My time in Malawi Part Two-By Dr Shondelle
Once we stepped out of the capital and began to explore the villages it was evident how sparse the country is. We were on a journey searching for twins that had been sent from the orphanage back to their village and the life we saw was very difficult. It was one of poorest villages I have seen and the family of five were living in a 2x2m mud hut lying on dirty clothes to sleep, with no protection from the leaks in the roof. Wanting to help as much as possible, on our second visit we brought school books, new clothes, and shoes, mats to sleep on, blankets and toys but were shattered when one of the twins told us she was hungry and hadn’t eaten in days. We immediately drove back to the markets to gather food supplies, enough firstly to feed the village of 80 for one meal and then enough rice and local food Nsima (a well formed porridge) to last the twins and family for another 2 weeks, total cost $18. This has to be one of the saddest and most frustrating parts of the trip, knowing that for the same amount someone might spend on takeaway for dinner can feed 80 people!! It always seems like too big of a problem and people ask well what can I really do? Imagine if everyone in the world donated $20 in one year to the right project!?
When we reached our main base 2 hours north, our organised accommodation became no longer an option (it mimicked an abandoned asylum and I felt like we were tantalisingly close to being stars of a horror film), guided by fate and our very trustworthy friend who was driving we stumble into the outskirts of the village just as the sun is going down. Again not normally an issue at home, but when the roads are narrow, with no street lights and an abundance of foot and animal traffic, driving in the dark is not the safest option. So I will set the scene, we pull up with a car FULL of goodies, amongst some huts, sun gone now, 3 blonde girls jump out of the car and one of us says i’ll just see if my friend still lives here. So she proceeds to yell “Patson, Patson”, as she peers into someone’s hut and tries to sneak a glimpse over the fence. We are now crowed by what seems like half of the kids in the village and a very stern few adults who are wanting to know who on earth we are and what we are doing! As we then discover, Patson does not live there anymore but Moses still lives a few huts down the sand road, so the 20 of us proceed to Moses’ house, hand in hand with kids we just met 🙂
The greeting was touching and we were welcomed into the village that one of us had called home 4 years earlier and it was heart-warming to hear people calling her name in the street as we walked past. I don’t think she will ever realise how many lives she has touched or how seeing this firsthand warmed me so much. This was our home for the next 2 weeks, apart from the odd trip back to the capital to gather supplies. And those days were no ordinary days, we found ourselves at the end of each, looking at one another laughing and wondering how on earth we could top that the next day and most times we did. Our days were filled with adjusting the locals in a friend’s front yard, making house calls to people that were unable to walk or move around well, being pulled into other houses because good news travels fast and there were more people to see, adjusting the pregnant women at the local clinic, helping the midwife see to the women and measure how far along they were, helping deliver babies and mixing with all our new friends and of course sharing food and gossip. Because anywhere in the world, in any language there is always juicy gossip! 🙂
In the end, although we got intermittent hot water, it was a celebration when we did and we may have only got power for an hour a day in the village but we appreciated it when we did. Even though we were sweating profusely during the night, you still wouldn’t dare open a window for the fear of being eaten alive by mosquitos. And even though I got up several nights at midnight to have a shower for the FOURTH time just to cool myself down, I still would do it all over again.
Upon reflection of my first blog I was disappointed as I felt it came across as a look at me piece and look at what I am doing and that made me upset as I want it to inspire others to want to be part of a place in the world that is not so different from ours , a world not to be feared or ignored. In all my travels this has been one of my safest trips and I felt more secure than I have at times in Australia. My favourite thing about travel is the people. I know that the impact that they have on me is far greater than the footprint I have left. I said goodbye to Africa with a feeling of gratitude for home, for my family and upbringing, for the privilege of food and healthcare but most of all I left with a stronger appreciation for life. No matter what our circumstance, we should always make the best of it and as I watched the kids without iPads, laughing as they play in the dirt with a ball made from plastic bags! I realised that I want my life to be full of love, laughter and memories 🙂 Thanks to everyone that helped donate to Malawi, thank you for your baby clothes, wool, knitting needles, jewellery, books, love and support. I would love to share Malawi with you all, anytime.B Shondelle xx
Adjusting babies in the village
Viewing X-rays the old school way
Enjoying the company of some of the happiest children in the world 🙂
Travelling light, all we need is a table and our hands!
Adjusting the children in the village