There are many things about Malawi that I'm coming to love. One is the sincerity and the kindness that is shown by the people here. Malawi is known as "the warm heart of Africa" and the people sure do live up to that reputation. There seems to be a priority on relationships and valuing people. It feels as though people are not in as much of a hurry and time is taken in greeting others and asking how things are going with them and their family. They are also extremely welcoming and hospitable.
Last week I experienced this when visiting a village where a friend who works at the academy lives. She welcomed us in and offered us a place to sit. She then started to cook. I asked if I could help her make dinner. She invited me into her kitchen where I sat on a stool in front of a small bowl that had a tomato and onion soup cooking in it. The soup was being heated by coals that sat in another small pan on the ground. We cooked the entire meal over these coals and used multiple pans to cook vegetables and hard boiled eggs before getting to the nsima. This is a staple that is made of flour and water. I stirred the water that was almost to boiling as I took my other hand and scooped handfuls of flour into the water. We then put the lid on and waited about 15 minutes before taking the lid off and adding more flour. I then stirred and stirred as my arm became more tired and the nsima became thicker and thicker. I had to hand over the spoon as it because too tough for me and I have absolutely no experience making this! When it was finished, I scooped spoonfuls onto a plate for serving. It took us over an hour and a half to cook and I thoroughly enjoyed it because we sat and talked while cooking. Once everything was ready, we sat down and shared the meal together. The nsima is eaten with your hands (well, actually just one hand, but I kept forgetting and used my left hand as well) and you take a bit of it in one hand, roll it into a ball, and then use it to pick up the other items on your plate (such as the vegetables, soup, and the fish). It was such an honor to be welcomed in and to share in such a wonderful meal.
As hugs were given and I got into the car to come home, I found myself leaving with more than just a wonderful memory. It hit me that I had so enjoyed my time because it was just that, time. There was no rush and every moment was enjoyed. The conversations were meaningful and the whole process of cooking together and eating was savored. It made me think of my approach all too often in life. I am so task oriented and I love getting things accomplished. It hit me that I have missed some wonderful opportunities to enjoy those around me because I've been distracted and focussed on what I want to do. I want to be more mindful of my time with others and to set aside my agenda. What a true blessing it is to spend time with others and to truly enjoy company and conversation. I know I have a long way to go in this area, but I am thankful for such an amazing example. It makes me think of the saying, "actions speak louder than words" because actually experiencing this will be something I will never forget.