Today was the last day we would be going to do a clinic at Chuluchosema. But first there was a wedding to attend. We started out on our usual route through the city of Zomba but this time there was a police check at the city boundary. Once again we were stopped and our driver, Xander was asked to come out of the vehicle. We was anxiously for him to return and gratefully once again, Silas came behind us and helped with the situation. Apparently we needed a "permit" to do this route and Xander didn't have it (dispite being on the same roads the last few days). Money was paid to the police and we were on our way.
As we come into the village each day, Silas throws treats to the children along the road. There is always great excitement when they see his vehicle coming and a gaggle of them run following him all the way.
We headed staight to the church where they were preparing and decorating for the wedding and the reception to follow.
The wedding party arrived and it was just the bride and groom to come.
Malawi time is much more relaxed than Western time and an hour after the announced start time the bride and groom still weren't there. I decided that this might be a good time to try out my first cycling trip. I borrowed a bike from a few of the boys setting up and let's just say it didn't feel like Pearl. It took me a bit to find my balance and that it only had about 30psi of pressure in the tires but after a minute I was cruising.
It probably would have been better with streamers!
This is Dicksen. He is a member of the church and has been my interpreter for most of the eye clinics. He has been very helpful and patient having to translate the same phrases over and over again.
When we were STILL waiting and Margaret(Silas's wife and the local nurse) saw that there were many people lined up for eye assessments, she decided that we should start doing them and then stop for a break when the wedding started. Bryan and I thought this was a great use of the time. By the time, we got back to the clinic there were over 60 people waiting and we were only suppose to have short day. Both of us knew we would have to turn people away and not be able to come back tomorrow. It's a heart breaking feeling starting the day knowing you are going to let people down. Also, the doors to the rooms where we were working and that the eyeglasses were stored were locked and the people who had the keys didn't think they had to be there until after the wedding. Not wanting to waste more time, since Bryan and I had the refractors with us, we decided to do assessments and then have people come back later in the day for the glasses. And so we started.
The good news is that it didn't take long before the keeper of the keys arrived. I let Bryan continue refracting and I dispensed as many glasses as those who had waited were still there. Then we continued on as our usual course. Again I wanted to share some of the people that I cared for today....because really that is what this is about.
This is Mary wearing a pair of glasses from Rachael Hill at Personal Optical in Niagara Falls, ON.
These are going to help her with her work sewing.
This is Ester. I want to thank Deborah Perry at Opticka Eclectic in Saskatoon for these beautiful glasses. She was so happy and will be able to see the board at school now.
This is Sialis. He is 88yrs old and a pastor. He was sick as a child and was complete blind but later had sight restored to his left. From what he told me, it sounded like scarlett fever. He sees in the distance with a -7.50 but can't read with them. I fit him with a -4.50 and now he has a reading pair of glasses too!
This is Christopher. His parents brought him in saying he had been unable to see since birth. They thought he was blind. He is 4 yrs old. His eyes were wandering and not working together but could track a pen light. I refracted him and was grateful that we had a small pair of glasses in a -4.00. They fit him perfectly and when I put them on, his eyes came together and I had his mother come in front of him. I said that she should ask him to tough her nose and he reached out to her. Christopher saw his parents for the first time today and they were more happy than he was.
More and more people came, and we decided that it was more important to continue on with the clinc than to stop and go back for the wedding celebration. As much as I had hoped to go to a wedding, I know we made the right decision. We needed to do this more....I wanted to do this more.
What is interesting is on day 3 my assistant and translator are obviously more distracted, the novelty has worn off for them and the day just seems repetative. But not for me. I LOVE what I do. Whether in Canada with every option available or here with many limitations, I am motivated by the challenge to give each patient the best care and my full attention. I often don't have much patience for my team on the drive home or for chatter in the morning but I think they understand. I hope they do.
When I took a bathroom break at lunch I found a gecko. By "found", I mean as I closed the door it hopped off the door jam and into my hat, which might have produce a blood curdingly scream from me until I shook it off and found out what was crawling up there. So wonderful of my team not even to check on me and when I went back to tell them the tale and THANK them for rescuing me from what COULD have been a life threatening situation, Bryan just shrugged and said I should be glad I had a hat on. Fine.........
As much success as I seemed to have today, I still felt that I failed more than I should have. We seemed to have more difficult cases today and situations where glasses just won't solve the problem. Silas had put a deadline on the clinic of 2:30pm as he had plans for our afternoon. As the time closed in on us, it broke my heart to hear Silas send the rest of the people away but we had done all that we could. 101 assessments completed today.
We loaded up into the van and headed back into the city to get to the market. It is an amazing experience to be surrounded by the people and the sound and the sights.
I decided to get some spices in case the ones in my luggage didn't arrive. I got 3 small bags for 200 kwacha or about $.33. Labeled chicked seasoning, beef seasoning and BBQ seasoning. Of course, I stopped for this but my group didn't, Bryan said they were just down around the corner but when I looked up, and realised that wasn't enough direction because there were LOTS of corners around. After wandering in a few circles, I did make it back to my spice booth and obviously looked lost and people started pointing me in a specific direction. Sure enough, they pointed me towards my crew. I mean really, who else could the white lady be looking for?
There was also fresh tilapia available from Lake Malawi.
My final purchase was this fabric with a goat and a bicycle on it. It will make a great chinchewa.
Back to the vehicles, we drove to the Zomba Plateau. 10km of switchback roads to get to 6000ft above sea level and a birds eye view of the area.
When we saw this bicycle transport, Cathy asked me if I would cycle a road like this. I told her that I had several times in the Rockies on SeaToSea and in Portugal on my way to Cabo du Rocho. If I could, I would gladly do this ride too, it was beautiful!
There are often monkeys in the trees along the way
A beautiful view at the top from the gardens of the Sunbird resort.
The good news is there was a wedding! So although I missed the one this morning, I was able to go to this one!
We decided to have high tea at the restaurant and we had the option of scones or cheesecake. I was skeptical but I really needed to know what cheese translated to in Malawi. This is what it look like but it was more like the filling of coconut cream pie made with jello. It was good just not cheesecake.
As the sunset, the light of Zomba lit up below us. Silas said it would be easy to think that all the dark places was deserted but really there were 1000s of people there but no electricity....ever.
We drove back to Hope house where Christopher had a wonderful dinner of salad, curry chicken, rice, vegetable and avacado prepared and waiting. We were also pleased to see that we had electricity and rushed to get essentials charging before it cut out again.
Over dinner, Silas and Margaret thanked us for our time, gifts and generousity. They are so grateful for all that we have done for the villages in just a few days. They are so glad that there has finally been some eye care in the area as Margaret has had to turn many people away. They were shocked and please to discover that it was all new glasses we had brought and we will be leaving the extras behind for Margaret. We can also give her some guidelines on how to fit them using the eyechart. It is better than leaving them with nothing. It gives them a longer solution than just a few days of opticians. It builds a house instead of just pitching a tent.