Our trip is winding down now but the emotions are just beginning to peak. Today we traveled back to Njewa from Lake Malawi and said goodbye to all of the families.
Kay (my roommate), Keeley, Katie, and Rebecca (COTN intern) and I woke up early today to watch the sunrise over the lake and it was absolutely breathtaking. Kay and I were talking about how it felt like we were in Hawaii or Fiji or some other exotic beachy country—it was just gorgeous! Honestly, I think the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen have been in the amazing country. The colors are unspoiled by the pollution that usually occurs in the United States. And in addition to the rising and setting of the sun, I cannot forget about the stars! I have seen the stars so clearly on this trip; I’m just sad that I haven’t had more time just to sit and admire them.
After the sunrise we got our stuff packed and ready to go and then I went to the business center to check my e-mail and Facebook. I was able to send Andrew an e-mail and read a few from him which was so nice. I really miss him and I think that he would have absolutely loved this trip and working with Maliko.
Once I had my e-mails sent I went back over to the group and then it was about time for breakfast. At breakfast I sat with David (the support team leader), Shelly (program), and Kathy (Sid’s wife). We had a really great conversation about autism, among other things; it was a really great breakfast.
At some point we all took a big group photo and then we got on the buses. This time I managed not to sit in back, but (by choice) in a pretty awkward seat behind the front that faced backwards and liked to give way if I didn’t sit all the way back.
Sitting up toward the front gave Carly and I a really good chance to talk and I really enjoyed it. About halfway from the lake to Njewa we stopped at a cultural center, but the don’t allow Malawian women in, so we didn’t go in. I’m really stumped as to why there would be such a stupid rule. Anyway, at that stop I learned that there was an extra, more roomy seat, on another bus, so I asked one of our translators, Tadala, if she would like to switch because she had been so squished on every ride. Not surprisingly, she was happy to switch. 🙂
While we were stopped, our leaders decided that we might as well eat lunch, so Nicole, Marie, Carly, Brad, and I started making peanut butter sandwiches. While we were making sandwiches, Nicole noticed a little boy sitting near us that had some open sores on his legs. She called me over to look at them and I was horrified. They weren’t oozing pus, but they were covered in flies. Now, maggots are good for healing, but the child was filthy, and it was very likely that he could get an infection in those conditions. Thankfully, my wonderful mother-in-law gave me a kit of homeopathic remedies, and one of those remedies was for wounds such as these. I was able to grab a translator to help me talk to the boy, and then clean and bandage the sores, as well as apply Neosporin and give him the remedy. I still have no idea how he got those wounds; he never did tell us, but I was able to give him instructions on when to get help. There were a lot of children around him and us, and a lot of them started asking for bottles—they clean them and then fill them with homemade drinks to sell, as well as ask for food. Eventually Henry asked us all to get back on the buses so that we could eat and not be so cruel as to eat in front of these very poor children. We ended up having some extra sandwiches and snacks that Henry passed out, but it was so sad to see these kids fight over a few sandwiches and empty bottles. As we drove away from that stopping point, I was filled with sadness for those children, and particularly that one little boy. I just wished that I could follow up with him to make sure his leg would be okay.
On a more uplifting note, Tadala and all of the translators have been so amazing. They, as well as Henry (COTN manager in Malawi) have stayed up late, gotten up early, and really worked hard to make sure that everyone could communicate. And Tadala has the most beautiful voice! Listening to her sing is such a delight. Henry has probably been the hardest worker of all. He has worked tirelessly for these families and for us and has been so patient and always willing to help. We kept the poor guy so busy, but I know that he is so excited about the work that was done.
Also, while we were making lunch we used a newspaper as a “clean” surface and came across an ad that really surprised us. Apparently Wal-Mart bought out one of the large chain stores in Malawi. Wally World is everywhere.
Once we got back to Njewa we got everyone unloaded and then handed out school supplies to all of the kids but not before Maliko had a fit of stubbornness. When we got off of the van he saw one of the girls wheelchairs and decided he wanted it and my jacket. Well, he refused to go anywhere, started trying to get back on the bus, and also tried to take someone’s pants. The kid is so strong and it’s impossible for me to do anything when he does that, so I had to send for someone to get his mother, who had walked off. Once she came we started to make some progress, but then he saw the German Shepherd that lives there and freaked out, so we had to keep the dog out of his line of vision before he would start moving again. Then we was grumpy and wouldn’t interact with me because I wouldn’t give him his way.
Maliko is very undisciplined but he and his fits have taught me so much about myself this week, and none of it is good. I am so selfish and impatient and his fits just highlighted that for me. But Angelina, his mom, is so kind and patient with him; he is so blessed to have her.
Once the gifts were handed out, all of the Malawians got on their buses to go home. After Maliko had been there for a few minutes he turned back into his charming self and would wave back and say good-bye and smile. I gave both Angelina and Maliko a big hug before they left and as Angelina waved from the bus I could see all of the love and thankfulness in her eyes. We gave her son a few days of nothing but love and fun—and her, too! Angelina is a little older, probably in her 60s and is more reserved, so it was sometimes difficult to read her, but those few minutes saying good-bye really said it all.
One fun thing for Angelina today was getting her to put her feet in the lake. Yesterday during beach day she really didn’t even get on the beach except to play some relays, so I really wanted her to experience the water at least a little bit. so, I took her down to the beach before breakfast and we took our shoes off and then I put my feet in the water. At first she backed away when the waves came up, but then dipped her toes in. When I tried to get her to go in a little further, she indicated that it was too cold and that she thought I was crazy. It was too cute! It was too bad that Maliko was scared of the water.