Two friends of mine were in a road traffic accident on Saturday morning. The truck they were riding in was towing a minibus, which blew a tire and veered out of control, pulling the truck with them in it off the road, off a bridge and down a 4 metre drop into the river below. Thank God it was a river. And also thank God that they were all helped out of the water with just scratches and bruises. It could have been a lot worse. A lot. One was a teacher, the other was a doctor, both working at Nkhoma.
My good friend and colleague had cerebral malaria and a stroke nearly a year ago, and is still recovering. Two other work colleagues have had near death experiences on the roads in the past year. We have lost one member of staff to AIDS, very sadly just after I arrived. About once a month a member of staff at the Eye Hospital goes off sick with Malaria, and thank the Lord recovers after treatment. About once a week a member of staff is off for a day to attend a funeral in their village.
I very luckily have only had malaria once, and took the treatment very quickly, and was back at work after 3 days. It was like a bad cold and fever with strange joint pains. But the treatment worked quickly, and unlike a cold it was cured within days, not to linger untreatable for a week or more.
This is the life and reality here. We are not immune to malaria, accidents and other events and conditions that affect the population we serve.
It is times like these that I try to calmly sit and reflect on our blessings. The blessings of health, and the great work we are involved in.
There is a tradition in Africa whereby if a person has had a great tragedy, such as a death in the family or a near-death personal experience; that the whole village will line up outside the house, in a manner, and enter the house in turn. The one who is traumatized, so to speak, is then given the opportunity to recount the events and ordeal to each visitor. Sounds heavy retelling the tale a hundred times, but the community support and comfort lends itself to healing.
This is Africa. Dangerous. Beautiful, and full of love and true community support. Unpredictable. And we are only here at Nkhoma Eye Hospital to help those in need of help for their disabilitating blindness. But, we all live here. With or without electricity. With or without running water. With mosquitoes. With dangerous roads, dodging pedestrians, cyclists, goats, chickens, other vehicles and unreal accidents. When I say running water I am pretty good at my house really. The taps in the house run almost 6 out of 7 days a week.
We are in dry season though, so the water in the big lakes at the top of the mission village drain quickly. You can’t drink the water anyhow. It’s unfiltered from the river, and there is the chance of water-borne diseases. For drinking water I have a 5000 litre tank on the side of my house that collects rainwater. I treat this water chemically, filter it through an Indian ceramic filter, then a Britta filter. Or boil it, and use it for cooking. The last rains were 6 months ago though, so it is nearly empty, and yellow algae tend to grow after a while. So lots of boiling.
We need to give thanks that through all this, there is no war here. There is no violent tribalism. There is nothing to really fight over, no big gold or diamond deposits. There is no political unrest or massive inflation. There are no great floods or droughts or plagues. There is no scourge of violent crime. We are actually very lucky in peaceful and beautiful Malawi.
We can still plan and carry out our work, trying to travel and find blind and vision impaired in villages in Central Malawi, without daily fear or trepidation.
But, we are reminded sometimes that it is a relatively dangerous world we live and work in. I have so much respect and love for all here who partake in this; and we all have so much heartfelt thanks for all who support it.
There are no photos for this update, none needed I feel.