Chris Coller, Keri Thompson, Jess Hedeman, Jon Podgore, Jeff Frey, Ryan Krafft, Katie Nicoll, Rich Bryce, Manish Raiji
If you want a good African bus story in terms of #s:
To all who shall read these comments on first arriving: Enjoy! This country will amaze and frustrate you, and warm and break your heart simultaneously.
To steal from Terrie’s wisdom, “Get out of the house! You’re in Africa!”
Keep in mind that no one will really be expecting you and no one will have a set schedule or set expectations for you. You just kind of have to decide what you want to get out of the experience. Make a schedule for yourself and execute.
If you want to splurge, go to Mumbo Island off the coast of Cape Maclear. (Get the Malawi rate – tell them you work here.) It is amazing. You get there through Kayak Africa — you can kayak to the island or take a boat. It is magical. Crystal blue water, a tiny secluded island, good drinks and food, private tent/lodges that have private balconies and look out over the water. Amazing snorkeling, hiking trails, bonfires, friendly staff. Seriously fantastic.
First some helpful info. I arrived much later than the rest of my group and had a different experience.
I don’t want to say that Malawi was “beautiful” or “amazing” because that isn’t how I feel. This experience has given me much to contemplate and reconcile with my beliefs. The harsh realities and the all-to-human adaptations to life here are far too complex for me to even begin to understand. Every day, my emotions conflicted and swayed so much that I often felt overwhelmed, often to the point of apathy.
My shortcomings in communicating with patients and fear of caring made compassion difficult. I think what shook me so much was that every day in the hospital and on the streets of Blantyre provided overwhelming evidence of the lasting and dramatic effects of apathy, of history and of the consequences everyday actions we take for granted in the States have, halfway across the world.
While I have seen much ugliness here — tourists showing disdain to the despairing and desperate, infants who are HIV+, wives discovering they are HIV+ because of their husbands’ infidelity — I’m amazed at how resilient the Malawians are. I am also comforted by the genuine work and sacrifices many caregivers have made.
While at times it feels the problems of everyday life here are insurmountable and that “progress” is an empty promise perpetuated by the “haves” to the “have-nots,” I’m amazed at how much change has occurred in only a few years and by how much treatment is available, especially ARVs.