We are nearing the end of our work at Lewanika Hosiptal. Today is Monday, March 7th. Our last day working on the floor: Wednesday March 9th. Then on Thursday we are hosting an appreciation lunch, for the doctors and nurses we have worked with. And then thats it. We pack up, clean house, and catch the bus to Lusaka and then Livingstone... so we can do a bit of sightseeing and lounging by the pool before we head back to Canada.
This experience has been amazing. It has been wierd to feel as though you are living out every cliche life could throw our way, know in advance about the situations we would run into and then be shocked by the way we end up reacting to them. Because really no matter how prepared you think you are in advance, you really don't know how you are going to react until you find yourself ... well... reacting.
Then you discover that all your preconceived notions, don't really matter anymore. Perhaps you never thought you would cry on the floor, or almost pass out (multiple times).... but once you have, there is no point in feeling ashamed (although, at first I did). And no point in wondering if you handled the situation badly because you did what you did for a reason, and you needed to do it... Of course you can still learn from it later.
A huge part of me thought that coming to Zambia would be about hardening my spirit . . . and my stomache. To see the difficult things, the trauma, the poverty, the neglect, blood, guts, pain and torture. Then to learn that life serves these things up and thats just life... "toughen up buttercup". Time to learn to silence the emotional response, the anger, the tears, the disbelief... become dessensitized to the heart break ( and no doubt, in small ways, I have).
But I think the bigger lesson has been to do somewhat the opposite. To learn of course when you need to be strong, wear your poker face, hold down your lunch, and do what needs to be done. The larger part though, has been to recognize when the "weakness of your emotional reaction" and the compassion of the human spirit actually makes you strong. Gives you the strength to work to change your circumstances and to stand up for what you know in your heart is the right thing to do. To use the fire that builds from the pain, to push through the difficult moments and the resistance.
Then, to find a graceful, caring way to be strong from a place of love. To advocate for the things that need doing, without stepping on toes and crushing people along the way.
To model and also encourage this newfound ability in those near you. To support the voice of the nurses, doctors, students and patients, and to help them to speak when they are unable to do so.
Lastly to remember, that just because someone is not caring for you, or supporting you, does not mean that you can't care for others. Because in the end the only way to care for yourself and be fair with yourself, is to speak up. Not shut up. To learn that caring for others really is an everyday act, of caring for yourself.
And that is a lesson I can bring home with me.
Regardless of whether I ever come back to Zambia (and I hope I do), Mongu will always hold a piece of my heart. Will always have an influence on the way I see the world around me, and how I treat it.
I owe such a huge thank you to all the Canadians and especially all the Zambians who made it possible for us to be here, and for supporting us on our journey.
So, thank you! And thanks for reading along, and reminding me that my thoughts are not just my own.
Missing those back home. Love always,