Sunday Morning ~ Blantyre
February 25, 2018
“Nca Kwao” adanka mdi madzi ~That is how they “do”, his home was taken by water.
~ Malawian proverb
I needed a little explanation for this one. This proverb warns against using the rationale ––this is how it’s always done––because if one can’t change with the times he can drown when the flood comes and takes the house away. It’s not exactly poetic in it’s form but the message resounds.
The Tiyamike Women’s Group met here as usual on Friday but I wasn’t able to be here. I was anxious about that as they are always needing something in the house and I wanted to connect with them about the graduation/ fair we’re planning. Eneless had the idea of coordinating it with the International Day of the Woman and inviting the media. I loved that idea but that means we’d have to cut the class a week short, so some discussion was needed. I’d hoped to get home before the class ended and ran back here on my tea break and asked them to wait for me. I ended up not getting back until two hours after the class ended, so the women were gone but the teachers had waited for me. We decided not to cut the class short. We’d celebrate it as the International Week of the Woman instead. Endless will contact the media about doing a story. Maybe we can do a youtube video or something. We’re going to work on that.
I’d spent the week vetting final exams. I probably described this process last year, I didn’t go back to look, but the whole faculty sits in a closed room for the week going over every single exam question on every exam (there are seven in my department), a hundred questions each, and scrutinizes for punctuation, relevancy, appropriateness, spelling, succinctness, and whether it is testing for the knowledge asked for on the blueprint. It’s like being in conclave. It’s all very secret and serious. I actually find the process interesting and loved spending the week with my colleagues whom I enjoy and admire. Sitting still all week was the hardest part. We were supposed to be finished by Thursday afternoon but weren’t, so had to meet again on Friday. After the vetting was finished we had to choose lectures to teach and clinical sites to supervise for the next semester. I also gave a report on the model ward progress, a ten minute report that took an hour. Thus my no-show at the women’s group. Some of the faculty are very worried about what this new ward will mean for their lives. They already feel overworked and anticipate another responsibility and not everyone is convinced we can pull it off. A meeting is scheduled this Thursday morning with all the biggies: head of obstetrics (the guy we met with last week), the head of the College of Medicine, the matrons, the head nurses, everyone who might play a part in this, and I feel like a lot is at stake. A new young faculty member pointed out that nurses may want to get extra pay to work in this model ward because they will be expected to give a higher quality of care. I was aghast. I looked at my watch and thought, there is so much I want to say about that comment but I should have been home an hour ago. I simply said, “No one should ask for more money to give the care they are expected to give. It’s their job. That’s the whole purpose of this, to teach students (and, now, clearly other midwives) that this is how they should be practicing! It was a bit of insight into the challenges we are going to face. I invited all of them to come to the Thursday meeting to voice their concerns and look for ways to address them. No one signed up. They are already obligated to exams, lectures, skills check-offs, etc. which is their point. When are they going to have time to add on another requirement? I expect that there will be loads of hurdles like this and it is going to take lots of hours of discussion and problem solving. My biggest worry right now is how to write the memo inviting everyone to the meeting. I’m worried about offending someone or leaving someone out. And the format! Format is very important around here. Protocol, number of copies, who’s name gets mentioned first, all that stuff scares me. Who runs the meeting comes next, but the memo is critical right now. I’ll have to spend part of today writing it and get it to Ursula early tomorrow to proofread and make corrections. Then I’ll have it copied and hand deliver it to all the parties invited. That’ll take the better part of a day. I’ll squeeze it in tomorrow between my lecture on End of Life Care and the visit to the morgue. I wanted to be more eloquent with my colleagues. I wanted to point out that we spend a fair amount of time at these meetings complaining about how terrible the clinical experience is and how hard it is to teach there. Why not actually DO something about it? On one level they think my efforts are endearing, on the other, they are burned out, feel hopeless, and don’t believe it will work. They don’t have a lot extra to give. I get it. I’m going home this year, but this is their life. Uphill all the way. Ursula whispered to me, “Don’t give up, Linda.”
I’ve seen some video clips of student activism at home and it breaks me down. Is this how adults felt when they shot students at Kent State? When I was in high school we kept each other safe by walking the drunkest one home. Hardly anyone had a car and our small town was easily walkable, even when we were staggering. Girls were subject to discrimination and misogyny and I think that had long term effects on us, but physical danger seemed rare. An English teacher got a student pregnant. That was bad. I think he got fired for that (and hopefully divorced). The day after we won a cheerleading tournament my math teacher put a sign around a dog’s neck that said, “Second Place Cheerleading Tournament” and walked it into calculus class. That was pretty bad. I’d like to think he’d be fired for that now, but in 1974 everyone thought it was funny. I didn’t laugh so I guess that’s something to be proud of. When I look back, my teenage years were incredibly quaint. On senior skip day we all went to Plum Island to drink. We had to start early enough in the day to sober up for our after school jobs. We had some scruples. We weren’t protesting anything that I can recall we just thought it’d be fun to skip school a couple of weeks before graduation. Our punishment was that we couldn’t go on our class trip, which wasn’t that big of a punishment. We had already gone on our own class trip. The kids who didn’t skip went without us. It all seems so stupid in light of today’s issues. Students are walking out of school to demand that legislators be responsible and keep them from getting shot! And some are being threatened with suspension for that? How pathetic are we? If my Malawian colleagues have heard of yet another mass murder in the states they haven’t mentioned it to me. I haven’t brought it up because I’m so embarrassed by it. If I hear any American criticize any developing country’s government for being corrupt I will lose my shit. It seems there isn’t a vocabulary to describe the barbarism of the republican party in America.
On that note, I’ll go work on my memo, make dinner for George’s colleagues who will be coming tonight and try to stay in the moment. The rains have been steady and the maize is high. We went two days without water but it’s back now and the dirty dishes have been washed. Avocados are ripe. The necklaces from paper beads are amazingly beautiful and the women are proud. And November is coming. This can’t be the way it is always done.
Love to all,