Mia Kirshner on AIDS in Malawi

Kirshner: An interesting statistic with Malawi is that its forests are being stripped of its soft pine because of the amount of coffins that are being made because of AIDS-related deaths. So, you know, you just expect this place to be sort of gutted and to sort of just an inferno of misery but it was the opposite. I, one day, the end of the story because the beginning of the story is long but I got lost and I was walking on the side of the road in Malawi, my cell phone didn’t work. I really had no idea where I was. My guide or the person who is driving me didn’t know where I was and I’m sure to some of the people who are driving past must’ve look quite strange to see what they call, I believe, I’m deemed the [mazunga] there which means white person on the side of the road and I kept on walking and I got to this gas station and I ask, “Could someone help me please? I don’t know where I am. I don’t even know how to make a phone call to where I’m supposed to get back to.” And this woman who worked there came up to me and she said “I can help you. Would you like to use my phone?” Which was probably expensive for her and she helped me get back to where I needed to go, but as I was waiting for someone to pick me up, she said, what are you doing here and I said I’m here doing stories about HIV/AIDS and women in Malawi. And she said, “I’m one of them,” and we formed this unusual friendship, you know, and that was like an experience that really, like, kind of those people that you meet that kind of change your life. Like, here is this woman who work 7 days a week, is a single mother, she finds out while I’m there that her daughter is positive and she’s supporting her family. Her prospective husband gave her the illness and is out and left her and is out spreading this illness as well among other women, but, yeah, this woman is the most graceful woman I’ve ever met and the most dignified woman I’ve ever met and was so lonely because she couldn’t talk about her status. But in spite of that just exhibited such warmth and such kindness and, you know, it was really meeting her, you really saw the dichotomy of how cold her reality was, but this beautiful heart that existed in all of this and the grace that she existed in and the warmth.

Mia Krishner found unexpected grace and poise in a victim of an AIDS- ravaged country.

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