We day 1 of our 2 day CCA debrief sessions yesterday. The session was facilitated by David, Colleen and Kati from the CCA. We didn’t talk about reverse culture shock; rather, we discussed some logistics and shared stories with each other. I am really pleased with yesterday’s session for a couple of reasons. When I came back from my trip last year, I ended up going to work the next day and didn’t have time to digest the things that I had experienced on my trip. I had so many stories I wanted to tell, yet I couldn’t seem to piece them together in a meaningful way to share them with friends and family. Yesterday, we shared our stories and pictures with each other, and David (who is the Manager of Publications and Media Relations with the CCA) helped us piece our stories together. Again, I’m really pleased with yesterday’s session and I hope I’ll be able to communicate some clear stories to people upon my return.
I presented three pictures yesterday; two of which I took of the children playing with their soccer balls and toys in the Dilonde orphanage. I find myself coming back to these photos almost every day – this one, in particular.
Shortly after I took the picture, I set my camera down and motioned to him to throw the football to me. After a while, he threw it, and I tossed it back to him. He caught it in a fit of giggles and ran to a group of his buddies cheering and laughing. It really was a cool experience. I keep coming back to this photo and questioning how this child could possibly be so happy playing with a simple football. I wish I knew more about this child. I wish I knew his name. I wish I knew his family. I wish I knew his story. With the information that was communicated to us at the orphanage, I can speculate as to what his story might look like. As he is in an orphanage, his parents are likely deceased or have abandoned him. He receives one meal a day from the orphanage; clearly not a healthy portion of food, but enough to get by. So how is it that he could be so happy?
I brought this up last night with Brad, Bruce, Charlie, Dennis and Paul. I asked them all how they thought the Malawian people can be so genuinely happy, given various factors that would seem to challenge such happiness (ie: living conditions, poverty, disease, etc.). There seemed to be two or three common themes that arose: Faith and Family being the top two. There really is a sense of family in Malawi, which I absolutely love! I recall asking Davison (from Dwangwa) about his family last year. He listed off his immediate family and moved on to list off his extended family and friends. While my definition of family likely ends at my grandparents, Davison’s definition went far beyond that! In Canada, we have so many things to distract us from interacting with each other at a personal level (ie: TV, internet, movies, blogs, etc.) that many of us have abandoned that method altogether. Technology has evolved to the extent that when we do decide to communicate and interact with each other, we more often than not settle for sending a Facebook message, email or a text message which at the best of times comes across directly and to the point, lacking emotion and meaning.
Dennis told us a story yesterday about one of the hotel staff he grew close to over his time in Mzimba. The staff member had invited him over to his house to meet his family. Dennis met the staff member’s family. The employee was taking care of his 13 year old brother, two of his own children and three of his cousins. Incredible! Dennis went on to explain how odd the situation was. The sun had set and Dennis explained that he was sitting in complete darkness in the house, talking with the employee and his family. Without electricity or windows, you can imagine as to how dark some of the houses get at night time. As Dennis was telling the story, he commented “I wonder what they do for fun?” I think I know. I think they talk to each other. I think the kids play with each other. They eat, share stories of the day and probably really enjoy it! There is no TV, internet, videogames, etc. to distract them. That’s really refreshing to see.
We have another debrief session this morning, and then I’m homeward bound back to Lethbridge. As much fun as I have had over the past three weeks, I really am looking forward to getting back home.