I'm back and already missing Malawi! I'm sorry that I did such a horrible job staying up to date with new blog posts. But it's easy to get distracted in Lilongwe.
It's been 5 weeks since I stepped off the plane and into "A-Mer-CA." I was determined not to let the woes of the current American population get me down. So much social change has happened since I had left. A changed White House, healthcare reform, a financial meltdown and to top it off my own family had a new life that I had to become re accustomed. So I landed on American soil and hit the ground running. Back in Malawi, I decided to prolong my travel plans and spend most of my time job hunting. I felt that I had spent 2 years educating villagers about the importance of forward thinking and planning, that it would be hypocritical for me to spend my readjustment allowance traveling the world with "over landers" that cared more about pictures of themselves than the countries' culture that they visited.
I have had interview after interview. Every interaction is met with, "wow, how are you doing with readjustment."
Should I be having a harder time?
The third goal of Peace Corps is in fact, hard. It's funny how the one aspect (among many others) that frustrated me the most about living in the village was my ambiguous relationships with people. But after this short time of being home (I'm learning fast,) my relationships with Americans are just as ambiguous as those that I had in Chichewa. I look back and think about PST and the conversations that were facilitated about, Cultural, universal and individual behaviors. These are the most ambiguous lines of all when it comes to social interaction. I thought that I might see things clearer on the other side but maybe not. It seems that we as Americans continue looking at stereotypes rather than circumstances.
For example: talking with a few folks, I was explaining common Malawian cultural dances. But the stereotype of all Africans living in the bush and being naked was compared to this dance. But when I show pictures of the dance…oh? (Confusion followed by a "sorry" and embarrassment is a common response.) Africans are further developed than many Americans are aware. I believe that might be a large reason for the continued financing of African based NGOs. Not everyone in Malawi is naked and dying contrary to the media and Madonna's portrayal. Thank you Raising Malawi!
"WOW. Did you see a lot of people dying?"
"So, does, like everyone have AIDS? And how did you avoid not contracting?"
"So, How was Africa?"
How do I answer these questions? It's hard having conversations without any frame of reference. But my pictures help. And I've already started a few of my friends on Bao. The most interesting and proactive conversations that I have had about Malawi was with a group of 2nd & 4th graders. And so I have found the most rewarding third goal activities with school groups and people interested to understand, not stereotype.
But at any rate…Im really trying to stay positive. I miss Malawi but my place is here in Chicago. I look forward to talking with more people about Peace Corps and I truly hope that I can encourage more to sign up for the toughest job they'll ever love.
Good luck to all my fellow volunteers. Thanks for the best years of my life!