“Sundays are my favourite”, my host sister, Hlazeya, replied when I asked her what her favourite day was; and despite only having the pleasure of being in Rumphi for one Sunday so far, I can see why. Although I don’t think it would qualify as the best day of the week for most back in the UK.
Here on Sundays there tends to be no power, so no hot water or even showers to wash (you’ll get used to the bucket wash life), no TV or even light in the house. All of which would generally be utilised back at home. In the UK, “Suicide Sundays”, as they are known, can consist of all round laziness; lie-ins and over indulging on TV and food from the fridge, or just being hungover. Not to mention the classic “Smonday” scare, where a relaxing day can no longer be enjoyed because of the fear and dread of Monday looming. I know in my house there’s always a frantic, last minute stress of deadlines and a panic to finish homework. So all in all, not everyone’s favourite to start with. Never mind the Malawian traits previously mentioned. Ruling out the possibilities of a fresh shower, toast or a day of TV! Proving Sunday activities and past times resolve around what here they do without.
In Rumphi life is a lot more stripped back, and Sundays are a day for community and family. Where random people, whether family or not, turn up at your home for food and to then help around the house. And although we do have this sort of traditions back in the UK, of the Sunday Roast, not often do we invite our neighbours around to share, nor turn off the electricity or cook on coal outside. Here, where life is so basic in comparison to ours back at home, it makes you realise that family time and community spirit is so important, and in a sense, all you need are good people around you. So far I’ve only been in Rumphi for one Sunday but already I realise that the Malawian culture really does teach you to enjoy the little things. Making the most of what you have, appreciating and taking time for others. So you go and invite that old friend or neighbour you haven’t seen in a while and make them feel as welcome as I do here in my host home!
My only advice so far would be just immerse yourself in the culture and the doings of your host family. You’ll find a lot of families in Rumphi, in fact all the host families, will want to take you to church. Even if you’re not religious in the slightest, I would still advise you to go. If anything it is just a great way to get known in the community, to show you’re here to help but also become part of the family. I appreciate my family’s faith and religion plays a big part in why Hlazeya’s favourite day is Sunday. After all she goes and sings at the front of church with all her friends; and for the whole day is surrounded by community love. I’m not saying we should change our ways at home, but we could all learn and reflect on the concept of being more open in the community. I know being here has certainly made me think that many people could benefit from such practices. It’s easy to get too bogged down with life and work back at home, never stopping! Taking a minute to do things more “pachoko pachoko” (“slowly” in Chitumbuka, a phrase you’ll get to know very well) and making time for others, whether you are close to them or not, will have positive repercussions for all!
So Sunday is a great opportunity to get to know your host families really well. Do what they do, learn and share. You never know you might end up loving Sundays after your placement. And if you were like me and didn’t mind them too much to begin with; they’ll become your “favourite” like Hlazeya! Bring on the next!
Written by ICS Team Tilitose Sprodeta