirs was the children from the school for the blind; they were dressed in bright green and pink gowns. I was really happy that I got a chance to experience the mass.
Later that day we walked to where the new school is going to be built. When we were walking to leave the village I heard someone scream to me “Louisa, where are you going?” It was Vitu, a young girl from the village who knows my name. I responded back “we are going for a walk, we will be back soon.” I thought that it was so cute how Vitu called my name. The new school was around a 20 minute walk from Makupo. The walk was not to bad but it was really hot. After only a couple minutes of walking I felt a pinch on my hip, I thought to myself who would pinch my hip? I turned around and to my surprise it was Vitu and her friend Eunice, they had followed us. The girls were curious to see where we were going.
Today we are going to walk to villages around the area where the new school is going to be built. We are going to ask questions regarding the new school and how they feel about it.
First villagers: We talked to an old man but other villagers were listening. He said that the new school is “most welcome” however the land that the school is going to be built, is land that people do their agriculture on. He was very concerned about what he was going to do if his land was taken away but he also didn’t want to speak for everyone.
Second villagers:The second person we talked to was a man, he was clearly wealthy because he had a big house and invited us in. He was really passionate about us building a new school. He explained how he feels that the education system has gone down and a new school will bring change and new ideas. The teachers need to know their students and need to be guided.
Third villagers: In our third visit we talked to a group of women. I was really interested in seeing if the perspectives of women would differ from the men. They were also really open to a new school because the school where their children go is really far. If the new school is built closer to them, the women will not have to worry about the busy road the children have to cross in order to go to school. The women had a lot of good feedback and we had great conversations with these women.
Fourth villagers:The last person we talked to was a woman, she was also excited about the idea of a new school but also had concerns about the possibility of land that she might have to give up.
All of the people we talked to all agreed that education is super important and the school will be beneficial to their communities, however their land is also really important to them. I am realizing that as much as education is important to the people in Malawi agriculture and their land is even more important. Even though we only interviewed four different villagers, each one had their own perspective.
Before starting this journey I did not expect to be eating well. I was expecting food that is native to this country but I was open the trying these new foods. I was surprised at how much I like the food I have been eating. A lot of the food is food I have never eaten before. We have donuts, a type of rice or just peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are very similar rice, beans and some greens, eggs with tomato sauce, chicken, goat, beef and occasional pasta. My favorite is this warm coleslaw that the women make. I was never a fan of coleslaw however, this coleslaw is so good. I am really enjoying eating all these new foods.