Dr Phil and Dr Tessie Signing Off…

Greetings from South Africa!  It felt a bit strange to be travelling south when we left Zambia on our way home to the UK but we have so enjoyed our ‘limbo time’ in Cape Town – we’ve caught up on sleep, had a chance to see some of South Africa and valued some precious thinking time!  I’m writing this after just polishing off some fish and chips which is part of the ‘UK Reintegration Process’ along with being freezing cold and getting rained on!  We kind of forgot that it was the middle of winter in South Africa when we planned our visit and arrived from Zambia totally inappropriately dressed for South African midwinter – I have no shoes with me that aren’t sandals!  We’ve been up Table Mountain, been to see the penguins and visited the Cape of Good Hope – I’ve been so excited to see the sea again!

Our last few days in Lusaka passed without incident apart from the obligatory fruitless visit to Immigration!  I was full of hopeful (naive) anticipation that perhaps I would finally get my work permit after applying for it eighteen months ago, visiting Immigration a total of eight times, paying two million Kwacha, and being assured on my previous visit that it would be ready for collection!  Anyway, it turned out that the folder containing my application and all my documents has been lost or possibly doesn’t exist.  Either way, they stamped my passport with enough grace days to get out of the country and promised to look for it.  I’m coming to terms with the sad reality that I will never see my Zambian work permit!

We’re really missing Kalene and feel like we’ve left a little part of ourselves there!  Although the medical work was fairly relentless the patients were always so grateful which helped you keep going during a difficult day.  The patients would always say thank you when they were discharged from the ward and after a Caesarean section there would be a little crowd of relatives waiting outside theatre to give you a  round of applause (you say thank you in Lunda by clapping your hands).  It was very humbling when patients said thank you because so often you felt like the care you were giving was limited by lack of resources,  staff or your own energy.  After a while we got used to just trying to do the best we could we what we had but we had frequent days of wishing we had more drugs or investigations or x-ray films.  Away from the hospital there are many things I’ll miss about life at Kalene; pineapples, babies on mum’s back, little kids running to wave when you walk past their village, sun on your skin, the smells, the market, walking on the airstrip at sunset and living simply.


We’ll also really miss our friends and colleagues from Kalene; living and working in such a close-knit environment inevitably means that you get very close.  We’ve loved getting to know the long-termers at Kalene, the Reeds, Woodfields, Hannays, Gills, Alice Turner and the Poidevins, and have been inspired by their commitment and dedication.  We’re particularly grateful to John Woodfield who has patiently trained us to be ‘mission-hospital-ready’ over the last year – he’s taught us so much about medicine and surgery in Africa and we know it will come in useful in the future.  Over the last year our Zambian colleagues at the hospital have truly become our friends and we’ll miss working with them very much.

It has been such a privilege to meet so many lovely Lunda people: they have welcomed us so warmly into their community with much smiling and clapping of hands, not to mention widespread hilarity whenever we tried to speak any Lunda!  Two Lunda words have become thoroughly embedded in our vocabulary over the last year – the first is “chanti” which means ‘a bit’ and has all sorts of uses uses in normal conversation.  The second is “kwiji” which means ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps’ but can also be used as ‘yeah right’ or ‘whatever’ so this also comes in useful!  I think we’ll be slotting these two Lunda words into our English sentences for years to come!

We would love to work in Africa again in the future – at the moment only God knows when and where – but we’ve always felt that our year in Zambia was just the beginning.  For now we’ve got two more years of training to concentrate on in the UK but I’m already itching to get back and I only left Zambia two weeks ago!   Phil will be back in Zambia in November helping run an obstetric anaesthesia course for anaesthetic doctors training at the teaching hospital in Lusaka so he hasn’t said goodbye for long!  I think the last thing left to say is thank you so much for your support and for following the blog.  We’ve really enjoyed writing it and your comments, emails, prayers and post have encouraged us so much and truly kept us going!  Tunasikili mwani mwani mwani!!!  (Thank you very very much!)

Lots of love, Phil and Tessie xx

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9 Responses to Dr Phil and Dr Tessie Signing Off…

  1. Lizzie Stevenson says:

    We’ve loved reading your newsy blogs. We are so impressed with all you’ve achieved – your skills, your attitudes and your deep concern for and kindness towards your patients. Also, your sense of humour! Returning to the NHS will be quite an adjustment…. We hope to hear more though.

    Jed and Lizzie (Phil, your parents will know)

  2. Claire lanceley says:

    Ahhhh, little tear in my eye on your behalf! Zambia’s loss is Sheffields gain! looking forward to catching up x

  3. June says:

    A little sad at the end of what has been a very entertaining visit for us back home, have loved your reports, smiles and tears. Loved hearing the parent’s travellers tales but have a knot of excitement when I think of meeting up with you and hearing all your news.

  4. jean says:

    Well its been a absolute joy reading the reports on Zambia ,felt a little emotional on the last one,but what a journey you have both had/fantastic the work you have bothe done/we are all very proud of you here at rotherham.fantastic news to hear you back on Delivery suite here,you will be welcomed with open arms .look forward to seeing youxxxx

  5. Dave berry says:

    really gonna miss your reports, have really enjoyed them, great to have seen you two grow, great to hear about your lives feels like i have re made two friends again after so many years apart, you have really inspired me to continue in my short mission work in Romania, Tess Liverpool are trying to get rid of Andy Carroll just thought i’d let you know, if your ever near Folkestone pop in and have a cup of tea.

  6. Alex Cotter says:

    Wow, What a year! Feel like I have been there too! I have so enjoyed following your ‘Chronicles of Zambia’. Without doubt, you will never be the same again after all you’ve seen and learned – perfect experience for all that is to come for you – yep, this is just the opening chapter! Hope to catch up with you sometime in the ‘Beautiful South’!

  7. Barbara Brannigan says:

    It has been wonderful reading all your blogs. It must be quite sad to leave all the people you have worked with over this last year. What a wonderful experience. As you say it is just the beginning. God bless you both. Barbara Brannigan.

  8. Margaret Simpson says:

    I have really enjoyed following your journey (literally and metaphorically) to Zambia and throughout the year. What an amazing experience, thanks for sharing it with us. I wonder if your appetite for Africa was whetted by your What 4 trip to Uganda many moons ago for which I booked your flights! (Also for Alex Cotter & Dave Berry, I think they were on the same trip?) Looking forward to seeing you again when you visit Phil’s parents. Thanks also for the children’s home contacts – I have been in touch with Esther and Mel and we’ve had fun catching up on days long gone by. Esther and her sister were even able to dig out a family photo of her family and mine when I was about 7 years old – the only one I have ever seen of my family complete with Mum & Dad in it. It was good to touch base with Mel too and catch up with news of members of her family who were in the UK when I was a teenager.

  9. mrandmrslake says:

    Hi Phil and Tess, I’ve been reading your blog over the last few months and just wanted to make contact. Not sure if you’ll get this as it our blog was written several years ago! Would be interested to hear where you are at now with your future plans for Africa. My name is Jo and my husband is Jon, we’ve just spent 2 weeks at Kalene to scope out the set up there and feel God is leading us to move out there longer term. I am a midwife and my husband is a mechanic and pilot so we’ll be getting involved with the hospital, mission flight services and spiritual aspects. We’d love to hear your thoughts, tips or anything you think might be useful for us to consider. I’ll put my husbands email address down if you get a chance to reply that’d be great and we’d love to hear what you are up to now. Where abouts do you live? We’re based in Bournemouth currently. Hope to hear from you soon, Jo and Jon

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