Sunday Morning ~ Littleton

Sunday Morning ~ Littleton

Mbeu mpoyamba  ~ Good crop is in the first days.

~ Chewa proverb

February 24, 2019

Hi Everyone,

I’m sitting with Moxie the puppy, waiting for James to run from his bedroom toward his parents’. I’ll intercept him and let them sleep in a bit. I remember my mother getting up early with the kids and what a huge treat that was, especially after we’d been out on a Saturday night. If there was anything that taught us to refuse that last drink, it was the thought if getting up with the kids in the morning. Yesterday’s birthday celebration must have wiped James out as it’s a full thirty-four minutes past his usual reverie and here I sit without my early-morning companion. He’s three years old now and I’m pondering how much water has flowed underneath the bridge since the day he arrived. This was the first birthday party of either grandchild that I’ve made it to! I was on-call for Ameila’s first three and the next two I was in Malawi and I’ll miss her sixth in June as I’ll be spending that month back in Blantyre. We’ll celebrate early with something fun and I’m reminded of how many times I missed my kids’ events because of work and how I struggled to compensate.

I knew 2019 was going to be a year of flux for me and though it is a little uncomfortable, I’m trying to roll with it. I’ve been trying to assimilate the wants of being home, being with George, being with the grandchildren, and being in Malawi. So far George has been the one lacking, though we do now have a plan to meet on Maui in April. That is a relief. The project in Malawi has been my priority as I feel like the beginning is crucial to it’s success. I am by no means the only one who can move this forward, but right now it feels my calling. I’m struggling with the ethics of this, mindful of the comeuppance I got at the MANA conference about perpetuating colonialism and wonder if my role is for the good of the project. I struggle with wondering if I should stick to my home and work on the problems here or focus on this midwifery ward that I honestly feel deep in my bones is what I should be doing. I wonder where that feeling of having to follow a certain path comes from? Do we make it up to suit our desires? Maybe. I am drawn there and feel the deepest need to return. I believe with all my heart that this model will make things better for women. So I am trying to strike a balance between analyzing the ethics of it all and following my heart. Honestly, it’s a little like when I met George. I spent hours wondering if I was being too impulsive, if I were dreaming up the feelings because I wanted them to be there, if I were trying too hard to turn a fantasy into reality. I decided to stop analyzing and take the leap of getting into a new relationship, and so far (though not without some weeding) it has blossomed a thousand times. I look back on how I could have sabotaged that beginning and am grateful I took the risk. I feel as clear about this endeavor. The beam shines directly toward this goal and I want to follow it. It’s funny how I interpret every sign from the universe into an indication. Song lyrics seem to be all about this ward, the Star Wars books I read to James make sense in this context, surprise visits from old friends, and random news stories all make the path seem padded. I am aware I’m making all this up, manipulating my mind to interpret signals to suit my desires, but then I think, so what? Nothing is forever and this feels right. So I’m going with it.

I think I’ll leave it there. There’s a home improvement project to help with this morning before hitting the road to Maine, the weather is looking iffy for travel, and it might be a long ride. And my buddy is up…

Love to all,


Sunday Morning ~ Making Things Better

Sunday Morning ~ Making things better

Kangaonde Kakoma Andi mchere ~  It may be small, but it’s lovely when you add salt.

~ Chewa proverb

February 17, 2019

Hi Everyone,

Valentine’s Day was beautiful. The skies were sunny and the snow was soft and I had a good ski around a favorite loop. I passed a few couples on the trail, none of whom I recognized. I wondered if they were vacationing, celebrating Valentine’s Day in this romantic setting. I wondered if there was an open restaurant in town. I felt a little lonely and I felt bad for feeling that way. I mean, I have a love in my life, but he’s not around and seemed to have forgotten about the day. But that’s not such a big deal. I don’t even know if they have Valentine’s Day in Myanmar. They are just coming off of Chinese New Year. Maybe the day of love doesn’t even exist. And when there isn’t a lot of hype about it, I don’t think of it either. I’ve just been spending way too much time on Facebook lately. That’s a surefire way of feeling left out. But the sun was out and it wasn’t too cold, and I was free and healthy and able to do whenever I wanted so I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t shake the blue feeling.

Whenever I’m feeling down and can’t put my finger on why, I start going through the calendar trying to figure out if the date is triggering some painful memory.  Let’s see….February 4th was the day my divorce was final. That used to be a trigger but I sailed right though that one without a hint of sadness, so that wasn’t it. February 14th has had it’s share of bad memories and I went though them to see if one of those were the culprit. There was second grade when we’d spend a week passing out Valentines and I didn’t get any. That seemed a humiliation at the time, so much so, that I made two to give myself. The only envelopes I could find were business ones I took off my father’s desk. They looked a little silly, those a tiny little Valentines that come like a hundred to a box, in a business envelope, but it sufficed.  I signed them “from a friend”, tucked  the little hearts into the big envelopes, and wrote my name on them. When I got to school I put two of them in the construction-paper-heart folder hanging on the outside of the classroom door. As I recall, each classroom had one of these little Valentine mailboxes hanging there and tiny expressions of love could be hand delivered to any student you wanted. You just walked down the hall and placed your card in the appropriate folder hanging on the door of the classroom of your true love. Each day some kid’s job was to pass out the cards to the students in front of everyone, which I considered a public ritual of humiliation. (Who ever thought that would be a good idea? How many hours of therapy have resulted from that little tradition?) When the kid passing them out got to the large business envelopes with my name on them he said, “Wow, these are huge!” as he read my name. I demurely rose to receive the sentiments and my face was saved. By me. The teacher looked at me and smiled and I felt like she knew I’d given them to myself. I wonder if anyone else did. Now that I think back, it was rather savvy for a seven year old. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone I did that. I started taking care of myself at a tender age. Clever me!

Then there was the year I’d delivered a terribly deformed baby on Valentine’s Day. The baby lived only a few hours and it was incredibly sad. It was expected because of the ultrasound, but very sad and heartbreaking to see the grieving family. On the way home from the hospital I stopped at the candy store and bought little paper bags of candy for my kids. I was crying the whole time, imagining what it must be like to lose a child. Joe and I had planned a romantic evening after the kids went to bed and I was still thinking we could salvage some of that if I got home in time. We’d planned a nice dinner and a movie,  Casa Blanca, which I’d never seen. I was so distraught that I went to take a hot bath to calm down while Joe cooked. Cooking was not his strong suit. I’d planned steak (a treat back then), steamed asparagus (also a treat), and some chocolate dessert which I never ended up making. I sat in the tub and cried instead. Joe cooked the steak until it was nearly unchewable and the asparagus until it was one step away from a puree. I pulled myself together to eat the meal but must have made some comment about it and then he was mad. I cried all the way through the movie, not because I thought the movie was sad, but because I was.

I looked up the history of the holiday. Was it really a holiday? Or a hallmark holiday the same as Mother’s Day?  

What I found in my quick search was basically we’re celebrating two saints being decapitated on February 14th. How sweet. That calls for chocolate and flowers. The Roman Emperor Claudius executed two men named Valentine during the persecution of christians and they later became saints. There were several more men named Valentine to follow who were executed by subsequent emperors for practicing christianity or performing miracles. Wow, unlucky name. Who knew? I never looked into this before. So that’s where the Saint Valentines come from, but how it became the holiday for love seems a little sketchy if you ask me. One source I read claims it started when Chaucer wrote about birds mating in February. This started a tradition of love letters being sent during bird mating season. Obviously there wasn’t a lot going on and people were bizarrely tuned in to the mating rituals of birds. I wonder if binoculars existed then? Another source sites the pagan rituals of spring where women were paired off with men via a lottery. Actually, I like that one. With that system no one is left out unless there’s one extra. But then it would be just chance, not outright rejection.

I found a Whoopee Pie that had been buried in my freezer for about three years, ate that, painted myself a little heart on a teabag, and thought, yeah, a little salt makes everything better.

Love to all,


Sunday Morning~ Somewhere over the Atlantic

Sunday Morning ~ Somewhere over the Atlantic

Ici n’chiani nkulinga mule awiri ~ You can ask what this is, provided there are two of you.

~ Chewa proverb

February 10, 2019

Hi Everyone,

It’s a long flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, seventeen hours, so plenty of time to write, but I find it a little awkward. It’s easier with pen and paper than balance the laptop on this tray table with it being a bit bouncy. We’ll see how it goes.

Ursula and I spent a lot of time writing this week. She sat at the desk adjacent to mine and we hammered away at the policies and procedures we needed for the midwifery ward. It was a big job, but we got a draft done. It needs editing, augmenting, and referencing, but it’s a good start and something we were able to present at our meeting on Thursday. Interjected into the writing sessions were discussions about the issues we’ll be facing. For instance: What are we going to do if we’ve got fifteen women in labor and only two available beds? How are we going to manage a staffing problem if someone doesn’t show up for work? How will we implement ongoing quality improvement? Could we really do a staff retreat? What kind of renovations are absolutely needed for us to open? Who actually does the renovation? There are so many layers to this and we’ve only begun peeling them away. It’s exciting and daunting. 

There is an election this year in Malawi and there is an underlying uneasiness about the political future. I asked Ursula about her thoughts on Kamuzu, the man who was president for life during my Peace Corps years here. The couple who own the cottage I stayed in spoke highly of him, but others don’t. Ursula told me Kamuzu did a lot of good for the country. She said she benefitted tremendously from his policies, and the only reason she has her PhD is because of Kamuzu. I realized I didn’t know much about how she got her education. I knew she’d gone to university in the states, and I think I assumed she came from a privileged family. She was dean of the midwifery school when I arrived, an effective leader, and a role model for me. We are close in age. She explained how she got to where she is and how Kamuzu’s policies played a part.

She was born in a village in Kasungu, just north of Lilongwe, the third child of her parents. They lived so deep in the bush that she couldn’t go to school because of wild animal attacks. Leopards were so plentiful that the danger of them eating small schoolchildren walking miles back home at the end of the day was real. She said her father said he’d rather have living children than lose all in search of education. Only her eldest siblings went to school. They lived as subsistence farmers and were very poor. When she was ten years old, her mother needed to go to the hospital to have her seventh baby, and her father chose Ursula as the one to accompany her as guardian. She and her mother traveled together to the hospital and Ursula went to sleep with the other guardians in the shelter. In the morning a nurse called her to come and hold her baby brother. Ursula said she was so happy sitting and holding this infant, then looked up to see her father and siblings coming toward her crying. She asked why they were crying? They should be happy they had a new baby! Then her father told her that her mother had died while giving birth. They buried her mother and her father asked his sister to care for the baby. His sister told him she would take the baby, but she needed to keep Ursula also, to help her care for the infant. So Ursula stayed with her aunt as well. She told me, “That is when the family split.” A year later, the baby died of malaria, and after burying the last connection to her mother, Ursula started school for the first time. She did very well and when she had finished form two (which would be our sophomore year of high school) the president was starting Kamuzu academy to give Malawian children a chance for a quality education. At the time there were a few private schools but they were expensive and only white children and those from rich Malawian families could attend. Kamuzu Academy was meant to provide a quality education for Malawian students. They took two children from each district, a boy and a girl for each class. Ursula was the girl chosen from her district to start form three (junior year of high school). Some local nuns gave her the needed supplies: underwear, clothes, and other necessities. The uniforms and school supplies were provided at Kamuzu Academy for all students. She went and excelled. After graduating, she was supported by a group of Catholic sisters to go to the U.S. to attend nursing school. She got her nursing degree and masters in midwifery before returning to Malawi. Later she went back to the states to get her PhD.

I was speechless.

Know what I was doing when I was ten years old? Playing jumprope. Lying on a blanket in the back yard, listening to Red Sox games on a transistor radio. Sitting by my friend Beth’s pool reading Little House on the Prairie books. Skiing on winter Sundays.  Watching Wild Kingdom on T.V. on Saturday nights, fascinated by the animals and the African landscape. I was riveted, amazed at how they could film a lion take down a zebra, or a leopard feeding on an impala. I didn’t know the leopards were also eating children on their way home from school. Or that a ten year old girl somewhere on that continent sat holding her baby brother as her mother died in the next room.

I asked Ursula if I could share her story in my blog? She plans to write about her life and I don’t want to misrepresent any of it. But I told her this is such an incredible illustration of how risky childbirth is in this country, how young girls have to care for younger siblings, and how random the opportunity for education is. At home, we take all this for granted. When I showed her what I’d written, she had to clarify some of it, and I realized I missed some details as I listened to her story. I was imagining being that ten year old girl holding the baby. I hadn’t heard whether it was a boy or girl. I thought of how lonely and frightened I might be, sleeping in that guardian shelter with strangers. I thought of my own mother going to the hospital when I was ten for back surgery. I hated that she was gone for several weeks. I remember my father dropping us at church and realizing before I walked in that I wasn’t wearing a hat. I didn’t know what to do. My brother told me I couldn’t go in, but I couldn’t stand outside. My father had already driven away so I had no choice but to go in. I went to one of the nuns and told her my mother was in the hospital and I didn’t have a hat. I asked her what I should do? She took a tissue out of her pocket, folded it in thirds, took a bobbie pin off her veil, and pinned the tissue to my hair. She told me to go kneel down and pray. I did, for my mother. I left the tissue on my head until my brother and I had walked all the way home. I had always thought of that as a traumatic childhood experience. When we went to visit my mother in the hospital that afternoon  the first thing I told her was about the hat. She laughed and then it didn’t seem so serious. I can’t imagine if we’d gotten to the hospital and they’d told me she was gone. 

There were so many moments that made me hopeful and optimistic this past week. We had our big meeting Thursday morning with the country director for SEED Global Health, the administration for the nursing school, faculty members, and the chief nursing officer from the hospital maternity department. There were a few conflicting meetings so some of the key players were missing, but it was still really productive.  Some days I’m overly optimistic about what this ward will accomplish: we’ll set a new standard of care for women, we’ll bring down maternal mortality, we’ll turn out superior students, etc. etc. etc., and other days I’m thinking this is never going to happen. I’m afraid to let the latter thought take form as I don’t want it to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. When we all sit down together and I hear people supporting it and coming up with ideas of how to make it happen, it fills me with energy. This is what I want to be doing right now. I so believe in this. Ursula gave a short history of the project and I gave a report of progress to date. These things made me feel like we’ve come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. But when we begin discussing next steps I start thinking, “Holy smokes. This is huge. How are we going to do this?” and then I start fantasizing about a donor just handing us zillions of dollars to do whatever we want, then I reel that one in and start imagining going door to door asking for some Kelly clamps, emesis basins, and an autoclave. Nothing I hate more than asking for money. I still have PTSD from doing that for the Women’s Health Center, though, I’ve got to say, it seems easier in Malawi than in the states. People ask for things all the time there and it doesn’t have the same stigma I attach to it here. 

The architect students sent a floor plan they designed and Ursula and I looked it over before the conference call with them to discuss it. It is gorgeous. It is a dream. I wanted to live on this drawing. One of those movie scenes played in my head where the whole fantasy rolls out in technicolor with dreamy lighting where smiling mothers were holding perfectly delivered babies. Guardians chatted with each other in an airy garden and midwives floated between beds offering massages and support. Students washed their hands in a clean sink with water that actually came out of the faucet. And soap. There was soap. The maids did their jobs between a dirty AND clean utility room. Oh, it was so beautiful. All the while a gentle breeze blew through the open windows providing natural light. At night, the solar energy provided light when and where we needed it. Staffing wasn’t a problem! Midwives begged to work there! No one called in sick, and if they did, no one minded working a double shift. Oh it was heaven. Then the little ding signaled that the email had come and I woke up and we connected to the Zoom meeting in Philadelphia. I’ve gotta say, that is a cool technology that zoom. We could be part of the class and we could ask and answer questions. It was amazing! I was sure the internet would be too slow for it to work, but see? If that worked, there’s no reason we won’t get this ward established. We might have to start with something a little less dreamy than the drawing we reviewed, though. At this point the running water would make me happy. At the end of this month we’ll have five different drawings to use as we wish, and it’s another step in the process. We’ve got our lists of things to accomplished and it looks like I’ll go back in June. We’ve got a target to open on October 1 of this year but a lot has to happen before then. 

On top of all that, I met with the women’s group on Monday. One of the women lives near my old house and I went with her to the village where they now meet. I would never have found this place by myself. There are eight women who still meet twice a week and I was bowled over by the mountain of jewelry they’ve made. The quality has improved a lot and they’ve come up with some new designs. I was thrilled to see this. I asked where they were selling it, and they told me they aren’t. They are just making it. Ok, seems they need some help with that. They told me that Rachael, the woman I’d left it all to, hasn’t come since last August or September. And the guy from Catholic Relief Services, who was supposed to teach them some business skills, didn’t show either. And Chimemwe, who was supposed to be their teacher, got hit by a car a month after I left and has a debilitating brain injury. Given all that, I was so proud of them for still meeting! And making cool stuff! They have hired another man from the village to teach them to make the wire designs. He was there working on some bracelets. I asked if he were teaching them or just doing it himself? They said he was teaching them. Ok, great. It seems there has been some confusion about what to do with money and buying supplies, much of which I didn’t understand, and knew I would not be able to sort that out. I only had a short time with them. I love some of the new stuff they’ve made, though, and bought some and told them I’d order more to pick up when I come back. Irene, the woman emerging as a leader of the group, explained this to them and took note of some quality issues I pointed out. I explained that to sell these they have to be really good quality. I told them about the farmers market on the first Saturday of the month, but that will require paying for a table and I think they’ll need some help getting that set up. I decided to try to find the guy who’d agreed to help them. I also sent several messages to Rachael to find out what the hell happened to her. Then Irene took me to see Chimemwe in his village. 

George had seen Chimemwe right after his accident when he was just regaining consciousness. George said he left weeping. I was preparing myself for what I was about to see, but I was blown away by how much progress he’s made in his recovery! He is walking without help, a little unsteady, but he says that’s because he can’t see. His vision comes and goes. His language was perfect though and his mind sharp. For that I was so incredibly grateful. I asked if he notices improvement with his vision over time and he said he does, but it is slow. He’s frustrated that it is taking so long. I said, “It’s only been six months! Six months ago no one was sure if you’d survive!”  He said six months seems like a very long time and he wants to go back to work. His father, a very well spoken gentleman, came to greet me. His English is perfect and he said, “Your husband told us you would come, and now you have.” We chatted awhile and as he left he told me they are all very grateful to George who left them a good amount of money to live on until (hopefully) Chimemwe could work again; he was the family support. Before I left I gave Chimemwe some money and tried to be reassuring. I told him he still has a lot to offer and maybe he could teach the women a little English until his sight improves. That didn’t go over too well.

On Wednesday I went over to the Catholic Relief Services office to find the guy, David, who was supposed to meet with the women and didn’t. I wish I’d had a camera in my hand when he opened his office door. That was a classic. You’d have thought I was Jacob Marley. He actually screamed when he saw me. Then we both started laughing. To his considerable credit, he took total responsibility. I asked if there was confusion on the women’s part? He said, no, it was him. He just never went. I appreciated him being honest. He said he commits to too many things (I can relate) and was very sorry. I told him about my visit with the women and asked if he knew of any business courses or anyone else that could help them. I’d be willing to pay for Irene to do a short business course. He said, “No. You have inspired me. I will do this. I will make good on my promise and make a plan to meet with them.” I told him about Irene and how it would be best to go directly to her. He told me he’d meet with her on Friday and make a plan with her to meet the women. And he did. So that was a success.

I never did meet up with Rachael though. I’ll track her down the next time. 

Whew. This is getting long so I think I will wrap it up. I’ll be too tired to drive home when I land in Boston, so will probably just vegetate on the couch at my daughter’s, hug my grand babies, and drive home early Monday. 

Love to all,


Sunday Morning~ Blantyre

Sunday Morning ~ Blantyre

Banja ndi gombe, silicedwa kugumuka ~ Relationship is like a riverbank, it can be ruined any time.

February 3, 2019

Hi Everyone,

As I was walking to the college this week from my sweet bungalow on a hill overlooking the city, I was thinking about my role here and thought maybe I had become one of the consultants I always hated. In the times I’ve worked overseas I’d see consultants come in for their five day stint, all peppy, full of energy and ideas, putting forth ways to do it better/faster/brighter and it always made me want to smack them. I laughed at my eagerness to get this project off the ground and wondered how I appear to the people here in the trenches just trying to get through the day. I also laughed when people walking by smiled so brightly when I greeted them. The guards told my landlord here that my Chichewa is very good. That also makes me laugh. I can greet people very well, I will admit that. If they ask me a follow up question, though, I’m usually stumped unless I can recognize a word, like “work” or “home” and I say something about either of those two things, like “Yes, I am going to work” (a sentence I am very proficient at), or “My home is good” (equally fluent). Those often don’t answer the question asked, but the people walking by keep going. I only get into trouble when it’s someone who knows me and stops for a more in-depth follow up. Then I am stumped and it shows. Then follows uproarious laughter and knee slapping all around, hand shaking, and follow up conversation in English. I’m having fun.

I arrived last Sunday after a long flight. My friends, Peter and Caroline, greeted me at the airport and delivered me to this gorgeous property where I’m renting a newly built cottage. Holy smokes, I had no idea this place existed within this city. It’s spectacular! It has to be at least five acres with stupendous gardens, a brick walkway that circles the entire property (my hostess tells me it is half a kilometer but seems bigger) through tropical plants surrounding and overhanging the path. There is a pool in front of the main house where the owners live, but I don’t feel comfortable going over there. I’m not a big swimmer anyway and I’m quite content tucked into this hillside in my hexagonal cottage with a view.  It is a mile from campus, but a nice walk and so far I’ve been lucky with the rain. I heard they had two weeks of constant rain before I arrived and the gardens are using that as an excuse to show off. Blossoms are exploding everywhere, surrounded by stunning greens of every shade. I feel like I am living in a terrarium. Lots of oxygen and soothing shapes.  Since I’ve been here it has rained two afternoons but not during commuting times. 

In many ways it feels like I never left. I’ve only been six months away, so there aren’t a lot of changes here. That wouldn’t even be evident in six years, but it’s interesting to slide into the same routine, meet the same friends, and walk the familiar paths. My office remained untouched. Everything was as I left it including my pens and sticky notes. My dean handed me the keys and I was back at my desk as If I’d just been on a short holiday. That’s been nice. What has changed is my role.  I’m no longer just part of the faculty with lectures to give and students to supervise around the district. I’m left out of meetings and student check-offs. That feels weird. I’m here to hopefully give this project a booster shot and set a timeline to get the ward open. I’ve been instructed to be realistic by SEED, and I’m trying really hard at that, but it’s challenging for me when I want something this badly. One of the drivers saw me through the window sitting at my desk and he came to my office to greet me. He said, “You are back! Please tell me you are here to stay.” I told him that was so sweet for him to say, but I was only here for a short time. I hope to come back but it is still uncertain. I really can’t come here to do a job that a Malawian can do. He said, “Ah! But you are a Malawian!” Which, made my day.

I had an ambitious list of things to accomplish in these two weeks and after the first discouraging day, I’m cautiously optimistic. The first day was basically spent greeting people, handing out the small gifts I’d brought and trying to get a local SIM card for the phone. There was no power at campus (had been out for two weeks) no internet, and the place I’m staying doesn’t provide that either. I walked over to the store to buy the SIM card, walked back to campus, and spent an hour trying to get it to work. Went to the IT office to ask for help. Oh, he had gone to a funeral. His assistant tried to get the number working then told me I had to go back to the store to register the phone. This is new. Every cell phone now has to be registered. Why, I don’t know, but it’s the new rule. I walked the mile back to the store where the woman smiled and said, “I told you when you bought that you had to register it.” If she did say that I had no idea what she was talking about so ignored it. Either that or I didn’t hear it, but here I was, waiting in another line to get it registered. That required digging out my passport and all kinds of computer input by the guy behind the desk. I just handed him the phone and asked, “Can you just do this all for me? Set the number up, get the data, sign me up for What’s App, everything?” I knew it would take me forever to figure it out and was running out of steam, still a bit jet lagged and frustrated that the day was almost gone and I’d gotten nothing done. Very kindly, since there was no one in line behind me, he set it all up, so I was communicado again. It’s insane how reliant I am on that phone! But the dean had been sending me messages asking where I was, and the landlady at the house had been trying to call me, so I felt better being trackable. By then it was about the end of the day, but I did meet up with two of my colleagues to discuss a plan for the week. So that was it for day one.  When I got back to my cottage I dropped my things and turned around to see one of the guards at my door with a little handwritten note on handmade paper in a little handmade envelope. It was from the owners, asking if I’d had a nice day and inviting me to tea. Now, how sweet was that? She’d been trying to figure out how to contact me and did it by a hand-delivered, hand-written note. How eighteenth century! I loved it.

They are a lovely couple whose families originated from India, but he was born in Malawi and she was born in Uganda. Their house is something to see, let me tell you. Gorgeous sprawling brick structure with a huge veranda furnished with plush wicker chairs and sofas.  Chai tea was served on a coffee table the size of my bathroom. He’s a retired businessman and built these two cottages to rent to keep himself busy. He’s also an amateur landscape designer and has gone bananas with the landscaping of this place. It’s reminiscent of the botanical gardens on the big island of Hawaii! 

From Tuesday on, the week became very productive. It is so heartening for me to see how positive people are about this becoming a reality. From both the college side and the hospital side, there is tremendous support. I have been clear that the enthusiasm is great, but we need to translate that into some action. No one is going to fund a project that doesn’t have a clear path to sustainability. I wouldn’t support that either. I mentioned that maybe we should look at a year from now as a start date? I asked if that would be realistic? The response was unanimous that we can’t wait that long. We have to show that it is moving forward. I was like, “Ok then! Let’s get to it!” (Refer to the first sentence in this blog) Ursula and I have been hammering away at the policies and procedures that need to be in place. It’s not a job I enjoy, but I am thrilled that we’re making progress and now believe we’ll have a draft done before I leave. Yay. One task will be checked off. We’ll be having a conference call with the architecture students this week to hear/see what plans they’ve come up with for the renovation. The consensus here is we should start with what we’ve got, just to get going and show we are doing something, then to expand as we get funds. That needs to be a discussion, which we’ll have this week when the SEED country director comes on Thursday to meet with us. We’ll have a discussion about how they can support this (including having me come back hopefully) with resources to get this established. In the meantime, the faculty is going to solicit funds to buy equipment from the local businesses, and I will look into development grants that focus on improving maternity care. I’m leery of having a grant that funds salaries because historically as soon as that money dries up so does the position, so there’d have to be some kind of commitment that the salary would be taken over by the college in however many years. I’ll have to do some work on that one, but I am finding this exciting. To see how everyone believes in this is good for my soul. I really believe this is the right path, which feels good, even if there are inevitable setbacks.

There is a new farmer’s market in Blantyre which takes place on each first Saturday. I went yesterday to see if it’s a possible venue for the Tiyamike women’s group to sell their jewelry. There were loads of people there and I think it is a possibility if the quality of their products has improved. I heard from Ursula they are still meeting, but they are floundering. They now meet in a village at one of the women’s houses, so tomorrow I will meet up with one of the group who lives near my old house and we’ll take a minibus, then walk into the village. I contacted the artist who originally was teaching them to see if she’d go with me but she is two hours away and I’m not sure if she’ll make it. I’ll need a translator and she knows them and maybe could help with a plan to get them some guidance, but if she doesn’t show I’ll wing it. Apparently, the plan I left them with fell apart, so I don’t know what it’ll be like, but I’ll see what’s up when I get there. Afterward I am going to try to visit Chimemwe, who still isn’t able to return to any kind of work. I heard he can walk with assistance, but the brain damage is severe. It’s a miracle he’s alive. That man is so strong and I miss him. I’m preparing myself for what I’ll see. He was such a help and support to us and I really care for him so much. If he’d had half the privilege I’d had in life, I can only imagine what he’d have accomplished.

After the farmers market I took a minibus to Zomba, about 70 kilometers away to visit friends who’d rented a house there for the weekend. When I wedged myself into the already overfull bus, the guy collecting money told me it’d be 250 kwacha for the first leg of the trip. I only had a 2,000 kwacha note and passed it forward. Other passengers were handing him various sized notes and he collected them all, then one by one started handing back change to everyone. It is astounding to me how they can hustle and remember who gave what and who got what change. Every single person received their correct change, handed back through the bus, person to person. I thought how remarkable they are and how they have developed these systems that work. Yes, the minibuses are sometimes unsafe and they are overcrowded and some, but not all, of the drivers take risks. But in general it is a very efficient means of mass transportation. The fellow passengers are friendly and polite and I find it all very entertaining. I got there safely and had a great visit in a beautiful setting where we swapped travel stories and caught up on life. I’m blessed. Mindful of caring for the riverbanks.

Love to all,