People have said that Africa grips you. It wraps itself around your limbs, embracing you, leaving an imprint on your soul. My own experience was no exception. I've always had a pull to go there: An almost obsessive fascination with its people and its culture. Once there, this feeling intensified. I felt as if I had come home. There was an innate sense of familiarity; of ancestral heritage that I couldn't explain. My origins stem from Europe, so why did I feel such a strong connection here? Personally, the cultural heartbeat of the country. I felt it wherever I went; with every exchange. Not in all my travels had I come across such lovely, warm, compassionate, openhearted people.
One exchange stands out in particular: My visit to the local witch doctor in Malawi. Our mix-and-match band of mzungus walked through a village near Lake Malawi and began to collect some local boys in our herd as we went. Each had a Western-world nickname: 'Cappuccino', 'Mr. Vegemite', 'Samosa Sam', 'Morgan Freeman'. The boys had clever quips about the reasoning behind their names, but most interesting was their honest, innocent curiosity toward our presence in Malawi.
Smiling, they asked when we'd arrived, how long we'd been there, what our favourite part of Malawi was, what our countries were like. They were thirsty to know more but not to exploit, to learn. After our conversation they thanked us sincerely, saying they didn't get opportunities to practice their English. Cappuccino, the younger boy, gave me an African name Chimwemwe, meaning happiness. He said I'd made his heart happy sharing with him. He shook my hand, smiled, and went on his way. I was touched. All this of course, happened before we even got to the witch doctor.