Sunday Morning~ Leaving Blantyre

Sunday Morning~  Blantyre

June 24, 2018

Ukacoka usamatseka mwala, koma kutseka mayani ~ When leaving do not block the exit with stones, but with leaves.

~Chewa proverb

Hi Everyone,

It’s that panicky time just before leaving. It’s when I kick myself for delaying packing to the last minute. Thinking I had two whole afternoons, I’d have ample time to pack, but ugh, the crap seems to multiply in the closet as I remove it. We’ve only been here two years! How did this much stuff accumulate? It’s little niggling stuff, small bottles of shampoo, hand lotion (which I never use), shower caps (really?) from hotels, old socks, pens, half bottles of ibuprofen and about ten bottles of bug spray I’ve never used. I hadn’t considered myself materialistic or sentimental even. I said that to my son today and he said incredulously, “Mum, you saved our placentas.”  

Lots of goodbyes this week. The midwifery faculty had a luncheon for me on Friday; it was at my house, but they all brought the food. It was really sweet, we all wore the T-shirts I brought from Savannah that say “MIDWIVES FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE”, bright purple with vibrant yellow lettering. The food was plentiful, the prayers sincere and heartfelt, and the speeches touching. I decided to read them an entry from my journal I made my first week on the job. I first met everyone at a faculty meeting before the first term started. I had come off Mulanje the day before and could hardly walk. I limped to the bus that’d been waiting for me and couldn’t get up the step. I had to hoist myself up hanging onto the railings and felt like I was making a terrible first impression. That night I’d written about it in my journal and described a few of them who were quite vocal at the meeting. Two years later, my impressions were pretty funny. They laughed hysterically. I had written that I didn’t know whether to call them by their first or last names, how I couldn’t figure out who was who and felt overwhelmed. They wanted me to write an epilog and describe each of them. Ursula said it gave her a better idea of what it was like to be a stranger here.

I’m sitting on the little rattan love seat on our porch and Catherine is sitting next to me watching me type. I read her the proverb above, but I don’t think she understood. She looked confused. Probably my pronunciation. Or maybe the translation isn’t right. But it’s uncomfortable to type with her staring at the screen as I write. I’m feeling crowded and I don’t like it. But she’s watching the words form across this screen like she’s watching a movie. This is awkward. Hopefully she’ll get bored soon.

Yesterday, my women’s group came for the last time. Last month we’d decided on the date knowing I was leaving right afterward. I worked hard to find someone to come and talk to them about business skills and where to take the group from here. My neighbor works at Catholic Relief Services (I had thought it was Save the Children, but I got that wrong) and she had a work colleague who works with groups developing business skills. He agreed to come and talk to the women, who, were supposed to be here at nine. It ended up being more like ten. No one turned a hair at this.

I’d also met a woman named Rachael last week interested in starting a women’s cooperative. She’d been considering how to get one going and was talking to a friend about it. Her friend directed her to me and it was a dream come true. She’s a scientist who studies bats and was looking for someone to make some jewelry with bat designs on it. I’d had anxiety about leaving this group and was eager to meet someone who had interest, time, and the skills to take it to a different level. She was all of that. She came to meet them yesterday and we had a little village meeting discussing where we’d go from here. I’ve been holding money from the jewelry sales and asked the women what to do with it. I told them it was their money but they hadn’t figured out how to open a bank account yet so didn’t want to take responsibility for it. I reminded them again, I am leaving. This money has to go somewhere. So it was decided that Rachael would hold onto it and they would work on getting an account open. They also want to hire another teacher to improve their skills and learn new ones. I am so proud of these women. They need to learn to work as a group but they are motivated and so grateful for the chance to learn something. James (the guy from Catholic Relief Services) was fantastic. He started by having them all close their eyes and imagine where they would be in 2022. Then he went around the group and had them share where they imagined their future taking them. It was quite moving. He asked them how they had been functioning since the formal lessons ended and there was a long discussion in Chichewa I didn’t understand. Then he pointed to one woman and said, “You. You are the arm.”  He pointed to another and said, “You are the knee.”  Another woman got singled out and he said, “You are the head.” He went around to everyone assigning them different parts of the body. At the end he said, “You all have to function as one body. An arm can’t go off on it’s own. The same with a knee.”  Then there was a bunch more Chichewa I didn’t understand, but the upshot of it was that we would have eight more weeks of lessons, a location was decided upon for the classes, the teachers identified, and I’m leaving designated money with Rachael for that. (This is separate from the money they’ve earned making jewelry.) I told them that after these eight weeks if they want more lessons they have to figure out how to pay the teacher themselves. James is going to meet with them every two weeks to help them form a cooperative and learn business and marketing skills. Nothing could have made my last week here end on a higher note. At the end of the meeting one of the women said a speech and James translated it. She said they were all very grateful to me and they felt like God had dropped me from heaven. Then they presented me with a chitenje  and one by one came up and hugged me. It was so sweet. This went so far beyond where I thought it would. I had a little sense of not wanting to let go of it but I know they will all benefit from new energy and vision. I am letting go of it for now.

On Thursday we had another meeting for the midwifery ward. The language is not longer focused on whether this will happen or not, but when and how it will happen. Big shift. We formed sub committees and one of them was to plan the launching party so we’ve definitely taken it to another level. Tomorrow I need to write up the minutes for that meeting, write a final report for Peace Corps and finish packing. We leave for Lilongwe on Tuesday, have a few days there finishing up administrative things then hit the road for Zambia on Friday. Chris and Sarah will meet us in Lilongwe Thursday night and do the first week of our trip with us. The thought of having two months to explore is the sweetest of thoughts. Lifelong dream coming up.

Next Sunday we will be on our way to Victoria Falls and will be overnight in Lusaka, Zambia. I still plan to find internet on Sundays and send off a log. My son wanted to know how long he should go before worrying if he doesn’t see the blog. He said, “How long before we should worry about the vultures picking at your skeletons?”  I told him not to worry. We’ll carry lots of water. We’re not going to be stupid. Namibia is the least populated country in Africa and I hear you can go long distances without seeing anything, but we’ll be cautious and carry water and blankets. We hear the nights are cold.  Can’t wait!!

This is choppy and rushed, but I’ll fill in around the edges when I am a lady of leisure with long days of unstructured hours. 

Love to all,


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