A mythical place...
After four months in Malawi it is sadly time for me to say a temporary 'goodbye' to my friendly yet admittedly taxing "second-home." My experience at Partners In Health thus far has been nothing short of life-changing. In addition to getting an inside look at the drug procurement process - which is unfortunately plagued with corruption, customs problems, and routine stock-outs - I have also been inspired by my clinical experiences here to think seriously about pursuing medicine as a second-career (more on this later...).
While I will thankfully be returning to my post at PIH in March, this temporary departure is still somewhat bittersweet. When I return in March, the weather will be much cooler, and the bugs will be much more manageable; but I will nonetheless miss some of my colleagues who will be leaving before I return. Of note is my lovely Malawian roommate, Sam, a nurse/pastor who has taught me volumes about the life and culture of Malawi.
Before saying "tionana" ("goodbye" in Chichewa) to East Africa, though, two other PIH friends (Beth and Erin) and I decided to take a trip to Zambia and Botswana to see the infamous Victoria Falls (one of my
life goals!) and to experience my first safari (to which my next post will be dedicated...).
Victoria Falls has always been a very mythical place to me. As a pre-adolescent, I recall writing a list entitled "100 Things I Want to See Before I Die," and remember putting Victoria Falls high up on that list. After a very long commute to get there (which included a 12-hour bus ride to Lusaka and then a 5-hour bus ride to Livingstone), Victoria Falls seems to emerge out of nowhere in the middle of the jungle, forming a virtual 350-foot drop on the Zambezi River. You can hear the roaring of the falls for miles around (its indigenous name, "Mois-oa-Tunya," is translated as "The Smoke That Thunders") but, for most of 'modern' history, this place was unknown to the Western world. Dr. Livingstone, in fact, is recognized as the first European to see the falls (in the mid-1800s), though he could only find them with the help of some locals. While the falls are neither the highest nor the widest in the world, they are reportedly the largest, being rivaled only by Argentina and Brazil's Iguazu Falls.
Once Beth, Erin, and
I arrived at the eastern end of the falls, we were immediately welcomed by two rainbows (double-rainbow!) that seemed to indicate that we were entering some kind of preternatural world. After gazing in awe at the Zambian side of the falls for a good hour or so, we finally decided to explore three hiking trails that are part of the Victoria Falls National Park. In addition to providing us with some amazing views of the falls (and an unnerving trip across the "Knife-Edge Bridge"), we also saw a bunch of baboons, whose comfort around humans indicated a long-standing relationship between these primates and their human counterparts. While I had ambitions of also taking a dip in Devil's Pool (a natural pool that is literally on the edge of the falls), I unfortunately did not have enough kwacha for the trip and, instead, took a long stroll through the nearby market.
And, now, on to Botswana....
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