Maud is back from Malawi.
Wearing a chichinge, a wrap skirt of block-printed African cloth. Her resilient muscles are only a little sore, and she seems impervious to jet lag after 20 hours in the air.
Maud and her group from buildOn, working with hundreds of village men, laid a foundation and raised a quarter of the walls for a new school block that will allow the town of Mpandakila to educate its 5th and 6th graders. So that after 4th grade the kids will not drop out rather than hike the six kilometers to the nearest school.
Maud ate nsima — corn porridge — pumpkin greens and soupy beans for 12 days, sleeping on a bamboo mat in a very special homestead. Her hosts were one of the chiefs of the community and his wife and their five precocious daughters. Also grandma, the babies of the two eldest daughters, and a two-day-old goat that cried for its mom all night.
A hen slept in the room with Maud and her friend Claire, laying its eggs while they were sleeping. The chief offered the young women a chicken as they left, which they took and sold to the bus driver who took them six hours back to Lilongue. They fed it ground nuts (peanuts), which they picked fresh from the vine every morning.
Dancing was a big thing in the village, to the pounding of drums and the ululations of the older women. The whole village loved learning the Macarena.
What Maud loved learning about the most was how to carry water atop her head — and dirt, and bricks. A woven circle of straw helped her balance.
It felt so far away, but at the same time there was a human familiarity about it all — a smile as you walked by someone, the bossiness of the sisters. Maud didn’t come away with any answers about the best way to go about helping other countries, without imposing your will or encouraging dependency. What matters is asking the questions, and coming away with more.
Zikomo kwambiri means thank you very much in Chichewa.