Mind the Gap
Most days, I hold two worlds in my head -my life in Canada and my life in Malawi - that seem to mesh together easily. I go to bed on a mat in a mud house, and just before I sleep I have a quick phone call with a friend from Canada. I wake up to roosters crowing, I sweep the yard of bits of clay, stray beans and kernels of corn, chwed bits of sugar cane and a discarded plastic package of Malawi Gin, then on my way to work stop off at Loti’s house and watch the morning headlines on the French news channel he gets by satellite. On my way to the internet café to send emails and look up resources for work I buy bananas from women wearing chitenges and sobey’s t-shirts, and we chat a bit in Chichewa. The bright sunlight at noon somehow reminds me of watching baseball games, although I also enjoy it for its own sake. My host family jokes that I should take the baby, Everson, back to Canada with me.
Then sometimes these two worlds jump apart. One night last week, as I was finishing dinner with my family, Mr. Maganga asked me how much it costs to fly to Canada. I ballparked in my head - $1500 ticket, 140 kwacha to the dollar – about 200, 000 kwacha. Shock. Exclamations of disbelief. It was as if I’d just announced that people in Canada sometimes had green or blue skin as well – something completely unimagined and unbelievable, that they were going to have trouble reconciling with the me they saw sitting on their floor. Len’s follow-up question was how many weeks it took to get there, and (I think) whether I went by bus. Ayerson noted that a car costs 90,000 kwacha, and no one in our neighbourhood has a car. A radio costs 1,800 kwacha and I think (although I’m not sure) that the radio that appeared at the Maganga house after I moved in was due to my first rent payment.
(I don’t really have anything to summarize this or give it much meaning, but it was an experience I thought I’d share with you)