It has been almost a full day since I first stepped foot on the beautiful soil of Mzuzu and my feet have never looked better than they do tinged with the red dust of Malawi. It is everywhere and I am thankful for the artillery of Claritin that my aunt sent me with. The country’s harvest has just ended but there are hills of flowers yet to get the message; I gladly accept daily allergies in exchange for this glorious sight.
The city seems to breathe with life. I have never felt so at home in a foreign land. It is no wonder that Malawi is called the Warm Heart of Africa. I regret not having learned the local language before I came; I want nothing more than to connect with the people here. Everyone understands Chichewa, but most people in this city prefer Tambuka. When I roll their words around my tongue, I feel as though the muscles in my mouth are being unhinged towards freedom. “Moo-lee Bwahn-gee” is Chichewa for “how are you?” – one of the several variations of greeting.
I cannot speak to the taste of the local food because I have yet to have it. It is a funny story actually – the non-government organization (NGO) that is hosting me, Luke International (LIN), is a Norwegian group founded in Taiwan. All of the interns beside myself that stay in the compound are Taiwanese and so the cooks prepare Taiwanese dishes – and very well too! I never would have thought to travel to Africa for the top Taiwanese cuisine, but c’sest la vie – or at least mine anyway… (just some French to go with the Nowegian-Taiwanese-African flavor of it all). Not that it helps any traveler seeking good places to get grub around here, I give the food 5 stars.
The compound is a healthy walk from everything else, but I do not mind it in the least. Mzuzu is full of sounds and blue sky to keep one company along the single road into town. Today, Jenny and Kevin, two hilarious interns at the compound, gave me a tour of the LIN District Office and of the town center. Of course, I can only remember a fourth of the faces and even less of the names that I was introduced to today. With my knack for remembering these things, I may bump that up to a half by the time I leave. I will do my best to learn everyone’s names; I do not want to forget a single detail of Malawi or her people.
Many of the staff are Malawian, which is a good sign that LIN is a sustainable NGO. They have been working to improve the health information systems (HIS) here since 2008. There will be a meeting on mHealth on Thursday; I am hoping to squeeze my way into it! I am still amazed by the way old lectures continue to pop up everyday: the acronyms, terms, and debates – it is all real here. There is something strange and wonderful about living out what used to be mere ideas. I am eternally grateful for all of the lessons and insight that my professors have equipped me with; I feel as though their wisdom gives me license to be brave. I know enough about global health to try my luck with this pilot study that I will be attempting to launch in the coming weeks.
Next week I will be going to the local clinic and district hospital in order to obtain permission to interview patients. I hope it goes well and that I can find favor with the District Health Officer (DHO). The fate of my study lies in their authority to say “yes” or “no”. Or in my case, “inde” or “satha”.