Published: July 6th 2010July 1st 2010
celebrating Canada day in the back of an old priest's truck
This week I ended up meeting a French professor while drinking a beer in the teacher’s lounge during a world cup game. It was a while since I spoke French to anyone, and a little surprising to do it in Malawi were French is not spoken in any communities around the country. He was so impressed by my French that he kept buying me drinks in the Malawian custom. He then invited me to attend one of his lectures the following day. The next day during class his students where presenting papers in a very entertaining way: ‘student A’ would read his paper in English one line at a time, and ‘student B’ would translate the lines in French until the presentation was completed. Next some questions where asked from the audience in French and ‘student B’ would translate them in English to student ‘A’. ‘ Student A ‘ would then answer in English and ‘student B’ would translate the answer in French to the audience. As messy as it sounds I was quite impressed by how well it all worked out. The students’ papers covered very interesting topics such as alcoholism in Malawi, the Malawian family and HIV amongst youth.
here's the crew at the party, us five guys, the priest and a girl we met there
The papers were incredibly informative, touching and yet humorous. I felt very lucky to attend this class, and learned so much more about Malawi.
During the same week, a University soccer player invited me to join the team training session while I was heading towards the basket ball court. I decided to put my basket ball down and join in. I was extremely nervous at first and I did not have soccer cleats either. IT had been about 4 year since I’ve played on a field with 13 years of soccer under my belt. Somehow my ‘A’ game was on during our scrimmage and the team was impressed by my performance, so they invited me to train again the following day. The next morning I headed down to the market to buy some turf soccer cleats and continued to train with the team all week. On Friday the coach announced an upcoming game on the weekend, it was the quarter finals of their ‘presidential cup’. He then asked me if I was going to attend, but I told him the interns and I had plans to visit the Nyika plateau national park. I could see the disappointment in face, as he told me he wanted to draft me on the team. I was sad to hear that I was missing the opportunity to play a real soccer game in Africa, but I knew the weekend plans would not disappoint. Hopefully I’ll be able to play in the semi finals.
On Thursday we had been invited by another group of Canadians to celebrate Canada Day. We noticed on the invitation that the party was at the “father’s house”. Our initial thought: “oh great we’ve been invited by Missionaries (sarcastic)”. Nevertheless theses were Canadians, and we accepted their invitation and we were determined to have a good time. Due to the heavy rain, a thin layer of mud formed on top of the unpaved roads which lead to the ‘father’s house’ and made them as slick as ice. Our taxis got stuck on the side of a hill, while trying to pass a transport that was stopped in the middle of the road. So all of us had to get out and push and therefore our shoes and were covered in thick mud as we arrived at the party. When we stepped in the room we feared that our doubts had become reality: everyone was sitting in a circle including a few old priests in their 70’s, some old nuns, some long term volunteers , some Zambian nuns dressed in the old fashion nun way, a few Malawians, and two other girls around our age…. and no music.
Everyone greeted us with a warm welcome, as they were happy to celebrate Canada day with 5 other young men. The celebration began with the chanting of the Canadian national anthem in English and then French followed by the Malawian national anthem and an opening prayer. As we noticed others were drinking wine and beers, we felt it was appropriate that we started drinking ours as we were waiting for the big feast/ pot luck being prepared for us. Many of the dishes were prepared in a Canadian style, a sweet taste of home that I’ve missed so much after eating mostly the same thing everywhere in Malawi. For dessert an assortment of cakes and fruits where served with maple syrup that that priest had prepared using maple extract and local sugar (it tasted pretty legit!). During the party several speeches were made, and the Zambian nuns performed a special dance and song for us that I found quite entertaining. We also mingled with the other girls who around our age and the other long term volunteers to learn from their stories and experiences in Malawi throughout the years. Unfortunately the celebration early as the old folks were getting tired and had to leave. One of the priests offered to drive us downtown to the bar in the back of his small pick-up. We enjoyed the ride ride while we finished our beers in the back of his truck - What a nice priest! We headed to a local club and finished the night off with endless games of pool with the locals.