A 79 hour journey and a sunny arrival

We have heard rumours that it is snowing in the UK which seems inconceivable as I write this from our little sunlit courtyard of 4 brick houses with tin roofs in Eastern Zambia. All the windows are open wide and a slight breeze is blowing through the bunting some of the doctors who have been here for 6 months already had made at a tailors in the market and have strung up. We are on our third day at the hospital after quite a dramatically long journey – leaving our Felixstowe house being waved off by my family in Poffley tradition running along the train station platform at 13.30 on the Monday and finally reaching St Francis’ at 20.30 on Thursday. We had decided much to the dismay of D’s mum to fly with Ethiopian Airlines and were busy taking pictures of our comfortable and spacious plane and delicious food to prove to her that her worries were completely unfounded when an announcement was made that we were going to do an emergency landing in Athens due to a technical fault. We landed safely half an hour later at Athens, normally closed overnight and were met by multiple fireman and police. Ethiopian Airways do not normally fly to Athens and so the Greek staff there, called in urgently overnight, were a bit unsure what to do with us so the rest of our journey involved a 7 hour wait in the middle of the night in a Greek departure lounge, a two hour period in a fancy Greek hotel, another flight to Ethiopia and then again an overnight stay in a huge deserted orange hotel which resembled the one in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” if any of you have seen that film. We finally were put on a new flight to Zimbabwe and then finally Zambia. The final leg of our journey was a 6 hour ride in the back of a hospital LandRover along the newly renovated Great East Road which we flew along at a consistent 100km/hr regardless of the number of potholes or other vehicles, bikes or pedestrians. D, myself and a wonderful doctor J who has worked at the hospital already for 2 years were all in the back sitting on two little benches with our luggage, 20 mangoes and 3 boxes of drugs for the hospital piled up with the disconcerting effect that we could not see the driver or the road in front of us and only out the back window where we could watch cars swerving as we hurtled past them.

Our house is a perfectly rectangular one room with our kitchen, bedroom and living room all open plan. I really like it. We have already started to make it feel like our home with pictures on the wall, a wooden table we brought from a carpenter cutting down trees on the side of the road and a collection of sunshine yellow tin bowls from the market. We have an overgrown garden which apparently we should get seeds for and ask a mythical man named “Nelson” to transform into a patch where we can grow flowers and lettuces. Our house is in a courtyard with 3 other identical house all facing inwards to make a square which is very sociable and we share with four other doctors, 3 kittens and several bedraggled chickens. The hospital itself is a beautiful red brick building with large airy archways and white washed walls and a red stone floor. We spent our first day on Friday D on the medical wards and myself on the Paediatric one with another beautiful Dutch doctor A. The most senior doctor on the ward, a Zambian paediatric registrar is going on annual leave for 2 month from Monday so spent all of Friday trying to convey all possible information to me before she leaves the ward and SCBU in the care of A and me. There are other doctors working on the medical wards and outpatients who have been here a lot longer and are a wealth of practical information so it always feels we will be able to ask for advice which is very reassuring. D and I went into Katete on Saturday to sort out internet and phones and buy pineapples and eggs, we travelled on the back of bicycle taxis which consist of a rickety bicycle with a cushion on the panier rack and are a very common mode of transport, I absolutely love riding on them although they are slightly precarious. I also enjoyed the fact that me and my driver got to town a good ten minutes ahead of D’s poor driver.

We start on the wards properly tomorrow but have felt very happy to have the weekend to feel much more settled. We are apprehensive about the medicine but think we will get used to things and learn quickly. Five more doctors who we were friends with in Liverpool arrive in two weeks times and we are looking forward to seeing them again too. Thank you so much for all your texts, whatsapps and messages and prayers. We love hearing from you. Please keep telling us all your news! We don’t have a huge amount of internet so we are so sorry if we haven’t yet replied to you!

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