Two weeks back in Malawi.

It is dry. Dusty. A hazy glow rests on the horizon. The land looks crisp and yet the jacaranda blossoms are just emerging as if in defiance to the lands thirst. Just another of Malawi’s many contradictions.

It is good to be back. This feels like home. It’s the first time we have been allowed to stay anywhere for a third year and the familiarity and routine feel like comfy old shoes.

There are new faces. Many. And holes where old faces are missing. But soon the new faces will too become familiar old ones, and we will call them friends. It’s beautiful actually. I love how the International community reaches out and draws new members into the folds of its arms. I love how life feels like a constant evolution, like organic seed planting. I love how we old faces look for the new faces, and how we reach across cultural differences, language barriers, personality types and social comfort zones in order to welcome, embrace and nurture our community. It feels right.

Malawi can only be temporary, that’s the nature of this lifestyle, but the International community is home.

We are a tribe.

This is where we fit. Perhaps not forever. But for now.

For me, it has been a journey to arrive at this. It has been a gradual unfolding. I have a tendency to hold on to what is familiar, conventional and ‘the norm’. I don’t like surprises. I am one of those people who considers themselves spontaneous until they realize there is no map available…

Yes I know. Some of you are probably thinking how the heck did I end up married to someone like Bails. We wonder that ourselves. Often. But we are a team. He is the throttle and I am the brake.

And this nomadic tribe is our vehicle.

I know it is hard for folks at home not to worry. Most have no context for the choices we are making, no framework that we fit into. What about the children’s education? What about their friendships? What about grandparents and cousins?
Isn’t it time Bails got a regular job and we settle down?

We wrestle with these questions too.

But we generally only worry about the answers when we are in the UK.

Because we are part of a tribe, who are making the same choices. This is our normal.

We see our barefoot grubby children hanging out of tree’s, and chasing lizards, totally at home in the bush. The other day I giggled gleefully as I watched a new dad fretting when his 5 year old pulled down his pants and pee’d against the tree in the school playground. He looked over at us other parents waiting for disapproving glances, and we all gave him a reassuring ‘thumbs up’. Been there. We are all raising bush kids here.

We see teenagers, who look like teenagers. Some of them have recently left peer groups behind. It’s hard. Parents worry. But it’s okay. They are learning that ‘new’ is uncomfortable but ‘uncomfortable’ is okay. Homesickness and yearning for the old is normal, but that there is joy in the fresh awakening of new friendships, new experiences. They are flexible, open-minded, brave, resilient and often kind. They have been exposed to life’s sufferings. They understand that life is not a simple black and white sketchbook of rights and wrongs. They see the complexity of human suffering, often living in lands where the people live in abject poverty. They have grown up asking questions. And they know that often there are no answers, but they know that it is crucial to keep asking the questions.

They are a little ‘different’ to kids back home. We know that. But different is good, right? At least that is what we are teaching our kids. They are not scared of ‘different’. Their classrooms are full of different.

Different is normal in our tribe.

It has taken me 8 years to feel like I have both feet inside this nomadic caravan. I didn’t grow up doing this; I have had to learn to be flexible and brave. I have spent 8 years looking out the back window as old conventional norms grow smaller and smaller in the far off distance.

But today I think that I am stronger, braver and kinder for these 8 years.

And I feel at home in my tribe.


About Emily M. Bailey

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