Salima, Malawi - Participants in exercise Southern Accord 14 in Salima, Malawi took a well-earned day off June 21 travelling to the Sunbird Livingstonia Beach for a cultural day.

After five days of non-stop training, planning and writing orders for a fictitious United Nations peacekeeping operation, participants were more than ready to kick-off their shoes and have a good time. The day's festivities included volleyball, soccer, a bar-b-que, shopping at a local market, and displays of traditional dances from Malawi and neighboring Zambia.

"In Africa, we communicate through music," said Lt. Col. M. Ponyane, an Armored Regiment Commander in the Botswana Defense Force. "Even if you don't understand the words, you can see and feel the stories. I enjoyed comparing Malawian and Botswanan culture."

For many American Soldiers, this was not only their first time in Africa, but their first time leaving the United States. Such was the case for Pvt. 1st Class Joel J. Gonzalez, communications specialist from 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. "I got to see a lot of things you don't normally see in the Bronx," said the New York City native. "I really enjoyed playing soccer with the (Malawian Defense Force) Soldiers. The whole day was amazing."

After the cultural day, the exercise participants returned to the Malawian Armed Forces College to resume the exercise. The final week will feature a capstone training exercise designed to test the military interoperability and staff cohesion built during the challenging first week.

Southern Accord is an annual combined, joint exercise designed to increase the ability of U.S. and African partner forces to respond to humanitarian disasters, peace keeping operations, and combating terrorism in the region.