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