Archived Blog: Why there is no single story of my life in Malawi.

My 2014 new years resolution was to blog once a fortnight. Its May, this is my second blog. I’m clearly finding this resolution hard to keep, which got me wondering why I find it so hard.

There are a collection of reasons that I find blogging difficult, including my time limitations and unsureness in the purpose or target audience of this blog. But I recently re-watched this TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie about the ‘Danger of the Single Story’. If you haven’t watched it, I sincerely encourage you to do so before you read on:

Watching this clip reminded me that one of the many reasons that I find blogging hard, particularly blogging about my life in Malawi is because there is no single story that can convey it. Furthermore, I am hesitant to convey any single story to you, at the risk that I will contribute to the culture and practice of the single story of Africa and Malawi that many people have.

My life, work and community here is Malawi is astoundingly diverse. A friend recently stated that in Lilongwe we have no need to travel to see the world because Lilongwe is a cultural melting pot of the world. On any given day I see incredible poverty, but I also see incredible wealth and I see amazing hearts and initiatives that are seeking to bring these both into balance. I also live a contradictingly urbanised life, in a country of which the vast majority of the population live rurally.

As Chimananda talks about in the TED talk, if we only have single stories of people, we are left with little room for other feelings towards them but pity. We regularly do that in our media exposure of Africa and I do not want to be someone who contributes through media to a negative stereo-type that provokes pity. What you may not realise is that the vast majority of my Malawian friends and colleagues are highly educated, driven, remarkable creative and brilliant people. I am daily inspired by their hearts, ingenuity, drive and persistence to create markets and businesses and contribute to their country and the world.

You may have a single story image of what life looks like in Malawi, and I’m guessing if you do, it is wrong. Your single story of Africa might not be as extreme as the friend-of-a-friend who recently asked if we ride Giraffes to work in Malawi. But you might have some concepts or ideas of Africa that are misinformed. So, I dare you, instead of letting the WorldVision adverts and Westernised Media be the exclusive informant of your understanding of Africa, to dare to learn about the brilliant music industry that happens across the African continent. To YouTube, spoken word poems, TED talks and stories from different African people or to read and research the inspirational literature like ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ by William Kamkwamba. Or I encourage you to look into the unique and beautiful fashion and textiles industries that happens across the continent or the resourceful and hard-working health industry that is growing, despite the overwhelm on demand placed upon it.

It might be easy for you to believe the single story that I have come to Africa exclusively as a contributor, to help ‘save’ this country. I know this because 6 or so years ago, I believed this single story. But if you do believe that single story you are very wrong. I do endeavour to contribute where I can, and this can include many different things from sharing my knowledge and resources to being the one who does the fast-food run on a Monday night when we all work late. But I receive in ways that far outweigh my giving. I am generously cared for by colleagues and friends and I am inspired by others open, creative sharing. Far more of my time here is spent being the pupil rather than the teacher as I am daily taught amazing new lessons about how reciprocated love works and how the concepts of ‘capacity development’ work best within reciprocated love.

One reason I feel such a need to convey these thoughts and the reason I am so charismatic in sharing this TED talk is that I used to have a single story of ‘Africa’ and of my plan and God has turned it upside down and showed me that I will have many diverse stories, most of which wont fit together nicely in a blog entry. But of these stories of triumph and failure, poverty and wealth, consistency and diversity, the planned and the unexpected. I know that if God is the author and the glory, then the many stories of my life will hopefully contribute to the only single story I hope I tell, which is the one of His coming Kingdom.

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