The majie(water) has been chakujewla(off) for nciku(couple days) now, it should have wafeka(come back) chakuyatsa(on) ooka (here) zulow(yesterday) masanna(afternoon), but it’s uolace(lazy).
They keep saying once I’m here for a year I will be fluent in the Chitonga language. It’s funny, only Tonga people are saying that. Even Tonga people will tell you it’s an outrageous language to learn… “English is very easy.” You will only ever hear the Tonga say this.
I feel challenged. If I learn one word or phrase a week, it’s 52 words or phrases a year. It’s not “learning the language”, however it does make the people freak out when they hear Tonga from an American.
The Tonga people are my heart here.
There are 3 basic tribes in my area: Tribe Tonga, Tribe Timbouka, and Tribe everyone else that comes to visit. It’s a real transient town.
Because of it’s location and beauty Nkhata bay is a major vacation destination. There are 4 major lodges here, which is a great place to get a non traditional meal for about $5/6 (what I now consider a major expense). I go about once a week, Mostly for internet… And sometimes a burger… yes I have access to a burger! It’s pretty good one too!
I feel spoiled, sometimes I think I’m not suffering enough. Then I remember that my job is not “to suffer”. As my pastor once told me, “you can’t choose to be a martyr”, I have spent a good portion of time analysing: why this place, why these people?
It’s clear to me now.
One day I heard a girl at one of the lodges sum it all up nicely, she is a volunteer in the Southern part of Malawi and was on holiday, “it feels so good to wear my regular clothing! I was walking in town earlier and everyone was looking at my shorts, I know they are super short but I thought to myself ‘no one knows me here’, so I don’t care! Ha ha ha!”
This is true of most of the visitors, they work hard in their own communities to gain respect and show the heart of their mission. But when they come to Nkhata bay, they are usually suffering from care givers fatigue. They come here to have a burger and a beer and wear their short shorts. All the while being quietly observed by the Tonga people.
It is no wonder I am told over and again, “we didn’t know white people knew God?” It is a heart breaking statement. There are not many missionaries they stay here for long. The moment they realize it is a party town and taste the way Tonga people can offend with their brash and crude humour, they book it out. All the while, there is an entire community suffering for so many things. Almost as if an entire village can be hidden under short shorts and endless parties. Did I mention that it is not uncommon for several people to die in the lake on any given holiday or weekend? Rape happening openly on the beach during a party? Gangs mugging the people passed out, and the ones walking home from work?
I don’t go out. I don’t go to parties. I don’t allow anyone at my house after dark. I don’t go to the beach on holidays. I protect myself the best I can. All the while, Tonga people are in the background hauling the firewood, watching people act like animals and wondering if that’s the way the whole world is? They can’t travel much, I know many people that have never even been to muzuzu (a city one hour drive away) so a different perspective must be brought to them.
I’m blessed by the ripe field before me. I understand why it had to be me here. I feel as if every thing in my life has been building me to survive in this place. I live in a broken paradise. It’s beautiful, there is access to burgers, clean water, market Monday’s, electricity, and my small sceptical community that challenges me every time I walk out of my house.
What more could a girl ask for???
How much do you allow yourself to be challenged?
Are you seeking a challenge?
Wanna come visit me? …I have burgers. 😉