Monday, October 22, 2012

Birth and a Pilgrimage

It was a hot December evening when I delivered my second child, Christopher in Nsanje, Malawi  where Steve and I were Peace Corps Volunteers.  The delivery table was hard like a ceramic kitchen table in two parts.  The stirrups were not what I remembered from my first delivery in a western hospital in Pittsburgh.  When it was time to deliver the bottom half of the table was pulled away so the baby could "drop."  Not so high tech.  It was the time of the flying ants.  They swarmed under the door attracted to the light of the delivery room, landed on my swollen belly.  The nurses were swept them off the floor, saved them to eat with tea.

Turns out Christopher's was my shortest labor and easiest deliver.

Turns out too that Christopher and his wife Laurie are Peace Corps volunteers now.  They are both teachers in Mozambique.   In Nsanje, Steve was the district medical officer and only doctor in the region.  I taught English in the high school.

Thirty years after his birth Christopher made a pilgrimage from Mozambique to his birthplace.  I always thought I would be there with him.  I never really thought it would happen.  Funny how life turns out.

Nsanje is not a big place on the map.  Chris and Laurie did not know how they would get there.  Not many other people knew either. First they had to negotiate crossing a third world border.  Then it took lots of hitchhiking, numerous rides on the back of pick-up trucks (several broke down) and even a ride on the back of a bicylce taxi.

But the made it!

Laurie says it best in their blog:

We walked in(to the hospital compound) that morning feeling a little apprehensive as we took pictures and treaded around the campus. This was a hospital after all where life or death really does occur so we didn’t want to interrupt anything or bother anybody. We almost left without speaking to anyone but Chris decided that he wanted to go into the administration building just to see if anyone remembered him or his father. We spoke to the secretary who greeting us with a huge smile after Chris explained why we were there, she happily said she’d like to take us on a tour and show us the maternity ward where he was born. We walked through the corridors, many expanded since Steve was a doctor there 30 years ago, and saw all the areas of the hospital including the very same maternity ward where Chris was born (**Side Note: Rock on Karen, for giving birth in a developing country! You’re awesome!) Throughout the tour we met people who had known Chris and his family back in the 80s and some who had worked with his father when he returned in 2007. 
One man, Catindica, said he remembers holding Chris as a baby and told us that Steve used to climb up the water tower with Chris on his back, which sounds a little crazy and exactly like something Steve would do! Then Catindica showed us that water tower, and even more amazingly, the house where Chris and his family lived for the three years they were in Malawi.  The picture I had seen of Chris thousands of times, as a two-year-old adorable child with blue overalls and his feet in the African sand was finally coming to life. It was an amazing thing to weave together a family portrait while standing on the other side of the world.  We left with huge smiles on our faces and feeling like we had a better understanding of the life of baby Chris. 

To read more about their trip check out their blog:

Laurie says it much better than I.  I can only be a ridiculously proud mom and mother-in-law and a little weepy.

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