In the interior of Africa, the Great Rift Valley stretches from Kenya to Mozambique, a deep crevasse that cuts into a region of high plateaus before reaching its end point in the Zambesi Valley. In the crevasse lies a very long, narrow lake, the third-deepest freshwater body in the world, where the blue of the African sky is trapped and intensified in its depths. In many places the land rises dramatically up from its shores until it reaches the top of the rift and then flattens onto the undulating plateaus. The high altitude of these plateaus makes for a most pleasant climate throughout the year. Here is located a small unassuming country consisting of the lake and the land running along its western shore. Before the Europeans arrived, the locals called it the land of the lake. Now it is called Malawi. A country of stark beauty and extreme poverty, it is dotted with many small rural villages, comprising clusters of mud huts with grass roofs, centered around fields of scraggly maize. It is the land that Livingstone explored and his mission still functions on one of the high plateaus overlooking the lake. It is perhaps because of this that the missionary has been the one consistent outsider to this country. Known as the warm heart of Africa it is also often referred to as Africa for beginners. We arrived in this sleepy country just in time to witness its transition from a thirty-year-old oppressive dictatorship to multiparty democracy. A country-wide drought and crop failure was perhaps the first fissure in the autocratic rule of Hastings Banda. Rumblings of discontent were heard by the donor community, which had propped up Banda as a bastion against communism for thirty years, led to a withdrawal of support. It is into this setting that my family-my husband, a three-year-old, a one-year-old, and I-landed following a torturous thirty-six-hour journey from Washington DC. My husband had accepted a position with the US Agency for International Development and I became the trailing spouse. Here, in this, the quietest of countries in the world, I too would transition to a new and very foreign life style.