Out of Africa

Maud is back from Malawi.

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. 

water carrier

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.


Filed under Cooking, Culture, Fashion, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Music

6 responses to “Out of Africa

  1. I will. She said it was great, and so different from her last buildOn trip.

  2. Lori

    Fantastic job, Maud! Glad you are home safe and sound with more stories to tell!

  3. Steve and Betty Zimmerman

    So happy to hear Maud is back home, safe and sound! Tell her hello from us. It must have been a very interesting adventure.

    Sent from my iPad


    I’m proud of Maud. Mary Anne Schwalbe worked diligently for many years with the refugees and the underprivileged around the world. She is quoted in her son’s book THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB: “Of course you could do more – you can always do more, and you should do more – but still, the important things is to do what you can, whenever you can. You just do your best, and that’s all you can do. Too many people use the excuse that they don’t think they can do enough, so they decide they don’t have to to do anything. There’s never a good excuse for not doing anything – even if it’s just to sign something, or send a small contribution, or invite a newly settled refugee family over for Thanksgiving.”

  5. She’s one of the coolest young people I know. Congratulations to her. And to her parents for raising such an inspiring young woman. Props.

  6. Sarah

    Can’t wait to hear more about it from Maud this summer!

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