It’s now been over a month since I first arrived in Malawi. Amongst all of our cultural differences the thing that has stood out to me the most is the sense of community and how happy everyone here is. Families in Malawi don’t have much compared to us back home, yet they seem to be so happy with their lives. It's such a breath of fresh air to see children being children. Playing outside and getting covered in dirt, instead of sat inside playing with an electronic device of sorts.
Personally, I feel that as the UK has developed and our technology has advanced, we have lost some of the simple ways to have fun. We have grown as a country and yet we have not grown to our full potential as individuals. Here in Malawi, the children spend from dusk ‘til dawn outside: playing, falling over, making new friends, and discovering what’s around them. As individuals these children seem so aware of their surroundings, they find new ways to have fun by themselves, playing with what's around.
For me, technology is what I use to survive and communicate. From small things such as checking the time to getting directions, I’m always relying on technology. When we first landed in Lilongwe airport my first point of call was to charge my phone, get a simcard and get Internet access. This just shows how much we from the UK cannot go without technology for very long. However, living out here I have learnt that you don't need the latest gadgets to have fun and communicate. That the simplest things make people happy. Just sitting playing games with my host family or having a conversation over dinner, no technology needed.
In Malawi children don't have phones, if you want to speak to your friend you talk to them in person. I've made such strong bonds with people here by just being with them. When we've had electricity blackouts we have had to find new ways to pass time other than watch TV or use Facebook. The sense of community in the villages of Malawi is something to admire. People leave their homes open all day, everyone and anyone is welcome to come round and will always be greeted and looked after. The relationship everyone has with their neighbours is one of trust. Being in this beautiful country has taught me so much and given me much to reflect on as well. Here are some questions I feel we should all think about:
Do we really need as much technology as we use every day in our lives?
How have we become very reliant on materialistic things, just by growing up in a different part of the world?
Written by ICS volunteer Maria Tariq