In September last year, some of my class of October 2012 volunteers met up for a mini reunion.
We met at Fiona‘s placement location: Fatima, Nsanje District, in the south and famously hot part of Malawi. Where she and her housemate Judy, were teaching at the Trinity College of Nursing.
It took 11 months and the thought of Fiona finishing her placement without us visiting before we all finally went! Over these 11 months, and more if you include the correspondence we had before departing, we built up a real friendship with each other. Supporting each other through our journeys. The inevitable ups and downs. Homesickness, work challenges and victories.
Through Fiona, we also became friends with her housemate Judy and another volunteer Nyack, who were both also working at Trinity. You might have read from previous posts that Nyack has since moved up to Lilongwe and has taken on the Breakfast Club.
On our first full day in Fatima, we walked up to a guest house ran by one of Fiona’s friends. It wasn’t a particularly long walk but the sun and heat made it seem very long. It was interesting to walk through the villages lining the only (dirt) road through. There were a lot of “video shops”! These are makeshift cinemas, showing films and football matches. By the time we got to the guest house, we were all drenched in sweat. There was a sprinkler, which we used as a shower before sitting down to recover with several soft drinks, which were unfortunately rather warm themselves so popped like champagne and fizzed everywhere and opened! The way back was a lot easier since we took bicycle taxis, which are the main mode of transport between villages.
Fiona and Judy has built up a big following of local kids who regularly come to do activities. Watch cartoons, ball games, writing, drawing and colouring in. They were excited to see so many azungus arrive in the village. Among the screams of “Jackie Chan” or “Jet Li” to me and “Anna Banda“ to Regie, you can tell they were a lovely bunch of innocent, good kids. When I recuperated a little from our walk, I took the kids for some simple football training drills and played a match with them on the last day of our visit.
David was going through a fitness phase at the time. So in the evenings, he pressured me, Auden and Nyack (Mr Fitness himself!) to do the “Press-up Challenge”. I can’t remember who won exactly but we were all knackered and sweating (again) by the end.
The highlight of the whole trip was our visit to the Elephant Marsh. See a recent BBC video about it >>> here <<<. We saw lots of exotic birds, got sun burnt and retraced some of the steps of David Livingstone, the famous explorer and missionary… oh, and Robin got propositioned by his boatman to bring him to the UK as his servant.
It was a long way to get to Fatima but we had such a good time catching up. It is one of my best memories of Malawi.