Returning to my village home
I hadn't realized that I missed this place so much until I was back, drinking tobwa and chatting with my village mother, hugging her like people hug in the States after not seeing someone that you love for a long time. I didn't know I had missed my dirty feet, the hot sun, my waist wrapped in chitenje, or my old home as much as I did.
I didn't understand how much it would mean to me to return to my village 4 months after saying goodbye. How much it would mean to have children still yelling my name from afar, saying hello in Chichewa, or the little voices saying “Kettie, BO" over and over and over. I never thought I'd feel like I did today, overwhelmed with joy to be back in a place I called home for two years. But that's exactly how I felt; joyful, full of love, and so blessed to be able to return only after a short time of being away (yet much longer than I'd ever been away over the past two years).
This weekend, I had the privilege of taking a new friend to my village to experience and learn about how things run at a rural health clinic in Malawi. My friend Betsy is in the process of becoming a certified doula—a woman who is trained to support mothers and their families before, during, and after childbirth—and was hoping to be a part of a birth at a rural health center before she returns to the States. While we were there no mothers actually gave birth, Betsy was still able to see the maternity ward and speak with the nurses and midwifed on call. She also was able to see babies that were born from the night before being HIV tested and registered. So instead of doing what she came for, Betsy explored my village with me as I greeted old friends, visited the market place, and spent time with the family I called mine during my Peace Corps service.
When they found out I am now wearing skirts above the knees and that my feet are usually clean and my hair brushed there were even more giggles—like I had changed into a completely different person over the last 4 months. They called me a "bwana" meaning "boss" or someone with money who usually lives in the city, and I had to remind them that'd I'm still a Peace Corps Volunteer, despite my city status.
Once our bellies were filled again we walked around the market saying hello to all the shops and ladies who I used to buy my food from daily. The tomato ladies had so much to say and I could tell were as happy to see me as I was to see them. It felt nice speaking Chichewa again (where as in the city I mostly speak English) and to chat with my local friends who I'd bonded with over vegetables for two years. We bought some greens, tomatoes, onions, and eggs, and then headed to my landlord’s house where we had planned to eat lunch.
After the food was prepared, the three of us sat out on the grass mat eating for the next few hours. Betsy and I enjoyed our company and I felt so grateful to be able to see my Malawian mother and share a meal together after not seeing her for four months. Being back in this place that I spent the last two years building a home was emotional and reflective, and it only made me want to return again soon.