Alyson and Limbani Banda on vacation—Maji Zuwa, Malawi

Be My Valentine?

“Where are you from?”

“Texas.”

Limbani Banda was trying to make conversation with the young woman driving the car. They were sharing a half-hour ride to Karonga, Malawi, where he taught at Chaminade Secondary School. She was a librarian at MIRACLE Technical College, a sister school on the same campus.

“I was in the passenger’s seat, trying to ask her questions, and she was giving one-word answers,” recalls Limbani, who comes from a village called Embangweni. He smiles. “I didn’t know if she didn’t want to talk to me or if that was her personality.”

“See, I don’t remember that at all!” Alyson interjects. “But if it’s true, I must have been focusing on the road.”

Whatever actually occurred on their first encounter, the two became good friends over the next year. When they weren’t working, they’d watch soccer games in the staff room, chat in the thatch-roofed summer hut, or dance to reggae and Nigerian hip hop. On Saturdays they’d carpool into town to grocery shop.

Alyson and Limbani Banda at their wedding

Limbani soon fell in love. “Every time we were together, it was normal and perfect,” he says. “I’d think to myself, ‘It would be wonderful to be like this forever.’”

For Alyson, the realization didn’t come until she returned to Georgetown for the holidays. She missed Limbani and realized that she considered him much more than a friend. Two days after Alyson returned to Malawi, the couple began dating. They married on June 22, 2011.

After the ceremony, Alyson was informally inducted into the women’s group, a group of teachers’ wives who supported each other through thick and thin. “They told me how they all keep an eye on each other’s kids and take rotations preparing food when someone’s in the hospital. . . . That’s when I felt they’d accepted me as Mrs. Banda.”

After deliberating whether to start a family in Africa or in the United States, the Bandas decided to move to Georgetown, where they are close to Alyson’s family and have access to Georgetown’s schools. They arrived in October 2011.

“It’s been nice to see Georgetown through the eyes of someone who hasn’t experienced it before,” Alyson says, “and to rediscover really cool things like the Red Poppy Festival or the lake. [Limbani] loves [the lake], and now it’s one of our favorite spots.”

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