By Elise Brown-Dussault
After a strenuous first week of work, the group was rewarded with a weekend expedition to a resort on the shores of Lake Malawi. The break was anything but unwelcome—I personally found that I was beginning to be especially cranky and exhausted by the time Thursday rolled around—but it also left me with a guilty after-taste. The amount of fun that I had swimming, spelunking and snorkeling is much more than could ever be considered reasonable; nevertheless, that nagging sensation followed me everywhere.
Something that is often emphasized in the interviews Roxy and I are conducting is just how hard-working most people are here. When we interviewed Lucia, a woman easily in her late sixties, she informed us that she had been in the fields since 5AM—and, nine hours later, she’d been too busy to eat yet. The women in the village described a typical day’s task, and there was no time to rest between cooking, cleaning, fetching firewood and taking care of their offsprings. Sunshine or rain, it seems that most Malawi dwellers are always at work. Even on Sundays, when most choose to take a breather, one cannot overlook the crops or ignore the children. Case in point, reality doesn’t come equipped with a stop button in most cases.
Yes, we have all been working arduously. However, we are privileged with an escape, an opportunity to momentarily disregard the poverty we’re being submerged in. It’s difficult for me to imagine the village women lying on the sand in revealing swimsuits, or hopping from rock to rock while chasing after lizards. So although I feel lucky, I also feel like a cheat. Didn’t everybody’s mother teach them that one can’t simply quit when the going got rough?
Despite my inhibitions, I also realize that these breaks are just what young adults need when undergoing culture shock. After a crazy 72 hours (elongated by the 6-hour wait by the side of the road when our bus broke down) the first day back at work was a smashing success. I only hope that this cycle of hiatus-productivity continues to take effect!