Arriving in the village today, we were greeted with a sound we had not yet heard: silent. We were immediately missing the singing we had quickly learned to love. Our fearless translators, guides, wonder women extraordinatire (Faith and Chifundo) let us know soon after that a member of the village had passed away last night. We were very sad to learn that the grandmother of one of the villagers had died. Uncertain if we would be welcome to work during the mourning period, some of us paid our respects to the family members who were mourning the loss of their loved one. In this village, that meant sitting on the porch with the woman who was mourning. With the help of our excellent translators, we communicated our condolences. After paying our respects, the chief of the village decreed that we would be allowed to continue our work, despite the fact that it was contrary to the mourning rituals.
Work on the houses began again, with almost everyone using scaffolds (both inside the house and out). It was slower going, as there was not as much room on the scaffolds for teams to complete each wall. Furthermore, we had to rely more one our expert builders (Harry and Bartholomew) to assist us with the technical aspects of the build (squaring corners and building the roof supports). Before lunch, I was surprised to hear singing -- the village had been unusually quiet all morning. We realized that it was the women of the village singing a gospel for the funeral procession. It was the beginning to a beautiful ritual. The women from the church of the deceased sing to mourn the loss of the loved one, and will keep singing all day and all night until she is buried (likely tomorrow afternoon). Standing on the scaffold, hearing the beautiful music, and seeing the men and women sitting surrounding the house was a surreal experience. The fellowship in those moments cannot be expressed by words. Work on the houses slowed to a crawl by mid-afternoon, as wall after wall was completed. After being expelled from one of the houses by the builder (as there was no more work to do), some of us walked down the road to see one of the completed Habitat homes. We will be visiting another tomorrow, and can detail more about the complete houses then. It is a bittersweet feeling knowing that we will be walking away tomorrow without a 100% completed house, but it is tempered by the progress shown in the rows and rows of brick we have laid since we first arrived.
Following the completion of the build, we visited a local fabric market in Salima. We had the opportunity to visit the wooden market in the morning, and had come away with many trinkets and gifts for loved ones back home. Both opportunities to stimulate the local economy included much bartering with the local shop-owners, and a lot less room in our suitcases. To conclude the day, we went to the Red Zebra lodge for our farewell dinner, as this is our last night in Malawi. This also included an opportunity to celebrate Justin's birthday, and was complete with a cake, festive napkins, decorations, and a card. We are so lucky to have him with us on this trip.
We are all looking forward to getting back to the village tomorrow, and are honored that we are still invited to be a part of it event as they mourn the loss of one of their own.
This post was written by community volunteers Emily and Lisa Hudspeth.