I wake to the sounds of morning birds rising. Opening my door to a small courtyard garden, the air is slightly chilled and foggy. The dry season has started indicating winter is here, and I’m grateful for my wooly hat. I make my way to the borehole (water tap), which passes the residential garden. Here and there plants are nooked and crannied into any old space, where comfrey and hot peppers reign free, and passion fruit, air potatoes, and herbs remain camouflaged. Chickens are waiting to be let out. Wild tomatoes and papaya are sprouting in the banana circle that collects the grey water from morning dishes, and I spot a lavender plant for the first time nestled behind a nearby compost pile.
Morning chore teams assemble. I am assigned to seed saving which often involves tramping out to the staple fields collecting pigeon pea and tephrosia pods, shucked and seeds collected to be planted next year. Fridays are designated for Veg Boxes. Early morning, we filter into the commercial garden, which is beautiful and bountiful. List in hand we count out and harvest up seasonal produce (eggplants, bundles of greens, radishes, ect). I collect a cooler full of mint and handfuls of parsley. Produce is washed and divvied, and baskets are sent brimful of organic goodness to town for CSA (community supported agriculture) members.
The workday resumes. Beehives, medicinal garden, and fruit forest are underway. I can hear the Malawians dumping a new bucketful of groundnuts they’ve just harvested from the staple field. The kitchen staff, has just returned with greens from ‘memo,’ a lovely garden demonstration of household permaculture. A community training is taking place in the classroom. I bumble through Chichewa with the Malawian staff who are quick with a laugh and have smiles that melt into gold. The interns all swap stories, and are willing to lend a helping hand. The whole staff is trained in permaculture (even the night guards), which is extremely valuable in an environment where money, food, and resources are taxed and limited. Thus everyone here is mindful of the work they are doing, and the purpose of designing, demonstrating, and teaching a life that is sustainable as well as beneficial to the world around us. Though I am new, I feel both comfortable and inspired.