Our 10 days of training here in Washington culminated in our graduation ceremony yesterday! Having survived 7 days of lectures, interactive role-playing, and panel discussions, we received our lab coats, pins and a handshake to send us on our way to Africa tomorrow. The talks have covered topics from parasites and tropical dermatology, diarrhea, medical and nursing education in Africa, resiliency and coping in service overseas, to effective lecture preparation and developing test questions for our students’ exams.
Our speakers have been engaging and very passionate about their subjects. By far the most disturbing visuals have been the topics covering parasites, diarrhea, and tropical diseases. OMG! Having heard and seen the potential there for what I may encounter personally as a traveler and living in the community, I have changed my expectations accordingly:
*No swimming in freshwater, EVER (schistosomiasis)
*No flipflops or barefeet, EVER (even fleas make homes in the soles of your feet)
*Hanging wash on the line outside is taboo unless you iron it after it’s dry (fly eggs hatch and burrow in your skin)
*Do not snuggle or touch the dogs (rabies is endemic)
*Sleep with your mosquito net and wear color-coordinated clothing according to parasites in your area! (different colors attract different types of flying insects)
As one presenter stated:
Don’t get bit…Don’t get hit…Don’t’ get lit…Don’t “do” it…Don’t eat shit… OK, so we are all medical people here.
Oh yay! I have lost my appetite and my enthusiasm for outdoor recreation… I do not want to get sick, and here’s why:
For every 100,000 people in Malawi, there”s 1 MD and 20 RNs
Compare that with the US, 293 MDs and 975 RNs per 100,000
One in every 10 people in Malawi has HIV/AIDS
1 in 9 children die of malaria before their 5th birthday
200 people die from rabies annually in Malawi
Life expectancy of males is 58, women 60
Despite those statistics, we as Peace Corps volunteers receive medical care from our own in country MDs and nurses and are medevacced to Pretoria South Africa in case of emergency. Okay, I feel better now….
My final evening was spent gorging on ribs and roasted veggies at Whole Foods, my last frozen yogurt, doing laundry, packing and weighing my bags. Our bus picks us up at 0300 for Dulles and a flight to NY, then a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, then another 2 hours to Lilongwe, Malawi. UGH!
This would not be complete without saying, with so much love and gratitude, thank you to Kate and Carrie for loving and supporting me on this journey, for setting me free.
I will write again during my 2 week orientation “in-country” Until then, mugone bwino (goodnight in Chichewa)