The following post recounts one of the most humbling experiences of my life and an amazing set of reunions for Anita. This was an amazing day for us all and a real highlight of our holiday.
Twenty two years ago Chilimba Village
was the place Anita lived and worked as an NGO for almost two years. It is the main place she wanted to return to when here in Malawi and today we travel to that place.
Paul Jones, our host has kindly arranged the loan of a car and driver for the day, we just need to pay the fuel and a small amount of money in gratuity to the driver for his time.
We leave at 10am, after a short stop in Zomba we head out on the road to Chilimba along a new road to Jali (a nearby village). We pass the bridge where Anita nearly drove off the road into the river. This bridge has now been replaced twice with a safer one – we have to stop and look.
When we reach Jali it’s market day so the village is busy.
On from Jali we take the left turn near a Beobab tree, and approach the village over a small rickety bridge.
When we arrive we ask for directions to the Chief’s House which turns out to be the house where Anita’s team leaders (Marv and Pat Koop) used to live and where she lodged to begin with.
The chief is not in but our driver Sam asks one of his grandchildren to go and ask for him. Meanwhile Anita entertains the children, she asks them to sing a song and is surprised when they sing back a song which was a regular church song back in her time there.
The Chief greets us and welcomes us in – he is the same man who led the village 22 years ago. He knows Anita and is thrilled she has returned to see the village after so long. We ask if we can visit the village and take photos. He is happy to allow this.
We also ask about certain people who Anita knew and are directed to the house of Bambo James. He was a handyman / helper back in the ’90s and he and his wife and some children knew Anita well. We walk across through fields to his house. Bambo James greets us and is so pleased to see us (something that will be repeated by many others throughout the afternoon).
The wife (Mama James) disappears and Bambo James asks if I like Fried Chicken. He says he will kill a small one and goes off to do so. It is about this time we find out that his entire crop of maize has been wiped out by floods earlier this year.
These people have nothing, they have been forced to buy maize from the market to feed their family. Maize is the main crop here – used to make nsima (ugali), there is no further crop until November assuming the rains come.
We feel so blessed, we feast on fried chicken, nsima, fish. They sit outside while we eat! I am certain these people are hungry, they rarely eat so well, but it is rude to leave food, they would be gravely insulted – so we eat. We decide over lunch that we will do something about this and agree to go to the market and buy them some provisions.
We also meet two of Bambo James’ grown up children (Musa and Maluwa) , both knew Anita.
We make our way to the Jali market, our aim is to buy Maize, tomatoes, onions, beans for the family and a chichenge (kitenge) cloth for Mama James. We also buy some soaps for the chief – we need to be political in this situation.
We return to the village and handover our gifts. The chief hands us a gift (more ground nuts). He thanks us again for our visit and says we are a blessing, he wishes us well on our journey. We then start to wander through the village, accompanied by a host of children.
We continue on to the place where Anita performed her first “Child To Child” lesson to over 200 village children. This series of lessons had been adapted and translated into Chichewa by Anita and then delivered to children all over the district.
Just as we are leaving the village we are flagged down by a young woman, Anita recognises her by her smile as a girl she taught 22 years ago. She greets Anita warmly and gives her a large bucket of tomatoes. She has obviously been in the field waiting for our departure and has picked these herself. She says that when we eat them she wants us to be reminded of her.
Modes of Transport
- On Foot