Saturday, April 17, 2010

A healthy dose of negativity

My bittersweet face

So I’ve been overwhelmingly positive in my posts thus far- cherry picking all the fun/interesting/meaningful/strange/cute/hysterical moments from my time here. But I’ve been here for more than three months and I have more than a month left. Clearly my time here hasn’t been all sunshine and puppies (or in this case mangos and babies). I have enjoyed my share of the mundane, the annoying and the downright infuriating. So, in the spirit of optimism: here have been my least favorite things about Malawi aka the things I will miss least:

1) Living and working with the same people 24/7. I really really really like the people that I work with. In fact, I would say that they are the best part of my experience here. That being said, I get to love ‘em in the morning at 4:30am love ‘em during the day at clinic as we rush to get the moms in and out, love ‘em as we enter data, love ‘em over dinner, love ‘em after dinner etc etc etc. Living and working with the same people, even if you really like them, is quite trying at times. A minor annoyance at clinic (someone was short with someone else) weighs on you more heavily when you never spend more than 5 minutes without that person for the next 4 days.

2) The food. OK so I kind of did talk about this (guess I’m not as positive as I envision myself) but it bears repeating. It’s bordering on impossible to eat a healthy diet. I am a diehard carbs fan but even I am so sick of carbs that I think I’ll need a carbcation when I get home. I love junk food but I love it more as a treat than as an exclusive diet.

3) Being the object of curiosity wherever you go. I am never invisible in Malawi. Even when I look disgusting or am tired or in a hurry- people stare. It’s the worst in the villages where they scream and point but even in town I attract attention. It’s funny and fine 95% of the time but 5% of the time I find it tiring. Like when I go to the bathroom. No one wants that to be a spectator sport. Ahhhhh look! I just saw a white girl come out of the outhouse!

4) Lack of Internet access: self explanatory. 2 accounts for 8 people.

5) 4:30 wakeup time.

6) Miscommunications. Which I am using as a euphemism for “people don’t understand you/choose to ignore you.” Everything here is a production. Yesterday I asked for no mayo on a sandwich I was buying. Got extra mayo (We call this getting “Malawied”). Or when I tell an HSA to fill out the data card in private and 5 minutes later I see them surrounded by a crowd of moms. I know its not intentional but it gets frustrating for everyone involved.

7) No sushi.

8) Did I mention the wakeup time?

9) Not being able to communicate easily with those I love. This is probably the hardest. I am very lucky that I have periodic internet access and can even talk to people on my Malawian cell phone if they get a calling card. But it’s really hard because as much as I like my coworkers/housemates, they don’t know me that well. I miss being able to talk to people who know my moods, my likes and dislikes and can let me blow off steam without having it color their judgments of me. And given that I’m trying to decide where to attend medical school next year, being on a different continent from the people who know and love me makes things very complicated.

10) No paper towels. Probably the worst thing ever.

But the truth is that I am really very happy here. I am also very happy to be going home soonish so I can enjoy my super clean house, eat my fresh food and see Rocky.

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