3 Lessons from Living in an African Village

Malaihka School for the Blind =)

Malaihka School for the Blind =)

The rain has come today. A breath of fresh air. The kids are out prancing in the rain. And the dehydrated crops must be rejoicing.

It’s been quite a different but enlightening experience here in Munenga Village. First World meets Third World. An encounter far from the beaten path but one that was much needed.

It felt like just yesterday, the day before I disembarked for Africa, I was complaining to Amazon for the delay of my 2-day Prime shipment…oh how stupid do I feel.

And now…the halo of flies that circle me with every step I take has turned into a symbiotic relationship. The never-ending accumulation of dirt with every shower I take. The masses of unnamable flies and insects that surround my mosquito net every night. The few dozen ants that I’ve probably eaten in my meals. The arduous visits to the water pump day in and day out under the inexorable sun. Shoeless children sprinting across the sun baked fields, unwary of potential snakes, spiders, or other western-defined scary things. Life around me had become normal now.

And as I end my time here, this is what I’ve come to learn:

1.    Happiness Can be Achieved on <$1 per Day

Complaining about the minimum wage or your salary? Most people in the village survive on less than $1/day. And because the men support the family, most families of some times 10 or more, live on less that $1/day. Your minimum wage of $10/hour now seems a bit extravagant now, no?

Mud huts. Tattered clothes. Shoeless children and adults. No electricity. No running water. Although the people here live below the poverty line, one would not be able to tell from their faces. Faces of joy. Faces of laughter. Faces of happiness. You may counter and say you cannot compare due to the differing levels of living costs, but this is about happiness. And these are some of the happiest people I’ve ever encountered.

But how might you ask? It’s because they value family and religion as their top priorities in life. In the village, everyone is a family member…an uncle, a sister, or a brother. They sing, they dance, and they greet. Greetings of “good morning” to “good night” will be heard from every corner of the trail from dusk to dawn.

Maybe they don’t have the means of comparison. They don’t have Facebook or any mode of social media to be envious of anybody else. They are unaware. But they have family and religion. And that’s all they need.

2.    Make the Most Out of Nothing 

Most people I know need the latest iPhone or technological device. Your once new and revered iPhone 5s is considered extinct and ancient with the arrival of the iPhone 6. This has produced a bunch of princes and princesses amongst us, living in a kingdom of never ending extravagant wants and wishes.

But do we really need that new iPhone 6?

Volunteering at Malaikha, School for the Blind, has really opened up my eyes to the difference between wants and needs. Children here are not only living below the poverty line but face disabilities ranging from blindness to deafness. They don’t have much and the clothes from their backs are all donations. You can even see the wear and tear most of these clothes have faced, shown from the faded colors of multiple washings and the harsh landscape. But who cares? They make the most of what we call “nothing.”

3.    Be Grateful for Education

Education exposes us to the most blissful yet monstrous experiences of this world. It opens us up new doors and gives us a guideline of how we might approach them. It connects the old to the new world, as well as the first to the third world. It provides us motivation to aim higher and stories that humble us.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to obtain a quality education should be grateful given it is certainly a luxury to be educated. With lack of teachers, resources, and supplies, it is extremely difficult to obtain education in rural parts of the world. As a result, children growing up in villages may never experience a world outside of raising cattle and growing crops. If you ask them what they want to become when they grow up...teacher, nurse, farmer. That is all they know.