Amanda and me arriving in Johannesburg
Amanda and me arriving in Johannesburg

Most of you who know me well would not describe me as a crier.     That has not been my experience of myself in the last month

Part of preparing for this experience meant detaching from friends, family, work, belongings, familiar routines, and passions, and of course ZoZo.     During the last 10 days at home I found myself weeping in strange places without warning; on the trails at Mt Tom, petting ZoZo, hugging a friend, saying goodbye to mom, eating my favorite peanut butter! The feeling of loss and separation would just wash over me unannounced, and then pass. I understood this process and accepted it as just the nature of preparing for a life changing experience and a year of disengagement from the familiar.

Immersion in my new life has brought more tears and different challenges. At times I feel like a caged animal; living out of 3 suitcases for 3 weeks with 2 weeks to go before arrival at my site on August 12th.     At 62, this is annoying, irritating, and difficult.

We have the arduous task of padlocking our valuables in our suitcases when we leave our rooms, which means, money, passport, camera, computer, ipad, any other electronic device, jewelry, and medication.     We are told that the maid may smile and love you but steal your money or your earrings the first chance she gets. The security guard may befriend you yet reach through your open window and lift out whatever may be on the window shelf within reach. You may at any time be hit over the head with a rock, shoved, assaulted, or harassed while in public. We are not to walk around after dark, which is 5:30. This is not the norm, just what is possible and in most cases preventable.

Team Malawi, relaxing
Team Malawi, relaxing

I am yearning to sip my favorite latte or to run my hands through Zoey s coat. I miss hot showers, clean clothes, mesclun, and organic milk; the kind that is cold and wet, not made from a powder with added vegetable oil. I am aching to see mom, my kids, and my girlfriends.

Compounding these completely normal sentiments around settling in and adjusting is the reality of the incredibly competent and skilled professionals on my team here. The Malawi team consists of 5 nurses, 2 MDs and a trailing spouse . They are all seasoned, highly educated medical people with a vast and diverse array of training and international practice experience. All have advanced degrees, I am the lone Bachelor ette .

Team Malawi in DC
Team Malawi in DC

Our training and orientation is packed with very dense material about security, diseases, cultural traditions, and language lessons. Additionally, get a room full of medical people and everyone has their own opinion about how to do something and wants to share their war stories and experience.

During lunch break I quietly snuck up to my room and had a mini meltdown. I just don t know as much, I haven t had that exposure or experience or training. I couldn t even begin to understand the answer to that question. ; my story, the tape playing in my head. The tears streamed down my face and I chose to pray and meditate to sooth myself in the quiet and privacy of my room.

This is where I find my center; the peace, the optimism and the memory of why I chose to come here to serve. I understand and believe that I come here with my own strengths, knowledge and experience that, though different, are uniquely valuable and inherently useful. It is my heart and soul that I bring here, with ALL my life experience. It is dangerous for me to compare myself to my counterparts, yet human nature. I am exactly where I am supposed to be

I am humbled to have the opportunity to learn how much I don t know. How much I rely on the familiar and my routines. I am humbled by how difficult it is to let go of things, both material and intellectual, even though I understand it is for a temporary and limited amount of time.

On an up note, we have found a work around to working out. Every other morning 4 or 5 of us gather in the parking lot and do circuits and sprints up the tiny hill for a 30 minute workout. There is always a crowd of Malawi men lining the perimeter, watching the crazy ‘azungu flail around the asphalt working up a sweat! But oh, it feels good when it s done! And I forget about my silly troubles for a while.

forgetting the stress!
forgetting the stress!

9 thoughts on “HUMILITY

  1. I would think being homesick is normal, this too shall pass as you get busier. Mindy don’t ever doubt yourself, They may have more degrees, but you have the experience of nursing, you have been on the front lines. You are a great nurse, patients love you because you are a great nurse. Don’t ever forget that. I would rather have someone teaching that knows what it is like working in the trenches than just the theory.. Remember it is only for a year…. Keep posting. Beth

  2. I bet when the team started they felt the same way you feel, you have to start somewhere. You’ll be great

  3. Mindy,
    You bring so much to this experience – it will all unfold for you. I am beyond proud of you, my friend.
    Sending love! And thank you for writing with such honestly.

  4. Wow, you just painted a beautiful human portrait with a landscape of depth and layers of self discoveries. It is the spirit that paints the landscape within us and finding the time to watch it evolving involves emotions.Thank you for sharing your deep thoughts as there is a lot of strength between the words that show up. It maybe dark on your end but I certainly see the light you are giving off. I see the tears as joy and respect of the life you have lived with those you love. It is the most honest refection of emotion one can give. Peace Mindy.

  5. Hi Mindy
    Close your eyes and let me take you back .. back to a road trip two friends embarked on starting in Sacramento ( driver doesn t know how to fill her gas tank)
    Somewhere between Napa/ Sonoma and Mendocino ( I think) on top of some mountain where we stopped for really good cell service . Some things are between
    only us forever MEMORIES I TREASURE FOREVER It was sunny on top of that mtn Driving the car through that huge tree.. Scared Who had to guide the driver through that monster tree A cheap NASTY HOTEL ROOM in Eureka, CA and SO excited to be in OR where the gas is pumped by a happy attendant..Ah the small things all lessons learned and lovely And would NEVER change any of our memories Learning to ask how to fill the gas tank, learning to care for the special friend who needed time on top of the mtn, guidance getting through that over sized tree and of all things sleeping in that very gross dirty nasty smelly hotel room ( if you call it that) all gave US Satisfaction
    You are AWESOME.. Never look back, you know what is right and I am SO VERY PROUD TO CALL YOU MY FRIEND!!!!

    As Margaret Thatcher once said,
    Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.

    Mindy you re a NURSE as Beth said You are a great Nurse Don t ever be afraid to ask questions.. Yes Jeanne can still hear me asking all those questions 🙂
    Close your eyes Go to the Sea Gull B&B To the Ocean, to the SeaGlass Beach ( Oh yes just tons of glass NOT)
    I LOVE YA GIRL and I wish I was with you.. But you know (for real) You re way braver than me..
    Gosh I hate to admit that
    Forever sitting on shoulder all year
    Your friend forever..
    Ps. I will come visit anytime and that is FOR REAL TOO

  6. Mindy, I am sitting in a corporate office reading this and can totally understand how new things at 62 can be daunting. This will pass. I just went to a beach service last Sunday and heard a 30 yr old give a wonderful sermon on wants vs needs”. This experience will fill your soul in ways too soon to know- and I suspect is what we all need. Keep writing and sharing. Love that you have a group to work out with. Back to the grind…

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