By Kassandra Norrie
After hours and hours of travel we finally arrived on campus yesterday. Although I am a returning Praxis Malawi member, I was still arriving into a lot of unknown since this is the first time we have been based on the new campus. As we got off the bus, welcomed by a group of singing women, I was hit by the first phase of culture shock: The Honeymoon Phase. Walking through the new hostel I was amazed with how beautifully everything had been brought together (there was not a roof in the last pictures I saw), and this was the end to the shortest Honeymoon Phase I have ever experienced. After coming in the back and walking through the building I emerged through the front of the hostel and into a construction site. Men were high on ladders painting the cement above the bricks and down on their knees painting the cement of the foundation. This all seemed great until I went to the professors’ house that still was not completed. Men were painting the outside of the hostel while another building, where professors were expected to stay, sat across the campus incomplete. I walked back out of the house, saw the men painting the hostel and immediately thought, “What a waste of time and money”.
I skipped over the depression of the Disintegration Phase and went right to where I left off three years ago into the Reintegration Phase. I was angry. The workers were painting our hostel while other buildings were still not completed. I had to remove myself from the group to reflect and place myself somewhere in “The Five Stages of Culture Shock” (Pedersen, 1995). Maybe the men painting were hired painters who could not help to complete the building? I do not know, because I never bothered to ask.
Understanding culture shock prior to our arrival in Malawi has enabled me to find my direction and help point others in the right direction as quickly as possible. I know why I am here. I have my goals set to work towards, and with such a short amount of time to work I am happy that my experience has helped me to negotiate my way through culture shock and come out facing in the proper direction.
About the Blog
Since 2013, students participating in Transformative Praxis: Malawi have been writing blog posts reflecting on their experiences of participating in action research in Malawi. The original blog with the full archive can be found here