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The Sounds of Our Summers

Aug 26, 2020

We sit outside listening to the Cicadas at Nani and Papa’s house, in Houston, Texas. The sound of a Texas Summer. They are fascinating, as foreign to us as monkeys are to our friends who live in America. Giving birth and raising children in Malawi has given me and my children the opportunity to learn to grow in wonder at the world around us. This fascination and wonder grows as we encounter different biomes while on furlough. We examine the cicada shell and watch videos to understand how a mature cicada makes noise.
Our Malawian summers have much different sounds. The familiar buzz of a mosquito at night. Branches swishing as monkeys swing from tree to tree, in search of guavas, papayas, mangos and edible seeds. We are lucky if we get to the fruit before they do. They swing onto our homemade treehouse, and slide down the slide as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a monkey to do.
Both Becca and I homeschool our children and get to explore the wonders ofthe natural world around us. We are always learning about different types of snakes, spiders, birds, and other animals. In our yard alone we have been able to learn to identify “harmless” snakes such as the brown house snake, from the more venomous kind. We have enjoyed our resident mosquito eating orb spiders, that craft their webs on the rafters and bushes outside of our house.
Our homes are near to the botanical gardens of Zomba, where the sound of rushing water reminds us of the Mulunguzi River that flows from the top of the Plateau, a source of life for both our animal and human neighbors. We watch Malawian children wash their clothes in the river as we walk along the mountain road at the base of the Plateau and hear laughing and eager chatter.
One of our favorite spots as a family is what we call the “climbing rock,” or the “burnt rock.” While we don’t have parks and playgrounds around, we love to “climb” to the top of the rock before rainy season hits, when the little paths that we discover will be grown over with brush. Later on in the year, this brush will be burned, along with the empty maize stalks around it as people prepare for the next planting season. Even little toddler feet are able to grip the rough face of the rock, as we explore our natural “playground.”
While these are some of the sounds that we normally hear during our summer, we enjoy identifying new sounds in a growing awareness of the diversity of the natural world around us here in the United States. These are the sounds that we will call to mind after we return home to Malawi, remembering the sounds of the places where our family live, and where we call home for a short while.
by Justine Hayes