Archive for September 6, 2008

Heathrow Terminal 5

So I passed an advert on the Tube today suggesting that I “Give Terminal 5 a try!” Well, here I am, and yes it seems to be working. The wireless at least: For £4 I get 45 mins of frantic online time to try publish my last two posts from my wee EEE PC laptop.

Then off to Jo’burg, boarding in half an hour, arriving there early tomorrow morning – and hoping that my luggage is not affirmatively redistributed while in the capable hands of the baggage handlers. Then fly to Lilongwe to arrive there around 14h00 on Sunday. I may well have no internet  connection for a few days, but look forward to writing about arrival and briefing, and possible mosquitoes.

I am exhausted from a few nights poor sleep. I have little idea of my job description when I get there, though I believe it is psychiatric. I’ve just managed at the last minute (thanks to amazon and Robyn and Jaco) to shoe-horn in two psychiatric books, and will have to make do with this limited reference material. My other VSO colleagues from London have apparently struggled to get their air-tickets organised, so I may be alone when I get there.

Sounds exciting!


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So where exactly will I be working?

Good question! Zomba Mental Hospital is the only dedicated state psychiatric hospital in Malawi, and it’s here that I understand I’ll be spending most of my time. ZMH is in Zomba in the southern region. (There are three regions in Malawi – northern, central and southern. ZMH is the only psychiatric facility in the south, the central region district general hospital has a psychiatric ward, and the northern region is served by St John of God Hospital which is run by the church – or was at least founded by the church…)

So, looking at a map, Zomba sits in the cusp of a hand formed by Mozambique. You can see it marked by the pink “A” below.

Taking a closer look at that southern region, we can start to see some landscape features, courtesy of Googleearth. Notice the apparently lovely Lake Chilwa to the east of Zomba, and the Zomba Plateau just to the north.

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Malawi for absolute beginners

Six months ago I knew very little about Malawi. I knew more or less where it was – kind of in the middle of Africa somewhere, that it had a large lake, and that is was very poor and thus very cheap for tourists. It is close enough to South Africa for odd words and impressions to have seeped into my consciousness while growing up, enough to create a sense of familiarity without knowledge. Some friends had told me about camping on the lakeshore for $2 per night, watching sunsets while drinking cheap beer. I’d seen one or two smiling posters during the apartheid years, promoting Malawi as “The warm heart of Africa”. The incongruity of an African country trying to attract white South Africans at that time was completely lost on me, but that’s for another post.


So it might be a good idea just to orientate readers as I have had to orientate myself!

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