NAME ::: John Mchaini COUNTRY ::: Malawi
I’m John and I’m a farmer here in the north of Malawi. My farm is just close to here in Gumi. There is also a hot water spring here, what we use for washing clothes. I’m 92 years old, but people don’t believe that. They tell me, you are telling lies, but then I laugh. I was born on the 19th of September 1919. I want to reach hundred years I always say, then I’m ready to die. My whole family got very old. My dad also got hundred years old before he died. So I think I will also reach hundred years, but for a long time people even doubted that I will be 50 years. Maybe 60, when I’m lucky, they said, because that is already old for people here. But I knew that I will get old, because my parents were getting old as well. And now people believe me.
There are many things that I remember from my childhood. When you live in this world, my parents told me, don’t fight with people, stay quite and work, keep harvesting your crops, than you will live happily. You might fear hunger from time to time, but when you stick to farming and your family you will overcome that.
When I was a child I went to school here. After school I went to Tanzania for some time. I worked in Tanzania for one year, but then my father died and I came back. That was in 1942/43. In 1944 I went to South Africa and worked there for five years, but again came back here after that. In ’49 I went again to Tanzania and came back in ’69, I worked there for 20 years. After that I had a short time in South Africa again before I went to Blantyre here in Malawi and worked there for 17 years and after that I retried. In Tanzania I worked as a clerk as well as in Malawi. In South Africa I worked for the South African Navy Forces. I really liked Tanzania, it was a great peaceful country at that time. I had left Malawi because there were no jobs here, but I returned when they wanted me to become a citizen in Tanzania. So I said, I’m Malawian, I can’t do that, but then they told me that I will lose my job when I’m not a citizen. Today I work as a watchman for eight hours a day, even when they told me, that I’m too old and that in my age you should not work so much anymore. At least now I have to work at daytime. I intend to work until I’m hundred. It helps me support my family. And I also really like to work.
I have three daughters and two boys, they are also quite old now already. The oldest is already 63 years. The youngest is 31 years. My wife is 60 years, so she is still young, but she looks older than me. That is funny, isn’t it.
When I was young Malawi was very poor. It started to become better when Dr. Banda returned from abroad. He helped the farmers and implemented tea farming for instance and a lot of people found jobs there.
What is most important to you?
In my life what is most important is farming or was farming. I always relied on farming not on my actual work. It was always my base. And also my family is very important for me. And as I said, I enjoy working, especially here at the school, where there are so many young kids. I enjoy having them around me. I really hope I can work here tip the end of my life.
What has influenced you the most in your life?
What influenced my life a lot was the different work I had in my life. I enjoy working a lot and it was always bringing money so that I could feed my children. Without it you are lost. So that obviously had a big impact on me.
Also when I travelled to other countries, that had a big influence on me as well. I would love to go again, maybe to South Africa or Egypt or anywhere else in Africa, but that is not possible now, because that needs money. It’s not that I feel to old at least. When I was in South Africa I liked it. I don’t know how it is now as I was there a long time ago, but I guess I would still like it.
What has been an important turning point in your life?
There were some. I always thought if I earn enough, I could build a nice house and start a business or buy a car. I always thought if I work very hard I could change everything. So I tried that for a long time, but at some point I realized that this is maybe not so important. It’s more that you can take care of your family and that you can follow god. I think god had a big impact on me and changed my approach to life. I’m here because of god and he is helping me. I have food and work and family because of god. I think today if I would lose faith in god, I would die right away.
What makes you happy?
I feel happy, when I meet new people, when I chat with them and have a good time. When I see strangers, I always enjoy that a lot. I love to meet new people. It’s so great to get to know them. I even have a penpal now in the Netherlands. I think when you have visitors, it just opens up a lot, you can laugh with them and chat with them. It’s so great.
What are you personally proud of?
I can say that I’m proud that god has allowed me to live so long. That makes me both happy and proud. If I would have died earlier, my children would have suffered, but now I’m happy. I have grown up children and that makes me very happy and proud.
What have been the biggest struggles in your life?
There were many things that I enjoyed in my life, even, when there were many problems, but I always found the good in it. My father died when I was young and I lived lonely without parents. I felt I will also die. But I overcame that and found my way, also through god. Before my mother died, she started taking me to the church and after she died I still went there. That gave me hope. I was the last born, so my parents were already very old when I was born. My brothers and sisters they all died also a long time ago. One of my brothers got 80 years old, but the others died younger. So I’m alone for a long time from my siblings.
What would you change in your life, if you could change something?
I think I would not change a lot in my past I think. I think I can’t say what I would change. I think that change is in the hands of god. If he decides that something in m life should be change, he will take care of that. If he says, you suffered a lot, so I will change your life now, maybe even not before I come to heaven.
What do you wish for your own future?
I think that depends of what god wants me to do. If god does not want that I change anything, I’ll not change anything. I wish for my future I think that I have more time, but I believe that god takes care of me.
I think at the end I wish I could travel more. Right now I would love to go to four different places. I would love to go to Holland, to the UK, to Germany and also America would be great. I think one day there would be enough for me. I would just like to see it. I think it’s also because I worked with people from all those people in the past when I was clerk, so I would love to see where they come from and how life is there. Just visiting and talk with them and seeing the countries.