I had the good fortunate of spending a few weeks at Kripalu this past summer in the midst of a busy 4th year and gearing up for applying to residencies. I found it to be just what I needed as I prepared to enter a new phase of life. Read about it @ Kripalu
The Clerkship has already come to an end! How quickly time flies. We had another full and valuable week which started on this past Monday at the Center for Living and Working in downtown Worcester to learn about end of life issues for persons living with a disability. We had a vocal and locally famous disability advocate present who I had actually already received a lecture from last year when we learned about spinal cord injuries. She was in a car accident as young woman that left her paralyzed throughout most of her body but her story is absolutely inspirational to say the least. Her initial recovery and the way she build a new life and works as an advocate for people with a disability is simply amazing. The organization they have in Worcester seems to be very well organized and structured having requirements for a certain percentage of staff being persons with disabilities as well as representation on the board of directors. They provide many services for those with disabilities and facilitate the delivery of those services.
This week has flown by, I've had to reassess, as I somehow often find myself doing, all the thing I planned to accomplish during this 2 week stretch without classes or homework. Finding balance in medical school is an amazing challenge in this landscape that is constantly changing face and pace. Something tells me not much will change post-graduation so really it's about learning to be agile and enjoying the changes and being comfortable dealing with uncertainty. My goals for these two weeks include catching up on pleasure reading, writing, extra curricular commitments, and the biggest one: writing a detailed report about my summer in Malawi that is long overdue. So, it's Friday and one week is coming to an end and I haven't made too much progress on those goals but I have been having a lot of fun!
Well, I realize I haven't written since returning from Africa and now I'm back in good ol' Worcester. I spent the few weeks I had remaining of summer break all over new england which was amazing. It's been a quick couple months back in school, we've already finished neuroanatomy, respiratory, and renal path. I'm already enjoying second year so much more than first as we are learning so much more relevant material as well as my own adjustment to studying. Now we have 2 weeks off from class in order to participate in a a community clerkship of our choice. I chose to do the End of Life Care Clerkship.
In the end, it was a great 6 weeks. I came with a mission and an idea of what I was going to do and ended up accomplishing very different things. Such is life. I didn’t end up contributing nearly as much as I would have liked to the work of MaiKhanda and received more than I could ever have imagined, and continue to realize with time, from Malawi. This experience like many others continues to shape me after it is over as my perspective grows and I reflect on my experiences. I met some of the most amazing people in my life in such a short time and friendships for a lifetime began. It turns out the trip was more direction in my life personally than professionally. I learned more about myself than I could have anticipated and it was a beautiful experience. I received confirmation I am on the right path from many sources and I feel blessed.
Last week I celebrated my birthday in Malawi. As I’ve always done, I kept that bit of information to myself. I quietly planned to cook Persian food for a group of friends here without telling anyone and just enjoy myself. I went to the market for vegetables, which, although overwhelming at first, grew on me. I enjoy buying food in an open market and negotiating prices but in Malawi, you are followed around by a number of people shoving something in your face. Unfortunately being white, you are also labeled as rich so from the second you enter any area with sellers, you will be rushed and crowded. It was a great day; I cooked a few dishes and had several people over helping to cook. It turned out a little birdie © from America cleverly got in touch with Rachael to let the secret out about my birthday so at the end of dinner I was surprised with a birthday cake! It is quite rare that I am surprised, not so much for lack of effort, but more because I am annoyingly perceptive at times so it’s hard to keep a secret from me. Thanks to everyone who came and plotted for me.
Rachael and I left for the south on a mission to see as much as possible in a few days. Our first major stop was Zomba, the old capital. Not much of a city but beautiful sights including a large elevated plateau from which you could see the city below as well as a dam creating a large reservoir up in the mountain. We stopped for a picnic in a secret spot, one not well known to tourists but word gets around the Peace Corps (and that’s not the only thing that gets around, hey-oh!). There was thick mist sweeping across the surface of the reservoir as we sat on the edge of a small peninsula under a thatch hut enjoying our delicious fresh, local veggies and fruit. The mist cleared just long enough for us to see the waterfall and snap some pictures. We continued up the mountain to reach the hotel perched at the highest point. It was quite a spot to stay but out of our price range, although not terribly expensive. We goofed around the property, negotiated some great prices for some curios (souvenirs) and were back on the road south, but not before talking a walk around a beautiful botanical garden at the base of the plateau. I’ve loved hearing the Malawians sing during this trip at various points and during our walk around the dreamy gardens we ran into several people assembled in a small clearing singing. The sound was great and I could hear some hallelujahs mixed in.
Well the last 2 weeks just flew by and I was all over Malawi so I’ll do my best to recall my adventures here.
I’ve noticed how hard it is to come to Malawi and “help”. I’ve talked about how the project didn’t work out because of all the bureaucracy but it seems to pervade many areas and it’s ingrained in the culture. Even trying to facilitate a monetary donation from the States to purchase medical equipment here is not met with much excitement. In fact, responses to my questions on how to complete such a transaction have been very slow. It surprises me that even when offering cash does not ignite any motivation. I don’t know if they don’t see it the way I do, in that there are people dying every day because of simple deficits that even a small donation could go a long way in filling. It’s strange to me but brings me back to wondering about if they really want the help of outsiders. Is it pride? It sure seems so in the case of the current president who has gone to great lengths to put his country in a much worse position and cut ties to governments who had been offering a great deal of help. Traveling around, I can’t help but wonder where this incredible poverty in the statistics is, I just haven’t seen the degree of what I was expecting. In a country with the highest child HIV infection rates, where are they? I’ve been told they are only in certain areas, one I have not seen. In the cities and in the villages, I’ve been met with great kindness and smiles. I haven’t seen the degree of malnutrition I was expecting either. However, this is an area where the solution already exists inside the country.
Hey everyone, if you are able to please donate to my friend Rachael's summer camp fundraising through her Peace Corps Donation Site.
Also, the organization I am volunteering for, MaiKhanda, is in need of the following supplies if you happen to come across any of it please let me know to arrange shipment or a monetary donation: