By Yue Yao
Early the morning of June 6th, our TPM group was on the plane leaving for Malawi. It would be the first time I step on the land of Africa. It was so mysterious for me although I read much from book. And this time, I have this precious opportunity to get access to this mysterious land by myself, not as a tourist but as an assistant. I was so excited and nervous about things I would experience in the following month.
After a long trip, we arrived at Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Just as in my imagination: blue sky, green plants, and the airport was much more beautiful. Unlike in Ethiopia, the air in Malawi was very fresh, which made me delighted. We filled out the visa applications and waited in line for a long time because some people kept jumping the queue. At first I thought that those people might be very important guests, but then a Chinese person in line told us that it was just because they tipped local men in security vests. It was very unbelievable for me as I always thought that customs should have a set of strict rules to make sure it functions in an orderly way, and the fact was that every country I have visited before did have their rules of taking foreigners in. Obviously, there was not this same set of rules in Malawi. I felt depressed to see this, but I understood their needs of money because I heard that these officers only earned 50-60 Canadian dollars per month.
We took a minibus to our destination- Transformative Praxis: Malawi Campus. Although I knew it was in a rural area and I knew the situation must be worse, I was shocked by what I had seen on the way. Bald earth, red soil, shabby houses… everything implied the poverty of this place. I did know that Malawi was the third poorest country in the world, but I did not know the real meaning of poverty until I saw it for myself. Sadness was lingering as I saw those people living in such misery. But I also felt happy when passersby smiled and waved at us. I could see their kindness!
Around 2 hours on a bumpy road later, we got to the campus and were overwhelmed by the local people. They hugged me and welcomed me warmly. The happiness beat the fatigue immediately when I saw these lovely people! Kids were extremely excited with our coming, they smiled at us, fist bumped with us, and kept following us just as Dr. Stonebanks said as we were like televisions in their eyes. When we got into the room in the hostel, I found situation was worse than what I expected. It was very dark although there was a small bulb. We had to use flashlights to make sure that we were able to see our stuff. Worst of all, we were not allowed to charge our electronic equipment anytime we’d like, which meant I could not play phone games or music as I had to keep my power for E-books reading. After dinner, I had my first “bucket bath” in my life. It was interesting but I would be frustrated if could not take a shower for my whole life. I thought of the differences of African and my own life. I never realized that having running water was such a delighted thing. Before sleeping, we had a short meeting and I felt very moved by what Dr. Stonebanks said. He said that he wanted this program to keep going on even after he died. I thought everyone here, as well as all the warm hearted people in the world, definitely had the same great intention. But as Easterly mentioned in “The White Man’s Burden,” the West spent over 2 trillion dollars on foreign aid but failed to improve the situation efficiently. I wonder how we can contribute to education here, and there are a lot of answers I need to seek in the following month.
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