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Published: August 15th 2008
I hope things are good in the states? Here time is moving, but probably not the same speed as it is back home. We swore in and became official Peace Corps Volunteers Wednesday, July 23rd. The next day nearly my entire group departed Lilongwe for their respective sites. I, unfortunately, had an interview with a representative of the Board of Nursing and Midwifery Counsel or whatever they call it here… I was very nervous, but I think it went okay. She did, however, assign me to a 4 week orientation in Blantyre, but the other nurses have similar orientations as well.
Those who remained left the next day. I left with the 2 other nurses Friday the 25th for Blantyre, and because of our locations it took us an additional travel day to get to our sites. I was the last to reach my site: Saturday afternoon. I was met by the female VSO tutor who handed me the keys to my new home.
I have to say I got VERY lucky. Some volunteers are living in housing similar to what we experienced in home stay. Very rural. I believe nearly all the environment volunteers here in Malawi live
like this. The benefit of my being a tutor is housing with electricity and running water…well, most of the time.
My house is nice. It actually has 3 small bedrooms, two of them containing beds. There is also a living room area, a ½ bathroom with a toilet and sink, as well as another room just for the shower. The kitchen area is outside, but the VSO (her name is Elly) gave me a hotplate that the previous volunteer used, so when the power is on I don’t have to cook over a fire. My third bedroom I use to house my bike, but the other two are nice…I have an area outside that is paved and private that I have even been able to practice my patterns in! I am not sure how it will work during the rainy season (or when it gets really hot), but I guess I could always use the bike room for smaller exercises. I even have a garden! Granted, some of the children knocked down my fence right before I arrived so I am constantly chasing goats and chicken out of it, but it does have banana and papaya trees! When I return
from orientation I plan on getting the fence fixed.
I also plan on getting a cat. I am not sure if it is the rats or the geckos that are leaving such a mess for me in the mornings, but I will definitely feel better with a cat around to at least eat the disgusting bugs here. One of the first nights I was here I had been walking around in my house barefoot (I have concrete floors!! Yay! Real floors, not dirt!) And I went into the bathroom and in the middle of my floor was not one, but 2 spiders! Just hanging out. They looked more like crabs than spiders. (Actually, they looked more like those nasty pod-exiting, face-grabbing aliens that Segory Weaver exterminates in Alien) But they moved like crabs, sideways, and were super fast. So, even being in Malawi for 2 months is not enough time for my old mzungu habits to change, so I immediately jumped in the air (well, maybe hopped a little, we all know I am gravitationally challenged) and ran straight to my room for my flip flops. Having procured proper footwear I crept back to the bathroom. They were still sitting
there! Now, keep in mind that I still needed to use the facilities, so during this entire encounter I am bobbing back and forth in proper pee-dance fashion, but I refused to enter this tiny room with these little alien-crabmonsters chilling on the floor.
So. I will say that I do not mind spiders if they are up on the ceiling or high on a wall in their web, feasting on the other insects (particularly the malaria-spreading mosquitoes), but having little parties on my bathroom floor in the middle of the night is unacceptable. Well, after a few seconds of watching my enemy, I decide to stomp up and down to see if the noise would get them to leave. No use. They were startled for a second and demonstrated their amazing speed and sideways crawling action, but if anything they crept closer to me. So, annoyed at this point I go grab one of my boots. Me, being the super wimp that I am, I am too nervous about trying to squash two, lightning-fast crabbeasts by stepping on them. So I chucked my boot at the devils. I thought I got one of them, even though I saw the
My spare bedroom
I stacked my mattress so that the room didn't look so bare...
other climb the wall, but when I lifted my boot up (while still keeping an eye on the second one) he was not there… I retreated immediately from the room, and almost instantly the two returned to the middle of the floor.
Well, they just declared war. I have to be here for 2 years and I DID NOT need to be sharing a bathroom with spiders. I liked not wearing shoes in the house. So I go back to my room and dig through my things and emerge with the can of Raid that I bought while in home stay. I creep back to the bathroom and unload what had to be half a can of Raid on both of their heads. They shot in two different directions to small cracks in the molding. I continued spraying until I nearly exhausted the entire can, making a mental note to change out my toothbrush since the fumes in the bathroom were now visible, and took care of my business very quickly. I did not see those spiders again, but now I always check when I enter the bathroom. Ugh.
As far as my actual site is, it is very
nice. The people at the hospital are friendly, but I do get a lot of people coming up to me and asking for money. That gets old very quickly. I also get stares everywhere I go, and sometimes it makes me a little uncomfortable. I am always worried that I have something on my face or in my hair or that my clothes are on backwards…and this does not help my clumsy side, which has definitely come in full force now that I am out of tkd and constantly the center of attention. So, I trip a lot and get lost a lot. Usually I just laugh nervously afterwards and the people around start laughing as well, which is okay but not exactly the most professional way to handle oneself… well at least you know I have not changed too much.
For instance, the second day I was here I decided I was tired of unpacking and moving furniture around and I wanted to try out my semi-new P.C. issued mountain bike. I wanted to go to the market and get some cokes and maybe some margarine- the water is too chlorinated for my taste. So I get on my
bike, strap on my helmet (P.C. regulation) and start pedaling to the market. I get halfway there and my gears start acting funny, and all of a sudden I am in the ditch. Luckily, the only person who saw me this time was a truck driver, and he didn’t stop. So I walk my bike to the market, but I am so annoyed with my bike that I didn’t buy anything. Well, being the bright and intelligent woman that I am I decided to try my bike out again. So I start walking back and turn this corner and when there was only one woman around I hop back on my bike (did I mention that it is a boys bike and I am wearing a skirt?) and start pedaling… and the chain pops off!! Well, immediately 5 or 6 people materialize from nowhere and try to help, which would have been fine but I was worried they would ask for money, so I say thanks (zikomo) and walk my bike back home…Good first impression, the mzungu who cannot ride a bike.
As I said, the people here are very nice. Elly is a VSO from Holland and is one
of the clinical instructors at the college and she invited me to dinner one night (I will have to return the favor if I ever get my refrigerator fixed or get macaroni and cheese in the mail- hint hint, wink wink). It was good, we had spaghetti. We also swapped movies, and went on a walk (it was more like a hike!) through the countryside. There are the elephant marshes nearby that can be seen from the mountains…they don’t have elephants, but they do have hippos and crocodiles. Elly was telling me about the fishermen that come in after encounters with the crocs…she also has never seen anyone who made it to the hospital after a run-in with a hippo. Yikes.
There is also a VSO from Kenya here as well, who is very nice, and of course the Malawian instructors are fun too. They even gave me an office…I share it with one of the female tutors Mrs. Mndolo. All the tutors here spend time in both the classroom and on the wards, but I believe I will be doing all of my teaching from the classroom.
Okay, so right now I am in Blantyre where I will be
doing a nursing orientation at Queen Elizabeth Hospital for the next 3 weeks. I have already been here one week observing the pediatric wards…Monday I was on the ‘Special Care Unit’, Tuesday I was in the ‘moyo’ which is for severely malnourished children, Wednesday I was in the ‘Accident and Emergency’ ward, which I guess could be similar to the emergency department, kind of, Yesterday I was in the nursery in the morning, and after lunch I was in the Pediatric Surgical ward, and today I was in oncology. I have seen some VERY interesting cases. I have seen more textbook, extreme cases here for one week than I did in nursing school. Being a new graduate with very little experience in American hospitals, let alone Malawian ones, I am a little intimidated by the nurses here and worried I will make a bad impression. I am also not so excited about getting on a minibus everyday in order to get to the hospital at 730am. Yuck. And the white uniform that the principle tutor had made for me is fun to clean everyday…
Anyway, so maybe I will have a chance to take some pictures of Blantyre. We’ll see.
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