I want to introduce you to a girl who calms my tears but also makes being here more terrifying and difficult. Lusungu (pronounced la-soon-goo) is a 5 year old girl from my village, Chimembe and if I had to choose two words to describe her they would be incorrigible and jubilant. But, of course, two words are not sufficient and descriptions rife with adjectives do little but conjure a collaged or fragmented image devised of people you associate with such adjectives. Instead, I am going tell you what I know of Lusungu.

 
When I first arrived in Chimembe it was after dark and attempting to attach foreign names with the countless, indistinguishable faces was not only an overwhelming experience, it was mostly impossible. But one of the girls sitting closest to me had her face lit enough by the lantern light that I felt confident the next morning to greet her by name, or what I thought was her name. ‘Muli uli, Lusugio?’ I asked full of ignorance to which she responded with a shy smile that she was quick to cover with a hand. That evening was the same as well as the next morning and no one corrected me (I think they were mostly thrilled that I was trying and didn’t want to discourage me). But on the second evening, after testing myself with a round of names during supper and coming to Lusugio at the end, Lusungu looked up at me and firmly enunciated her name ‘Lu-sun-gu.’ This of course filled the children with laughter and she immediately lowered her head once again in embarrassment, but that night I got a glimpse of who this little girl was.   
 
After a few days of me being in the village, the girls began to warm up to me. They looked at me less like an alien to be weary of and more like a strangely coloured, physically and emotionally, goof to sit with and laugh at (one of the little girls Veraneta liked to practice her evil witch laugh with me, she’s quite a character as well). Lusungu was more timid around me than the rest of the girls but was also just less interested; she had other activities to carry out like chasing goats and dogs with the boys. But smiles from Lusungu are easy to come by and occasionally she would sit with me and let me hold her or play clapping games in which she would laugh ruthlessly at my clumsiness. One Saturday afternoon, I was eating lunch with my host mom and three of my host sisters in the fire hut when an alarming gust of wind came and threw the thatch from the roof. As the wind gained momentum, I sat deftly looking about wondering why mom host mom was lunging towards me arms outstretched and it wasn’t until we were covered in dirt and bits of thatch that I had realized what happened. My first thought was, ‘Oh no, all that work disappearing with one gust of wind’ but my host mom’s first response was laughter and as I looked about the situation and the soot speckled faces, I couldn’t help but laugh as well. (I think the idea of permanence is different in Malawi that it is at home. No one, except me, expected the thatch to last forever and the fact that it blew off in the dry season vs. the rainy was a lucky occurrence. Also, having it happen while the ‘mzungu’ was staying with them had to seem pretty hilarious.) As I stepped outside into the thatch covered space between the fire hut and the home, I noticed Lusungu in the corner of my eye stomping towards the mess. Her brow was furrowed and fists were pumping as she passed the gathering crowd of laughing women and launched into action beginning to collect pieces of thatch that, although light, were twice the height of her.  As the rest of us joined in, Lusungu continued to dominate the process in spirit. She trudged from the mess to the bush with armfuls of thatch and back again as the other children went back to chasing animals and pushing disks and as I took note of my scratch filled arms. After the clean up, she simply gave a brief pause to acknowledge the satisfaction of a completed task and went back to her business. As I attempted to give her a ‘high-five’ she opted for a handshake accessorized with a smile. This is Lusungu; this is who I am working for.
 
The injustice of our world is palpable and as I meet more and more remarkable Malawians the ridiculousness of it is absolute. Why do we insist in living in a world that stifles and excludes the intelligence, diligence, and love of people that make up the majority world? While the love I feel for people here and the anger I hold for our systems of injustice come together in my belly as fiercely beating sources of inspiration and motivation, it makes the reality of my summer here starkly apparent. I will do nothing to give Lusungu a more fulfilling and creative tomorrow and this makes entering my bed at night and leaving it in the morning unsettling and difficult endeavors. The impact of my efforts here will be a miniscule drop in a dysfunctional bucket. This is what makes EWB’s work important and this is what makes being here so incredibly disheartening.