November 27, 2016
Sunday Morning~ Blantyre
The rains have started in earnest and it’s cool this morning. Everything is greening up around here. In the front yard grass is growing where red clay was, the basil plant is burgeoning, and the avocados on the tree out back actually look like avocados now. It’ll be a few more weeks before those are ripe but mangos are in abundance. At least the landscape gives me hope.
It’s been a busy week. It’s been hot and tiring and emotionally exhausting trying to believe there is justice in this world. I find myself blocking out all but the most heinous headlines, still not wanting to believe there are so many people so filled with senseless hatred. As I find out about people I know who voted for this, my heart sinks deeper and deeper. Part of me is grateful to know what is in their minds, part of me doesn’t want to believe it. I feel like I did when I found out my husband was cheating on me. I knew I had to face it, but it was too hard and I had to let the reality sink in slowly. That’s how this feels. People I thought I knew. So, I surround myself with like-minded souls and am comforted, but worry I’ll be living in a fantasy world if I keep this up. For me, reaching out to the other side isn’t an option. We’re getting a divorce. Sorry. Bush was bad enough to swallow. This is poison.
Many of the volunteers in our group were off celebrating Thanksgiving together in exotic locations, but those of us that had to work didn’t plan much. At the last minute, we decided to have those people over for a simple supper. It seemed a way to lift our spirits. I figured I’d be home around three, and so did George. We thought we’d throw something together and have some wine and share a meal. One of the faculty members at the nursing school raises chickens, so I bought two of those which was very convenient since she delivered them to my office on Wednesday. I prayed we’d have electricity to roast them, but if not, I figured we could light a fire out back and stick them on the coals. No pressure. No one else had time to cook either.
On Thanksgiving day I traveled to the district hospital in Zomba where we were doing clinical exams on the students there finishing their postnatal rotation. These students have it hard I’ll tell you. They had to examine a newborn baby and it’s mother while two of us observed and scored them on every single detail. They were scored on history taking and teaching and every aspect of the physical exam. When they were done with the exam (which took over an hour each) they stood before us and answered our questions, for example, “What is the significance of checking the fontanels?” “When you check the baby’s eyes, what are you looking for?” and many more. We had score sheets and they got marks for everything, one hundred for the mother and one hundred for the baby. It took FOREVER. It took me forever just to do the math!
Well, around one o’clock I realized I wasn’t getting home until very late. The exams were taking way longer than I thought. I got a text from George at 3:30 saying he wouldn’t be home until after four. I texted back that I’d be lucky if I made it home before the guests arrived. I hadn’t eaten anything all day and was fried from these exams. All I wanted at that point was a glass of wine and my bed. I got home at 6:15 to find George, exhausted from his day, frantic in the well-lit kitchen (yay electricity!) having the two chickens all prepped with garlic and limes (he couldn’t find lemons) ready to pop in the oven. My fantasy of lovingly making a delicious meal for our friends turned into squabbling over what needed to be done RIGHT NOW, when the flying ants invaded the kitchen en mass. Since the rain started they swarm the lights, and I mean thousands of them. They are harmless, but huge, and they get in everything instantly. We had to shut the lights out. I threw the local sweet potatoes into the pan and asked George to make me a gin and tonic (thank god for gin) and took a quick shower. When I got out five minutes later the guests were here. I had a fleeting thought that we would all be very drunk by the time dinner was ready, but then thought, “Oh, who cares?” The gin was taking effect.
We ran around lighting candles since we couldn’t put the lights on without a Hitchcock-like scene resulting, so people settled in with their drinks in the candlelight and talked while the chickens roasted. It was all good. No one minded the wait.
Friday I was doing the same exams with a different group of students at a district hospital two hours from here, so we left at seven in the morning for another long day. Machinga is on the Shire River and it’s much hotter there. The hospital is rather nice by Malawian standards, but the exam room was tiny, literally the size of my bathroom. There was one small window, an exam bed with the foam popping through the tears in the covering, a baby cot, and two stools for the faculty. It was a bit cramped once the student, patient, and baby came in. It was also over 100 degrees in there. We entered that room at 9:10 a.m. and exited at 3:45 p.m. OMG. My uniform was soaking wet. I’d finished drinking the water I’d brought by noon. But I found myself overwhelmed with admiration for these students, for the dedicated faculty who want them to be safe practitioners, and for these beautiful mothers and babies who survive against the harshest circumstances. When the students were finished with the baby’s exam and turned to the mother’s, I held the infant in one arm while scoring the student with the other, swaying as I always do when a baby is in my arms. At the end of the exam the students had to assist the mother with breastfeeding while we watched. I marveled at how easily these tiny babies latched. The nipples were large and the mouths were tiny, but none of them struggled. Many of them were first time mothers–––teenagers. The students emphasized the need for exclusive breastfeeding and proper attachment. They did really well. And I thought desperately, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World.
More than ever, I want to be teaching this now. I don’t care how hot it gets.
Blessings to all who are struggling, and we seem to be many.
Love to all,