He is walking around on the compound with a fresh and athletic tread. From behind this watchman looks not much older than in his late twenties. He works full-time (at least for European standards) and obviously seems to enjoy his job here at the FloJa Foundation, a small organization that operates a pre-school here in Northern Malawi, the most dry and dusty part of the country.
John is 93 years old. And because no one believes him, he had to show his birth certificate more than once. The 19th september 1918 is written there, but you could easily also write 1950 and everyone would directly believe it. John looks by no means older than that we think and if there would not be the birth certificate and his amazing remembrance for all numbers and dates that shape his way through life, we would have had our doubts for sure.
And while the children are running around him, something he obviously enjoys, John tells us that his dad always told him to stick to farming and family and he would a have happy life and never starve. John laughs. “No, I did not stick exactly to that. I went to Tanzania and South Africa.” ’43 he went to Tanzania, a year later to South Africa, in ’49 back to Tanzania till ’61 then back to South Africa for some more years before he finally came back to Malawi. He worked most of his life as a clerk, but in contrast to that for the Navy Forces in South Africa, one of the reasons he moved back to Tanzania. “It was very peaceful at that time in Tanzania, I really liked it, but after 12 years they wanted me to take citizenship, but I’m Malawian, you know, so I had to leave again,” he says with a smile.
Now he is back at the place where he is born, working as a watchman. He tells us that he worked more in the nights before, but that Floor and Jan, the founders of the organization did not allow that anymore. “You are old John, you should also rest sometimes. We pay you the same, but please work at daytime and only eight instead of twelve hours, they said.” John laughs again. “You know, I always tell people, I will become 100 years old at least, but for a long time no one believed me. Normally people here become not older than fifty, but my dad turned 95 as well and my mum was also very old, so I always knew that I will become old. And now people start believing me.” Without a doubt.
When we ask him what is most important to him, he says: “If I would have died before my children grew up, they would have suffered. But now, where they are old enough, I’m happy. Life is good, I can enjoy every moment now!” And I had just found one of the biggest inspirations for life!