25 February 2012

.the people you meet.

I was just finishing up researching some maternal health programs in surrounding countries when this guy who I had said hello to early came up to my office. He asked or rather stated “you’re American, aren’t you?” I said “yes…but how did you know I wasn’t British?” I had only greeted him in Chichewa…so I was interested to hear what his cultural cues were…he replied “because you are friendly and like kids.” Huh? Was I wearing my “I love kids” t-shirt today?  Anyway, he told me how he loved America (of course!) and he had been to Boston…blah blah blah. He was friendly but I was trying to keep the conversations short before he arrived at the inevitable “I need to find an American wife” line. But he said he had a meeting and was off. Phew! Then a few hours later I was headed into Liwonde for a meeting and waiting for a minibus when this bwana (“boss” or fancy) car pulls up and rolls down the window. It’s my new American loving best friend again. He asks if I would like a ride, of course. This is saving me 200 kwacha ($1.20), a plethora of personal space violations, and my olfactory system from the unknown. So I hop in forgetting my past hesitations. Plus it’s only 15 minutes, I can do this! He begins to tell me that he grew up with Americans…"how so?” he tells me “well, Peace Corps volunteers...You’re Peace Corps, right?” So I’m wearing my “I love kids and I’m a granola hippie (aka I didn’t shower because we didn’t have water today) Peace Corps Volunteer” t-shirt. But he goes on to tell me his Peace Corps story:

He grew up basically as an orphan (a child-headed household) and although he was really successful in school he didn’t have the money for fees. So Julie, a Peace Corps Education volunteer in Ntaja went to visit his house one day to ask why he wasn’t enrolled in classes this quarter and he told her. So she made an agreement with him that if he kept up his grades she would cover his fees and books. And he did. He did so well he went on to university to study business. Then successful in his business endeavors he went on to open his very own orphanage in Ntaja caring for 60 children. And just a few years ago he was nominated and elected as a Member of Parliament!  No Joke. What a story right? If this guy isn’t a Peace Corps success story I don’t know what is. I was really inspired by his story and ashamed of my initial hesitations. The world is so fascinating when you open yourself up to it. 

Side Conversation:
When I asked what he was working on he told me he was at the district finalizing a project to build a small bridge just outside of Liwonde. The heavy (late) rains had washed away a crossing bridge that many children use in order to get to school. From which the children were being eaten by the crocodiles! He seemed remorse, but then this happens during rainy season. After the shock wore off it made me ponder how my perspective of normal colors all my experiences.


Gregg and Maggie Nurrenbern said...

Did you tell him American wives are overrated.


alicia said...

jajajajaja. That is unless they're named Alicia...Isn't that right amor de mi vida?!?!?!

Nicholas said...

True story, reina.