Monday, June 18, 2007


I have just finished writing up my Malawi interview notes. It was very strange reading all these things that I had scribbled furiously, particularly as I wrote down so many truly irrelevant details. Nonetheless, it was somewhat soothing to write it down, and remember the amazing people I met and their stories.

What I found particularly interesting was, from the interviews, finding out who really stuck in my head, and who were faceless. Because despite the horrors of many of their situations, not every woman I interviewed left a strong imprint in my memory; I feel great guilt for that, but find it intriguing, nonetheless. And then there are some whose laughter stays with me - as we joked over the fact that she carried condoms in every available pocket, or about how chubby they'd got on ARVs.

In fact, one of the overwhelming memories I have of Malawi is laughter. People are basically incredible, in the depths of adversity they have the strength to laugh and joke. I loved that, and many of the women I really remember are those with whom I really laughed, deep gut-wrenching, belly laughs. There are a couple of genuine horror stories, which I cannot really share in this forum. But there are real moments of joy. Maybe that means I am not the best interviewer, that I don't get the best information out of people. Deposition training this week for my job sort of proved that. I do, however have more of a gift for connecting with people than I thought. And that's another reason why this trip was phenomenally important to me.

From left to right, Livas and Jennifer, who I interviewed, and Doreen, translator extraordinaire.

** A DISCLAIMER ** This is NOT, I repeat, NOT one of those horrendously patronising "oh my God, Africans know how to laugh" things, despite not having enough to eat. Of course they do. What my point is, that I'm not sure came across, is that I was there to find out how they had been affected by HIV, the violence in their lives, their husbands' infidelity and other wives. I wasn't expecting them to laugh with me. Further, the other interviewers and interviewees were not laughing as much... it was something about our particular interactions that brought laughter where others didn't. And that I find interesting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds so wonderful, the laughing, I mean. And I think that being able to know that you connect well with people and to experience that is far more important than getting information out of people...not that you don't know this. It's wonderful, that's all I can say.