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Life the African Way

Malawian Village Life

A Few Huts on a Hot October Afternoon

The same old saying "Early to bed, early to rise" is a bit twisted when it comes to typical African life. I left the city for the village when I got a call from an anonymous person who informed me of my grandmother's mysterious death. You'd be wondering why I didn't bother confirming it. It's because that's how it goes—people change their contacts again and again for reasons like, "I borrowed money and the owner keeps calling." I understand that is the only escape plan preferred. By not asking how she died, I saved myself from hearing causes I don't believe. Magic, Witchcraft, and Beliefs these are leading factors they would use to convince me with.

I wore my black long sleeve dress and upon arrival, I found out that the whole village was already gathered at her house. All wore black outfits and women wailed uncontrollably. "Black." My emphasis on mentioning the color is to let you know that dress codes matter a great deal here. If I could take with me a friend unaware of the funeral and dressed up in any colored outfit, I bet she would be kept in a separate house far from where the event was until she changed.

"When you're in Rome, do what the Romans are doing." I learned how serious this proverb is when I witnessed three girls being kicked out of the deceased's premises. Just like me, they came from the city and tried to out shine the locals by acting civilized. Had they know such a thing was in store for them, they wouldn't bother coming. We had a sermon in the morning and she was buried that afternoon.

I was bitter when the thought of our memories together crossed my mind. After a series of comforting, I went out and sat in the sun. Seeing the sun set made me feel better and thankful for my life. I had a delicious locally made meal and watched the villagers perform a ritual which bids farewell to the dead. A fire was lit in front of grandma's house and all the trees around it were pruned. The branches were used for the fire, giving way for a new start. They believe that the old vine branches hold all her joys and sorrows. Therefore they had to go just as she did. I slept at 11 PM when the ritual was over. I had no idea what the following day would present me with.

"Fadesi... Fadesi, wake up!"

I could hear someone call my name but thought it was in my dreams and slept on. 

"Aaaaah!" I hurriedly woke up when I felt a splash of water fall on me. "Heyyyyy! What's up??? You poured water on me!!!" I yelled out. 

"Yes and you better wake up before I pour the whole gallon of water on you!" 

It was her again. "Nyabaraka" She never stops to amaze me with her nagging behavior. Nyabaraka is well known for her harsh attitude in the name of installing good ethics in the youth of our village. 

This was like 4 AM and I hardly got any peaceful night sleep from the time I went to bed. How could she expect me to work outside at such an hour. "Alright, alright... I'm going out to sweep. I hope it makes you the happiest person ever on earth," I said and mumbled the last part since it would call for shouts and counsels putting me off. The courage to say all that emerges from the fact that I could find an animal shelter and hide in it, and sleep until 8 AM when the kraal is opened for the animals to go grazing in fields of green pastures.

I carried a small blanket with me out and she let me take it for it was so cold outside in the morning. I could see my age mates with hands back-folded heading to the farm. This life is hell for someone used to free city life. In the village, like it or not, you just have to go to the farm. Mind you, it is without sweaters and barefoot because shoes are kept for church and other special events, weddings inclusive. I wonder who came up with the phrase "No food for lazy man." Whoever it is should receive my hat's off. That person doesn't know the impact it has on the lives of village people.

I lived for a week despite my plan, which covered a three weeks duration. I made myself believe that I'd be spared from all that because I came for grandma's funeral but hey, I was there waking up at 4 and sometimes with the help of water since my hangover took me time to hear a mere voice of person waking me up. Village life can be a pain, for sure. Lucky enough, sweet things accompany it for free. Talk of the farm, it's hard to work in the dry soil when it's cold but as the sun rises, you have plenty food at your disposal—either cooked or freshly packed fruits. Learning the culture and customs is amazingly awesome. Peculiar stuff happens and you won't ever find them in the city or movies. That's it, life the African way through my lenses. 

Read next: Fun Mishaps
Uchizi Phakati
Uchizi Phakati

I was born and raised in Malawi, later moved to the United States when I was 17. I've been to Ethiopia and Togo. I love writing and traveling. Please read the stories and help me raise money for college. I'm also into Photography.

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Life the African Way
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