I'm sorry, again, for going so long without posting. I wrote a good few blog posts that I just never got around to typing up, my last month in Malawi was pretty hectic. I'll try and summarise it in one, digestible, blog post:
We achieved our goal of hiking all three of the mountains around Blantyre - Not only did we hike to the top of Mt Soche, but we went back to Michiru and hiked to the summit there too, since the first time we didn't actually go very far up. On the way back down we got a bit lost and had everybody in a bit of a panic that we'd be stuck up there all night with the snakes and the hyenas, but eventually we managed to find our way back down again and made it safely back home thanks to our good friend Sylvia, who, knowing it would be too dark for us to walk back by the time we got down, came to pick us up in her car.
During the school holidays the Samaritan Trust sends as many kids as they can to stay with their families, to try and rebuild relationships and ease them into the process of moving in with their family full-time. This meant that there were only a handful of kids left at the centre for our last week, which was probably for the best since having all of the kids who we'd really build up relationships with there would have made it much harder to say goodbye. Although it was tough figuring out what there was for us to do there, I'm so glad we had the experience of volunteering at the Samaritan Trust. The children there are the most respectful and charismatic kids I've ever met. I really hope and pray that they stay on the right track and really make something of themselves, there are some ridiculously intelligent children there and it would be heart-wrenching to see their talent go to waste.
Even if I forget all of the specific memories of the good times I've had in Blantyre, I'll always know that I loved it and it was my home, because I'll never forget how I couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks as my bus left the city, and the only comfort I found was in telling myself that I'll be back some day.
Leaving Blantyre was such a momentous incident that I wasn't really thinking about the two weeks ahead of me. The following morning I was up at 4am to catch my bus to Zambia, I said a quiet goodbye to Catriona, not feeling too sad since I knew I'd be seeing her again in three weeks' time. Despite all the brilliant experiences I had in Malawi, the ten days I spent in Zambia were the highlight of my year. I only went to see Sarah, my friend from high school and college, but I had the most amazing spiritual high from being a part of the Coptic Mission in Lusaka. From the quiet time and sharing, evening Bible studies, to the visitations, volunteering at the school, visiting hospital patients and making some really great friends, my time in Zambia really united me with God and taught me a lot about what it really means to be a Christian. Underneath all of this, it was really interesting to see the differences between Zambia and Malawi. My last trip to Zambia strictly followed the tourist trail, but this time I was out and about in sub-urban villages, the Zambian equivalent to where Catriona and I were living in Malawi, but with tarmac roads, relative peace and quiet (Zambians don't blast their music half as loud as Malawians do) and although there were plenty of calls of "Azungu!" I wasn't once asked for money.
By the time I was back in Lilongwe, I was ready to leave, accepting that it was time to move on to next chapter in my life. The time I spent in Malawi and Zambia has shaped who I am, I've some absolutely elating moments and faced some agonizing challenges, but I wouldn't change one second of it. To echo my partner, no regrets here.
Thank you again to everybody who made the experience possible, everybody who supported me. If you're ever thinking of having the Project Trust experience, or going to live in a developing country for a year with a different organisation or off your own back, I whole-heartedly recommend it, and would love to help support you in any way I can. If you supported me or are thinking of supporting a future volunteer financially and are wondering what difference it makes: Yes, I helped African Children, but the bigger difference is yet to come. I've learned so much more about Malawi and about it's problems than anyone could learn from years of studying through books and the internet, and I want to use this knowledge and experience. I don't know how I'm going to do that yet - maybe through a charity, or another kind of development organisation. Maybe it won't be in Malawi but I certainly won't go into any other countries, not knowing them at least as well as I know Malawi, and start trying to change things around. Whatever I end up doing, I want it to benefit other people and I can guarantee that my ability and motivation to do it will be a result of my year in Malawi.