The End of an Era

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June 24th 2013
Published: August 28th 2013
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It's hard to imagine, but this week actually marks the final days of my time in Malawi. The past nine months have been filled with some of the most memorable experiences of my life. Many, particularly the challenges I faced at work, will no doubt continue to inspire me for years to come. Others, such as Arthur's funeral a few weeks ago, will likely serve as a painful reminder of the hardships that so many people on this planet still face.

Despite my admittedly bittersweet feelings about leaving Malawi, I have no doubt that I will look back on this period as one of immense personal and professional growth. Personally, this experience has provided me with a new 'home' and a community of friends that has shown me how easy it is to appreciate the little things in life. Even in a small village in Neno, Malawi, I found a community of people with whom I could discuss and share my innermost thoughts, no matter what the circumstances (sidenote: I even decided to 'come out' to some of my Malawian friends during my last days here, a decision that was met with mostly positive reactions). On a professional level, this
Final weekend getaway...Final weekend getaway...Final weekend getaway... Mount Mulanje with Danmore (ie 'rastaman')
experience also inspired me to continue to pursue medicine as a second career, a decision that did not come lightly and that will likely come with many more challenges (and, hopefully, achievements) in the years to come.

For my final weekend in Malawi, a few of my American colleagues decided to throw me a surprise going-away/early birthday party, complete with an appropriately pink cake 😊 At the party, I was asked to share some of my favorite stories from the past year. I tried to come up with a few but, to be honest, there was none that fully encompassed the diversity of highs and lows that I experienced. What I can say, though, is that I am definitely leaving this chapter with a much better understanding of who I am and, perhaps more importantly, of the person I want to become as I enter the next decade of my life.

As luck would have it, I ended up returning to the United States during my birthday weekend, which also happened to coincide with "Pride." To celebrate, I went to my favorite venue in New York City (Marie's Crisis), a piano bar that has admittedly been my 'second home' for years. While there was a part of me that definitely missed sitting around the bottle shop in Lisungwi, discussing all of the surprising, mystifying, and sometimes upsetting aspects of life there, there was also a part of me that was just glad to be home. And on that note, I will sign off with one of my favorite quotes, which I think appropriately captures the ambivalent, but mostly inspiring, nature of my trip to Malawi, as well as elsewhere:

"We are all faced with a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems." - John Gardner


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