Malawian Rice Vendor

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Farewell Butterfly

We ended up staying in Nkhata Bay through the 17th. The protests turned out to be a non event as the UN intervened and all was quiet. We did prepare for a worst case scenario buying loads of food and having an emergency pack filled with all the bare necessities for an easy escape. We figured worst case we would grab one of the many dugout canoes and paddle as far out into the lake as possible. We laugh now at the thought of us two paddling furiously out into the deep waters in one of those small canoes. It was a good thing that we were able to stick around Butterfly because two occupational therapists arrived on the 17th from England. These two young ladies, Moyna and Yvonne were absolutely incredible. We were able to spend a number of days with them escorting them to the various small villages where all of the different members of the special needs group lived. These two extremely talented women were able to meet each child and after spending a considerable amount of time and obtaining background information from their respective parents through a battery of questions, they were able for the most part to assess each individuals needs and then design a program tailored to help each child try to become more independent. We were both fascinated as we watched these two miracle workers do their magic. Whether it was showing the children that are affected with Cerebral Palsy or Polio, a series of stretches, or helping the learning impaired with charts of repetitive actions, they both seemed to know exactly what was needed for each individual. We learned an incredible amount from these two. The biggest challenge they faced besides working with limited or no resources was in trying to convince the family members that they were there to help. Most people were very skeptical to say the least. Having relied for many years on witch doctors for most of their medical needs, to bring them around to Western ways was no small task. The thought of the villagers was that by saying a few prayers and drinking some concoction, the children would be "fixed". It was obvious to all of us that this method did not work. Unfortunately the families had over the years spent a kings ransom to these "quacks" with no tangible results. Usually putting the child's health more at risk since they did not seek proper medical advice (not that Malawi has much in the way of resources). The wealth of information that we were able to obtain from these two Brits was at times almost overwhelming. However, it gave us such an insight to how one is able to help even a little people with disabilities try to lead more productive lives. At one point, while in the house of a small child whose body was ravaged by the effects of polio we were brought to tears as the ladies tried to lay the girl flat on her stomach to stretch out her poor, mangled limbs. She screamed in pain as the girls tried to massage and coax her to lay flat but to no avail. All in all, it was an incredible week shared by us and these two amazing women.

We made one more long hike up to the home of Jonathan, one of the nightwatchmen. He had invited us several times to visit his village and each time something had come up and we were not able to go (usually one of us had some sort of stomach ailment). The long walk (1.5 hours) was strenuous yet stunning as we climbed the hills behind the lake passing through several small villages along the way. The climb to Jonathan's house was well worth it as we were afforded several beautiful panoramic vistas of the lake below. We were both amazed at how difficult the terrain we had to cross in order to get to Jonathan's humble abode. Both of us in awe of this wonderful man knowing that he made this epic journey twice a day, six days a week in order to get to his job at Butterfly. We had the extreme pleasure of meeting his family.. They prepared a wonderful meal for us consisting of casava (a vegetable tasted much like boiled potatoes) some steamed green vegetables and a hard boiled egg. We were both almost in tears as we realized that the family had enough food to feed themselves and that even one egg was a considerable luxury. We remembered passing Jonathan one day on the way to town a few weeks prior in his hands he was carrying about a dozen cracked eggs and a few almost rotten tomatoes up the hill to his village. We knew he had bought those discards because a whole egg or fresh tomato was well out of his budget. The things we take for granted. After spending a few hours playing with the kids and teaching them hopscotch and a few other games we made our way back down the long, dusty trail in virtual silence, reflecting upon how blessed we truly are.

Our planned departure was scheduled on Wednesday. This was because Alice was to get married on the 27th and most of her family and friends were coming in for the big day and she needed all the available space. We packed up and arranged a wake up call for 4:45am. We contacted a taxi to pick us up at 5:15am so that we were assured on getting a seat on the 6:30am bus heading for Lilongwe. That morning Jeff was yet again not feeling great as his stomach was in turmoil. We sat patiently watching the sun fill the early morning sky and waited for our taxi. 5:15 passed, then 5:30, by 5:45 we were able to get one of the night watchmen to call for another taxi. By 6:15 when neither showed up we decided that we would adjourn back having found out later that there actually was no bus due to the fuel shortage in Malawi. Jeff, not feeling well was secretly smiling inside knowing that a 9 hour bus ride in his present condition would have been hell. Having been evicted from our "luxury" suite, we were put into the last couple of remaining beds in a dorm in the afternoon. We mentally and physically prepared ourselves to get up once again with the roosters. This time, however, we were offered a ride from Roan, a lady who was in Nkhata to attend Alice's wedding. The two English girls, Moyna and Yvonne, decided to leave a day early to ensure they made their flight in time so the four of us set out together for Lilongwe. It was nice to have the company since we all got along fabulously. The 9 hour ride along the lakeshore is the usual, eventful journey. The over-packed, rambling bus which reeked of bad B.O. and vomit made it's way down the Western shore of Lake Malawi. Almost immediately a small infant got hit square in the head with a hard piece of luggage that had become dislodged from the overhead rack. The poor boy continued to wail throughout the long ride as it became obvious he was not well. About two hours further into the journey we witnessed a teenage boy get hit by the truck in front of us as he was riding his bicycle. As the bus slowed we sat helplessly wedged into our seats as he lay motionless on the ground streams of blood oozing from his severly fractured leg. Instinct told us all to go to help but it was impossible to try and fight through the mass of humanity that was crowded onto the old bus. It was probably a good thing that we were stuck only because we were not prepared to help with any medical supplies. With the amount of blood flowing from the wound, we would have all been very much at risk to a number of infections including HIV. It was such a sick feeling knowing that there was really nothing any of us could do. We just hope that this poor kid was able to receive some type of medical attention before he bled out. Further along the road we witnessed another girl whose arm got slammed shut in the bus door as the driver, not realizing she was there, began to move. She screamed in agony as he finally released the door's grip. All in all it was just another "typical" third world bus trip. Thankfully we arrived in one piece and found a great hotel in Lilongwe. Clean, quiet rooms with a hot shower and even water pressure. Best of all, much to Jeff's delight the room price included a breakfast buffet. We both got a great nights sleep and woke refreshed for our next journey over to Chipata, Zambia. After bidding farewell to our new friends, we made the 5 hour journey by a series of different mini buses and taxis to the border. At one point, having to change transportation modes in the middle of nowhere because one mini bus refused to go further. We walked through both immigrations and fetched a taxi for the 30 KM ride back to Dean's Hill View where we had stayed some months prior. Looking back on our time in Malawi, and specifically Butterfly, we are in complete awe in what the two girls, specifically Alice have accomplished in such an impoverished place. Both of our lives have been changed forever and indeed for the better. We just hope that the minute fraction that we were able to contribute in our time spent will maybe make a difference......

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