I am currently in Malawi. It's winter here, which means it's chilly, but not freezing. The sunshine (when it's shining) reminds me of early fall in Minnesota, and I half expect to see the leaves changing. I'm taking this as practice, for when I return to Minnesota, "real fall" will be upon me very quickly. Today was cloudy in Lilongwe, but sunny and warm by the lake.
I'm here for work, which is unsurprising to the careful reader by now. It's a promotion of sorts, but feels like an exile. Either way, it's different from the last time I was here, (2006), as a graduate student. That was for three months, this trip is for three weeks. I find that I've come back just a little too late to find my old friends here, although our public haunts still exist (Chez Ntemba, Buchanan's, Harry's bar (although it's moved...)
There are some new buildings (namely, the new Parliament built by the Chinese) and old favorites (Four Season's). There are more advertisements, more cell phone kiosks, and more banks than I remember. The people are still friendly, warm and laugh when they don't understand you, laugh when they do, and well, laugh in general. There is still so much need, but this time I feel more mature, more equipped to handle it.
This time I come back alone, but with more courage. Today I rented a car and drove out to Lake Malawi, weaving between goats and bicyclists, avoiding the steep drop off where the pavement has eroded. I sat in the exact spot I was four years ago, contemplating nearly the same things: life, love, change and kids playing in the waves. Everything feels different, but exactly the same.
Which leaves me wondering - did I ever really leave this place at all? Do we ever, I mean, leave the places we once inhabited? I might have to get another G&T to contemplate that.