It is the August the first, 2019. I am in France. The sky is yellow and orange and I drift with that light back to Malawi. So beautiful, so breath taking, so vulnerable too. It is nightfall and it is getting really dark. Looking up I can see the stars.
This is the same starry sky, and yet the night is different. Everything that happened to me today is getting its place and makes way for the next day. I feel at ease, I am on familiar grounds and there is nothing I have to do. Nothing? Well, not quite: I intended to go through my pictures to share with my travel companions. For some reason, I am not getting it done.
Exactly one month ago a returned from Malawi. With a team representing ‘Cycle for Plan’, I rode 500 kilometres on my bike to raise money against child marriages. Every one of us rode the same route and each one of us had his or her own personal journey. Is seems like a million years ago and at the same time I remember so vividly, it feels like yesterday. Being back home physically but not quite mentally, I pick up my daily life.
Talking about Malawi is talking through pictures. About daily rhythm: getting up early at dawn, getting packed, packing up the tent, eating breakfast and away on the bike to tour in an environment that keeps surprising me. Stopping for a snack and a little while after that lunch. At moments I am just biking with myself and my own thoughts. At other moments I am waving at children and adults along the road. Arriving at the next stop, being happy the tent is up again and the fact there is water to freshen up and to share with your team, eating the lovely meals prepared by our multitalented companions. Sometimes a campfire and then crawling in my sleeping bag to fall asleep and to wake up in a new day with again the dirt roads and the breath taking landscape ahead of us, ready to be concurred.
But talking about Malawi is also talking about how the team gets closer every day: ‘Malawi buddies’. Every individual milestone is celebrated. We are so super-proud we raised 86.564 euros! That too is celebrated with warm welcomes in the villages where Plan International in collaboration with other NGO’s actively supports community initiatives.
This challenge, this tour, against child marriages started about a year ago when we entered for Cycle for Plan, Malawi 2019. Being ambassadors against child marriages and pro education and empowerment, we spread the word in smaller and in larger groups about the impact of child marriages; not just on the life of one girl, but also what it means to a whole community.
Every change starts with a small vibration and a lot of these become a big wave. We listened to the stories of the young mothers and witnessed them in real life. They are role models with resilience. They have great impact on their society. I am thankful for every memory. They will always be with me.
When I look at the starry sky in a country where I can have everything I want, I become quiet. Every impression, every emotion that cannot be captured in pictures or words, make my tears run down my cheeks. Step by step I come home. Not just physically but also mentally. I am so glad we were able to make a difference in a girls life.
Thanks to Marjolein van der Klauw and Marcha Tjon Poen Gie, who contributed to my collection of pictures.