It seems like life revolves around food here in Malawi. We spend most of our time buying food and cooking food and then eating it. We’re eating foods that we’ve never tried before, and trying to make foods (like tortillas) from scratch because they can’t be purchased. However, we’re eating for enjoyment, rather than necessity. That isn’t true for most Malawians.
We’ve already discovered that life truly revolves around food here in Malawi-growing it, planting it, harvesting it, processing it, cooking it and then eating it. For Malawians, it’s a matter of survival rather than enjoyment. Meal times are silent and quick affairs focused on getting enough to keep going rather than social ones. But sharing a meal is still a mark of hospitality.
On Friday morning, we woke early (around 5:30) and got a lift to the campus of Africa Bible College, where we met Wilson Mvinya. He drove us to a feeding program (Hand of Hope) in an area just outside of town. We arrived around 8, just in time to help shell pigeon peas and open packages of rice and porridge to cook. The rice finished cooking around 9, and a group of about 100 children came in the gate and sat down on some mats. They sang some songs, and Amanda taught a short lesson. Then they came over to the cooking shed in groups of 10 to wash their hands and hand over their plates. Once they’d been served a scoopful of rice or porridge, they went back to the mats and ate. As the first group of 100 finished getting their food, the next group was let in, and the cycle continued until noon.
It was amazing to be there and to be part of serving. I don’t think I’ll ever view Tupperware the same again. We saw every imaginable container as a food bowl-from picnic plates to tiny lids to dog bowls and sandwich containers. After the program finished, we helped clean up and then went over to Wilson’s house for a meal. I didn’t think about it at the time, but we ate so richly there, especially in contrast to the food we had just served. I wonder if and how my perspective of food and possessions will change during our time here in Malawi. Because it really should change, given what we experience day to day!