We moved into Manse #2 two weeks ago. It’s the place we will live for the duration of our time in Malawi and is, at most, a five minute walk from the church. I wrote a blog about the experience of moving in that somehow was deleted in the process of transferring it to the Internet. Once again,p I am trying not to let technology get the best of me, but it remains a difficult task.
The place we live is unreal. When we were unpacking, I told Hailey that, even if it never feels like home, this house will at least be a refuge from what goes on beyond the walls of the property. Step through the gate and you will be greeted by a mother hen and some of the chicks that live on the property -there are many. Walk up the pristine dirt driveway and you will notice an immaculate yard that would make the editors of Better Home and Garden envious. Mr. Masina is the Gardener and keeper of the property. He and his family live in a space called the Boys Quarter behind the house. His wife, Mrs. Masina, takes care of our cooking, cleaning and laundry. There are three children in the Masina family (Love, Chepa and Abi). The girls go to school, work and take care of the Boys Quarter and Abi goes to school and helps his father. The family speaks a bit of English, with the two girl children speaking the most clearly. It is comforting to have a family living so close to us, but is equally unsettling to have them serve us. I’m not sure if it is my own insecurities as a white male in a black world (which I will write about at length at another time) or if the idea of having servants around the house is an odd thing altogether, but it is definitely taking some getting used to (Nelson Mandela’s autobiography has my head in a beautiful mess with race, culture and Africa).
Over looking the front of the yard are two porches that serve as the entry ways to the house. This house is huge! It has a living room, dining room, kitchen, office and four bedrooms. Extending off of one of the porches is a separate guest room with its own shower and bathroom. We have plenty of room for guests! We were told that the outside room is for guests and the inside ones are for family or anyone who comes to visit from the U.S.
There is a manse committee in charge of everything that has to do with the house and some of them were here to greet us. The first thing we noticed inside the house were the newly painted walls. They gave the house a sterile feeling, which was odd considering we were in Africa. That feeling quickly left as night fell, people left and we were greeted by new visitors-the true locals. The house had been empty for 3 years (which seems asinine considering how large it is) and during that time insects had ruled this castle. They were curious about the new azungu (white people) that had moved in and came out in full force. The clean walls soon gave way to shoe marks and splatterings. Their reign was over; the Rohde’s had arrived.
Over our first few days we had many visitors, each of whom went out of their way to let us know that this place was our home and that we were to do with it whatever necessary to make it feel that way. But my home doesn’t have servants, a rooster that wakes you up before dawn or a giant yard. In my home you don’t have to worry about getting malaria in your sleep, sharing the bathroom sink with Charlotte’s giant cousin Chuck, or fear every drop of water that enters your mouth. My home is entirely comfortable. But we were prepared for the uncomfortable parts of living in Africa. We anticipated waking up earlier in the morning. And we brought a mosquito net, water filters and all sorts of spider stomping shoes. As I unpacked our bags, all of our things to prepare us for a different lifestyle, I came across photographs of my nieces. I cried like a baby. The things that we packed were supposed to help this house feel like home and, for the most part they have. But the photos wrecked me. I know that I will be fine here. What I don’t know is if, without the people I love most, this place will ever truly feel like home.