Archive for November, 2010

I Like Standing

November 29th, 2010

Buried under work now. Barely stick my nose up before its time to go home.Administration, paperwork…and more paperwork. It is the season for CV’s. We receive some every day. Came across an unusual one. Worth mentioning. The guy was a computer technician. Lots of qualifications. Among his interests he listed… reading, swimming, sport, fishing and…STANDING.

It must have been the heat… Ben and l collapsed laughing.

“And did you take up standing as a young boy?”

“Do you like to stand on your own or in a group”?

“What’s the longest you have stood for”


Had to go home for a few days. Came back to open arms and a bursting heart.  I have a good friend here. His name is Faxon. He is a cook. He is graceful and bold and beautiful and good. Hard life but not so bad. While l was gone, his little boy took ill on Saturday morning. He strapped the young boy to his back and cycled to hospital. 20 kms away. The boy died that afternoon. The same day his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She still has no name.

The next day the gardener’s son took ill. A little baby. Lucy rushed him to the Baptist hospital. He died that afternoon.

Everybody is gaunt and strained. When l asked..why? All anybody could say is. This is what is happening. It a silent killer. We don’t know why.

The grief is deep. They get up the next day. They walk to work. There are so many funerals that employers restrict their employees to funerals of immediate family only. Just too many every day.

But there are moments where you get a peek into heaven. Sitting on the shores of the lake. The line on the horizon offering glimpses of Mozambique. Young men in dug out wooden boats trailing nets, cows ambling on the shore with boys no more that 8 herding in earnest.

Sitting under the shade of a magnificent tree covered with orange blossoms. And the birds. Blue, yellow, and red in the sky and peeking from  the  trees. Takes my breath away. In a nod to Noah…  2 birds fly side by side. As the sun goes down, two young men while away the afternoon lying in the warm lake eating mangos. I can hear them laughing and talking. Good friends. For that moment all was perfect in the world.

So much oesphigical cancer. Talk is why? Is it the ensema (their basic food made from maize). An NGO will have to take this on. Nobody here can. Our doctor went on a home visit to a young man who had a tumor on his eyeball. His eye was completely distended affecting the other eye and all of the nerves in his face. It could have been avoided. He went to a good hospital when it first appeared. They took a biopsy. He went home. Nobody called him. Eventually he was told it would take three years to get his results. He stayed at home in his village. Even at this end stage he was asking our doctor could she cure him. She is tied up in frustration. All she could offer him was Palliative Care.

l am learning that the work is never ending. There is simply so much to do. Have to keep reminding myself that we can only do our little bit in our little bit of the world.

Interesting night coming up tonight. Having a barbque .

My friends have come from Ireland to help. So good to see them. My friend has come from Kampala for the weekend. Bright red hair and beautiful. Raised in Malawi and back now, giving most of Africa a very firm hand!  And my friend who is partial to guns and rangers is driving down from her camp to get some R&R.  She can’t seem to part from her scouts. She’s just called to ask if she can bring one and put him in a tent in the garden. Sure. Another Ugandan lady who spends all of her time travelling to different parts of Africa setting up Palliative Care and a frankly mad but lovely woman from Zimbabwe who now lives here. A sort of …  Major of Malawi.  You want police, army tractors, tailors, coffins, money, medicine, sugar …anything.  Just call her.

Just one man. A lovely man. Have asked him to dress up!

Don’t think we will do much standing. Maybe dancing.

Fish Must be Kept in the Fridge

November 1st, 2010

Went to a Catholic Misson in the hills . 200 years oldFounded by the White Fathers. One of them is famous in Malawi..

for not exactly holy reasons. Mostly unholy reasons.

Like becoming more Malawian than a Malawian.

Too secret to tell…but he is also an artist.

A good artist.

Sitting in  the church feeling a desperate need to connect.

Kept closing my eyes to pray. No way it was going to happen.

Too much going on around me.It was a mass of thanksgiving for the local school children after their exams. The whole school formed the choir. It was  powerful. And moving. I am sure you could hear them in Tanzania.They must have practiced for weeks.

They sang loud and clear. 200 children.

The singing….the heat; the Sunday clothes…the babies sleeping.

And a priest speaking Chiweoan in a Kerry accent!


There are moments here that are good and this was a good moment. Over a Fanta, l asked the handsome Kerry priest has he seen any changes in Tansania or Malawi since he came in 1984.

‘None - Its the same’

That’s worth thinking about.

Yesterday a bridal party arrived to have their photos taken in a ‘pretty place’. Small car and out hopped…Granny, Mums-in –law, bride, groom, 3 brides maids, a best man, and the driver.

The local football team were getting ready to leave the village to “take down” the neighbouring village. They sang and beat their drums for the newly weds.

The bride was beautiful. It took me a little time to see the groom among the gold taffetta and crisp white shirts.

And when l did…l got a fright. He was so  ill .

Disease has ravaged him. Cancer? HIV? Both?

He was tiny in his white wedding suit.

His shoes looked like cartoon shoes and he could hardly walk.

He held his friends arm.

I looked away.

Have meet some very funny patients.  “Mr. Big Leg” is my favourite.

A  poor man livining in a roofless hovel. He has elephantititus in his legs. He has lesions all over  his body .

Lucy and l found him in the bus shelter. (Another long story).

The hospital told him in 2003 that they had to amputate his leg.

He never went back. Now after a few days of food and medicine

(not to mention many showers) l asked him how he was feeling.

“Wonderful…wonderful…but Rome was not built in a day “ in a deliciously superior accent.

Love it.

New volunteers arrived. A lovely New Doctor from Wales and her partner who’s a Wizard disguised as an IT man .

He rides a unicycle!

He rode it home last week in the late afternoon sun.

I drove behind him. He made everybody laugh along the way.

Young children ran after him..old women just rocked on their porches in laughter, young men caught up with him on their bicycle’s and overtook him literally convulsed with laughter. Old men just stared.

And he waved for everybody.

Must be  a Wesh thing!!

What a great gift….

Our Bendictine Monk had a tough week. The little girl he looks after has maleria. She was very ill.

He wanted to fly her to another country for treatment but was persuaded to keep her here. Too sick to fly.

They brought her to the District Hospital and hooked her up to an IV drip. He would not stay the night though. The little girl could have picked up a host of other diseases.

They brought the drip home and a good friend with medical training adminstered to her through the night in her own bed.

Did not have a good supper last night.

I kept seeing a man with three fish in his hand all day. In the garden.

In the hall. In the wood turners hut.

In the street. All day.

There were 3 of us for supper last night.

We had one fish each.

I recognised those fish .

In the 40 degrees heat. For hours. Hmmm.

There is only one psycharitrist in all of Malawi.

What happens if you need help?? Where do you go??

(Maybe l need one!)

Will spend time with the Tuesday Trust ladies this week.

Getting ready for the rainy season.

This is a busy time.

Rains come end of November.

Everyone’s out digging .

The monkeys are still driving the dog wild.

I wake at 5 with the birds.

And that’s beautiful.

And there is a Frangipani growing near my window.

And l love it.

Going home next week for 10 days.

Beyond excited.