Malawi Musings

My first blog post ever feels rather momentous. I've thought about
this multiple times (ask Bill and Elizabeth), started, stopped,
deleted, and then heard Ben Davis's exhortations each night in my
dreams: "Kannie, come on! You've got to keep this blog going! If you
don't write anything it's gonna die."

Here, then, is my feeble attempt at resuscitation. I've been here for
a week now and can officially say that 3 hours of sleep in 35 hours of
travel equals, once landed, a relatively painless transition to Malawi

I have many thoughts about what I've seen clinically, some of which
I'm still trying to process. I alternate between being humbled,
discouraged, hopeful, and grateful. I have learned that I can survive
running a clinic without a preceptor on my fourth day (!), that people
demand antibiotics everywhere, and that a constant language barrier is
really emotionally challenging. The allure of a low resource setting
was so powerful when I left, and now I find it often frustrating and
at times terrifying. Practicing medicine without an internet
connection is also a humbling experience when all I can do is try to
remember which meds are class D in pregnancy.

Staying with the Hutchinsons and seeing how they've navigated their
lives here is pretty awesome. I'll have another blog post with our fun
adventures and, in the Hutchinson household, "This is Africa" moments.
Interestingly, my experience here is probably the first time I've ever
thought seriously about what living in Africa with Nana and a family
would look like. It seems surprisingly reasonable.

Except - the mosquitos. They absolutely kill me, and I dutifully
followed the advice I was given not to read Ben's post before I left.
Only to find myself, in my first night at the Hutchinson's, joined by
a bunch of mosquitos in my net. I remember Ben saying you had to be
sure to kill all the mosquitos before you went to sleep - but 15? I
couldn't believe he had never complained about having to spend so much
time killing them. I always knew my poor hand-eye coordination would
come to bite me (no pun intended!), so an hour and a half later, with
15 mosquito carcasses on my hands plus the 4 extra that appeared out
of nowhere, I was ready to sleep.

I didn't know that mosquitos never let you sleep. Every 90 minutes
that night I was awoken by the ring of a mosquito next to my ear, the
most terrible sound ever. My first sleep-deprived thought was to admit
defeat but despite full sleeves and long pants they got my fingers,
neck, and feet. Painful, stinging bites. GAH!! I turned on Beth's
headlamp and 20 minutes later found the &@#$&#$ mosquito and killed
it. DONE. And then the same thing, 90 minutes later. By 430am I had
gotten so good I could kill a mosquito with one try, though I lunged
so hard I nearly fell off the bed.

I found out the next morning that it was actually a bit of a fluke to
be so mosquito-burdened, that the nets had been up for a little too
long during the day's cleaning which allowed the pests to nest under
the bed until their feast at night. I haven't had a night like that
again thankfully, but I still find myself hallucinating mosquito
buzzing as I fall asleep.

Whew. I got through my first post and it wasn't so bad. Perhaps more
to come later!

-Kannie Chim, SFH R3