Timonene (hello...in Chitonga!:)
 
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Here we are in May, only a few weeks away from Reflections for RIPPLE's official ending on May 17th. It's hard to believe this endeavor started 6 months ago in November 2013. Who knew our weekly winter swims would coincide with one of Chicago's snowiest and coldest winters. At any rate, the added chill and snowfall added to quite an elaborate planning schedule. We've got a swim in every gosh-darn week! And thanks to the dozens of contributions we are very close to achieving our target of raising $5000 for RIPPLE Africa. A sincere thank you to all who have donated.
This past weekend, Gardner and I took off on our run/swim early Sunday afternoon. Though a slightly cooler lake breeze wasn't quite up to the 70+ Saturday temperatures, 55 degrees and a cool on-shore breeze made for a very welcome change to our usual 20-40 degree norms. Perhaps it is the small green buds, reawakening of chirping birds or the fragrant floral scents that have lead to a more energized feel around Chicago's lakefront. I for one am beaming at the fact Spring is in full bloom. Hasta la vista winter!

Our afternoon jaunt toward Lake Michigan began by running through Oz Park, South into Old Town and past a...wait for it, Buddhist Temple! Who knew? Over the river and through the woods we ran, bypassing grandma's house for the sheer sake of storytelling: We had a mission, get in the water and stay in! Warmer air and water temperatures, 55 and 48 respectively, meant a few extra strokes could be had while stiff calves and hamstrings cooled in the shallower depths.

We even happened upon one Douglas Baker and Andy Hoffman, the latter who had dog sitting duties for a colleague. Alas, my Frisbee chasing, food hoovering, water swimming-self finally came full circle in thinking sometimes I really am part dog.

Sharing this afternoon sun and fresh lakefront breeze was a welcome reminder of simple, present-minded living so often found in Malawi. It's a simple observation and definitive difference in cultures, unconsciously having a more in-the-moment awareness.

This mentality shouldn't be solely connected to cheery, sunset-watching carelessness though; the present minded state rears itself to challenges and struggles alike. We could argue that they poorly prepare for the future, whereas their argument would be we're too far-forward thinking. In my opinion this is the root challenge faced in 3rd world cultures around the world, and a general problem of acceptance in the western world mentality. That sounds harsh, though only to emphasize the vast stereotypes between these two mindsets.

So, how do you find a balance both mutually beneficial and respectful to each side? This was the question that surfaced during my stay in Malawi, and became more poignant upon my return. It was because I had come full-circle in knowing my own environment, seeing the value of RIPPLE Africa's operations, and returning home. Three years later, it is a question still often pondered, hopelessly vexing in its enormity.

I would argue that the basis of this paradigm in culture and development revolves around education: An education that isn't simply classroom antics and pencil-meet-paper exams. Education needs to occur at every age, for every person. It needs to be farming and parenting education: It needs to be trade schools and sex education: And it sure as heck needs our western influenced 'best practices' being added to the mix. 
Yet, too many times cultures like Malawi are overrun by a desire to emulate Western world ideology, and then inundated with culture'less containers full of, for lack of a better word, crap. It's cross-border capitalism with flagrant disregard to the people on the ground. It becomes a state awash with an alien culture, and misunderstanding of lives lived elsewhere.

So many people in 3rd world countries will never get that to chance to understand 'our' other side . It is our duty, as observers to both sides, to strike that harmonic balance: A chord strummed amiss. And perhaps what has resonated so deeply with me in this mediation of thought, is that Malawi and other impoverished countries across the globe shine bright in so many walks of life. The adaptation of improved living standards, family values and environmental impact should be shared in all countries. We can learn so much of from each other. Education being the root factor in environmentally conscious, economic- balanced growth. Best of both worlds. It exists.

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