I spent yesterday afternoon writing letters to Malawi. I have been putting this off. As the trip back to my Peace Corps country gets nearer (July!), I had to finally write* my old friends to make sure that they know I’m visiting soon. I’d like to visit my old village, Mkanda, with at least a couple folks knowing that I’ll be coming. There were numerous reasons that made me hesitant, most of it stemming from nervousness and fear.
I’m not afraid to go back to Mkanda, per se. I’m rather excited actually. However, I’m afraid that I’ll arrive to find my friends gone, but worse dead. Early death was such a natural event in the village that the fear is not unsubstantiated. When I lived in Malawi, I left Mkanda for a short weekend and came back to find out everyone had taken off work for the funeral of one of the few female health outreach workers, someone I worked with closely. My best estimate is that she was only in her mid- to late-thirties. She had supposedly claimed she had a severe headache the day before and then dropped dead the following morning. Of course, no one really knows what the cause was. This was a common event.
She was the only person I knew well that died during my service. Given the frequency of death, I’m somewhat surprised by this. However, as time passes (it’s been 7 years since my service in Malawi), the potential for death in a country where young people die regularly is much higher than in my own for many reasons.
Malawi holds so many important memories for my personal transformation and the people I befriended were the most important part of that. As I plan this return to a place that gave me so much, I find it difficult to picture what it will be like if those people are not there. There is a very good chance none of them have died, there is a much less likely chance that those people will still be living in Mkanda. So, I suppose this fear of my friends dying feels much like not having those people present on (what I probably envision as my glorious) return to the country that planted all the seeds of who I have become and continue to develop into.
With that, I will post those letters tomorrow hoping that at least one of those people will respond.
*I write letters because if people have cell phones now, I don’t have their numbers. Mkanda was not connected to the grid (no electricity!) although a cell phone tower went up about 5 months before I left the country. Computers and internet are not even part of the equation. Thus, I write to them hoping that a month from now, someone there will receive my letter and respond via text.