Porridge, goats, and pre-dawn celebrations

Communications officer, Mary, reflects on her first year living and working in Malawi.

Mary Stokes
Mary Stokes
Communications officer, Malawi

Back to all stories | Posted on 20 Aug 2018 in Messages from Malawi

Malawi has now been my home for an entire year.

At times I can’t believe it’s gone so fast, while in other moments it feels as though it’s been so much longer than a year. 

The past 12 months have been a steep learning curve, but just like the mountains that surround my not-so-new home, the climb has been peppered with new chances, experiences, and points for reflection. 

I’ve learned to naturally wake at 4am to be at school before porridge is served. I’m no longer phased by reaching the end of the tarmac when driving to visit schools. I am in awe of the strength, determination and grace of the women of Malawi, especially the Mary’s Meals volunteers.

In October, I was woken at 2am by a strident pre-dawn chorus celebrating the first rains in six months – and since then, I’ve stopped countless times to watch lightning storms illuminate the dark sky as the rain pours down after a hot, humid day. I’ve come to tolerate the hills all over Blantyre and I’ll even admit they help to keep temperatures the right side of 40C (104F).

I’ve watched every possible shade of green sprout from the dry, dusty fields, and then turn – once-again – to brown one the rains are over. I have learned to appreciate when the electricity or water is on, rather than taking them for granted.  

I’ve not learned as much Chichewa as I would have liked, but I guess there’s always next year. I’m no longer surprised to find a gecko in my lounge. Finally, I’ve developed a sixth sense for goats.

More importantly, though, I’ve visited over 100 schools, interviewed more than 200 learners, and taken photos of potentially a thousand more. And through all of this, I’ve been reminded of the power of a mug of porridge. I’ve shared some of my favourite moments from this last year in a photo blog.