Living here is at times a roller coaster.. It can be frustrating, challenging and there are moments you want to turn the car around and drive straight to the airport and head back to the normalcies of home. But there are these great moments of conversation and simple things that make you 1) appreciate where you came from and 2) appreciate where you are. The other night I was picking up some things in preparation for some doctors coming over for dinner and I gave the cashier money for my bill. Now, when you give and/or receive items (whether it be the exchange of money or a cup of tea or whatever), it is considered respectful to place your left hand over your right forearm as you exchange the item with your right hand.. I did this with my Kwacha, and the cashier smiled and laughed . I asked her while she was laughing at me, as I am pretty used to being laughed at around town.. And she said " I am not laughing , I am very happy." I asked her why and she stated because I had "done it the right way".. alluding to my hand on forearm.. Then she asked where I was from, I told her the US, but I thought I said it too fast, and said I was from Obama's country... She laughed and said.. "he is a good man, but he is just a man like you.. You come from the land of God.. you are very blessed"... and handed me my change.. And wished me goodbye in Chichewa "Tiwonana". You don't get that exchange very often at home.. And I walked away grateful for the reminder. This occurred just after trying 4 ATM machines around town, that were all out of money.. And all of the ATM's had 3 security guards watching them, while playing mancala..
A few other cultural things that I've learned, that seem very consistent with the part of the world
* when you offer something to someone, they will lower their eye level to yours.. meaning, they will almost bow to you, while maintaining eye contact. This is another sign of respect and gratitude. They will receive items, such as tea, with two open cupped hands and say thank you multiple times..
* It is insulting to not take help from a Malawian.. If they offer to help you with your bags,etc.. They find it somewhat insulting if you decline.
* Malawians aim to please.. If you stop on the road to ask for directions, they may give you wrong directions just to make you happy. They may not know where you are going, but if they feel that their answer satisfies you, then they are ok with that..
* Friends hold hands, regardless of gender.. this may seem strange at first, but is very common and if you befriend a Malawian , you better get used to it.
* Hand shakes can be long and linger.. which I think stems from the hand holding.. You can greet someone and hold hands in a handshake for the whole time you greet. I have tried to implement this as a sign that I am familiar with the culture, but each time I do it, I am constantly wondering if the person I am greeting thinks I am a little too forward.
*Putting a bunk bed together with two Malawians is an experience... Yesterday, I had the good fortune to put together a hand made bunk bed made of scraps and metal bars that we just purchased for the twins.. It didn't fit through the hallway, so we had to take it apart.. It was worse than IKEA, because every single piece had to go back exactly where it belonged... No cutting corners with Cosmas or Cam... Oh, and we had no tools so I went to a local shop and bought pliers.. They made sure every washer went back to its original spot, each bolt was in its correct spot and everything was discussed, deliberated and assessed.. I couldn't understand a word they were saying, but watching them work and the patience they displayed was a learning experience..
This morning feels fantastic and like a morning at home... Overcast, chilly, wet and breezy.. Michelle and I are sitting on our "Konde" or porch drinking coffee... We have taken up swimming many days a week, but today seems like a good morning to opt out of taking care of ourselves and sipping on more coffee..
Hope things are well back home.
|my car insurance agent|
|bunk bed work|
|on the road to Salima|