Well, another chapter has ended. Jon and I left Malawi on Sunday after a whirlwind few weeks of closing everything up. It was really hard to leave, especially knowing that we might not see some of the people we had to say good-bye to for a long time. Sucks. But, we tried to make the most of our remaining time and had some lovely farewells mixed in with the pain-in-the-ass-ness of moving.
First up, I had my last day at the clinic. (As you may recall, I volunteered at Baylor’s pediatric HIV clinic.) I knew it was coming up but still dreaded the last day. I brought cupcakes to say thank you to everyone for taking me in, teaching me, and showing me so much love and support. It was especially hard to say bye to Rose, a nurse who had essentially adopted me and invited me to have tea with her every day. She told me I was like a daughter to her and it touched me so much. I’ll really miss all of these people.
Once my time at the clinic ended and we got to our second-to-last weekend, Jon and I really focused on packing things up. You see, we had quite a puzzle on our hands: we had things in lots of different categories to settle and had to make sure there was a place for everything. There were things that we were going to take on our post-Africa trip, things we wanted to keep but wouldn’t be going back to the U.S. until after Jon returns in early 2019, things that we wanted to get to the U.S. sooner than early 2019, things we were giving away, things we were selling and things we needed to use until the day we left. So, we started selling items – luckily, friends of ours bought everything and it was really hassle-free – and putting things in suitcases. We found a place for every item. (We even super lucked out, thanks to our friend Diana, because we met the nicest person in the world – he exists! – and he sent a few of our bigger art pieces in his shipment to the U.S. Amazing. Also, our awesome friend, Faye, is taking a bag for us in December. A real gem, that one!) Then, before we went to the airport, one of Jon’s Baylor colleagues took the items we’d been using until that day to the people we were giving/selling them to. (Are you confused yet?? I sure was. I have underwear in my suitcase right now and that’s all I know to be true these days…) We were able to give our remaining Kwacha (Malawian money) to friends and they gave us USD, which was a huge help. We even had a little ‘bazaar’ at a final get-together at our house (more on that later), so people could go through our remaining spices, toiletries, etc. and give them good homes. It was amazing how easy and complicated it was all at the same time. But we did it! (We even had leftover fuel in the generator and power credits on our rental house’s meter, for the next tenants.) [HIGH FIVE!]
We also tried to take advantage of things we love/didn’t get to do enough of in Malawi, before we left. I went to the weekly music show at Chameleon with Alanna and Diana, I got another tea-relaxation time at Kaza Kitchen, we went to the Chinese casino to gamble and eat soup (simultaneously!), we had dinner for Jon’s birthday at his favorite Indian place (Country Lodge), we got to squeeze in one more quiz night with our freshly-printed team shirts, and I got to have last brunches at my favorite places. I took pictures of some things and forgot to take too many of others, but I’ll always remember them.
Our going-away party was the perfect mix of booze, food, laughter and silliness. A perfect combination to describe our friends here. We wanted to keep it small so we could actually talk to people and say good-bye. We made sure to savor the last bits of time we had with these awesome people. I think I laughed harder that night than I had in a long time and it was a great way to send us off. (Unfortunately, we had a few friends that were having immigration issues and weren’t allowed to come back into Malawi until after we left. That really stunk. But, we know we’ll see them again in the future.) We even had some friends come by the house the next morning to say good-bye, which was both super kind and meant a lot. (And I forgot to take pictures because I was just trying to soak them up and got distracted! D’oh!)
I’m going to take away a lot from my time in Malawi. It was where I really began to realize that I would make a good PA, it was where I learned that playing blackjack and eating soup is a really good combination, it was where I discovered that people can be really creative and have a great time with not much to work with, and it was where I figured out that I’m more resilient than I thought. Am I going to miss having the power go out every day? Nope. Am I going to miss taking anti-malaria pills? Hell no. But, I’m going to miss the easy-going style of living, the great people that we met and the unbelievable nature we got to enjoy. (See this, this and this trip.) I’m very thankful for the time we spent in Malawi and I’ll always cherish it.
– By Naama
* = “See you later!” in Chichewa
p.s. We’re taking a very circuitous path to get back to the U.S., so I’ll outline those in future blog posts. Next up, our last trip to Cape Town! (Here’s a preview: we had fun. Because CT is incredible.)