I flung open the door, dropped my bags and marveled at the queen-sized bed. Within two minutes I was in the shower, letting warm water pour over me and infiltrate the rats nest that was my hair. It was glorious.
I had just arrived at a hotel in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Not experiencing the immense pleasure of a shower in months, I was in ecstasy. I of course forgot shampoo & soap, but that didn’t stop me from hosing myself down like a dog who’d just jumped out of a mud puddle. I watched a brown stream swirl down the drain as I felt my hair relax a bit. The next day I would buy toiletries but for then, getting rid of my ever-present dirt tan felt wonderful.
The next few days in the city were full of luxury. I ate a burrito, wore jeans for the first time, used WiFi and even had a few cocktails. I wandered through a grocery store and ogled at forgotten products like straws and barbeque sauce. I put on makeup and wore a skirt that exposed my knees (*gasp*). In many ways, it felt like I was back in America and centuries away from my site.
While staying in Lilongwe for a few days was a treat in certain aspects, it was completely overwhelming and stressful in others. Having to chose a meal from a menu seemed to be an insurmountable task and holding a real conversation with other PCVs was tiring. (I love them but it was a lot of energy and English that I’m not used to).
By the end of three days, I was longing for my village. I missed my alone time, the slow pace of village life and the pure independence to do whatever I wanted to without explaining my actions to others. I started to feel guilty about all of my frivolous purchases. What would my neighbors think of me if they knew I ordered a 1,200 kwacha ice cream, right after stuffing myself with a 2,000 kwacha lunch? (They probably earn about 3,000 kwacha PER MONTH). What were they doing after dinner, while I was busy imbibing a box of wine with my friends? I missed the ladies at the borehole and wondered if they were missing me too.
Being in the city certainly made me realize how much of an effect village life has had on me and how intense it’s going to be returning to the US. I’m sure I will eventually re-adapt, but for now, the change is taxing. The reason I’m in Lilongwe -by the way- is to attend a special malaria training in SENEGAL! As I type this post, its 3:00am and I’m sitting on an airplane to Nairobi. I’m sleep deprived and slightly delusional, but so, so, so excited for this amazing opportunity. I’m attending the conference with two other volunteers (in addition to 40 other PCVs from across Africa) and from what we’ve heard, its supposed to be a great week. Plus, everyone keeps telling me how delicious Senegalese food is. Exploring another African culture + food + becoming a malaria expert = happiness, right?
I’m about to fall asleep mid-sentence so I better sign off. Cheers!