We can’t really believe that we’re back in the US and have left Malawi for good (or at least for now!). We had a whirlwind last few weeks, packing, saying goodbyes, and cleaning out the apartment. The most stressful moment was realizing that the bags that we’d packed and weighed so carefully had to be 23 kg each, not 30kg. Luckily Sandy stayed calm and got everything under control.
The goodbyes were the most difficult. It was so hard to hug goodbye Cathy and Bertha and thank them for all of their hard work and care over the past two years. There was a nice goodbye event for Sandy at work, where they gave him parting gifts and spoke about what a difference he had made. Sandy even got a little teary. Our cat was adopted by a sweet neighbor, so we were confident that we left her in a good home. We had goodbye drinks at Doogles with friends, but are sure that we’ll see them all again. And we’re sure we’ll come back to Malawi.
Our drive from Blantyre to Lilongwe was uneventful, except for the police speed traps. The driver got a ticket in the first trap (with one of the six speed cameras in the country). The second time he got pulled over, outside Dedza, the policeman swaggered up to the car and told the driver that he’d been speeding – he’d been going 94 km per hour. The driver got out of the car and went to negotiate with the policeman. Fifteen minutes later, he got back and we asked what had happened. Turns out, the police didn’t have a camera! How hilarious is that? They just picked a random number that he was ‘speeding’ and then tried to get him to pay!
Anyway, got to the airport, got on the plane (with all our bags!), made it to the DRC (with a team of soccer champions who got off the plane with great fanfare), made it to Addis, then got lucky with an extra seat between us on the long flight from Addis to DC. There was a terrible movie selection, though, except for The Sound of Music, which I’ve discovered is not a good plane movie because one can’t (or shouldn’t) sing along.
As usual, we have struggled a bit to get back into the swing of life in America – they drive on the wrong side of the road here! We can go to the grocery store and buy any kind of cheese we want! How do I work my new Smartphone? What do you mean there’s an app for that?
Our Southern accents are coming back, but we’re still using British/Malawisms. Sprinkles will now always be 100’s and 1000’s, overalls are now dungarees, soccer is football, and for a while, french fries will be chips.
As I reflect on our time in Malawi, we feel so fortunate to have had this experience. I’ve grown as a person, matured, and become more confident. We’ve made lifelong friends, learned to keep life’s real priorities in perspective, and had two and a half amazing years.
It feels like forever since I was that recently-arrived girl thinking that the minibuses were honking just to be friendly. I won’t really miss minibus drivers. Nor will I miss the snakes in our apartment (three in 2.5 years! and we lived on the second floor!). Or the cheap light bulbs that fall to the floor and shatter every time there’s a power surge, or the water cuts, or the fuel queues. I won’t miss the s…l…o…w internet and the lack of communication with friends and family, or the potholes, or the high pitched hum of mosquitoes that have snuck into your net and hover around your ears in the middle of the night.
But more importantly, there are certain things we will really miss:
I just wanted to thank all of you for your support, readership, and especially your comments. This blog started as a way to keep in touch with family, but I am so glad we stuck with it – it’s so fun to go back and read posts from the past.
This is my last post, except for an upcoming Insider’s Guide to Blantyre – it might be helpful for people moving to Malawi.
We’re beginning a new chapter in Columbia, SC, as Sandy starts his International MBA program and we have a baby boy on the way. We’re convinced we’ll end up calling him Iwe!