Missoulians in Malawi 7


After a jet-lagged and harried few days, the first day of camp was upon us. We were situated at the base of the gorgeous Mount Mulanje, using the campus of the local primary school. We spread our classes across classrooms and patches of red earth, our music and poems spilling through the open windows. The village children flooded doorways with their chatter and excitement, and one of us was always outside with them, teaching them the basics of duck-duck-goose or how to do a simple pirouette.  

Heather Adams, director of the Downtown Dance Collective, Katrina Johnson, owner of Amplify Film Group, and I, a middle school English teacher at the Missoula International School, traveled to Mulanje Village, Malawi, Africa, to inspire girls to express themselves through words and dance. 

Each day was a rush of color and energy, spontaneity and chaos, and, of course, absolute joy. The girls and elders and children would greet our van with songs and dances and our days began with the delightful revere and rhythm that is Malawi. 

As the days progressed, the opening circles grew longer, the hugs deeper, and the high fives, laughter, inside jokes, and hand clapping louder. We were a circle of acceptance, creativity, risk, and the glorious joy that is the present moment. The happy tears were abundant. Each class session was replete with new surprises of language, creative musings, and our collective limits.  

Sometimes you walk into a situation without any idea of what will be. That sort of blind and open-hearted abandon permeated this trip. By the end of the week, the girls had mastered and memorized poems that they had crafted. They had learned how to execute balletic lifts, tossing each other with their ridiculously strong limbs. They were singing harmonies, drawing self-portraits, and belting out chants of empowerment:

“We are girls with a vision,

Oh yes, we are on a mission!”