“White person!”

As CJ, Abby, and I ventured into our second full day in Malawi, we were continually overwhelmed with the beauty of this amazing country. After going on a morning walk guided by Dr. Nesbit along the lush corn fields on a red clay path, we had our first clinical meeting with St. Gabriel’s Hospital doctors and nurses. We then spent the remaining morning working with Alex, the coordination of Home Based care, to prepare for our training sessions starting this week. Meanwhile, Dr. Nesbit was hard at work collaborating with other St. Gabriel Hospital staff to ensure our training sessions for the community health workers goes off without a hitch.

While Dr. Nesbit made a quick trip to Lilongwe, the three of us students decided to further explore the surrounding areas and village. Abby and I decided to wear traditional women’s attire which includes a long and colorful piece of fabric wrapped/secured around the waist. It proved to be beneficial in comfort and beating the heat! With our cameras, snacks, and water packed, we set off on our adventure.

Along our walk, we passed by a large elementary school which serves many of the local village’s children. The students would call out “azungu, azungu!” meaning “white person!”. Many of the children spoke just as much English as we spoke Chichewa, so communication resulted in an exciting game of charades. Even though we didn’t speak the same spoken language, the children quickly caught on to gestures of high-five and thumbs ups. The kids loved having their photos taken and decided to follow us along the road heading towards their village. Along the way home, we stopped by the village for some of our new favorite snacks including “chips” (deep fried potatoes) and Malawian donuts and cornbread (not sweet but deep fried, of course).

We finished the evening enjoying a breathtaking view of the sunset as it descended behind the mountains.

A personal note from CJ: So let’s talk briefly about rain….in California, sometimes it rains…not so much lately, but you know…it rains. The word “rain” though is a continuum it seems because in Malawi it RAINS! It rains so hard that its almost deafening. Before making a trek to the hospital to see a patient who suffered from a stroke dark clouds rolled in with thunder following. I told the girls who looked up at the sky with concern – “It’s okay girls the hospital is only a few hundred yards away, we will be fine.” Seconds later I was forced to eat those words. With umbrellas and rain jackets we still arrived at the hospital DRENCHED. Dr. Nesbit looked at me like…you naive little Californian….I responded with humor to cover myself but it didn’t work. A little later another patient was brought to us by a German pediatric specialist. She approached us with some excitement and started talking to us quite animatedly completely in….German. So naturally I said…”No spreken ze douche” to which she immediately busted up laughing and apologized and said she didn’t even realize she was speaking German! We all shared a good laugh.

Fireside chat by Abby:  Malawi, if you are ever so lucky to travel here, will teach you patience…greetings are lengthy, structured, and delightful exchanges that are especially humorous when it is one of us blanking out or butchering our end.  Electricity comes and goes, although it goes much more frequently especially when you are trying to cook dinner after a long day.  The RAIN, as CJ mentioned, determines whether you patiently wait under your porch for the downpour to subside or patiently wait for your clothes and shoes to dry out.

The lights just came on…tionana!

Sarah, CJ & Abby


5 thoughts on ““Azungu!”

  1. This is hilarious because when we went, Dr. Nesbit kept talking about this “rain” that she swore always came down on Malawi, but we didn’t get any until the end of the trip! Seems we got the scorching heat and you guys got the showers! I’m loving your blog posts, and I hope you guys continue to enjoy your trip and keep learning Chichewa! Dr. Nesbit, please send my best to Alex and everyone at the hospital! (From Mike and Katherine too, I’m sure).

    • Zikomo, Mei! We will NEVER complain about west-coast rain again! It’s absolutely amazing how much louder the thunder is and how much more it pours here! We will tell Alex and the rest of the hospital know you send your best!

  2. Yes- please say hello to everyone!! Last year we sure lucked out and didn’t get rain- sounds like you guys are getting it all this year 🙂 Love reading the blog and seeing all your pictures, keep them coming as long as your internet keeps working 😉 Zikomo, Zikomo!!

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