Trish Dean's blog

Don't Buy Yellow for Malawi

December 11th, 2013 11:15 AM

End of mandate reports are done and WUSC and Likuni Hospital will have a meeting with me tomorrow.  It will be my last day at Likuni and I’m not sure how I feel about that.   As much I will miss the laughter with Sister Agnes and Sister Joyce, the confidence sharing with Mary, I am ready to leave.  I believe that’s a good thing. I am really looking forward to going home and seeing my family.

I’ve been gathering my gifts and items that I will leave behind, looking for a good home for them.  I was gifted yellow and red lanyards from the University which I have been handing out here and there.  When I get to the hospital everyone is trying to trade in the yellow ones for the red ones.  I can’t quite figure out why no one likes yellow.  Then Dr. Jiams explains that yellow represents one of the political parties.  Now I have a bag full of yellow lanyards.  One of the clinicians is pleased to accept yellow and is excited about receiving one so I gift him with three.  He is a lovely man and I will miss him as well.  He is one of the staff who has learned Therapeutic Touch (TT) and I’ve encouraged him to practice with Anya, one of the nurses.  After offering TT to both of them I make my way back to the Female/Male Wards.

I start with the Male ward and find there are only two patients left.  An older gentleman who was tested for tuberculosis is looking much better today.  The other young man who I have seen a few times as well for TT, is not getting better.  I sense a hardness to his stomach and mention that to the nurse who is amazed I can pick that up.  Later in the day, I ask the clinician doctor about him.  He explains he has Hepatitis B which is fatal and supportive treatment is very expensive.  He further explains that Hepatitis B is more fatal than Malaria.

These two wards have been quite full to capacity during my time here mainly due to Malaria and Hepatitis at this time of year; the start of the rainy season.

The other thing I learn is the reason for the high consumption of salt.  The soil here does not have iron so people are encouraged to use iodized salt for their iron.  Of course this becomes a problem with pregnant women who present hyper tension on entering the labour ward which can result in further complications.

There are lots of challenges here which the Malawians recognize and face head on, one step at a time.  I admire their perseverance and dedication and willingness to learn.

On the lighter side, Pam asked for some recipes.  I have heard over and over again about Mice on a Stick.  In one of Judi’s blogs, who visited Malawi about a month before me, she asked if people really ate mice and she received an affirmative response.

So on my trip to Lake Malawi, I asked my driver, Mphatso if he ever indulged.  He said they were very tasty and gave me the following recipe:

  • Catch mice
  • Gut them
  • Put in a pot of water with salt and some spice, fur still on
  • Bring to a boil then simmer until water gone.
  • Take the mice and dry them outside on a straw like roof

Voila, they are ready to eat.

My friend Adam who was in Ghana said the mice that lived in sugar cane fields were very sweet.  Mphatso confirmed this as well.  I didn’t come across anyone selling these delicacies and I certainly don’t mind passing on this one.

I’ve been asked what I learned here in Malawi.  There are countless lessons but my main accomplishment that I’m very proud of, is fully trusting.


December 10th, 2013 12:00 AM

Today Sister Agnes and I are invited to attend a WUSC Stakeholders meeting for the morning followed by a lovely lunch.  I thought it might be a bit boring as they were presenting their annual reports.  All the partners participating in the WUSC Uniterra program were in attendance including the Hospice in Salima.  I was delighted to meet Lucy who founded the Hospice that Peggy Franks, a fellow TT'er, visited in 2009 and taught Therapeutic Touch (TT).  Lucy remembered Peggy and I sent back my handout with her to refresh their memory of Therapeutic Touch.

The morning was very informative for me as I learned about all the other programs operating around Malawi and gained insight into the challenges as well as benefits of what WUSC is all about.  I was able to offer input from my volunteer's point of view and everyone was listened to with respect.

Sister Agnes has to leave before lunch as she is meeting with some American visitors who are offering to help build a new facility at Likuni. I remain to enjoy lunch with the WUSC staff and am offered a ride back to the lodge.  I figure I will spend the afternoon finishing my end of mandate report.  I do make a stop first at the Old Town Mall to pick up a book written by the Rhino Whisperer who I met at Camp Mvuu.  I also take another opportunity to stop in my favourite store to look at the woodwork from the Mua Mission.  The shop owner is very entertaining and I learn so much about the Mua Mission and its founder. Now I have to return to visit and spend some time with a gentleman who sounds to be a beautifully eccentric spirit, passionate about the deep cultures of Malawi and its people.

I pick up some traditional woodwork pieces that hopefully will travel safely in my luggage home.  I head back to the Lodge for a cool shower, my choice, and prepare for finishing the reports. I have two days left at Likuni and the Korean Garden Lodge.  I've said my goodbyes to the WUSC staff and I've been passing out gifts here and there.  The Lodge staff are wearing the key lanyards I gave them this morning; thanks Robin. I have pictures of them wearing them like ties. The University Better Planet Pins are welcomed by the WUSC staff and I am grateful to Cindy for those.  

It feels a little sad as I am preparing to leave and withdraw from this vibrant community.  Sister Agnes noticed a typo on the annual report which stated my departure date as Dec 2014.  She wouldn't let me change it and said I had to stay!  We laughed.  I think I will recheck my contract date.

Ndaswera bwino, kaya inu?
(I have spent the day well, and you?)

I posted more photos today.

Last Weekend in Malawi

December 8th, 2013 12:00 AM

Viv and I enjoy our last breakfast together as she is heading back to Scotland and I'm heading to Lake Malawi for the day.  I hear there is not much to do there except enjoy the beach and lake.  I'm told it is an hour's drive so I look forward to a nice relaxing day on the beach.

I'm prepared for everything and my backpack is heavy once again.


  • cell phone
  • water and a couple of nature bars
  • good book
  • bathing suit,towel
  • pen, journal
  • first aid type stuff (which I always carry) band aids, Advil, rescue remedy and a few tablets of Benadryl, Gastrolyte, diarrhea relief
  • as well I carry Berbercap from my holistic nutritionist and I have used those pills after some meals when my stomach is upset.  I also take Digest Plus Enzyme Formula with each meal to help my gut as well.
  • Sunscreen and Muskol Lotion; I recommend Lotion instead of spray because it is easier to apply and you don't breath in fumes as you are applying; thanks Judi for leaving me yours!
  • Flashlight
  • Toilet Paper
  • Sani Wipes; I use these daily
  • and last but not least, money

I keep most of the items above in my back pack daily plus a rain poncho and my chitenje as well as my notebook with important notes, contact info and some chichewa phrases.

I take my malaria pill (Malarone) in the morning with breakfast so I don't need to carry this with me.  It was recommended to take Malarone in morning so sleep patterns are not disrupted.  So far this has worked for me and I sleep well at night and no vivid dreams.  I only had some cramping on the first day after taking Malarone.  I am mentioning all this information for future travelers.

Mphatso and I are on our way with one stop for gas and I use the toilet.  Good thing I brought the paper!  I'm pleased to find that there is a clean, regular toilet facility.  I have been in much worse in Canada.

I'm relaxed and enjoy the drive and take in the scenery which is fairly similar to the drive we had to Liwonde but with much less congested trading centres.  Mphatso is looking to buy charcoal and mangos on this trip as they are a better price outside the big city areas.  We pass by lots of people selling their wares along the roadside.  We make a stop by a boy holding a live chicken so Mphatso can check the price.  The young boy holds the chicken up by my open window. I'm wondering where the chicken will ride if Mphatso decides to buy it.  If it is anything like the chickens on the mini bus, it will probably ride nice and quiet on the back seat.  The asking price is 800 kwachas but Mphatso is holding out for 700; we thank the boy and drive on.  We pull over a few more times checking out chicken prices but they are not as heavy as the first one. We move on and eventually reach the SunBird hotel on Lake Malawi in Salima at about 11:30 am.  It's a beautiful hotel with a very nice swimming pool, outside dining area, beautiful gardens and lots of shaded sitting area along the beach.  There is a welcoming breeze but it also brings lots of big waves on the lake creating a dangerous undertow so it is not wise to swim and I see no evidence of swimmers except two young boys trying to maneuver a dug out canoe in the waves carrying supplies to the opposite end of the beach where it is private and used by the campsite.  Now that area of the beach is full of people enjoying the water but it could be less dangerous as it looks protected with the big rocks at that end.

Mphatso leaves me to enjoy my day and I find a table with a view of the beach and lake.  The buffet has just been set up for lunch and I enjoy a wonderful meal.  I even tried the Nsima and was pleased I had tasty masala to eat with this main staple of Malawi.  Nsima is made with ground maize (corn four) and it is a cross between firm mashed potatoes and porridge.  It is very plain tasting.  Now I can go on with my life after saying I have tasted this dish.  You must at least taste nsima if you find yourself in Malawi.

I find myself a lounge chair by the pool and settle in to enjoy my book in between a few dips in the pool.  I will explore the beach a little later and try the lake if the waves die down.

There are lots of lizards scurrying about and I make sure my knapsack is closed.  I really do not want to bring one home. I think my umbrella stand is home to a large one who is quite persistent in getting past me.

I finally get some colour to my skin and apply sunscreen.  The strong breeze allows it to be quite comfortable to sit in the sun. It has been so hot in Lilongwe and Likuni that you are wise to seek shade when sitting outside.

I move to the beach and find Mphatso sitting under one of the straw, hut-like umbrella stands.  I test the lake one more time; at least I have put my feet in the lake.  I explore the beach a bit more and then relax and spend the rest of the day on the beach.  I really could get used to this lifestyle. 

I take one more dip in the pool at the end of the afternoon and by chance meet Heather from Farm Radio who I had just been introduced to a few nights ago at a WUSC dinner with Doug, Director of Programs. We get to know one another a bit better and I find she is staying close to Korean Lodge and her friends with her own a home in the area as well.  They are camping down the beach for the weekend.

It's now approaching 5:00 and Mphatso and I make our way back to Lilongwe.  Of course we stop, pricing Mangos along the way and he purchases a large bag for about 300 kwachas which is less than a dollar.  I am tempted to buy some myself but I have access to mangos at breakfast every morning.  He tries one more attempt at buying a chicken but we find the price has gone up so he abandons the search.  We make a final stop and he purchases a big bag of charcoal which fills the trunk.  Now both of us content, we move along and I get to see a lovely sunset and settle in for a calming drive.  We pass many people walking along in the dark, probably heading home after a busy day at market. 

As we approach Lilongwe, twinkling lights spread out over the city welcome us back.  I see my first Christmas Lights which almost look like fireworks from a distance.  Apparently most people decorate just a week before Christmas and everything shuts down for 3 weeks.  Malawi is a predominately Christian society along with a 10% Muslim community.  Each village is also unique unto itself with its own chief and culture.

I enjoy a quiet Sunday, meeting Sameer, another WUSC volunteer, for lunch at Serendipity.  It is located in Old Town Mall next to Mama Mia's which is a short walk from the lodge.  Along my walk I am approached again by a nice young man, Michael, who wants to sell me art cards.  I explain I already have enough cards and try and get rid of him.  As I approach the street which I think leads to Serendipity, I look a bit puzzled and ask Michael if this is the way to the restaurant.  Michael indicates he will show me the way, which turns out to be a great idea as I had the wrong directions and would have probably become lost.  Viv had shown me the way last week but I had put the wrong street on my map.  The young man is so courteous and it's about another 10 minute walk.  In appreciation I ask to look at his cards again before I bid his goodbye. I end up purchasing 3 cards and two necklaces for a good price.  I would have given him the money just for being my guide!

Now I settle in for the evening and will watch another episode of Downton Abbey.

Here is link to Saturday's pictures.

Update and an old blog post

December 6th, 2013 12:00 AM

Below is a blog I wrote at the end of my first week which did not get posted.  I managed to retrieve it today and felt it still important to share the information.  It’s actually relevant to the pictures I took on my drive in this morning to the hospital. 

Then I have finished off with today’s blog.

Friday, November 22

The traffic is heavier today travelling again by ambulance to Likuni Hospital.  I’m calmer today and take in the surroundings.  My driver has worked the night shift and is quiet.  As we head out of Lilongwe, the rural area is quiet pronounced by the open rolling fields.  The grass and rubble at the side of the road is burnt black by what I can only assume was burning garbage.  There are few homes, some gated some not with goats roaming outside by the side of the road.  The sides of the road are lined with various people making their way to Lilongwe, some with vary heavy awkward loads balanced on a bicycle seat while the owner manoeuvers by walking beside it holding the handlebars.  Some people with loads balanced on their heads; this is the predominant way of transporting items.  This is very common throughout the city of Lilongwe as well.  There are some shops grouped together periodically along the road which are very small and definitely not “new” looking.

They are small and attached together in a row.  I noticed an herbal shop which quite surprised me.  I will have to check that one out.

Upon arrival the Morning Prayer songs have begun and I quickly and silently join the line.  And so my day begins.  I know I have been writing long blogs and my intention was to keep this short but I am so amazed at what reveals itself, that I can’t help sharing.

I hear that the Male/Female Ward is quite busy today and Mary and I decide that this will be a good place to start again.  I arrive and acknowledge the young girl with the leg that I treated yesterday and she gives me the thumbs up.  On arrival at the nurses’ station, it is quite somber and I learn that the first patient I saw yesterday has just passed away.  There is a curtain draped around the bed and they are waiting for transport for the woman.  I don’t see her daughter but I am pleased she was able to do TT for her mother.  I just hope she realizes that she helped her mother pass. 

I move on to the Maternity ward to see if I can be of service only to find the staff have changed and they don’t know me.  This ward is basically pre natal and a few overflows from post natal.  After explaining why I am there, they direct me to patients that have indicated pain.  What is exciting is that a student nurse shows up while I’m there and she has seen on the internet something similar to TT and wants to learn.  So she is assigned to me to find patients who are willing to accept a TT session and this makes my life easier.  I explain to Priscabell as I go through each session so she gets a grounding in the TT process.  When I get to the internet I will forward to her information and You Tube videos directly related to TT.

I am not totally accepted by all the patients but I know I am reaching the ones in need.  I trust in the process.

The next ward is filled with women who have had caesarians.  A Clinician brings me to a woman who has just had twins but after labour is experiencing a psychosis (confusion; I hope I have the word correct) but she can understand me and agrees to TT.  I am directed to one more woman before I move on to the Labour Ward where I find women in various states of labour.  The Clinician directs me to three different women who are close to labour, two of which are on mattresses on the floor.
Yesterday, I thought the beds had sheets but I notice today they are plastic mattresses and if there is a blanket the patient has brought it from home.  They don’t have enough beds and when they are donated, they need mattresses.  I found out last night that they are in desperate need of single bed sheets as well as four tires for the second ambulance sitting outside.  There is only one working ambulance for the hospital at the moment but if they find four tires for the second ambulance, Isabelle can use if for her HIV/Aids outreach program.  Isabelle has been trying since yesterday to take me out to a village but the ambulance is out in the field somewhere.

I meant to report that on my arrival at the hospital I presented them with the supplies I brought from Canada; Norfolk Pharmacy offered me flanges and pouches and Val Morell donated measuring tapes.  They were thrilled to receive these supplies and everyone in the meeting was examining the boxes of the flanges and pouches.  Mary’s eyes lit up when I presented her with the measuring tapes and now I wish I had room for more. I will see when I return if I can send them a “care” package.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Life is never dull at Likuni Hospital.  I’m not even sure I should share this, but here goes.  The Male and Female wards are very busy today; they are filled to capacity with 31 patients total and many of them are very, very sick.  I am directed first, to the Male ward to a very sick gentleman with two of his family members attending to him.  I do TT and move on to the other male patients. There is not much conversation between us except, “May I offer you TT” and “Thank you”.  If they speak English I ask if they have any questions which I respond with my best answer. 

I’m approaching one of the last patients in the ward and learn the gentleman speaks English and has some questions first.  He asks if I am praying which I reply “No” and explain that I’m working with the patient’s energy field to help it flow better which enhances the patient’s ability to heal.  He next asks what my religion is and I give him an honest answer.  He continues to tell me that he has been watching me and he feels that I should be doing ministry work.  He also goes on to say that he has a strong desire to pray for me.  I learn that he is a Pastor and I reply that I’m always open to people praying for me, trying to keep the conversation light hearted.  The next thing I know, he places his hand firmly on my head and pronounces I am accepted by Jesus Christ.  This brings some amusement in the ward (laughter is always healing) so I turn with a big smile indicating I’m ok with what has just transpired.  We finish our conversation which I will share with anyone privately if they are interested.  The Pastor accepts TT and encourages me again to pursue ministry work.

Now, I have to mention here, that I had just offered TT to a Muslim patient who seemed very comfortable with the process.  I finish my “rounds” and leave the ward after giving TT to every patient in the ward.

What is interesting to mention here is a lot of the patients do think I am praying for them.  I have been approached and asked to come and pray for a patient to which I reply with a similar explanation stated above.  They still accept TT.  If a patient or guardian thanks me for praying for them after I have administered TT then I just smile and say you are welcome.  I feel, what is the point, after the fact, unless they really understand English.  Then I would fully explain the assumptions and process of TT.

So this is my last weekend here and I’m firming up my plans for some sightseeing.  I’m hoping to see Lake Malawi and maybe a stop at the Mua Mission to see their woodwork.

International Volunteer Day

December 5th, 2013 5:30 AM

All the volunteers were invited to attend an event at the Malingunde School and Village arranged by the UN. There were about 11 volunteer organizations represented such as Peace Corp, WUSC, Malawi Red Cross, JICA, NAPAM to name a few. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into when I accepted the invitation but I thought it would be a different change from Likuni Hospital.

We eventually arrive at the village loaded down with Volunteers, 2 Reporters, snacks, pop and water. Upon arrival the children immediately swarm the minibus.  I actually wonder how we are going to get out and move through the crowd. We somehow manage and a few of us go looking for toilet facilities and we are directed around the back of a building.  Three of us women pass the men and find a door, which we enter through and notice it is someone's home.  We apologize, back out and then notice a small cement structure in a very private setting.   I enter with my own supply of toilet paper and it is very bare with the exception of a heavy lid covering a hole in the cement floor.  I lift off the lid using the attached handle and the experience wasn't as bad as I expected.  I come out and I notice an outside tap and use it to wash my hands while the other two women I'm with use the latrine.  The woman that we intruded on is very politely sitting outside the door we first entered, watching us.  Then it dawns on me,  we've used her private latrine!  This is her home and backyard enclosure.  It was very neat and tidy and I had been busy taking pictures of the outdoor fire oven.  She doesn't say a word but just smiles at us.  We thank her and find our way back to our group.

The school yard is filled with various mini buses and quite a crowd of volunteers getting themselves organized for the various activities we are expected to partake; painting school classrooms, planting trees, repairing roofs and then there is the on site medical clinic which is set up for the morning for the villagers.  I am directed to the medical clinic and I am so thankful I don't have to be out in the sun planting trees or in a hot school room painting.  I am directed to a room to work with a physiotherapist and a surgeon, both volunteers from Tanzania who have been working in Malawi for a year; a short time they say.  The small treatment room is equipped with an examination table, a desk and two other volunteers who act as interpreters.

I am introduced and we explain our area of expertise and we begin to work together.  It's a whirlwind. The villagers come in two at a time and the Doctor and Physiotherapist assess each person's complaint, sending them to other clinics or even to hospital if it appropriate. Anyone experiencing pain is sent to me for TT before they leave the treatment room.  By the end of the day the Physiotherapist is interested to learn TT and we exchange emails.
Our clinic ends at about 1:00 pm and Grace, a Malawian university student, and I make our way to the main gathering area and find shade under a canvas rooftop set up for the day's activities.  There is Malawian music playing and the crowds of children are dancing. I love it!  I start to take a few pictures and before I know it, I'm surrounded again.  They love cameras.  I take their pictures close up and show them the results on my camera.  I soon realize I am the only Mzunga (white person) in the tent area.  The other volunteers are still out tree planting somewhere or painting rooms.  Grace kindly asks if I'm uncomfortable and I reply no; I'm enjoying the children.  At one point there is a line up of mostly female young students and they have formed a long line in front of me and just stare.  Oddly enough, this really doesn't bother me.  The music is still playing so I move to the rhythm, imitating a few of the dance moves and soon I have my own private show of dancers in front of me.

The festivities continue, the various other groups return from their projects, we indulge in our snacks and water, interact with the students who are constantly asking for our empty water bottles and we eventually head home after speeches, in time for dinner.

I am meeting Viv for dinner and we decide to try out Lattitude 13 which has been recommended.  After scrubbing off the dirt from the day, we make our way to Lattitude 13 which we discover is in the district with the government offices, embassies and an obviously more elite neighbourhood of private homes.  Latitude 13 is among this elite neighbourhood and as we are admitted to the beautiful grounds of the restaurant, I am in awe. It beats all of the upscale restaurants Guelph has to offer.  I check out the menu and then quickly check my purse to ensure I have enough to cover the check at the end of the night.  It really isn't that expensive but definitely more than what I would pay at Korean Garden Lodge.  I enjoy the Red Thai Curry with Chicken and a glass of lovely red wine.  I have gone from one extreme to the other in one day.

Viv and I arrive back at the lodge later than usual and we are both ready for a good night's sleep.

Here is a link to the pictures for the day.


Workshop Day

December 4th, 2013 9:26 AM

Well, my workshop was scheduled today for 9:00 am.

I set up in the meeting room using my flipchart paper, notes, handouts etc.

I had to buy water for everyone as we hadn't left enough time for others to arrange refreshments.  I also remembered I had brought a couple of packages of nature bars from Canada which I haven't touched yet, so I was pleased to offer those at snack time.

It certainly was an interesting day. First, two people arrived then another and then there were about four in the room by 9:25.  I was going to start when one student announced others were coming.  She left to get them and then it was awhile before she was back.  Finally, I believe I started at about 9:45 for those currently in the room.

So we begin with introductions then I lead into some story telling.  Now about 5 or 6 more participants enter and continue with the flipchart presentation.  Then partway through that presentation a few people leave.  I don't take this personally as I figure they have been called to attend to more important items in the life of Likuni Hospital. This continues and then by mid morning I am left with about 7 participants. We get into the nitty gritty of feeling the energy.  After they have practiced feeling the energy between their hands, which they all have an experience, I start an exercise where they practice walking towards one another to see where they begin to feel the field.  I am paired with one man from accounting to let him practice on me and when I look up the other three pairs have started doing TT.  Alastair, you were absolutely right about when they get, they seem to surpass and are in the home stretch and you are left back at the starting gate wondering when the signal sounded.

I immediately tune in and start supervising and offering suggestions about hand movements, etc. We share feedback with each other and I'm about to offer to break for lunch and to return for one more session in the afternoon and I will find six participants that they can practice on.  Most of the current participants announce that they are unable to return after lunch, so we do one more session practicing and we agree to meet next week for more questions and feedback.  

Now my one day workshop turned into half day but it was very productive.  I have one person who shows up while I'm cleaning up and I do a private session with her and encourage her to practice over the weekend.

After lunch I start making my way to wards, back to my usual routine when another Male Staff on the medical team shows up for the afternoon portion as he had to do rounds in the private ward in the morning and could not get away.  So we sit down together and I have trained another very willing participant.  We speak about how he can proceed with the practice at the hospital.  We finish by him giving me a wonderful TT session and I am very pleased with the results of the day.  He is heading home at the end of the day to share with his wife.

I feel comfortable as each student received Janet Macrae's book and I have left the copies of Diane May's books with the Matron along with the TTNO instructional DVD that people can use for review and reference.

I'm off to get ready for a WUSC dinner with the other volunteers tonight.  Another dinner at Mamma Mia's.  I think I will try the pizza.

ShopRite by Ambulance

December 3rd, 2013 1:38 PM

It’s Tuesday and it’s a busy day at the HIV Clinic.  I am set up in the same treatment room and patients, who are interested, come in for a TT session.  Monica, a nurse who learned TT on Friday, comes in with a patient and asks to do TT for her with me supervising.  She is a natural and the patient gives her positive feedback. The morning progresses and about mid-morning, after seeing about 20 people, the line-up has diminished.  I go on to other wards promising to return to the clinic after lunch.

I’m enjoying the cooler breeze today.  There have been showers, off and on, all morning.  There is always a breeze here, it is just not always cool.  I noticed last night in the shower back at the Lodge, that the water seemed a bit browny red and I wondered if the treatment system at the lodge wasn’t working.  Note to self:  Keep using the bottled water.  Then, when rinsing my clothes I notice the water is clear.  Astounded, I realize the brown water was the dirt off my own body.  I know I’m hot and sweaty at the end of the day but I had forgotten Judi mentioning how dusty everything is here and that she would be covered in it by end of day.  It’s really not noticeable except that I know I have to wash my hair more often; I just wasn’t making the connection.  Now I think I know why the women wrap their heads. The earth is a lovely clay red and it’s everywhere.  That is one of the first things you notice as you arrive in Malawi, the deep red soil.

Something seems to dim here so the power must be off and the generator has taken over.  I noticed the power going off quite a bit at the lodge on the weekend as well.  I had heard on Friday that one of the nearby communities was without power for two days. Up to that point, I hadn’t really noticed any power outages as both the hospital and the Lodge have generator backup systems, providing a minimal service.  I try and keep my equipment charged at all times so I can still function with my camera, phone and laptop.  Of course internet connections disappear with each power outage and that is a little frustrating but livable.

There is one other point of interest; I don’t notice any planes flying overhead.  I know there are planes because I landed here in one.

For the nature lovers I thought I would list the names of the trees and birds we sighted on the Safari, two weeks ago.  I’m not sure of the spelling but did my best to record Angel’s words:

  • Mopani tree; means butterfly because of the shape of the leaves.  They are also nutritious for the animals
  • Python Vine; actually looks like a python circling around and up trees
  • Baobab (the trunk of this tree reminded me of elephant legs.)  There were a few outside the dining area of the camp at Mvuu
  • Cape Turtle Dove
  • Crowned Hornbill
  • Juvenile Marshall Eagle
  • Striped Kingfisher
  • Fairy Niger (I have a question mark in my notes, so I may not have heard Angel properly)
  • Guoy ammo gene (or Harrier Hawk);
  • White Browed Sparrow Weaver
  • African Fish Eagle; Malawi’s national bird.  It’s a big white bird in my pictures
  • White Breasted Cormorant
  • Bleschos (or Blulschos spelling?)
  • Saddle billed Stork
  • Malakite Kingfisher
  • Black Crowned Night Heron
  • Pels Fishing Owl; very rare bird which fishes at night. We were fortunate to see one.
  • Spur Wing Geese
  • Hadeda Ibis Blue Wing
  • Reed Cormorant
  • Mask Weeber Bird
  • White Back Night Heron

Some of the Animals sighted:  Impalas, Elephants, Hippos, Monkeys, Baboons, Warthogs, Squirrels, Bushbuck (Bushback?) as well as Crocodiles and Geckos.  There were Rhinos there which include one black Rhino but they were in another section of the grounds and we didn’t get a chance to see them. …next time.

I leave a bit earlier today as I have to go to ShopRite to buy water for the workshop tomorrow.  The Hospital confirms that the ambulance can take me there first before dropping me at the Lodge.  Doesn’t everybody get driven to their local grocer by ambulance?  Just in case you were wondering, there are no patients waiting to be transported anywhere.  I usually go home when the ambulance is ready.   On this trip the driver explains we have to drop some papers off at the Archdiocese first.  The neighbourhood we drive through seems a little more upscale than the other areas I’m used to and the grounds of the Archdiocese are expansive and lovely but not quite like the Vatican.  My driver points out the various buildings and I notice there is a great view of Lilongwe from the grounds.  Here is a link to the pictures.

 I’ve also included one more picture of the pool side dinner at Korean Lodge.  It’s not as clear as I like as I tried to capture the mirror image of the lights and dinner guests reflected in the pool.

Workshops, Roadways and Good Prices

December 2nd, 2013 1:50 PM

Monday Dec 2, 2013

I was relieved to hear from Tom this morning.  It had been over a week since our last communication and he had been trying to Skype me.  Of course I lost that form of communication when my Surface tablet died over a week ago.   He emails me a brief status of what is going on at home and I feel connected again.   As much as I am having a positive experience here in Malawi, I really miss my family.

I’m  thankful I have connected with Viv here at the lodge, as we keep each other company for meals for the most part, or at least cocktails, as we bought all that wine and beer.  I really didn’t mind being on my own as I had lots to keep me busy in the evenings, but I find her friendship very comforting.

The good news is that we have finally set a date for my one day workshop.  I will be instructing a Level One Therapeutic Touch  Malawi style on Wed Dec 4th.  We will plan for 20 and see who shows up.  I managed to get back to the Lodge today in good time to go out and purchase flipchart paper and masking tape.  I was pleasantly surprised at the cost; flipchart paper is only 2,000 kwacha ($5.00) and the masking tape was 800 kwacha ($2.00).  I did plan to bring flipchart paper from Canada ($30.00) but it didn’t make it to the suitcase.

One of my favorite patients is a sweet one year old who is in traction.  I see her everyday and she will be here another two weeks just like me.  Her mother is lovely and welcomes me in each day.  I have asked if I can take a picture of her daughter and hope to share that with you soon.  This little girl lies calmly on her bed with no complaints.  Her big eyes watch me with interest and her tiny delicate hands explore mine.

Lately I have found that more and more people are approaching me and asking for TT or an explanation of what it is I'm actually doing.  The staff will have their work cut out for them once I'm gone.

Driving here is certainly interesting.  They drive on the left with lots of roundabouts.  There are traffic lights in town but I haven’t noticed any of them working so police control the traffic at those intersections.  It is nice to notice that the major motorways have the solid and broken white lines painted down the middle indicating when it is safe to pass or not.  I’m not sure drivers know the meaning of the solid and broken lines.  This is evidenced by our driver overtaking on an upward hills many times!  The nice thing is that they always honk when they are overtaking and they honk when they come up behind bicycles and pedestrians as the vehicles have the right of way it appears.  I’ve seen police stop vehicles for speeding, minibus drivers for overcrowding and my first mini bus driver for allowing chickens to travel as passengers;  none of us could figure that one out as the chickens were not occupying a seat.

My eyes are starting to fade and this is the third attempt at posting this blog.  Good night, sweet dreams

End of Second Week

December 1st, 2013 11:18 AM

I'm now at the end of week 2 and I'm meeting Diane for dinner at her hotel, the Sunbird, or as the locals refer to it, the Lilongwe Hotel.  She leaves Saturday to return to Ottawa now that her mandate is complete.  The food is a nice change from Korean Gardens; it can get boring eating from the same menu for two weeks.  I enjoy a lovely chicken curry and I'm getting used to calling a preferred driver, Mphatso, who WUSC recommends.  He is a lovely family man and he imports cars and sells them here.  He drives a Toyota indicated by the Japanese language on the dashboard.

I have met a new companion, Viv, who is staying at Korean Garden Lodge for the next week.  Viv, is from Scotland and she has been coming to Malawi to help with assessments of the school curriculums here and shares her knowledge and experience in Malawi.  She is quite willing to hang out with me on Saturday and we enjoy, for the most part, a shopping expedition to the city centre.  We walk down past the old market of street vendors and I think it took us over an hour to get past as we stopped to browse the wood work, jewelry, chitenjes, etc.  Normally, I can do this at home in about 15 minutes but each vendor persistently tries to get you to buy.  I have no idea about prices and you do have to bargain with them.  I make the mistake of overpaying for 3 lovely batik cards and now I have a huge crowd around me that just won't let up.  If you've have been reading Ron's blog from Ghana, he mentions how many markets and vendors there are and they are all competing to earn a living.  The same goes for Malawi.  There is so much available to buy and it must be quite difficult for these vendors to earn a living.  Just about everything is available for sale.  I do have my eye on some beautiful material that is sold for Chitenjes in 2 and 4 yard lengths.  I can't remember what I paid at Peps for my first one and I want to check the price before I barter for any of the ones I've seen here with the street vendors. This gentleman is not so pushy and I feel comfortable with him.

I was told that there is some lovely woodwork by the Mua Mission sold at African Habitat.  This store will have fixed prices.  Viv and I make our way to Old Town Mall to find African Habitat.  What a surprise; this is where Mama Mia’s is located as well and it’s not far from the Lodge.  We decide to have a drink and snack as it is now past lunchtime.  There is a little café restaurant in the small mall and it’s good to sit down out of the sun.  The food is very tasty and we enjoy every morsel.  I check out African Habitat and I have found ‘My Store’!  The couple who own the store bring in quality items from Malawi and various other African countries.  No hassles, friendly service and I’m in heaven.  I spot a beautiful hand painted bedspread but it’s a bit pricey and it’s also from Kenya.  I was hoping to buy something made in Malawi.  I remember Linda saying she spotted a beautiful bedspread and I wonder if this is the store she found it in.  The owners help me find another beautiful bedspread made in Malawi and it’s a bit more reasonably priced.  Actually, excellent, by Canadian standards.  I find a table runner as well and some more hand painted cards.  I can use my visa this time and they gift me the cards.  I’m hoping to head back there to browse before I leave Malawi.  The owner did mention he could give me a better price if I paid in cash so I will keep that in mind for next time.  It will be a good place to use up any kwacha at the end of my stay.

Viv and I finally make it to the banks and ShopRite for more important items like Green, Wine, Water and Gin.  The grocery store doesn’t sell tonic so we leave the gin.  We intend to call Mphatso to pick us up so I buy 20 litres of water to last me the week and Viv stocks up as well.  Well, Mphatso is unable to pick us up this afternoon so we will have to find a taxi driver around ShopRite.  Viv looks tired and exhausted and she is minding the groceries.  As luck would have it a young man approaches us and offers his services.  He helps us with our groceries and loads the back of his car which appears to be reliable.  He offers a good price and I don’t even barter at this point; it’s only 2000 kwacha which is about US $5.00.

I have loaded more pictures on Facebook and they consist mainly of the trip on Friday to a far away village.  The HIV outreach clinic goes at the end of every month as it is too far for these villagers to travel to Likuni.  I have packed a snack of rice crackers and peanut butter, banana and my nature bars and lots of water.  The peanut butter melts nicely in my plastic baggie. I’m thankful I have lots of wet wipes in my bag.  Apparently they sell chocolate here but add a substance that prevents the chocolate from melting in this heat.  I think I will pass on indulging in chocolate.  As we travel west, away from Likuni, the ambulance stops at a trading centre of shops.  I get out of the ambulance to allow the male nurse beside me (we are sharing the single bucket seat) to get out and take care of business in this area.  I didn’t ask.  Next I notice the staff in the back of the ambulance all jump out and go to the little store and they buy breakfast for themselves.  I follow as I’m curious as to what the inside of the store looks like.  I see more chitenjes and I love the colours.  I purchase one and wish I had brought more money with me to buy two.  I have only been carrying around enough money for one day.  I should have remembered that Isabelle said the ambulance stops in these little villages as the food is a better price than in town.

I was a little horrified at the next stop.  The ambulance pulls up beside a roadside stand.  A nurse jumps out and the stand owners pull back a cover and once the layer of flies lift off, a butchered goat is revealed on the table.  The nurse purchases a hunk of the goat and I am now wondering what it will smell like in the ambulance.  I was going to ask if I could sit in the back on the return trip but I think I will pass on that as well.  Keep in mind that there is no refrigeration here at the side of the roads!  I did notice refrigeration in ShopRite.

Did I say how thankful I was for Moragh Lippert, my holistic nutritionist? She convinced me to take daily probiotics as well as digestive enzymes with each meal.  I also have Berbercap in case my stomach feels a bit upset and I have used those on occasion.  I have all the other pharmaceuticals which I mentioned in my earlier blog.  I’m using a Polysporin cream which I use on my mosquito bites which proves to be very effective.  I only used the Polysporin Itch Relief spray once but found the regular cream works well.

Now, arriving in the village about an hour later, the team sets up.  They do some education with a small group who attend the clinic.  We are in a building that a previous team of volunteers helped to build.  Isabelle explains that the villages made the bricks that were used and the volunteers and villagers work together to build this lovely building which has a concrete floor.  There is store room, a meeting room, a library and one other room.  The library is not set up yet.  There are empty shelves which are labeled with various topics and the room is filled with long rows of tables. There are piles of books lined up against the walls and on some tables. There is still sawdust on the floor which surprises me as the people here are very clean and sweep everyday including the dirt.  I wonder how long ago this building was erected.  The store room seems to be of use as I can see it filled with big burlap type bags.  This village grows ground nuts, tobacco and maize and the farmers are busy planting now as the rains have just begun.  I noted on one of my pictures the implements they use to maintain and plant the crops.  It is all done by hand and no machinery.  I didn’t see any evidence of them using animals to help plough.  I’m asked if Canadian farmers plough by hand and I reply, yes, a small group.  I mention our farmers mainly use machinery.  More than 80% of Malawi’s 10 million inhabitants depend on agriculture and live in rural areas.

I am set up in the Library along with another nurse who will dispense drugs for the HIV virus.  We both work diligently all morning and then pack up and arrive back at Likuni Hospital early afternoon.  The staff have left for lunch and I am locked out of the admin offices where my lunch is probably waiting for me.  No problem, I will sit outside on a bench in a cool breeze scooping up my peanut butter with a rice cracker.  Actually, the day before, I was locked inside the Admin Offices while staff went to lunch.  I was sitting quietly in Mary’s office with the door shut and I think Angela forgot I was there.  When I went to do my rounds, I found the outside door locked.  So I go back and relax and wait for staff to return from their lunch. I seem to be on a bit of a different schedule or the staff take a longer lunch.  They work a nine hour day including administration so I’m sure the longer lunch hours are appreciated or used as siestas.

After my break, I head off to the Private Ward to work on the 1 year old who is in traction.  I hear my name and turn to see that Sister Agnes is hailing me.  She has two clients for me; Sister Beatrice and Sister Charity from another Mission.  I really don’t know how I a going to return to work on the fifth floor of the University Centre (UC) at home.  Did I mention that in my first private meeting with Sister Agnes, I did Hand Heart Connection with her and not Therapeutic Touch (TT).  Only TT’ers will know the relevance of this practice.  It is practiced with dignity and compassion with palliative care patients; as is all TT actually. I disconnect from Sister Agnes and invite her to open her eyes when ready.  Actually she is the only one at this point that closes her eyes for a session with me.  She sits in stillness for quite some time and I relax and continue sitting beside her.  A few moments later she opens her eyes and is much rested.  She acknowledges calmness and that she felt energy going up to the top of her head.  She admits to having a heart condition and found the whole experience quite wonderful.  I give her the handout on hand heart but have yet to demonstrate that to anyone else yet.

I think it’s time for me to relax by the side of the pool and enjoy a cold drink.  Until next time….

Flying Ants, yuck

November 28th, 2013 2:18 PM

I've been sitting here trying to upload photos and managed to get them on facebook.

So here is link to facebook for photos of the village I visited as well as some photos en route to Camp Mvuu and one of my camp room.

Here is another link to photos of the Safari, an herbal store near Likuni and a pic of the women's ward at Likuni Hospital.

I know I mentioned how I loved the thunderstorm earlier today but I forgot what Linda said the rain brings.  I thought the wind had blown leaves in under the door but they were flying ants.  The Doom seemed to have killed them and now I'm wondering what effects it will have on me.

I hope the links for pictures work.  This is the best I could do.  Louise has offered to post them for me but internet seemed to be churning forever for just one pic.

These pics give you a sense of what I see everyday as I leave the lodge.