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News & Updates

Malawi Trip, Entry 1

› Posted July 22, 2010

July 6th | Lilongwe, Malawi

As today was a national holiday—Independence Day—in Malawi, there were no plans for an audiology clinic and we took advantage of the time to catch up on rest and, for Ingrid, some paperwork. I got up early and started to do some minor anticipated work on the Land Cruiser. We had driven it from the Port of Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe, last year, after it had been shipped from Long Beach. That 900-mile journey was so interesting that I wrote a story about it, but the roads were rough enough to damage the headlights. The net effect was that we had very dim lights and tried to avoid driving at night. Even so, we did have to for part of the way and dim lights made for tense moments.

In anticipation of need to change the lights, prior to our departure, we had purchased a new set along with a pair of auxiliary lights to mount on the bumper. So the first thing I did was to remove and replace the headlights and then started to mount the auxiliary lights. The lights went in easily but the wires that came with the auxiliary lights were too short so I had to wait until later to finish.

While I was busy with the Land Cruiser, I saw someone we have known since our first time in Malawi, walk onto the grounds. We had met Philip while we visited our eldest daughter, Jessi Jean, in 2004 while she was here with the Peace Corps. He had lived in a near-by village and sometimes did some small chores for her as a means to gain a little money. We helped to fund his final year of high school but Philip unfortunately developed a sense that we would support him for the rest of his life. That perception on his part had stimulated conversations in an effort to get Philip to understand that we were willing to help him continue with school but not provide ongoing financial support. None-the-less, he has continued to ask for money and, when he learned that we were back in Lilongwe, chose to come to see us first thing.

At first he helped a little with the work on the Land Cruiser—Philip was not aware that we had shipped it from the US the year before—and we talked about family. He is married with a one-year-old child but has no job. He did not elaborate on how he managed to pay rent but later told Clarice he had no money for food. Due to our previous experiences with him, we are reluctant to give him money but I offered that we had plans to help his father if he wanted to start a small enterprise. Further, if Philip wanted to join in that effort, we would welcome him but we would no longer give him money.

About then, it was time for breakfast and I invited him to join us. After breakfast, while Clarice and Ingrid remained at the Golden Peacock, Philip and I took the students to Old Town Lilongwe—with its mass of shops and stalls on the other side of the Lilongwe River. They followed me very closely as the sights and sounds were quite different from anything they had seen thus far. I found a shop where I could purchase power steering fluid for the Land Cruiser and then we walked back to the Golden Peacock where we spent much of the afternoon. Mcdonald Ganisyeje was not able to come as planned and Ingrid asked if I could take them to the location where the next day’s hearing clinic was to be held.

The clinic will be on the grounds of the African Bible College—a place where we had not visited before. With directions from Sulemon, that I got a bit twisted, Ingrid and I, along with Kristi, Nicole and Chas, drove to the campus and met with the person responsible for organizing the two-day event. The grounds are very neat and spacious, and seemingly sequestered from the rest of Lilongwe.

After checking on the facilities and making final arrangements, we drove back to the Golden Peacock and had dinner. We were met by a couple from Nkhata Bay who had driven down to participate in the clinic and learn certain procedures thy could later do on their own. They are parents of our friend, Kathryn, who, with her husband, Gary, owns and operates Mayoka Village—a favored place for us to stay when in that region. Liz, the mother, is a nurse who retired from her work in England. They now live near Mizuzu and she works in a hospital in Nkhata Bay. She will fly to England to be with their youngest daughter who has just given birth to their first grandchild but first they wanted to learn some procedures from our team of audiologists. Her husband, Bill, will remain and join us for our clinic at Nkhata Bay later in the month.

While the others ordered a round of Kuchi Kuchi, we headed for our room for the evening. Earlier, Sulemon had suggested that we consider having another seat installed in the Land Cruiser so we can carry 8. Given that we are faced with need to rent another vehicle and driver during part of our stay, his idea sounded good. There are places in Lilongwe where seats are available to be installed but we first have to change the registration to list the vehicle as an 8-passenger. Given that the group will save well over $1000 in car rental and driver fees, we liked the plan and I will begin the process the next morning.