The pre-trip materials and training prepared me well for the trip to Malawi. The things I was most concerned about (driving on the left, shifting with my left hand, the food, the water) were not a problem. My biggest problem was understanding the Malawian’s English. Whether it was the accent, the voice pitch, or something else, I had a very difficult time with communications. The thing that surprised me most was the children. I was not prepared for the large numbers of children that appeared every time we stopped. I was also not prepared for the interest we generated. We were the center of attention in most bush areas where children were present.
I had expected to be driving on rough roads, but sometimes I was not sure we were on roads. Of course, the broken bridges where we had to ford the rivers were also a surprise. Actually, driving in the sand was a greater problem than fording the rivers. The sand comes up suddenly and often you are not prepared for it, while you can see the rivers coming. With two of us together to share the driving the fatigue factor was minimized.
I enjoyed the people I worked with, but felt the opportunities to get to know them were few. We were just too busy. >There seems to be tremendous pressure to install many wells, at the expense of meeting and getting to know the people. I didn’t learn as much about them as I would have liked. The weekend trip to the Game Preserve was excellent and a much needed break. Unfortunately, not all the group got to make the trip.
The biggest thrill was seeing the clean water come out of a well after we installed it and after viewing the previous water source. The Village Headman who expressed his peoples pleasure for the well and asked how to get more wells was also a treat.
I had never in my wildest dreams imagined going to Africa, let alone helping people in the third poorest country in the world. This was the trip of a lifetime for me, something I will always remember and treasure. I think that if the timing were different (Fall is not a good time unless you are retired, and three weeks is more than most working people can take off) there would be more volunteers than could be handled.
Thanks to the people of Marion Medical Mission for giving me the opportunity to help.