After a few days off, the team was ready to head back to the village of Chipagala for a full day of eye assessments and dispensing. We knew it was going to busy as they had announced at the church service that there would only be 2 more days to see Bryan and myself.
I don't think we were completely prepared for the level of demand that sarcity would create.
As we pulled up to the church, we were amazed at the line up of people that snaked out of the building and around the church. There had to be a 100 people waiting and it was only 8am.
There was nothing to do but take a deep breath, smile and take it one person at a time. When I arrive, I always take the time to greet the people waiting with smiles, hello's, good morning's and thank you for waiting's. It is always returned with a cheery response even though they have already walked and waited for hours. The resiliance and patient of the people impresses me.
Jessie and Xander were quick to set up and I would have Spencer as my translater that day. He is the treasurer of the church and a smart kind young man. Later that day, I would assess his mother and dispense her glasse discovering that we are the same age. I'm getting old!
But first we tried to do the ones that needed to get to school or work first.
This is Dorica. She works in an office in Blantyre. I was able to fit her with a pair of my favourite OWP frames. I have loved this frame with it's pressed tin look and bright red interior and received many compliments on it over the years. It was time to pass it on and Dorica loved it too.
Regina loved all the colours of this former frame of mine which was what I had loved about it too. When I was fitting her with it, Jessie asked if it was a real Prada. Yes, yes it was and Rignas looked beautiful in it.
Grace will be heading to college in this Koali frame. This was the frame that I wore to one of my National Exams to become an optician. I hope it brings her much academic success too.
She came with here friend Chimemwe. Ya, try and say that one. It has been very important to me that I treat all of the people just as I would my patients in Canada so I always introduce myself and ask their name. I've been pretty good but after my third attempt and several laughs at my terrible language skills she finally let me off the hook by saying that it meant "Happiness" in English. I sighed in relief, now that I can say.
This is 11yr old Kumbukani. When our team saw here in the line, they were really concerned about her sight. Her mother brought her to the clinic(it is very rare for parents to be with children) and just said she had been born this way. But this is where we were too quick to judge by appearances. Kumbukani had normal eye movements and responses under the lids and with a +2.00 correction she could see 20/20. I asked her what she wants to be when she is done school and she said a nurse. I hope she does it.
We didn't have much time for many photos. Jessie kept saying that the line never changed.
And it was true. It seemed that as the day continued, more and more people just joined the line hoping they would have a chance to have their eyes checked. All we could do is serve one at a time until Xander showed up with the van to pick us up.
This is 32 yr old Francis. He didn't speak English but I didn't need a translator this time. Framcis has been deaf since having malaria as a child but uses American sign to communicate. I don't know a lot of sign but do know enough to do a dispense and he really appreciated being able to communicate directly with me.
Jessie asked what time we were going to stop and I kept looking at all the people and couldn't face turning them away. So I said I would let her make that call. I would just keep taking 1 more until she was packed up so let me know when she was done. It was just after 4:30 when Xander pulled up and about 20mins later Spencer was gathering up registration cards of those left, promising they would be seen the next day. Now last week we had pre-registered 60 people for Tuesday so when Spencer came back saying he had 62 cards, it was a bit of a shock. That meant there were 120 people promised to be seen on a day when we were only going to be there 4 hours. I talked to the Abusa Jonas and asked if it was possible for us to come earlier than 8 the next day. He said people came at 6am anyway so yes. I said if he could have people there to unlock at 7am, we would be there. He smilled and said no problem. There was immediate grumbling about not being able to do it and how there were too many people today and the venting continued while we drove to pick up Cathy and Sara and then head to Silas's house for dinner. I silently sat beside Xander up front, listening to all the concerns coming from the tired crew in the back, thinking-" We can do this" and coming up with a strategy.
I didn't know how many Bryan had done but I knew that before lunch Jessie, Spencer and I had done over 50. With a bit more time, we could do 10-20 more and Bryan was probably doing about the same....that seemed very close to 132 that were promised. But now, when everyone was tired, hungry and frustrated was not the time to make decisions.
My head was spinning and after picking up Cathy and Sara, we creeped through rush hour traffic to the home of Silas and Margaret. However, our journey wasn't that smooth. Something was up with Xander and the van as he started and stalled several times. I saw the frustration on his face and watched his foot movements and thought, Dammit, his clutch is blown. Which was confirmed a few minutes later when Janet called from the back asking in Chechewa what was going on and the only word I understood in his response was "clutch". He nursed the van all the way to the house only to have it complete give out half way to the gate. Not a disaster. We piled out and were welcome to this lovely home. Xander still needed some help though as he wanted to ge the van fixed that night but couldn't get out on his own. He was able to get it into reverse, Bryan and pushed him down the drive to the road, which was thankfully downhill and gave him the momentum he needed to get started again and he was off. Silas greeted me with a warm hug and I thanked him saying the team needed some love and prayer tonight. I also noticed the "Beware of Dog" as a big German Shepard came running over. But he just nuzzled up to Silas and then licked my hand wanting to be petted.
Silas and Margret gave us the grand tour of their beautiful house. They have built and designed it as if it was a traditional Malawian hut. Round with a central living area and all the rooms around the edges of that like a pie and a domed ceiling with incredible acoustics
On the ground is this, their original home on the property with a mango tree in front.
And an avacado tree.
As you walk between there is this Halloween display that Susan Pigott would envy. Except those are REAL spiders! and they are there all year!
Think about how big they are compared to the leaves
We had traditional Malawi food for dinner like nsema, upia fish, pumpkin greens, roasted pork hock. It was yummy. We also had a chance to discuss the day on full stomach and with surrounded with support. We only had the morning available to be in Chipagal as we were commited to being at the Titsrani center for the disabled in the afternoon as that was the ONLY day we could see them. It had been discussed to do some personal stops in between earlier but Cathy and Sara had graciously done some of those today. Only the fabric shop was left. I then said that the best option was to start at 7am. An extra hour would make all the difference and I would not go to the fabric shop so we could go directly to the Titsrani centre. Yes, it would be a really early morning but it was just one. We could do it. All I could think about was all those people getting up much earlier than us to walk there by 6 am, we could get up and drive there by 7. The team agreed and I was proud of them. We then had a chance to visit and hear about Silas and Margaret's story and life in and out of Malawi. Xander returned and joined us with a repaired van. As it started getting later, I could feel the start of a migraine building and unfortunately I didn't have my meds with me. It was coming on fast and there was just no way to excuse myself or get home. I was grateful when someone else suggested we needed to leave as I was afraid I was going to start throwing up and that it was going to past the point where the meds would help.As I reached for the door to go to the van, Xander held his hand up and said" Stop, there is a German Shepard out there." Ya, we already met and I'm not his flavour. Xander laughed and opened the door and said" Well then, ladies first." Fine, let's just get home.
The drive home was torture. Every bump was like a sledge hammer hitting me, every headlight like a knife cutting my skull open, taking deep breaths so that I didn't loose the wonderful dinner that I had just enjoyed. Xander asked if I was OK. No...but I just needed to get home.
I got out of the van, made a beeline for my room, only stopping to get my ice packs from the fridge. I downed my meds, set my alarm for 5:30am......praying that everything came together and I would be functioning for the busy day I needed to do in 8hours.