Sunday Morning ~ Blantyre, Free of Charge
Kaufulu sikacepa. ~ Something free of charge is never too small.
~ Chewa proverb
January 21, 2024
I’ve moved into my new place and am getting settled. I feel more comfortable here and am loving this big covered porch with my own private garden. It makes up for the tiny kitchen, which isn’t really a kitchen but more of a corner of the living room. There are several staff people here, gardeners, cooks, cleaners, and it seems a very well run property. I met everyone yesterday but forget their names as they were coming one after the other. I think the guard is Hastings and he was very impressed I was going to church this morning. He sits and reads the bible while waiting to open the gate for someone. I definitely feel safe and secure here. The entire property is surrounded by an eight foot cement wall and I see there are five rows of electric wire above that. No messing around here with razor wire. I have a big frangipani tree in the center of the yard and several flowering hibiscus along the wall. There are also many succulents and other tropical plants and it’s beautifully maintained. There are at least two gardeners here, maybe more. The owner does a lot of bonsai but those are surrounding the entry of the big house. I’m in the “Frangipani Cottage”. The key ring for this place is now the heaviest thing in my bag; I think there are nine keys on there. Combined with the keys to my office (five of them) they are heavier than my laptop. It is fun to use those big skeleton keys, but keeping them in a skirt pocket is out of the question.
I started work on Tuesday and it has been really fun to see all the people I knew from before. I feel very welcomed. On Tuesday I sat with Ursula and Elizabeth, the faculty I worked most closely with in developing a plan for the midwifery ward. They asked what my goals were for the year and I told them I wanted to be the most help to them, whatever they saw that to be. But I told them I didn’t want to give up on getting that ward started at Queens. A recap: the plan was in full swing to get a midwifery ward established at the teaching hospital, Queens, when the pandemic struck and the ward allotted to the midwives was taken for a covid ward as it was the only place there was oxygen. They then moved the ward to the sister city, Limbe, about seven miles away. This was a huge disappointment as the Limbe health center was already run by midwives, it’s very small, and few students go there, which defeats the whole purpose of it being a teaching ward. But the choice was either to use the allowed funding for Limbe or forgo it altogether, so they almost apologetically told me they chose to go with Limbe. I felt badly because they acted like they were disappointing me. They knew how badly I wanted this to happen at Queens. Of course, I understood, and told them so. The ward at Limbe is now a model for better, more respectful care and there are staff there dedicated to mentoring the students who do go there, so there’s a big benefit. I want to see what kind of stats they’ve collected and see what we can put together for an argument for resurrecting the plan at Queens. Though, I am still sussing out what kind of enthusiasm there is for it. Elizabeth said, “If you are only here for one year, I don’t know…”. There is a possibility of opening a separate birth center in a private clinic owned by the University. We jumped in Elizabeth’s car to go see that at the very end of the day and there is potential. It’s not on site, but would have it’s own operating room so we could still eliminate the need for transferring if there is a problem, but we’ll see.
Wednesday I was out at the second campus, Kameza, about twelve miles out of town in a gorgeous location surrounded by mountains. There we were sorting through supplies donated for the midwifery and pediatric wards. I found it incredibly depressing. A container full of supplies from the U.S. arrived and the boxes unloaded. It reinforced more dramatically why Doctors Without Borders does not accept material donations. Most of it consisted of disposable items, as if they need more trash here, and seemed randomly selected. I spent most of the time explaining what half of it was. Foam heel protectors, adult diapers, mouth swabs, each package was held up to me with confused expressions. They were hoping for instruments that could be sterilized and used over and over but it was plastic basins, unsterile drapes, opened boxes of gauze, half empty boxes of gloves, etc. I found it all rather insulting. Ursula said, “I know we are poor, but…” And, “I know we shouldn’t complain if it is free…but…” I told her I had no problem complaining. It’s dumping and we would have been better off getting the money they spent shipping the stuff here. Oh well. It’ll get used somehow then end up in an overflowing landfill. They’d hoped to keep the container and use it for a small clinic––workers here can cut doors and windows in the metal and transform that space–– but the container wasn’t part of the donation.
I got to church this morning for the first time since arriving. It’s far enough away I have to drive and it made me nostalgic for my early Sunday morning walks to the church I used to go to. It is the rainy season, though, and the days have been drizzly and cool. Walking wouldn’t have been super enjoyable, especially on the busy roads. I’m glad I went. I loved the mass. I loved listening to the choir sing songs from the folk masses of the 70’s. I loved the incense, and the sermon about interpreting the translated-from-Greek biblical passages. The priest’s interpretation was full of context and nuance. He took the word “repentance” and broke down the original Greek, illustrating all the different ways it could be translated. It was brilliant and poignant for this time when that book is hijacked and used as a tool to gain control and power.
I read somewhere “in a thousand years no one will know the difference between a butt dial and a booty call, and that is the problem with the bible”. I thought that was hilarious, but when I told my friends in England the joke they didn’t get it. They didn’t know what a booty call was. And that is the problem with the bible.
Love to all,