Living, Loving. Learning.

Please join me on this inspired and fun-filled journey of creating the life of my dreams!

The Beginning...

(Left to right: The before picture of my house; During site visit with my site-mates at Livingstonia Beach - a tourist lodge on Lake Malawi; My health center in Khombedza - Double click on the images to to enlarge)
Almost a month has passed as an official volunteer and already so much has happened...

After swearing-in and a memorable night of celebration with my training group, we were whisked away with all of our belongings and shipped to site. When I arrived in Khombedza, it became obvious that there was still a lot of work to be done on my soon-to-be house. The health center was set on converting an old brick storage room into a liveable space and the improvements were to be managed by the community. It was so impressive just how much work had been done and I feel incredibly grateful to have the community invest so much into my arrival; this is a rarity and I am very lucky. Until complete, I am staying at my sitemates' home and "commute" to work every day. No traffic here on the bicycle really... just the need to stop and greet every single person to cross your path on the way. It can be overwhelming, but it is also a great way to meet people in the community.

At my health center, there are two Medical Assistants, two Nurses, and Environmental Health Manager (preventative health - my area), and forty-two Health Surveillance Assistants (!!! - a huge number for a health center, but not nearly enough). Most everyone speaks better English than I do, which has made integration with the staff easier, and they are excited that I want to learn - really learn - Chichewa as well. Last week, I was given a name in Chichewa - Thokozani - which means "grateful." Brittany is a very hard name for Malawians to pronounce and it was difficult for my colleagues and neighbors to understand how someone named "Britain" would come from America... so now, anytime I go anywhere, I always hear someone yelling "Thoko! Thoko!"

I have traversed the bike trails with a few HSAs into their surveillance areas to see what issues the communities are struggling with the most and to get to know the HSAs so that I may eventually choose a counterpart to work with on projects. The situation in my health center's catchment area is dire... water sanitation is merely a concept, hygiene is poor, and good nutrition is seemingly unattainable. There is so much to be done if the community decides they want it and the HSAs have a lot of knowledge to offer; I can't help but feel a sense of purpose and motivation here. In the next two months before our "in-service training," I will be engaged in information gathering in catchment areas, interviewing about and observing the health needs and desires of the communities and assessing potential project opportunities.

As of now, I am back in Lilongwe. I have been sick with some sort of stomach illness (we are still uncertain of the cause, but it seems to be resolving itself - did I mention poor water at my site?!). I am technically on medical hold until Monday, but we are also waiting for my house to be finalized so that I can actually get moved in and settled. Who knows how long I could be here for...

The "ultimate makeover" on my house has been quite impressive. Although I am still waiting for stronger doors to be installed, new tin sheets to replace my holey-roof and to cover my showering area, they surprised me with an electrical outlet and lighting, as well as a water spicket in my backyard! Totally unexpected, and now I can't brag about "roughing it" for the next two years. I am okay with that, however. :)

Okay, I need to run for the time being. Next time around I hope to bring you some good stories and give you some insight into the life I am establishing here. Hopefully by then, I will also be living in my own house. Miss you all immensely.

In peace and with love... B.


Johnny Payne said...

i can def see them struggling with your name, at least you will get used to thoko, be happy with that because in botswana that name is called "tshegofatso" and i doubt you would get used to being called fatso. my setswana name is godisang, its pronounced "ho' dee sahng", very catchy but since John is so common they usually stick with that. good post, hope your illness subsides, maybe will be a good story to use when teaching about importance of clean water, etc. send me a text so i can store your number, lost it

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