First-time visitors are reliable to come up with observation statements, often comparing things that seem similar to the way they are at “home.” The clothing, the coca-cola, car companies and brand names.
Isn’t it interesting that while we may love taking in the “newness” of things around us, our sight is drawn to what we have seen before.
With so many “differents,” our minds race to find “sames.”
In Nairobi, I often noticed people comment on the plant life. Trees, in particular.
As we arrived in the Blantyre airport, I jokingly commented, “Oh look they have trees here!”
Until I quickly realized that I WAS noticing the trees. A plumeria tree to be exact – taller than the guesthouse that we are staying in, and an undeniable fragrance.
My grandparents lived in the house next door to where I grew up. Amidst a trove of memories is the vivid burst of plumerias that would come out of a small plant not much taller than I – blooms quickly and carefully tucked behind my ear.
The season is nearly over for these precious flowers, and the draw towards familiar has turned to other things – to memories of the only other African country I have lived in.
Malawi is a different place – from the people that call it home, to the foods that make up it’s palate.
In Kenya, KIMBO is everywhere. Shortening we call it the States. Vegetable fat is the more accurate description in Kenya. This is not the case in Malawi – the ever dependable tub of fat has no equivalent.
This week, determined to make tortillas, I attempted to create the dough with margarine (after suggestions from my sweet sister-in-law who has explored the cooking frontier in this country for nearly two years).
Not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised to find the consistency similar to what I have known before. Satisfying familiar tastes.
Cooking is just one thing that will be different in this place. New things will become local treasures, as we learn culture, language and land.
I cannot make the mistake of thinking that I understand the way things work here. We begin as visitors observing, and slowly engage. I enter vulnerable, unsure of how to do much of anything – dependent entirely on others to learn. This isn’t a short-term posture, life overseas requires it as a constant.
The last few plumerias are falling, and much will change before they bloom again. Previous assumptions will be shed, and new life birthed into our growing family and our understanding in this place we now call home.