By Amber Fortin
Nothing felt real until the night we settled into the hostel and saw our Campus for the first time. Between a 12 hour flight from Toronto to Ethiopia, a couple hours in the Addis Ababa airport then a two and a half hour flight until we finally landed in Lilongwe, it had been a long voyage. Once we landed in Malawi it took another two hours driving in a bus with our insane amount of luggage until we finally arrived in the village of Chilanga. While on the bus ride to the campus that afternoon, kids ran pointing and shouting “azungu” over and over again in the villages we passed through. Azungu means white people in Chechewa, the language spoken here. This was very unsettling for me as there was a very strong sense of dependence and importance in our presence. The belief that we know everything and can fix all of their problems is also evident. Post-colonial aftermath is still very real.
Once we arrived at The Campus, the women began singing and clapping and thanking us. Many of us didn’t know how to react out of surprise. We played with the kids to try to learn their names; all the kids really enjoyed copying our funny dances and trying to say our foreign western names. The hostel is beautiful and more than I imagined. I feel guilty living here while just down the street there are small deteriorating homes that people are living in on a daily basis, whereas I am only here for 5 weeks, and this is not my daily reality.
About the Blog
From 2013 to 2017 students participating in Transformative Praxis: Malawi wrote blog posts reflecting on their experiences of participating in action research in Malawi.