Samantha, Malawi III

The colours of the marketplace in Malawi


The exuberant colours of an African market place indulges the senses. The rusty brown earth. The yellow, red and green of fresh fruit and vegetables. The dusty haze of the horizon under a fading blue sky. The dark African skin only highlights the bright entanglement of colour put before me. But there are some colours that do not belong. The white that is my skin. The blonde that is my hair. The blue that are my eyes. These represent something that is foreign.

As I wander further in to the market place, I am overcome by the sights, sounds and smells of Africa. A young boy and girl laugh as he splatters her newly washed dress with a mud ball. The look of playful revenge on her face as she chases him down the street tells me that she is as tough as any of the boys. The women sit by their stalls, weary from the day’s heat, trying to sell their produce for little more than a cent. The men are assigned the meat stalls and are shadowed by the scrawny village dogs, attempting to snatch any slither of food that goes unattended.

Suddenly, I notice that everyone has stopped and are staring at something. Someone. Me. An expression of open-jawed wonder fills the faces of those who wore smiles just moments before. The children shout “mzungu, mzungu!”, “white person, white person!” as they jump up and down excitedly. The babies begin to cry when they see me, but I can’t blame them for being frightened of the unknown.

It is not only the way I look that is foreign to them. It is the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I start to shrink under the pressure of their gazes.

Eventually, one of the men decides to ask me the question, and he smiles while thanking me profusely when I tell him that I will be volunteering in the local schools for 7 months. As the news spreads throughout the village, more and more people work up the courage to talk to me and I start to form friendships. During those moments, I realise that this is going to be the experience of a lifetime, and while I can’t even imagine the adventures that lay before me, I am determined not only to be one of the colours in the market place, but to be a part of their community.

Submitted by: Samantha Staker