Sunday Morning ~ Holding Tight in Blantyre

Sunday Morning ~ Holding Tight in Blantyre

Gwira pali moyo. ~ Hold tight where the real life is.

~ Chewa proverb

June 30. 2024

Hi Everyone,

I’m crawling out of my hole after getting up at 3 am on Friday morning to watch the debate. My landlords, also political junkies, were planning to watch, have a big TV, and invited me to join. I went and watched, drinking cup after cup of hot water trying to calm my sick stomach. I had flashbacks to the 2016 morning after. Then I remembered the rapist’s debate with Hillary Clinton where he shit the bed and still won the election and I calmed down a little. I went home to my little house, crawled back under the covers, put the pillow over my head, and tried to calm my racing heart. It was a near panic attack. Breathe, I told myself. Breathe. There’s a problem, so we problem solve. I put a book on audible to distract me and dozed off. Two hours later I got up, dressed in my uniform, and set off for the practical exams for second year nursing students. I was shaky and tired and still hadn’t had tea but welcomed a day full of work. I needed perspective. And distraction.

One hundred and thirty-three students were tested in four skills and I was assigned to blood transfusion. They had eight minutes to demonstrate each skill with two instructors grading them. The skill is divided into thirty-two possible points and we mark each one as they demonstrate it, ie. hand hygiene, choose correct tubing, confirm blood type, etc.  I did a few mental calculations on how long this was going to take…133x8x4 is a lot of minutes. My stomach was in knots and the banana I’d forced down before leaving the house wasn’t sitting well. I marveled at the student’s determination and commitment though, and realized they probably hadn’t eaten all day either as they sat and waited their turn. They are familiar with this kind of testing but it’s still stressful. The final ones had waited ten hours. It was after 6 p.m. when we finished, a long day but I was glad for it. Glad to have meaningful work to do. Glad my colleagues had no idea there had been a debate at 3 a.m. so no one talked about it. Glad when tea was served. Glad the students did well. Glad I’m here doing this.

Last week I spent two days in Mangochi with my first year students as they finished their first clinical rotation. They were already doing blood transfusions though they hadn’t learned it in the classroom or skills lab. They were taught by second year students on the floor. It’s a lot and it overwhelms me. It also inspires me. I met with the sister-in-charge (head nurse) to do their clinical evaluations. She told me they were all eager to learn and very professional. I have no idea how she keeps track of them all but I passed her feedback on to the students when I met with them. I gave them their graded papers, their clinical evaluations, and their graded group project. I told them I was proud of them and knew it was hard to work with so few supplies and so little supervision and guidance. Worried the whole experience would put them off midwifery altogether, I asked if they still thought they’d gone into the right profession? They all produced huge smiles and emphatically cheered “Yes!” They said they felt very useful and liked the experience. I was a bit stunned. I thought they may have been traumatized, but they told me they were more committed than ever, and they loved what they were doing. I clapped my hands and cheered for them. Thank God. So interesting how we can perceive situations so differently. 

In addition to that, last week we managed to pull off a hastily organized day-long planning workshop with soon-to-expire architectural grant funding. We had three groups of midwives working in different aspects of the profession give thoughts on possible designs for a new midwifery-center building. If such a building can be funded, we want input from all the groups who’d work there. The idea of designing a space suitable for everyone is so exciting. I am fascinated by this process and am loving working with Chris and Deb, the architects.They are so knowledgable about health systems and synthesizing them with design that could promote healthier outcomes. Chris had a healthcare worker wear a fit bit and then traced the pattern of steps they made during the day. It was a powerful illustration of how inefficient many of our facilities are and why it’s so exhausting to work there.  

We had originally planned for a simple structure, accommodating six delivery beds and six post-natal beds. We thought it would be a dream to have a simple suite where we could get this project going. Costs would be achievable and we already have the land in a perfect location in the open space outside two large underutilized rooms. Two months ago we thought of raising $200,000 and building a one story structure with good materials including plumbing and electricity. Now we are thinking of adding a couple of zeros to that number and building a larger two story structure with offices. It’s very exciting and definitely more complex, but…here we go.

At the end of that busy week I was invited to spend the weekend at a lodge on a tea plantation near Mt. Mulanje. Last Sunday morning I started writing the blog while watching the sun come up over the huge massif but put it down to go to breakfast and I never got back to it. After breakfast we hiked up to a beautiful waterfall before making our way back to Blantyre and I couldn’t rally to continue writing. This weekend has been just at home re-grouping. I had a facial and pedicure yesterday and plan to take a long walk this afternoon. I’m trying to focus and not panic about factors beyond my control. 

I will drive up to Dedza this Wednesday where the thrice postponed International Day of the Midwife celebrations are to be held. I’ll be doing a speech on midwives’ role in climate change and am preparing for that–––I’m starting and ending with a Chichewa proverb so need to practice. Then I’ll spend next weekend at Ntchisi Forest Lodge north of Lilongwe, another on my list of places I’ve not visited yet. Next Monday I’ll hopefully meet with some people in the capitol who can give guidance on how to get our project funded. 

Hang in there everyone. We’ve got work to do. Failure is not an option.

Love to all,


One thought on “Sunday Morning ~ Holding Tight in Blantyre

  1. Susie P Wood Reply

    The amazing work you are doing – teaching, supporting the students, your incredible maternity project and on and on – will keep you afloat. It will fortify you for all that awaits you back here.!
    Enjoy every moment, Linda.
    I love your wonderful blog!
    Stay well.

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