I finished my one-year fellowship in Malawi at the end of July and have been back in the States for almost three weeks now. As most things tend to do if you give them the proper time, my life in Malawi really came together during the last several months of my fellowship and I really did grow into loving my life there. This made my decision to return to Malawi in September an easier one.
In late April/early May, I was asked to consider extending my time in Malawi to continue working for the World Food Programme. In May, two important and influential factors contributed to my choice to sign on as a consultant for WFP at the conclusion of my fellowship. The first and most important being that my dad was cancer-free. The second was the release of figures by the Malawi Government that confirmed that close to 40 percent of the country’s population would be in need of emergency food assistance during the upcoming year. To leave Malawi at a time when food insecurity was predicted to reach an unprecedented high felt counterintuitive. Additionally, to be able to work on a humanitarian response of this scale seemed to me a learning opportunity that I could not pass up.
Breaking the news of my decision to my family was difficult as it clearly meant that once again we will have to go through the goodbyes, distance and challenging communication issues. However, the decision feels right and I left the country happy knowing that in some weeks I would be returning.
My time home has been so nice and as the days pass me by (too quickly for the most part), Malawi is somehow feeling more and more like a faraway memory. Sometimes I have to remind myself that my time in the US is temporary and that I will be returning to my job and life in Malawi shortly. It seems almost impossible that my world here and my one there are part of the same life as they are drastically different. However in some strange way they both seem to fit. Components of both feel extremely important to me and I often find myself wondering why it is that I was innately drawn to a career that demands I choose between being directly in the field and close to many of my best friends and family.
That being said, I could not be more grateful for the year I had in Malawi. The year threw at me challenges I could never have anticipated or prepared for, but at the same time I met some incredible friends and a group of co-workers I looked forward to seeing each day, all of whom made overcoming all the bumps along the way possible. My time at home has allowed me to more fully reflect on all that I learned over the course of the year. Malawi taught me better patience and problem-solving. I also came to fully appreciate the advantages of being flexible and embracing whatever it is your day brings–no matter how much you plan or try, there is absolutely no way to predict what your day may throw at you. It was a formative year and one that I know I will have long-lasting implications for me both professionally and personally.
I leave for Malawi in just about two weeks. At points during the year I would have laughed had you told me I would be going back. But for right now, Malawi is another home to me and I’m excited at the thought of what my next four months there hold for me. Tionana (“see you soon”)–I will write more when back in Lilongwe!