Alarm goes off.
“Man I’m hardcore”, I think to myself. Although I’m not feeling that great about it, ’cause my “hardcoreness” has actually been on recent hiatus, and I haven’t woken up early enough to do my sunrise exercise routine for a few weeks now.
Quick trip to the latrine, then next door to the empty church building to crank out some push-ups, sit-ups, and chin-ups off the church rafters before heading out for a run.
Running along the main dirt road away from the village and our tiny trading center, my feet take me out of the shadow of the few trees along the path, and into to the maize fields. The sun has been rising earlier and earlier these days, and even at 5:15 I’ve now long missed the first few rays of the sun that creep over the horizon.
It used to be that I was almost the only one up around this time, but last month or so, as daylight starting coming earlier and earlier, I started seeing some people walking out to their fields as I ran along. They were up with the sun to go and prepare the ground for seed planting in the upcoming rainy season.
Now I as run along for the first time in a few weeks, I can see that these people have already been out in their fields for some time this morning. Men, women, and children, hacking away at the ground with their hoes, breaking apart the earth to make a nice home for the soon-to-be maize sprouts. Sprouts that will grow into stalks, that will then produce maize cobs that will feed the people for the coming year.
“I guess I’m not that hardcore”, I think to myself. As I’m enjoying the luxury of being able to do some leisurely morning exercise, others have long been awake out of necessity. While my waking up has the liberty of being limited by my own level of hardcoreness for that week, these farmers are only limited by the natural light available to them.
Meanwhile at home, Annie was also up long before me, scrubbing the pots from last nights dinner with sand as an abrasive, preparing the porridge for breakfast, and heating water for mypost-run bath. All things she has to do before heading to school for her grade 6 classes.
This provides that romanticized view of life in the rural developing world that may often be overplayed in development writing, or used to pull the heart-strings of potential donors. But in this case, it’s just another small reality check for me.
A reality check that despite trying to get a better perspective of the way of life of the majority of people in the world, the liberties and opportunities that I have are still far beyond those of the people around me. My actual perspective is very limited because, although I’m living with them, I’m not even close to living the same life.
This has been a recurring thought for me since arriving here and doing my best to integrate myself with Malawian life and culture. It’s also far from a new concept for those who have made similar trips to the developing world.
There’s still loads of value behind the concept of integration that exists in EWB oversees placements, and this doesn’t mean I should go to the extreme and cut all ties to home in Canada, cancel my overseas health insurance plan, empty my savings, and become a sustenance farmer over here- All in the name of truly understanding and living rural Malawian life. That would be an entirely different experience, and there are some people out there who’ve done it, but would that investment pay off in the actual quality of the impact that I would have in the work I’m doing right now?
Things like my need for higher quality social interactions, need for electricity for my laptop, and even cravings for Shawarma :P, will effect the productivity of the work that I’m doing. Work which is mostly outside of the village setting, wearing dress pants and collared shirt, in meetings, in offices, and with middle class Malawian Government and NGO workers.
So for my own current reality, I’ll continue to take my morning runs, and try to consider the best lifestyle, perspective, and integration balance that will be optimal for me to fulfill the goals of the work that I’m doing here.