Real World Malawi — Dec. 2005-Feb. 2006

  • “Sometimes on New Year’s Eve you get kissed, and sometimes you just take a shit … you never know.”
  • “No Alina, I can’t see your kwacha through your pants.”
  • “What happens in the toilet stays in the toilet. Deja poo.”
  • “Don’t pick on the guy with the scalded scrotum.”
  • “Patience is the key to communal living.”
  • “I’ve got ants in my pants. Literally.”
  • “You guys aren’t going to believe me when I say this, but I smell python shit right now.”

Julia Rosebush
February

The subtle nuances of Malawian life, the grateful and proud faces of her beautiful people, and the rich cultural values that I did my very best to embrace will be left behind, but most certainly, not forgotten. I did not realize, upon arriving here, how impossible it would be NOT to become attached to Malawi and all that it had to offer. I can only hope that the photographs and stories I bring home will create a lifetime of memories … and that I am somehow able to incorporate all of the lessons I’ve learned here into my daily life.

I feel that this trip sparked my curiosity and will perhaps, one day, encourage me to pursue similar opportunities. Terrie, zikomo for making this journey a reality and a wonderful experience. Your persistence, hard work and generosity are truly an inspiration to all.

Alina McDermed
February

Who knew Terrie quoting GK Chesterton (“An adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered”) would prove so true.

In reality, much of what we have encountered here has been an inconvenience — walking everywhere for lack of a car, chasing down lab results that were submitted 5 days prior, waiting for the water and electricity to turn back on to shower and eat, doing every UA and random blood sugar and pleural tap yourself because who knows when they would get done otherwise — but these were all inconveniences well worth enduring, because they have taught me humility, patience and what it means to be really grateful for what you have.

The adventures of QECH and living in Blantyre will hopefully have made me a little bit better a person and future physician.

I feel so luck to have been able to see the beautiful sights, sleep next to hippos with their grunting lulling me to sleep, hike the slipper slopes of Mulanje, feel the joy of finishing a difficult hike, sit patiently in the middle of 32 disgruntled elephants, kayak a crystal clear lake, and dance with villages! Who does this kind of stuff all in the span of six weeks?! Thanks to Terrie, we do!

Steven Shepherd
February

When was the last time I learned so much in six weeks? This trip taught me more than I ever anticipated about Africa, medicine, improvisation, friendships, myself, social classes and being a minority. Most of all I learned that YES! I can practice medicine someday in Africa and I would love it.

I would much rather bring my family here and never go back to Michigan. Terrie, without you my life would be lacking many now-important and life-changing experiences and lessons.

Also, when renting a car tell them you are a “temporary” Malawi resident to get charged cheaper rates. This also works with other charges, like getting into Mvuu Camp.

Kelly Hurley
February

I have learned so much. I have learned about the Malawian culture. I have learned about hunger and starvation. I have defined “3rd World” – not as the bare, animalistic, lack of humanism that I had wrongly envisioned, but as rich, lush culture full of life and new ways to use resources. I’ve learned how to practice medicine without supplies, enough medical staff, and with very serious problems.

I like this “simple life.” I like that there is not a rich, snooty class that everyone wants to emulate. I’m glad that there’s not celebrity gossip and no one cares about daily news and weather. I’m glad I’m not distracted by TV. I’m glad that I read or talk to people for entertainment. I’m glad that each night I don’t forget to watch the stars. I’m glad that I walk and not drive. I’m glad that I’m never in a hurry. … I’ve learned that people are not good or bad, they just ar. There are so many facets — and you’re bound to get annoyed if you focus on negatives. I’ve seen that money doesn’t = happiness. I have learned not to be embarrassed by my hormones — everyone farts/poops/burps/stinks at times — some more than others.

I realize that my pictures and souvenirs are nothing without the stories and smalls and sounds and emotions that accompany them.

thank-you-2006Lauren Anderson, Ayninde Bourne, Allison Edberg, Amy Gallagher, Nathan Mollberg, Andrea Preston, Sara Smith

Danielle Koestner
March-April

I really enjoyed the people and culture of Malawi, but was most impressed and changed by my medical experiences at Queens. I delivered babies on my own, delivered my first full-term stillbirth, did my first vaginal lac repair. I was certified in advanced ultrasound, however I am definitely not “advanced” in skill. … At QECH when there wasn’t an intern or registrar on call, people died, babies died. There is just not enough qualified healthcare providers for all the need. I felt as thought many times I was able to make decisions or provide care that really saved patients from dying of eclampsia, postpartum hemorrhage and sepsis. As well as babies (full term) from dying of meconium aspiration. What an amazing feeling!

Jamie Nimphie
March-April

This is my first trip to a 3rd world country and my longest time away from my friends, family and fiancé. I now understand how fortunate I was to be born into the family I was, and realize that not everyone can say the same. However, despite the poverty and the stress of life in Africa, I am inspired by the resiliency and the happiness that lives inside the people of Africa.

During your stay here, experience as much as you can in the hospital, in the city and throughout the country. Enjoy your housemates (Terrie especially) and the friends you will make here — they are the backbone and will be there for you during the few rough times you will experience.

Thank you, Africa, for all you have taught me — happiness, poverty, water distress, love, being content in where you are and, most importantly, how to really live life and to feel alive.

2007