After three full days of traveling I arrived safely in Malawi. Although I have been here for only a day and a half, I'm already in love with this beautiful country.

For the next few days the delegates and I are staying at the Kumbali Lodge, set on a farm, and the view takes my breath away. My favorite part about the hotel is the bed net — its main purpose is to keep out the mosquitoes, but it feels like a princess canopy!

Yesterday, I joined some locals as they gathered at the farm to perform and teach children how to dance. My favorite part was when a group of young boys danced with dumbbells. I can only imagine how much hard work and dedication it took for the boys to complete the routines in unison.

Today, on the way to Lake Malawi we stopped at a village market, where there were so many people, and you could buy anything from peanuts to clothes and fruit to unidentifiable meat. Our bus driver, Isaac, bought us a fuzzy, green, oval-shaped fruit from the baobab tree. The Malawians consider its solid white center to be a sweet, but I thought it was very sour and unlike anything I've tried in the US. One delegate — thankfully, not me! — was dared to eat dried, salted mouse. Isaac told us that young boys collect these mice and sell them on the street. The brave delegate said the mouse was salty (and furry), not something he would eat by choice.

The convergence of cultures is extremely interesting. When the airplane was just a few feet above the ground and I had my first glimpse of Malawi, I was shocked that all I could see were huts. (Don't worry, I didn't expect skyscrapers or elaborate city buildings!) But after leaving the airport it began to look more familiar — there were people talking on cell phones and billboards along the main road. Then today while I was on the bus, I saw women carrying tall, heavy baskets on their heads and young girls playing jump rope. The similarities and differences in our cultures help me to realize that even though we are living completely separate lives, we are also somewhat alike.

Throughout the week I will learn about Malawi and the type of work the UNFPA does here by visiting hospitals, clinics, orphanages, and surrounding villages.

For more information about Americans for UNFPA, go to americansforunfpa.org/getinvolved

Click below to read previous travel notes from Michaela:
A Trip of a Lifetime

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