Monday, April 1, 2013

Where I Was 30 Years Ago: PC Malawi

 To begin with 30 years ago I was younger...a lot younger.  I was in the PC in Malawi with my doctor husband and first one child(Peter who came with us) and later two children(Christopher was born there.

I was a teacher in Nasanje and taught English Literature and English as a second language.   I taught about 40 students who shared desks.  When it rained on the tin roof, it leaked and the pounding was so loud that the students put their heads down and I had to stop teaching.

I was required to teach selected short stories by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.  I had one book for 40 students I could not imagine that many of them got much out of that book.  

 I was teaching in the poorest part of one of the top poorest countries in the world.  I did not have a lot of hope for the future of the boys I taught but I tried to be hopeful for my students.  Like I said it was a long time ago, a lifetime it seems.

So imagine my surprise and the gratification when I recently received several emails from a former student:

I am so happy receiving your response. Happy too that you and doctor are all fine.
When I saw your face at your website you looked the same despite the fact that it was 30 years ago we last met.
Many people in Nsanje are still remembering 'their doctor'. He was and I believe still a dedicated doctor.
Happy also to learn about Peter and Christopher. I am happy for them.
Please when you visit Malawi let me know so that we meet.
I am married to Florence with five girls. The first two are at the University.
After my secondary education I left for South Africa where I did library science and worked for 7 years and returned home, did law diploma and later joined the Office of the Ombudsman. I am working as an investigator against the abuse of power and human rights by government organs or officials. I am based in Blantyre. I am currently studying law degree with Blantyre International University.
Many positive changes has taken place since you left. There are no longer faked 'car accidents' as was the case then. Democracy and rule of law is now the order of the day. People are able now to criticize their leaders and are free.
I do not know what  to say or write, Madam I am so happy knowing that you are still there and alive. T I lost hope of meeting you again in this life time. 

And this:

You also contributed a lot to this life of hard work and discipline. You know you never missed a class and you were always happy before us as if you had no problems of your own. You were a dedicated teacher. You remember the parties you hosted for those of us who did well in English. We tested the cookies then. It was a good experience. Getting good education for the girls has not been easy but I have to save the money I receive as salary so that I see them through college. I am trying and I believe God will always guide me.
Indeed I was employed in an important Constitutional body that safeguards the rights of Malawians and rule of law in all aspects. I believe you are aware that in 1994 we kicked out the dictatorship and Malawians vowed not to go back to the backward system. Malawians said enough is enough. We had a complete new Constitution based on liberal democratic principles. Constitutional bodies like ours were created as checks and balances. Malawi is now doing very well in terms of good governance though we are only 19 years into the new dispensation. For your information we have a female president and she is currently visiting the U.S.
I am in touch with so many classmates but many have been lost along the way due to aids which had claimed its own. I will share with friends your email address so that you can also hear from them. They will be very delighted to learn that you are fine. They miss you too.

******When I lived in Malawi, President Banda was a dictator for life.  Aids had just begun to take the lives  of often the strongest and brightest,  in come cases whole villages have been devastated leaving only the very young and very old to try and make a new life.

Malawi and this young man have come a long way against great odds with determination and hope.  This correspondence is part of what the Peace Corps is about and in the end as is so often the case I believe I have received so much more from the experience than I ever gave. 

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