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Diary of a Volunteer





Feb 1997
Jan 1997
Dec 1996
Nov 1996
Oct 1996
Sept 1996
Aug 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
Feb 1996
Jan 1996
Nov 1995
Oct 1995
Sept 1995
Aug 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995
April 1995


Things Change!
All about the cheery subject of splitting from your partner! More...More

Some Things Never...
More Far-fetched Football Tales More...More

Feb. 1996

Typical image of Rachel, writing letters

Not sure about writing to all my friends and telling them I've split up with Rachel in a newsletter! (Even less sure about informing the world, three years later!!)


Things Change

THINGS change! Things change for you; things change for me (I wouldn't be in Malawi if they didn't); things change for everyone. Newly-weds divorce - things change. Promotion becomes a lurch into redundancy - things change. Old friends seldom seen, are replaced by unwanted acquaintances - things change.

Okay, this is a somewhat pessimistic view of the world, but it is still an indication of what change is all about. Change scares us, but can add vitality to life too. We need change, to keep life interesting. Though the process can be uncomfortable - we must examine ourselves and our new aspirations - we are happy of change.

Not surprisingly, things change in Malawi; things change, rapidly. New volunteers arrive (or ex-patriots, or...); whilst old volunteers throw wild, lavish parties, and then promptly leave. Friendships change too: strangers become new friends; friends become close friends; and friends (sometimes) sour to enemies. 'Marriage', 'divorce', whatever - no friendship stays the same. It is a microcosm of home-life, with yearly cycles condensed to monthly ones: new neighbours, new activities, and new opportunities.

This change affects Malawians too, but in a different way. For Malawians are dying at an alarming rate - more funerals, more condolences, and more and more coping with death. (Malawians seem to have an indefatigable spirit.)

This change affects Rachel and myself. A 1995 that consisted of some difficulties between us, but mostly consisted of fun and adventure, has been transformed in the two months of 1996. As of February 19th, we have split up; we are living apart!

I don't mean to be dispassionate in telling you this news, or impersonal. The last few weeks have been extremely difficult (but even then there has still been an enjoyable friendship between us). It's just that this has been February for me. So, after over 6 years of being together, we have decided to part; to become separate individuals again.

The immediate change, therefore, is that I now live alone. And Rachel; she is attempting to live at another volunteer's home until she can find a permanent home. We still see each other, and we are still friends. The flat often feels empty now, however, so returning here after work is sometimes a depressing time.

As you can imagine we're finding life difficult. It is hard enough in Britain to split up, after so long - surrounded by good friends and family; Malawi doesn't provide such a support network for us though. Our amicability does mean we can support each other a little (if that doesn't sound too perverse).

So. Things change. Now I try to have the flat looking as tidy and clean as possible, if I know that Rachel is going to visit. Now I make sure the bed is clean and presentable. Now I don't find other things to do - like this! - if she is here; I listen to her and try and attend to any needs she may have. Now I make more effort in food-preparation, make sure there is something she can eat.

Things change. (And even these changes may change, as our relationship inevitably cools, and each other's company becomes less important to the other.)

Right now, though, it feels like we have returned to first-dating. It feels like, despite our past intimacy and our several years together, it feels like we have become attracted strangers. No assumptions, and no expectations; we just listen and support.

Each time I see Rachel, I still fear the dreaded news of some new romantic adventure, or - and this is worse - I fear her indifference towards me, a time when I am simply not important to her.

Each time Rachel sees me, she expects to hear of my next fling. (A fear that does have some historical, and painful, precedence for her.) And how long will it be before I weakly seek the comfort of another - another warm bosom?

Things change. And in a few years from now, all this will have been smoothed over with the steam-iron of time. Maybe I'll still be single, living the enviable life of the casual lover, roaming wherever. Maybe I'll be married to my next lover; married, with children. Maybe I'll be married... to Rachel; our troubled souls more at ease, able to enjoy our undeniable kinship.

I'm glad things change; I am. But there are dark moments of despair, of solitude, of regretful wishing over opportunities past. Living alone is going to be hard. Living alone in Malawi asks awkward questions about ambition, about work, about family and commitment, about travel, about contentment, and about desire. Questions I must answer, for me to change.

Things change - for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer - things change.

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Some Things Never Change

I STILL play football for teams with crazy names, like Royal Insurance Social or - and this is the latest team I've played for - Merlin Wizards! (I thought Torpedo was a daft name, but Merlin Wizards!?)

I still manage to score in every game I play in, be it eleven-a-side or five-a-side. Looping headers to the far corner, or sweeping moves ending in a simple tap-in.

And I still manage to miss glaring chances for goal. I Skew it left or hoof it over - all spectacularly bad, and all deserving of the moniker 'Shot-Shy'.

I still enjoy football, though (especially the bit where I can tell you how wonderful I've been playing). I try not to think that I am getting slower, or less clever. And I try not to think that I will go that game without scoring (winning always seemed less important than my scoring, for some reason!).

I think I will still be playing football in my sixties, as well as being the old man in the corner bopping like a young un down the local night-club. You see, not everything has to change. (Imagine if it did. I would grow old, and stop playing football and start playing snooker, instead - eek! Or instead of grinding to James Brown, I would be tapping my feet to Cliff Richard (double eek!!).)


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