April 2003, 25 of my classmates and I had just finished a grueling week of homestay. It was so horrible that I jogged uphill for almost half an hour to get away from the home I was staying in. To my great delight, Dr. Arensen appeared in his Land Cruiser about halfway up the hilll we were sprinting. In retrospect, my intense joy at escaping the homestay village probably hurt the feelings of my homestay family. In my defense, though, I tried to have a good experience, but it's difficult for me to remain upbeat when I can't sleep and I'm stomach sick and forced to "go" in a squatty potty with questionable bamboo lattice work as the only thing between me and a hole filled with a rather disgusting mess. Some of my peers were sad to leave, but I was definitely the first one to say good-bye and hop in the car.
Dr. Arensen was brilliant enough to know that after such a stressful week, we would all need a little debrief time, so we drove directly to a retreat center on Lake Malawi. It was too warm in the cars without air-conditioning, so many of us rode on top of the cars (one perk of being in rural Africa) to enjoy the beautiful scenery and cool breezes. It rained on our way, we were hit in the face by thorny branches on occasion, and we got completely filthy dirty, but I remained inexpressibly happy. Upon our arrival at dusk, most of us dove straight into Lake Malawi even though there was a lightning storm visible on the horizon. This moment gave Barb Arensen a chance to be motherly and Jon a chance to tell her to stop worrying and encourage our shenanigans.
Despite the fact that I got one of the worst sunburns of my life and had to sleep in my bathing suit because I'd given my homestay family most of my clothes, Lake Malawi was one of the best experiences I had in Africa. This picture Barry took of Jamie, me, Brian, and Allie in our canoe perfectly captures my joy.