Monday had us finalising our handover document so that when the next teams would arrive they’d know exactly what we did and what they needed to do. We worked from home for the day, working together to edit and finish off each section whilst also getting our slides ready for our project pitch on Wednesday.
On Tuesday I attempted to round the house up for the morning exercise routine – it felt a bit reminiscent of waking up my brother for Christmas – but people did not match my enthusiasm and half of them stayed in bed (something I would come to wish I had done too). We began by running around the block, stopping along the way to do exercises such as squats, push ups and star jumps. We round the corner and I see our familiar van at the bottom of the hill, to which we’re told has ‘broken down” and we must push it up the hill to get it back home, despite sounding like a running car to me. So in classic military fashion one group would push it up the hill while the other group did push ups and sit ups before running to catch up to swap with the other group and push. The car miraculously recovered when it arrived at the top and drove back down, forcing us to push it up once more.
I arrived home shattered and enjoyed my first ever bucket shower, embracing the cold water and even successfully washing my hair. We had the best breakfast of the month with our eggs finally soft boiled and sat out on the porch enjoying the 60c avocado addition that everyone would miss.
We pushed through our emotions of it being the last day of project and tied up all our loose ends while preparing for our project pitch the next day. For dinner we suffered through nsima and afterwards people stayed awake a bit later than usual, starting with a game that had us bending down to pick up a small cardboard box with our mouth, without having any body part on the floor except for our feet. Much harder than it sounds. There were a few champions by the end and a lot retreated to their bedrooms, keen for a good sleep before the last day. I stayed up with a couple of others and played cards while enjoying my first ever cup of dry corn flakes with peanut butter and honey, something you should definitely try.
We woke up on Wednesday, our final day in the house and somehow struggled to get ready on time despite succeeding every other day in the month. The morning song which was our alarm to get ready – Love Today, Mika – started while people were still eating or getting dressed and it all became a bit of a madhouse, trying to run to our morning meeting in time (unsuccessfully of course).
After some frantic practising each team did their pitch, explaining to the group what they did for the month and what was achieved, and what needs to be done in future. It really solidified our success and was nice to share it with everyone.
We headed off for our last lunch at Crossroads together before heading home to pack our stuff and do a big house clean. With the house empty of our belongings, our bags under the carport and our obligatory family photo taken, I became a bit emotional, not wanting to leave the new comfort I’d found in the village, in our home, and within my new family. We found a group of people where everyone could be themselves and be loved for it; we could have way too much fun while being able to be open and vulnerable. We were a support system in ourselves and I think it’s safe to say we’d all be there for each other if ever we needed it (hopefully this extends to my being in Africa). Realising all this brought me to tears, rewarding those who knew I was going to cry that day and had been sitting waiting for the moment it would happen. But there was no shortage of comfort cuddles for me, which probably just made my situation worse, so I crammed into one of the vans, 12 people and our bags, and started straight from the $6 Malawi vodka bottle (with quality you’d expect for $6).
Back at Doogles it felt like no time had passed and we could remember just four weeks earlier having met everyone we had now fallen in love with. It was difficult to comprehend and to be honest, increased my emotions, so I rushed to get back in the cold shower I’d started my trip in and was grateful for the fact that I’d become more used to it.
We rocked up to Kalibu’s, our favourite Malawian restaurant for the month where we had the place to ourselves for our final dinner. Crossdressers and 80s throwbacks by my side, I walked in as Princess Diana, complete with corset dress, pearls and tiara and proudly named myself best dressed. With the place beautifully decorated we all crowded around for group photos and selfies before sitting down for dinner, classic rice and beans but this time with two choices of meat. Proving our status as locals in the country, when the power went out we turned our phone torches on with nothing needing to be said and helped light the place back up.
The first of many tearful goodbyes began as a few people went to separate accommodation before their flights out the next day. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one crying this time, and we all shared the same sadness as we accepted that this was the end.
We piled into the vans, deciding to skip the club and drink back at the hostel which we realised had closed up. After finding a taxi half of us went back out to head to the club, which ironically, was right next to Kalibu’s. We attempted to match the African dancing style again but settled on our own way when it was just impossible. The biggest project of the month had been learning the art of muzzing, and as we all struggled to put it into action we couldn’t help but laugh at one another, with no one quite perfecting the art except for those who had taught us. We headed out for some fresh air, ready to go back until we heard the song that had chased us all around Malawi. We ran back in and danced in a huddle, singing along to the lyrics, ‘no matter where you go, remember the road that will lead you home’, weirdly apt, considering all of us had made a new home in Malawi, and everyone bar myself were preparing for their flights back to their homes in Australia.
The next day we struggled to shake off the hangovers, getting only a few hours sleep after waking up early to continue the goodbyes. We lazed next to the pool for the day, jumping in to aid the recovery process and ordering another round to help us further. By the afternoon, 25 of us had become 8 and by Friday morning we were just 3. To cheer ourselves up we explored Limbe market, a strong culture shock and influx of people that we hadn’t experienced where we’d been during the month, completing our duties as tourists.
By Saturday night I had arrived in Cape Town and found myself completely on my own for the first time in a month or so. It certainly felt different and I wasn’t sure how I’d cope, but I was excited for the adventure that was to come, as this felt like the real beginning for me. I’ll miss the friends I made in Malawi but they can expect me to come running back to every single one of them as soon as I return to Australia, whenever that may be.