Thursday, 8 February 2018

Long Distance Love

I don’t think it’s something anyone would choose. The distance, the time difference, the plane journeys, the expense, the phone and video calls instead of chatting on the couch. But as people say “you can’t choose who you fall in love with”.

For the past 2 years I’ve been in a LDR with a fantastic guy. Puncque and I met when I was living and working in Malawi and we dated for pretty much my whole time in the country. When I left 4 years ago we tried the long distance thing but neither of us were in the right frame of mind. I was not happy to be back in my childhood bedroom, working in a job I disliked and with no idea of how I could engineer a move back to Malawi. He was looking after his ailing grandmother and had always told me that he would never leave Malawi as long as she was alive. Add in complications of power outages, network outages and suddenly even something simple like a phone call becomes 100 times more difficult. 

Two years later we got back in contact and after many long phone calls and heart to hearts we decided to give it a go. We both knew it would be difficult but after 2 years of the dating scene in Dublin, with some horror stories, I knew that this guy was someone I had loved and someone who made me happy. My foray into dating in Dublin had not uncovered someone who interested me, someone who had a similar outlook to me, someone who I wanted to see again. Puncque made (and continues to make) me laugh, he makes me feel like I’m special and he calms me down and helps me not to overthink like no one else I know. He makes me happy and isn’t that one of the most important things? I was willing to take a leap of faith and see how it could work.

Multiple plane journeys, a lot of whatsapp calls and many hours spent looking at visa options have filled our last two years. In the past 24 months we have managed to spend 10 months together either on tourist visas in Ireland or in Malawi. The time together has been great, better than great. Yes we have had our arguments and disagreements but we've come through them. We've also had some amazing times, from partying until the sun comes up at Lake of Stars to surveying Dublin from the top of the Sugarloaf. From watching the sunset over Lake Malawi to watching it set over the Atlantic Ocean.

Long distance is difficult. The lack of contact, the lack of physical contact. And I’m talking about the little things, the kiss on the forehead when you leave for work, the hand on the small of your back in a crowded bar, the little hug when you’ve had a bad day and the hug when you’ve had a good day. These are the day to day things you miss. Not the big fancy dinners, not the crazy nights out but the little things. The watching a TV series together, cooking a meal together, going for a hike on a sunny day. You can’t just go and meet them for a drink. Each visit is pre-planned, it requires visas, plane tickets and knowing that your time together has an end date, an expiry. But that's not to say there aren't great moments. The minute you lock eyes in arrivals at an airport, the making everyday special, when you finally get to be in the same place at the same time. We’ve both been working very hard to find a way that we can be together but options are limited. We had come up with a solid plan and on my return to Ireland I was to start getting my paperwork in order while Puncque organised things on his end.

Then, less than 24 hours after I landed, I got a message that no one wants to wake up to. “Hope you got home ok. Just wanted to let you know we’ve had to take Puncque to hospital. We’re not sure but we reckon it’s malaria.” Knowing what I know now, how I wish it was something as simple as malaria. Something that following three days of medication would be cured. This is where long distance relationships really hurt. The person you love is in hospital, they don’t know what’s wrong and from what you can tell it’s something pretty serious. But, you’re thousands of miles away and relying on people relaying the information to you. Do you hop on a flight? Do you cancel work? Do you charge it to your credit card and just deal with it later? What do you do?

At one point I had 2 flights on hold (God bless Ethiopian Airlines and the ability to reserve a fare for 24 hours), and had rang the Dublin office to see about stand-by flights, this was after the words brain bleed started circulating. And then you wonder, yet again, what to do. You wonder if you being there is a selfish thing? Is it really best for the person you love? What’s best for his recovery? And this is where hard decisions have to be made. No decision will be the right one. You can’t consult with that person who you want to be beside and you are making decisions based on scant reports, from his family, from friends who have seen him briefly, from people you have never met but have medical expertise in a country where, if it were me, with travel insurance, I would have been airlifted to Kenya. But in your home country, where you don’t have health insurance, this just isn’t an option.
And then, at what point do you go? And how long can you go for? Again, visa restrictions, expense, the inability to work while there, all things force you to put a time line in place. But who can put a time line on this recovery? Who is to say how many physiotherapy sessions it will take? Who can tell you that you only need to be there for a specific length of time?

These are things that have been running through my mind for the past week and a half. And continue to race through my mind everyday. If money were no object, I would obviously be there, by his side. But realistically my savings are finite. My ability to work and earn money is confined to Ireland. But again, is that a good enough reason to be separated? Who knows. What’s the next step? Who knows. 

What I do know is that we are both blessed with amazing friends. I will forever be indebted to those in Lilongwe who found him and brought him to hospital. To those who visited him, to those who helped me understand what was happening and to those who just asked "How is he? How are you?" This too shall pass and hopefully our plans are just temporarily postponed. 

Get well soon P x

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Returning to Malawi, the first country I have returned to

People often asked me if I would go back to Malawi and I always answered "Of course". Malawi is a place that is, and will hopefully always remain, somewhere that is very close to my heart. Yes, I didn't leave in the best of head spaces and yes, one of the people who was a huge part of my life there is no longer part of my life, but I felt I owed it to myself to go back to this country. At the very least I needed to say a proper goodbye.

I booked my flight on a cold, snowy afternoon in March when I was hungover from one of my best friend's wedding and I had just driven across Ireland in the snow in my little Opel Corsa. This could potentially become a very expensive hungover habit! Immediately I started dreaming of the sun rays hitting my shoulders as I gazed out of the expanse of Lake Malawi and downed a cold MGT with friends. A few short emails later and I had a few people every bit as excited as me. A vague planned involved a side trip to Mozambique but lots of time with friends.

As I checked in in Dublin airport I had those familiar butterflies. Every time I get on a plane, I get a twinge of excitement. I hope that I can continue to travel for as long as it is exciting for me. Even an unexpected layover in Frankfurt was a bit exciting although the ensuing rebooking of delayed flights nearly made me want to pull out my hair. Once I landed in the Warm Heart, I realised that my shoulders which had been tense relaxed. My worries about how I would feel being back melted away and as I sat in Lilongwe bus depot waiting for the bus to fill and head north, I realised I felt at home. Buying hard boiled eggs and apples out the bus window, the thumping Africa pop music resonating through the bus and the smiles of children shouting "Mzungu, mzungu". The further north the bus travelled, the more excited I got. Yes, I was a day late and yes I had been sitting on the same bus for nearly 6 hours and was as yet not even half way to the Bay but I was in country.

Was I nervous? Yes, a little. Would coming back here taint my memory of the place? Would my experience be totally different when so many of my friends no longer lived there? Should I just leave my fond memories as that, just memories? All those nervous thoughts disappeared the minute I stepped into the bar at Mayoka when, at 1 am, I was wrapped in a group hug and had many people say "Welcome Home". This was a trend that continued over the next 24 hours, from walking into Butterfly the next morning and getting hugs from Ez and Thoko (and AJ and Josie), to getting fist pumped from the rastas on the beach and my first MGT watching the sunset over Lake Malawi after a Chikale Sunday.

I easily slipped back into the relaxed, laid back Nkhata Bay lifestyle, lazy breakfasts with Eimer and Benjie, afternoon swims or bobs depending on our energy levels, sundowners on the deck at Butterfly or afternoons spent hanging out with Alice and the kids become part of my life. I felt at home, I felt at ease and I at once knew that this decision to come back was a the right one.

Between nights spent in Mzuzu, reliving my time spent living there, eating delicious Korean food at Joy's Place, drinking too many greens at Mzoozoozoo and hunting in the second hand market or chitenje market, I felt contented. This country, and indeed, the Northern region, was a place i could return to. A place I could slip back into and be enveloped by the warm hands of old friends.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Paris: A city in turmoil and my trip there in June 2014

Paris: the city of love, home to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, some of the most famous art work and churches in the world and until just before Christmas, my friend Rebecca. However in the last few days, Paris has been in the news due to the horrific attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and subsequent man hunt and hostage situations. A city that is showing solidarity, that is rallying around Charlie Hebdo to fund the most recent one million run and that will, no doubt bounce back.

After nearly 2 months back home in Galway, my feet were starting to get itchy. My friend Rebecca, an RPCV who I met in Malawi, was working as an au pair in Paris and I took the opportunity to visit a friend, and explore a city I had never been to before. 

Now Paris in June is a delightful place. The sun is shining, the city is not too crowded and I had a permanent smile on my face. Ever since I was a child I have had an obsession with Paris. I was a nerd, a child with an obsession with far away places and museums and learning about other countries. And Paris, a city full of history, museums, beautiful cathedrals and one of the most iconic landmarks in the world had always fascinated me. Why had I not visited before? I really do not know. Heck, I even bought my parents flights there for their anniversary one year. So now it was my turn to explore the Parisian streets and who better to show me than someone living there. 

And of course the city did not disappoint. From wandering the streets of Montmartre to picnicing by the banks of the Seine, and in view of the Eiffel Tower, and in view of Ile de la Cite (we did a LOT of picnicing), to jazz Chopin in Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris was everything I had hoped for and more. 

Rebecca lived in the 17eme arrondissement, within an easy stroll of Montmartre and only a few Metro stops from the Champs Elysees or Ile de la Cite. Our first day of exploring involved a jaunt around the Montmartre district capped with a trip into the beautiful Sacre Coeur Cathedral. I do not pretend to be very religious, despite being raised in Catholic Ireland but I find churches beautiful and peaceful (for the most part). The stained glass windows, the architecture and the solitude of just sitting in a church and admiring the building for what it is, are the perfect antidotes to the hecticness often associated with travel and sightseeing. Stepping outside of the cathedral, you are greeted with a beautiful panoramic view of Paris.

Now, I don't know about most people, but I can get overwhelmed in large cities after a while. The hustle and bustle, the toing and froing and the constant people can be tiring. So, every now and then I like to escape somewhere with a book to relax and unwind. That can be a coffee shop, a beach, or in the case of Paris, a park on a sunny day- Parc Monceau. I passed an hour reading, people watching and wandering around this vast park. A perfect way to recharge before continuing on to to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees.

In true Parisian style we picniced a LOT. When in France it would be rude not to make the most of the delicious breads and cheeses on offer as well as the cheap wine! SO MUCH CHEESE. One of the highlights was picnicing in the Champ de Mars with a view of the Eiffel Tower while a band were rehearsing for a concert that night in front of the Ecole Militaire. Wine, cheese, baguette and big band tunes all under the afternoon sun.
Vin pamplemousse with a view of Notre Dame

Along with climbing the Eiffel Tower, strolling along the Champs Elysees, watching a memorial service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe we managed to catch the France-Switzerland match in a small French bar where, after each of the French goals (all 5) the bar man turned down the TV and blasted music from the speakers and danced around the bar. And just when we thought the night could not get any better, we stumbled on a neighbourhood party in a bar around the corner from Rebecca's apartment where there was a conga line, karaoke and the cutest little old lady who did not stop dancing for the hour we were there.

Course 1 of 3
Now, people who know me well, know my obsession with brunch. As far as I am concerned, it is the best meal. So as a thank you to Rebecca for hosting me (and feeding me with cocktails when I got a terrible email) we went to brunch one morning. An amazing 3 course lunch of breads and spreads (croissants pain au chocolate, baguette, honey, jams) served with fresh juice and bowls of coffee, followed by a choice of cooked breakfast (I went for Eggs Benedict and it was DELICIOUS) which were served with herbed fried potatoes and to finish yogurt and fresh fruit. We both considered asking them to pack up the final course as there was no way we could attempt to finish it all. All of the above served while we were sitting on Rue Legendare in the beautiful late morning sunshine. The place Les Puces des Batignolles.

How could I talk about Paris and not talk about the heart of this city, the site where medieval Paris was founded, an island housing the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. Wandering around Ile de la Cite, eating gelato in the sunshine and seeing Pont de L'Archeveche, one of the many bridges along the Seine covered in the love locks.

Notre Dame, was predictably beautiful but I found it more crowded and less peaceful than Sacre Coeur.There was a long queue that moved very quickly but once inside I didn't find the solitude and reverence that is often found in places of worship. Now this is not to say that I did not enjoy my visit to Notre Dame, it is a beautiful building and the treasury with artifacts from the Church's history is well worth a look.

But, my fondest memory of Paris, and the one that will make me laugh out loud for years to come, is Rebecca complaining about a loud American lady at a Monet exhibit in L'Orangerie. We moved into the next room and this lady came in and sat beside in while loudly proclaiming to a teenage girl that "This one is my favourite". As we rolled our eyes, I stole a glance at this woman and said to Rebecca "She looks like that one from Million Dollar Baby." Rebecca replied "Hiliary Swank? No. Surely an actress would know how to whisper, and that woman's eyes are much closer together." So not only did we insult Ms Swank's ability to whisper but insulted how she looked also. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Being a tourist at home: Dublin the fair city take 1: Guinness Storehouse

All too often when you travel it can be a case of the grass is always greener. You look towards far flung places and think of them as exotic and exciting, you explore the little streets and cross off the must see sights in each new place. But how often do we take this time to explore our home like that? How often do you take time to explore and see your home through the eyes of a visitor? It was something I had thought about quite a bit and I have resolved to see as much of this side of Ireland I can.

Despite having lived in Dublin for 6 years previously I have never done most of the touristy stuff in the fair city. Having friends come to visit gave me the perfect opportunity to put on my tourist hat and explore this side of the city. I embraced it and remembered why I love travel and why I love exploring.

First up is the Guinness Storehouse. It's the top rated attraction in Dublin and for good reason. I've actually been there twice with two separate friends and have enjoyed it immensely.
 For those of you who don't know Guinness (do you live in a cave), it's a stout that was initially brewed by Arthur Guinness in James' Street in Dublin. His brewery was built on a site on which he signed a 9,000 year lease. It's brewed around the world but it's home will always be Dublin and the Storehouse is an homage to this famous brew and the brand that has been built around it.
The tour starts in the foyer where you can see the 9,000 year lease and view Arthur's signature that now adorns all Guinness cans and bottles. You can get free audio tours (which I didn't avail of) or just follow the arrows helpfully placed on the floor. The tour starts with descriptions of the different ingredients, barley, hops (which you can smell in the streets around St James Gate), yeast (of which a special strain in used in all Guinness and is kept under lock and key in the Master Brewer's safe at St James Gate) and water from the Wicklow Moutains. The second floor brings you through the brewing process from roasting the barley right to the coopers who used to make the casks for the storage and transportation of the black stuff. Did you know Guinness had it's own fleet of ships and commissioned it's own railway?

The next floor is possibly one of my favourite, it shows different advertisements from throughout the ages from around the world, both print and TV ads. One of my all time favourite ads is the Guinness Christmas ad. It reminds me of home and on the past few Christmases that I have spent away, it brings a lump to my throat when I watch it. The famous "Guinness is good for you" slogans are visible and you get a chance to star in your own Guinness ad.

But let's be honest what most people want is the sweet necter. And yes, included in your entrance is a free pint of the black stuff. You have the option of learning to pull the perfect pint in the Guinness Academy (a two part pour which, according to Guinness takes 119.5 seconds including the resting time after all "good things come to those who wait". You can then take your perfectly poured pint up to the Gravity Bar. If you decided not to face the queue to pour or simply decided to leave it to the experts, you can get a freshly poured pint while admiring the view of Dublin where on a clear day you can see out to Ireland's eye to the north and to the Wicklow mountains in the south,


  • There is an early bird discount if you book online and enter before 11:30am 
  • Allow yourself a minimum of 2 hours and ideally 2 1/2 hours to not have to rush through it all. 
  • Buses that serve St James gate include the 40, 123, 13. You can also get the Luas to St James Hospital and walk approx 3 mins. All tourist buses stop here. 

Overall I loved the visits to the Guinness Storehouse. Yes, it's not cheap and yes, it is a tourist trap but it is worth the money and there is a reason many people visit every day. So visit and raise a glass to Arthur and his foresight, Guinness has been around for only 250 years of a 9,000 year lease. Here's to many more pints. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Slinks back with head held low and a bundle of contradictions on my back

Apologies, it has been way too long since I last wrote. Why, you might ask, or some of you probably don't care and are perfectly happy that I am no longer spamming your facebook feeds with my ramblings. Well, the answer is life. Life got in the way of me writing, that and the lack of a laptop. Over the last 4 months I have been working full time as an optometrist and reignited my love for having "the chats" with patients. I've talked about development and technology in Africa with an engineer from Vodafone, I've talked Barbra Kingsolver books with an 80 year old lady, I've discussed the merits of Mark and Spencers shoes for work with a woman in the banking industry and debated my career choice with a man in the Department of Education.

I am renewing my love for Dublin, a city I feel I never truly appreciated in the 6 years I lived here previously. I have amazing friends here who I can meet up with for a coffee or a drink, who, I know would be there at the end of the phone should I need them. Dublin offers live music, free events, cultural and fun events. I have wandered through the National Botanic Gardens, ran along the beach, drank wine with friends, went for brunch, attended friend's weddings and went to Dublin's Oktoberfest.

But most of all over the last few months, I have been looking after myself. I have started exercising again (yes, you did read that right, I went for a RUN and even more shockingly, have repeated this multiple times) and have renewed my love for cooking. I have decided that my health, both mental and physical needed some attention. As a result I am happy, healthy and have lost my Nsima weight. I am the fittest I have ever been in my life, I am comfortable with my friends and also with spending time alone. In short, I am in a much better place than I have been in months. I have gained perspective and am able to look back at things and smile.

However, now, my feet are getting itchy again. I am looking to far away lands, to sights I want to see, to cultures I want to experience and things I want to do. My wanderlust has not been sated just yet.

I am feeling uneasy with slipping back into the routine of my life here; wake up, exercise, work, cook, tv, bed. Repeat ad naseum. Now I know this is a broad generalisation and yes that is not EVERY day but for the most part that is what is happening and personally that is not something I want. I want to change this. My cousin is a personal trainer and often posts motivational videos or videos answering questions for people and this morning he popped up on my newsfeed on Facebook with a slightly ranty but very relevant video. It struck a cord with me. If I am not happy with how things are, I have to change that. I have to decide where I want to be and what I want to do.

However, I feel like at the moment, I am a bundle of contradictions, that I am two different people battling in the one life.
-I love my friends, love the familiarity, the closeness and the general amazingness of the people I am lucky to know and have in my life. At the same time, I enjoy meeting new people, forming new friendships, having new experiences. Some of those new friendships are ones I treasure now and cannot imagine being without. So who is to say that I will not meet more people who will shape my life for the better.
-Comfort and familiarity are things I have been enjoying lately. I enjoy cooking and being able to potter around the kitchen, I like having my clothes hung up and my friends in the same city. On the other hand, going out of my comfort zone, walking into a room where no one knows me, moving from place to place and exploring excites me.
- People who know me best could probably have never imagined me packing everything I need for a year into a backpack. I was (and am) someone who loves her 'things'. While the list of things I now treasure has changed, things that bring back memories of people and places now have priority over meaningless possessions. My photographs are probably one of my most precious possessions. Now I thrive on being able to carry my possessions on my back, to pack what is only necessary, to wear what is clean vs having too many options
- I have never denied it but I love getting dressed up. I like putting on a nice outfit, heels and make up and going out with friends. But at the same time, I am never happier than throwing on a pair of denim shorts, flip flops, pulling my hair back into a pony-tail and heading off to explore.
- I like routine. I like knowing how my day will pan out but at the same time, I love the unknown. I like waking up, not having a clue what I will do for the day and having a great day wandering or drifting.
- I have always been relatively independent, but I saw another side to me in Malawi. A side that loved being part of a couple, a side that enjoyed the companionship, the closeness with a boyfriend, enjoying another person's company and planning a future with them in it. This shocked me and although that is no longer there, I wonder what will make me truly happy again.

And so I am at this crossroads. I have work until the end of the year and I am happy to do that and lucky to have it. I enjoy this work for the most part and work with some lovely people. But I cannot help feeling that this is not where I am meant to be at this moment in time. But if I am not here, where will I be? What will I do? And more importantly what do I want to do? What do I want to be? A friend who was back in Dublin recently commented that even though I hadn't written a blog post recently I seemed conflicted, that I didn't know what I was going to do with my life and that is still the case. However, I am now wondering if that is SUCH a bad thing.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

How was it? Marking 2 years since I left for the Warm Heart of Africa.

My first African sunset
"Was it completely different?" "What was it like?" These are all questions that I have been asked repeatedly over the last 3 months since I moved home from Malawi. To be honest, I really have no idea how to answer them. Every answer I give seems hollow, like I am doing my time there a disservice. How can I sum up my experience in a few sentences? How can I give people a glimpse into my life there without boring them to tears with minute details? How can I do this wonderful country justice?

Some of my students

Even now sitting with my laptop I am wondering how to say the things I want without turning into one of those preachy 'My life changed' type person. But it would not be an exaggeration to say that Malawi changed me. It challenged me in ways I could not imagine and could not even to begin to describe and did truly change me in ways, I learnt loads about myself and my comforts and had a crash course in development, aid and public health. My attitude towards aid and charities changed seeing small NGOs with small budgets achieving so much at grassroots level, while the bigger NGOs have CEOs on huge salaries with huge shiny landrovers. Organisations such as Butterfly SpaceTemwaPhunzira and Determined to Develop are achieving so much with a fraction of the budget of bigger NGOs with an emphasis on sustainability in the areas they work in. I also saw the aspect of working for a big international organisation whose intentions were brilliant but often ended up spreading themselves thin trying to cover all aspects at once as opposed to perfecting one aspect.

First up a little background about the Warm Heart of Africa. Malawi is a small landlocked country in South Eastern Africa that has made the news most recently regarding their presidential election that was, most definitely, fixed. It often makes it's way into the 'poorest countries in the world' lists and last year made international headlines when a dispute with Tanzania over Lake Malawi and a potential oil find, could have led to war (if you were to believe the papers). Lake Malawi is the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa and the ninth largest in the world and is a huge reserve for the country. It draws tourists to it's shores to snorkel and dive among the, more than 1000, species of cichlids and it provides a life, and an income, to thousands of people who live on it's crystal clear shores. I moved to this beautiful country having accepted a job at the Malawi School of Optometry programme (see What I do for more information) and having to actually google the country to see where it was! I spent 18 months in this country and made memories, and friendships, that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Sunset over Lake Malawi
How could you not want to jump
into those waters?

How do I explain the little things in me that changed? That I could bathe myself using a bucket and a cup, heating the water on my stove if the mains water had been shut off. That I read by candle light on the frequent Sundays without power, that awaking on a Sunday morning involved me straining to hear my cistern or fridge, if I heard neither then there was no point in getting up, that forward thinking involved me making coffee on a Saturday night and having iced coffee on a Sunday morning when there was no power. How can explain my daily life that involved shopping in markets, kicking up the dusty red earth as I went, and jumping into a shared taxi that looks like it is held together with sticky tape and the prayers of it's owner to go home. The hopping into a 12 seater minibus with 25 people, a goat, some chickens and about 50 kilos of dried fish that became normal to me as did eating with my hands and eating parts of chicken I had never eaten before (neck, gizzards and feet anyone?) . It's the little day to day things that are hardest to verbalise.

My bedroom
Bucket Bath

My lovely house

First night in Mzuzu, ending in the hotel
Mmmmm Double Punch
And then there are the people I met. I am not exaggerating when I say the people in Malawi are special. Both natives and expats. The friends I met in this country will hopefully be with me for years. The people I danced to P-Square with, the friends who crowded into my house to watch Sister Act 2 on a tiny laptop, the friends who greeted me with a hug and a cold green when I arrived in their bar, the friends I shared Gold Label and boozy coffees with on Chikale Beach and the friends who were always at the end of the phone for a quick drink and chat or numerous mugs of tea,  the people I played slapshots with. I'm not sure what I expected when I moved to Mzuzu but I sure didn't expect to meet the range of kind hearted, amazing people I was fortunate to spend time with. The people who are making their lives in Malawi, the people who are there working to help Malawi in various ways, the people I am proud to call friends. From my first night in Malawi I was welcomed into this amazing group of people, where, like many Friday nights to follow, we drank greens at the Zoo, celebrated the arrival of Hassan with numerous whisky shots and danced until the wee hours in the Hotel, to my last few weeks in Mzuzu that involved lots of dinners, numerous afternoon beers and many tears, and like many before me, I bade Mzuzu a fond farewell. (See here for some amazing people who left before me). I of course cannot forget the amazing friends on the lake, my 2 other Desperate Housewives of Nkhata Bay (TM), my Izo Izo dancing buddies and my swimming friends at Butterfly who welcomed me into their families and their lives with open arms.

I mean look at these cuties
The first 12 pubs of Mzuzu

I did truly fall in love with the country, with the people I met and indeed with one special person, a person who, in his own special way, changed me and the way I look at life and for that I will forever be grateful. A person, I could have happily spent the rest of my life with, someone who I talked about this with and someone I was willing to go back to Malawi to be with. However that person also taught me what it was like to experience true betrayal and intense heartbreak, things I was not prepared for and that knocked me for six. Picking up the pieces of my life and moving on was one of the toughest things I have done. Another lesson learnt, another chapter in the story of life.

People have asked me a lot would I go back. And the answer, "In a heartbeat". Even though things have fallen apart with my relationship and my work, Malawi is a very special place that has wormed it's way into my heart. I took me into it's grasp and continues to draw me to it. I am proud of the little things I achieved in Malawi; I saw the first ever optometrists graduate, I taught students who will provide a much needed service to Malawi, we did vision screenings that involved thousands of people who might never have had their eyes tested, I made friendships that I value, I saw animals and places I never imagined, I camped all over Sub Saharan Africa, I had experiences I had previously only imagined. And while I have regrets about how things ended, I am glad I got to give a little back to this fantastic country that gave, and continues to give me so much.
A baby monkey visited me in my house!
                    Hundreds of school children waiting to have
              their eyes tested

Quote for the Day: "I went to sleep dreaming of Malawi, and all the things made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart" - William Kamkwamba, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind