Sunday night musings

I will be home in a month.  Though I’m moving my ticket back about a week from my original return date, by the evening of July 14, I’ll be at my parents’ house.  The view, I imagine, will be remarkably similar to the view I left.

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As my time here winds down and I complete my final report for the Fulbright program (a report that is separate from the products of my research), I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of my time here.  I will be the first to admit that my days have not always been productive, that I haven’t been as involved in the local community as I could have been, and that my research probably won’t make a big difference to anyone, in the long run.  I have been lonely, and even the cushy expat life in Malawi is sometimes hard.  But I’m glad I came.

When I was younger, I had a poster that said “do not pray for an easy life, pray to be a strong person,” and the phrase has come back to me many times in Malawi.  Packing up and moving for ten months to a developing country, halfway around the world from my family and friends, was – hands down – the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  But it has also been, in a strange and thrilling way, really good; I am a stronger person because of it.

My everyday life here seems normal in a way that I would never have thought possible when I arrived in September, so much that I am a little apprehensive about returning to my fast-paced, commercialized US life.  I spent a few days this past week in Johannesburg, which is a modern, industrialized city (with an extraordinarily high crime rate, but then, I did live in the murder capital of the US).  Though I didn’t see a lot of Joburg, I took the opportunity to delight in the pleasures of the developed world:  Thai food, macchiatos, good service, beer on tap, movie theatres, and metered taxis were all part of my three-day jaunt.  Instead of rejecting consumerism based on my relatively austere lifestyle here (compared to my US lifestyle, not the average Malawian’s), though, I kind of wanted to buy everything:  clothes!  boots!  goat cheese!  It’s a good thing I’ll be in rural Iowa for the first part of my return – perhaps Wal-Mart as the singular shopping destination will help quell my desires.

I went to Joburg to take the LSAT – the Law School Admissions Test.  The test was held on a university campus, and I was a little taken aback by how similar the University of Witwatersrand looked to a US university.  Though I realize South Africa and Malawi are worlds apart in terms of development, I was still expecting something similar to the colleges here – small, underfunded, and dumpy.  Instead, at Wits, the buildings were large, multi-story, and distinguished rather than run down; the central campus featured a large central green with an outdoor, heated, Olympic-size swimming pool, and lots of groomed flower gardens replete with Birds of Paradise.  But it was really the bustle of the students – in the buildings, in the library, on the green, with books and coffee cups in hand, looking slightly frazzled – that made me miss college life in the US.  Here in Malawi, colleges are much smaller, and even the mass movement of students between classes can’t compare with the constant low-level buzz of the university setting.  It’s a good thing I’m considering going back to school!

While in Joburg, I was hosted by some other Fulbrighters who are affiliated with Wits.  They were excellent hosts (and hostess), and certainly went above and beyond the call of duty to shuttle me to my LSAT and show me around town.  We also had some time to hang out, and it was nice to realize that the challenges of getting my research off the ground aren’t unique to me or Malawi.

To conclude a particularly rambling post, with the LSAT and my final pre-departure trip out of the way, I’m on to my final month of Fulbright wrap-up!

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2 Responses to “Sunday night musings”

  1. Nancy M Says:

    Always fascinated by your insights. Pray your final month goes well in concluding your research. Kristine adventure to NY to work at a summer camp got off the ground at KCI at 7:27 this morning.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Can’t wait for you to come back to the States!! How is the running coming along? Think you might be able to run a 10 miler in October? Let me know if you are up for that challenge!! Hehe

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