Sunday Morning ~ Mangochi

Sunday Morning ~ Mangochi

Mbewa ya manyazi idafera ku dzenje. ~ The fearful mouse died in its hole.

~ Chewa proverb

March 17, 2024

Hi Everyone,

I have a gorgeous perch to write at this morning. It’s just getting light. The lake is before me with the mountains of Mozambique framing the opposite shore about fifteen miles away. The lake is high. They tell me they haven’t had excessive rains here but the northern part of the country has and the water is rising everywhere. The grounds and gardens at this lodge are almost completely submerged. The walkways are still above the waterline, but many of the small buildings have a moat. When I checked-in Friday I was told other lodges on the lake had to close because of the flooding. They said they were very lucky here at the Kingfisher. I wonder for how long. No one seems too upset, though.

I left my little thatched rondavel while it was still dark as there was not much to do in there once I woke at 4:30. I hadn’t packed a flashlight or candles and the power went out sometime during the night. This became evident when the fan stopped and the air got thick and heavy. I laid there for awhile but got restless and decided to walk out and watch the sun come up. There’s no human life stirring yet though the birds are quite vocal. I was hoping for a cup of tea but I haven’t seen a soul aside from a razor thin guard who was sleeping in the bar when I walked down here. It’s breezy and the waves on the lake are just about to mingle with the pool. I wonder if chlorine kills bilharzia? There are all kinds of birdlife enjoying the new watery landscape. I’ve seen at least a dozen different kinds in the time I’ve been sitting here. I’m not great at identifying them, but I do know there is a fish eagle sitting in the tree above me.

I came to the Mangochi to visit Anna, a former Seed volunteer who was in my cohort in 2016. She is a family doctor and has returned to Mangochi every year for the past nine years. She spends four months here teaching medical students and residents as part of an exchange program with her hospital in Washington state. This year she is back with her partner and baby. They feel like family. It’s comfortable and easy. 

I left Blantyre Friday around noon and headed out of the city. The ride is not too difficult; the road is paved, but narrow with loads of potholes. Once descended from the Zomba mountains the terrain flattens out and the last hour is delightful––open savannah, baobab and acacia trees, few cars, and smooth pavement. I love the Mangochi road. As long as it’s daylight, avoiding goats and bicyclists is manageable. 

It was dead calm when I arrived at the Kingfisher Inn, and very hot and humid. I couldn’t wait to drop my stuff and get in the pool. I’m usually happy to just sit and look at the water, but after four hours sweating in the car, the pool looked inviting. Though the lodge is situated right on the lake it’s not possible to swim in it. Hippos and crocodiles inhabit these parts and even villagers aren’t in the lake unless in their boats. The pool is built into a cement deck and I’m told there used to be a beach separating it from the lake. Now the lake laps at the edge of the pool. I’m wondering how long it will be before this whole place is underwater. There is a thatched bar originally built on the shore but now sort of in the lake. It’s still functioning with a 2×6 piece of wood stretched out over the surrounding water to access it. A more permanent bridge with a handrail would look as if it were an exotic design. The volleyball net is in the middle of a pond now and I doubt anything could make that look planned. Despite the heat and rising water, it’s peaceful and beautiful and I’m loving being here for the weekend. There are not many people staying here and the bar was empty last evening when I crossed the plank to get a gin and tonic. While waiting for my drink I saw a Bao board and asked the bartender if he’d give me a refresher on how to play. “You want to play Bao?” he asked surprised. I told him I have played it many years ago but have forgotten. He was eager to give me a lesson and it started coming back to me as he moved the stones around the board. Malawians are incredible at this game, counting the stones at lightening speed and knowing where they will land. He let me win the first two games and when we started on the third the cook called from the empty dining area that my supper was ready. I got up to go, thinking I’d come back to finish the game after eating, but Vincent put the whole thing away and said, “We can finish tomorrow.” I think he was bored. It was like teaching a child. I was very slow. 

The past week of classes went well. I’m getting more comfortable with the huge class and am continuously grateful for the students’ resiliency. It’s college effort multiplied by ten. For a side hustle I had a meeting with a few of the midwives involved with the initiation of the midwifery ward back in 2016. We are evaluating the feasibility of resurrecting our vision. On my way to the meeting I walked by the original site, reallocated as the pandemic swelled to accommodate Covid patients–––the only ward with oxygen. I sighed. We were so close. The ward is now empty and there are rumblings about a plan for its use. A seat at that table had better be for midwives. One of the matrons (the equivalent of our nursing supervisor) was on our South African trip to see the model midwifery ward in 2018 and has been promoted to a prominent position, on level with the head of the obstetrics department. I asked her if she believes it’s possible to initiate the midwifery ward as we’d originally planned or should we put the effort somewhere else? She said it was indeed possible and it is a legacy she’d love to leave. I was thrilled with that answer and asked what next? Who do we involve in a first meeting? We brainstormed for a while and came up with a plan. So, Tuesday at 2 pm we will have a meeting with the heads of departments of the hospital and College of Medicine. We will lay out our vision (again). The pandemic is controlled. The ward is empty. We have the same problem we had eight years ago with clinical teaching for students. Can we pick up where we left off? Can  this midwifery ward get established in the teaching hospital? Please!!

My job was to draft the invitation. Ursula’s job was to edit and send it, Christina’s was to secure the room. I offered to provide the refreshments. Within an hour we had a plan. Invitation was written and sent and we were smiling. It felt good to be doing something aside from bemoaning the fact we had been so close and not made it to the finish line. It feels like beginning again but from a new starting line. We have to figure out a budget and get funding but I’m working on that. Grant writing is not my idea of fun but I’ll do it. There are many out there, we just need to mold them into a fit for our project or vice versa. I so hope this works. As my college leadership professor said, “Enthusiasm is contagious. So is fear. Choose wisely.” I’m excited about this, fearful of falling short again, but glad to be in motion.

Love to all,

Linda


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