The day started at 5.30, quick shower and out the door – or so one would hope….. as Jo and I (we were sharing a room at the hotel) tried to open the door the handle fell off, no panic, call reception and they will let us out… the phone was dead, ok now time to panic!! With a stroke of luck, our neighbor and friend was just leaving her room hoping to catch us before we left. After a few shouts of ‘help’ the door was opened and our journey could begin.
The coach was pure luxury, comfy seats, refreshments and a loo, something one of our colleague was delighted by, some of our ‘tummies’ were starting to struggle (enough said).
It is a 4 to 5 hour journey from Lilongue to Blantrye, you cant get lost Malawi only has one road – the M1. The journey takes you through some pretty special scenery – mountain ranges, panoramic views, I am sure you can imagine. But the sights that remain with you long after the journey has finished are those of the poverty. Just at the roadside markets are set up, hundreds of people selling vegetable, repairing bicycles, sitting aimlessly or tending cattle it all sounds rather romantic but it isn’t, this is all carried out in complete squalor. The clothing is filthy and in shreds. It was very hard sitting in our lovely air-conditioned bus looking out on this.
Once in Blantyre we found a great lodge to stay in. Jo, Vicky and myself (all three of us will be working as nurse or midwife trainers at various places in Malawi) all have separate rooms with our own loo and shower!! Another great thing about this place is good internet connection. Something I must make the most of! The photos are of my room at the lodge and the view from my room!
Final packing done, last goodbyes said and I am on my way! Arriving at Heathrow airport I was met by three of the boys – Calum appeared to have organized everything including a journal with messages from my dear friends and all the boys, together with plenty of photos! He was wise enough not to present this to me until the last minute because it got the anticipated reaction – tears, lots of them!!
Two other volunteers that I had previously met at a VSO training session and already considered friends, were also at the airport and we managed to secure sitting together on the plane which made a long and rather tedious journey much more fun. The only thing mentioning about the flight was the woman sat at the back of the plane. She was being deported and had eight rows and two security guards all to herself! As it turns out no amount of space or security was going to help us as she proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs for 3 solid hours! Fellow passengers decided to help the fraught security guards to no avail in the end exhaustion won the day and she slept.
Arriving in Malawi we were greeted by VSO and taken to a hotel, the base for our week long in country training. With no time to even catch our breath sessions started followed by a party hosted by volunteers already in the country. It was great to meet everyone but after one beer I was to be found sound asleep on a sofa.
The week passed with some fun lectures and some not so. But health checks now done, bank accounts opened, registration with NMC started and essentials purchased. For me one of the most important aspects was the friendships that have already been made. These people together with volunteers already here are going to be my lifeline. Knowing you are not alone and that you have some support when times are tough is going to be vital.
I have now packed up the barn and all my belongings are in storage. It was rather a long and emotional day helped only by the large glass of wine that was waiting for me when I arrived at my parent’s in Chester. I will be spending my last week making final arrangements and ‘cramming’ as much friends and family time in as possible.
I have been steadily working my way down the obligatory TO DO LIST only to be messaged by other volunteers asking what I have done about this and that – well obviously I have done nothing because I had completed forgotten about ‘this or that’! Panic followed by endless phone calls etc.
I had been un-prepared for the emotional tsunami that arrived last night. Quietly sitting in a restaurant with one of my sons the thought of leaving my ‘boys’ suddenly became unbearable. 10 minutes hiding underneath a napkin and I managed to bring myself round. On that basis I am now issuing flood warnings for the heathrow area on Saturday when I have to say goodbye to 3 of them at the airport!
The view from the barn