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  • Writer's pictureChristina

Finding Humour

There’s nothing like being away from a place to help you notice things anew when you return. For Greg and me, the drive home from the airport after our New Year’s trip to South Africa was filled with reminders that Malawi was a place unlike others.  As we zig-zagged through neighborhoods to avoid a traffic impasse caused by cars being directed to go both directions towards each other on a main road under construction, Greg announced that he would try to find humor in such unique and unusual situations, instead of getting frustrated.

Keeping an open mind and a light heart did help for a lot of scenarios. Like when our wall fell down one weekend afternoon and it took a week for the landlords, ours and the neighbors, just to negotiate how to repair it.  Or when a box shipped with late Christmas presents traveled from the US to Malawi in 5 days and took an additional 10 days to make the 200 mile trip from Blantyre to Lilongwe.  Sometimes, still we felt like we were reaching our limits, like when the customs fees for that box were twice the value of the box contents.  Or when I got behind in clinic because sequential patients were 45 minutes late starting their 30-minute appointments because one forgot to bring a 25-cent paper health passport, and the nurse misplaced the vital sign paperwork for another.

Some days we wake up to the beauty that is rainy season and the sound of all the lovely birds in our green yard.  Some days we’re so thankful to be here, to have these friends, these ministry opportunities, and this pace to life.  Other days we wonder how much longer we can sustain this, whether we, like our car, break down in some small new way every month and keep needing new fixes to stay in good condition.  Some weeks there is so much progress with programs in the village and working with pastors. Other weeks it seems like everything is on hold – there is too much rain, or not enough rain.  Some days I bounce home from clinic so thankful to be a doctor, ready to send emails to my patients thanking them for being so wonderful.  Other days I drag myself home, wondering if I really did the best I could with the resources available, wondering if anything would have been different if I could have referred to a specialist who had more resources and more technology.

Yesterday in clinic was nice, I felt like I made a difference. But then I woke up in the middle of the night second-guessing the treatment plan I chose for a patient.  This morning I started out well, but the last two days were stressful as our landlord decided to tear down and rebuild all our walls, which would bring a bit of issues for keeping our dogs in and distractions out during the mornings we work from home.

We have some opportunities next year, a furlough planned to get away, to spend some time with our families and some time to think through strategies for continuing the work here. We’re so excited about opportunities back in California for Christina to try some additional work in academic medicine, for Greg to learn more about church leadership.  We even have some friends willing to watch our dogs and house while we are gone, so the pieces seem to be fitting into place.

Maybe things seem more strained than usual because we can count down the weeks until we go back to the US for a time, and maybe because things are seeming so settled for what we can do there.  Maybe that’s just how life is here, with the good times sprinkled with times that make you want to laugh or cry, or both at the same time.  We’ll keep trying to keep an open mind and a positive attitude, and will look expectantly at what the future will hold.

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