Farewell, Malawi

Our last full day in Malawi has been bittersweet. Most of us (except the supervisors and Wen) had a nice sleep in this morning, as we had no clinic planned for the day.

After a late breakfast, Lazarus took us for some last minute souvenir shopping. Many of us brought small items that we won’t take home to use for trading during our bartering. We all left with a lot of beautiful souvenirs and little to no money in our wallets… A successful shopping trip to say the least!

When we returned to Mabuya Camp, we all headed straight to our rooms to start figuring out how to pack our new purchases. Bartering for things and buying them is a fun challenge, but figuring out how to get them all home is another challenge altogether! After some rearranging and puzzle solving, it seems like we’re almost all done. Thanks to David and Jonny, we even have a clever jerry-rigged scale to make sure we come in under weight!

In the afternoon, some of the group headed out to climb Bunda Mountain with our local tour guide, Peter Bartlett. It was a tough hike that had everyone huffing and puffing (apparently our exercise routines have taken a backseat since arriving in Malawi), but the feeling at the top was worth it.

We had our farewell dinner at a local restaurant called Spur. Our table set for 37 seemed to take up the whole restaurant! It had interesting Native American-esque decor with a mix of American and Mexican food options. I think we all enjoyed dinner, but the company was the best part. Peter asked us each to write on a single piece of paper one thing that we will remember about our time in Malawi a year from now. We came up with three main categories of answers: “crazy clinic stories,” “incidents and accidents,” and “people.” Some papers shared the same stories, but most had slightly different details. The over-arching theme gathered from all of the papers combined was one simple word: friendship. We have created and grown in friendships with each other and the Malawians we’ve met that will last a lifetime. It’s amazing how quickly we’ve grown to love Malawi and the people that live here. I think I can speak for every one of the ASU students when I say this has truly been the trip of a lifetime.

A most sincere thank you to the Bartlett family and everyone at ABC for hosting us again this year! This trip has been an amazing experience for each of us and Malawi will always hold a special place in our hearts. Zikomo kwambiri!

Categories: 2015, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Safari Swag


Okay so I am sure you are dying to know about our trip to Zambia, but more so you are anxiously awaiting our arrival back in the US. I think the safari was the highlight of the trip for almost everyone. In total we ventured on 4 safaris, 2 morning safaris and 2 night safaris. If you have never been on a safari in Zambia you are truly missing out on an epic experience. The animals we saw consisted of elephants, giraffes, puku, lions, hyenas, water buffalo, elephant shrew, crocodiles, hippos, genets, leopards, impalas, wart hogs, water buck, wild dogs, baboons and lots of birds. Now imagine yourself in a jeep with no doors and no windows. The morning safaris began at 6 when the National Park opens, meaning we were woken up at 5 am to get ready for breakfast by 5:30.

Most animals were within 6 feet of our vehicle, the leopards got even closer using our vehicle to hide as it stalked its prey. There are a few animals that deserve a special spotlight. The wild dogs for instance are spotted every few days. We were especially lucky because we saw a very large pack of the wild dogs and we got to watch them hunt the puku. The wild dogs are ruthless, when hunting they were searching for the weakest link to find the easiest kill. One even chased a puku off the cliff into croc infested waters

The elephants were really quiet beautiful  when watching them dig for water or eat from the trees. We had a quite terrifying experience with one particular elephant that seemed to seek vengeance on us. We drove within feet of the elephant, clearly not thrilled, it trumpeted at us. If trumpeting wasn’t enough to scare Chelsea out of her boots the elephant continued to chase after our vehicle. This happened not once but multiple times. Being charged by an elephant is not just terrifying but in an odd way quite thrilling.

Hyenas I am including because they are a creepy yet a very clever animal. They prowl at night and have a weird way of slinking around. Fun fact is the female hyenas are larger than the males to protect from cannibalism during times of little food. The hyenas as described by Taylor are bear, leopard, dogs.

The lions were a highlight for most because they are more difficult to find since they are constantly are changing their location. We were able to find the lions on both night rides. There were about 5 female lions, 2 mothers, and 3 cubs. They are so graceful the way they walk around and relax, preparing to hunt. There will be plenty of pictures uploaded when we get back to the US so keep your eye out.

This week we also went back to our original outreach locations to do hearing aid fittings. It went rather well at both Chimteka and Dzaleaka. The children were out and about at Chimteka as always, making friends and dancing with the Team. At the Refugee Camp the team tested a young  13-year-old boy who came to the ABC Clinic the next day. He was so full of life and quite enjoyed hanging our with Jacey and Chris. Both teams were exhausted, but all the packing and scanning was completed, allowing for a day of relaxation.

Today shall be a day of packing and shopping before we have our celebratory dinner with the ABC crew. We shall be back on the 4th after 2 days of traveling. Wish us luck!

Categories: 2015, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Bats, Spiders, and Spirits…. Oh my!

Sorry for the lack of recent posts, the Internet is still non-existent in parts of Malawi. The girls spent the past week at the Mua School for the Deaf. The boys left on a separate outreach trip for a few days and were definitely missed! The accommodations in Mua were very “African” to say the least…. Bats, giant spiders, and other ominous bugs haunted each of our rooms. The girls toughed it out and became master bat dodgers and bug killers by the end of the week! Each room represented its own spiritual animal or person. Stories outside the room told what the person or spirit represented. 

The days at the school were long and busy! We saw about 165 students in two days, which kept us quite busy. A prominent hearing aid manufacturer was here about 3 weeks ago and fit nearly every child at the school with hearing aids. We performed our typical testing battery and added in a little extra hearing aid evaluations. Although many of the students were not receiving the benefits we would normally require back at ASU, we were glad we were capable of providing services and increasing their satisfaction. The children at Mua were extremely proud to wear their hearing aids and you could tell they took extra care to ensure they are in good working condition. We had fun interacting with the children! Even though we only have one team member who is fluent in sign language, we learned how to communicate quickly and overall the week went well! During some down time, the kids enjoyed watching us dance to the “Cupid Shuffle.” Some of us got some dance shows in return… These kids had moves!

The last day at Mua, we opened the doors to local villagers. Like many we have seen, they were extremely grateful that we could see them. We saw a lot of wax and drainage and a lot of time was spent counseling on how to keep ears clean and dry. A few men from our lodge even came to get their hearing checked! I think they were excited to see us at work and be a part of our experience. We ended the day on a high note with a little boy named Peter who stole our hearts. He played with Paige and Jacey while his hearing aids were being programmed and gave us all a few good giggles. He had a huge smile on his face when he got his hearing aids! Smiles as big as his make this whole trip worthwhile. 

We were also excited to have Courtney join us for the week. For anyone who doesn’t know, Courtney was an ASU student who came on the Hearing for Humanity trip and fell in love with Malawi. After coming twice as an AuD student, Courtney came a third time and stayed. She’s currently working in southern Malawi in a new clinic in Blantyre. Who knows, maybe that will be one of us in a few years! It was great to have another Malawian outreach expert on the team!

This will be our last night with Internet for a few days, as we are headed to Zambia for the safari tomorrow! Woo hoo!

Categories: 2015, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

WiFi Welcome at Fat Monkeys

Luckily all of our writers were at different sites this week, so you will have plenty to read about. As you read these posts I hope you get a little glimpse at the lives we have been leading for the past weeks. All the outreaches this week had very different experiences so each blog will be worth the read.

My outreach this week changed everyday, allowing us to screen at a different nursery each morning. During the week we attended 3 different nurseries to screen children for hearing  loss. We saw many healthy ears and of course a bunch of wax. Something we learned from this experience is all it takes is one child crying to start a choir. On each day a new person began the crying chain. Once the crying chain began it  took a lot of effort to calm the children down.  We needed a tremendous bag of tricks including self humiliation to get the kids happy again.

We made do with limited equipment  and time. All the supplies were split up between 3 teams and we had around 2 hours to screen 65-80 students. Having no electricity posed a slight challenge when some of our equipment was not charged,  but we made do and continued our day.

Our day started with teaching the children about healthy hearing through a routine of activities. The routine involved taking 5 deep breaths, 2 coughs, blowing your nose, equalizing pressure in

ears, and some exercise. My team for our exercise did jumping up and down on both feet and then hopping on one foot. I must say helping  children blow their nose was not the cleanest of tasks. The kids enjoyed this short activity which made it easier to test them later on.

There were a few children that we had to do conditioned play audiometry on, but they caught on quicker than some of the adults. Having Connect Four at our site was a blessing because it kept the children entertained and interested in the task at hand. There was some difficulty testing because we were in the open without the luxury of a sound proof booth. Children flocked to watch the testing which I found to be slightly distracting. The children were so well behaved throughout the whole process even during wax removal which isn’t particularly joyful.

We were all so thankful to have interpreters with us because they really made the process go smoothly. Not only could they help us speak to the children, they worked extremely well keeping the children calm. During the down time we played sports and games similar to Simon Says with the children.

When our morning was finished we broke for lunch and then carried on to help at the other 2 locations. My other bloggers will tell you about theirs sites…so I’ll leave that part to them.

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Kande Clinic/Mphatso Nursery School


Part of the HFH group spent the past week rotating between the Kande (pronounced candy) Clinic and Mphatso (pronounced mm-pot-so) Nursery School. The Kande Clinic is as close to a hospital as they have in the area, but it is far from American standards. The building has some walls, but is mainly open to the outside. There is a labor unit that has about 10 pregnant women in one big room… Privacy is definitely not a priority in Malawi!

We had an extremely busy first day after word got out in the community and Lazarus brought a bus full of school children to be seen! We hit a few bumps throughout the day as we all adjusted to working with a new team. We were all exhausted at the end of the day, but spirits were still high. The people we saw were extremely thankful that we all traveled all the way to Malawi to help them.

On Wednesday, we walked down the beach to work at Mphatso Nursery School. When we arrived, the children were all outside singing a good morning song that involved singing each child’s name and then falling to your knees when your name was called. We got to join in and then played “ring around the Rosie” and “duck duck goose.” The kids had a blast chasing each other through the sand! It was a fun start to the morning before we got to the real work. We saw and tested children from the nursery and members of the community before calling it a day and walking back home to Kande Beach.

Thursday was our last work day at Kande Clinic and we were quite busy! We saw many members of the community including pastors and previous members of parliament. We fit a lot of hearing aids and ended up staying late to fit two men before we left. Half the team headed back to Kande Beach since there wasn’t a ton of work left to do, and the rest of us somehow became stranded at the clinic missing a lot of equipment. Thankfully Lazarus came to save us all, but right as we were getting on the bus, Peter broke one of the hearing aids we were fitting. We had to unload a bunch of other equipment and re-program a new hearing aid before we could leave. He heard quite an earful from his hungry team members!

We finished the week with a bonfire on the beach. The ABC students played music and sang while we sat under the stars and listened to the waves. Not a bad way to reflect and relax after a long week!

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Where’s the WiFi?

So you will see quite a few blogs posted today because we have been in/will be in no wifi zones. This morning we awakened to our beautiful waterfront views at Mayoka Village. Another day of sleeping in, which for quite a few of us meant no later than 8:00 am. As we awaited our delicious breakfast in the lounge area some monkeys decided to join us. Yes, I am talking real live monkeys; jumping on the roof and swinging around in the trees. The monkeys were kind enough to let us snap a few pictures before moving onto bigger and better things. After  breakfast we had the daunting task of carrying our oversized luggage back up the treacherous hill. Believe it or not, no AuD was left behind. We puffed our way to the top and loaded into the bus for our short 1 hour ride to Kande Beach.

Along the way we made a short pit stop at the wood working market. Every vendor made it a point to tell us about each object, pleading us to continue on looking until the end. Well you could say as a whole we spent quite a few Kwacha.  We followed a small dirt path that lead us to Kande Beach. Right on the beach… This is something we all could get used to. We walked a short bit on the beach to Robin’s humble abode and had lunch with the ABC students.This is when the group split into two, the brave souls that went cliff jumping and those that stayed back to relax on the beach.

Relaxing on the beach involved, exactly what it sounds like. Swimming around in the waves enjoying the sun at our backs. Splashing around until we were out of breath. Moni took a sweet little nap in the hammock and Ang finished off the day with some hooping. Now about that boat.

This was no easy boat ride, as described by the many on the boat, it was as if they were in a scene from Cast Away as Tom Hanks braves the waves as he tries to escape his little island. Immediately the waves began to crash against the boat and water began to pour into the boat, no one was safe from the splashing of the water. Thankfully the water was warm and it didn’t bother us. After a few screams, laughs, and panic moments we reached still waters and were on our way to a tiny island where we would cliff jump and snorkel. Once on land we climbed to the top of the cliffs and looked down. These were no small cliffs! They appeared much smaller down below from the boat, but up at the top they were massive. With the wind at our backs and the sound of waves crashing we all decided we had to jump.

This was a once in a lifetime experience and we had to go! One by one we took a few steps from the ledge, counted to three, ran towards the edge and leaped into the water. If I’m not mistaken there may have been a few curse words shouted and some high pitched yells from our guys. The water was clear as day which made it so easy to see fish of all colors and sizes while snorkeling. There were blue fish with white stripes, brown with black and white stripes and even some yellow and grey fish. For many of us this was such an amazing experience we will surely never forget. After a few more jumps and more snorkeling we made our way back on to the boat and back to shore. We nearly crashed right before shore and all had to jump ship and abandon the boat. Thankfully it happened when we could all touch the ground! Finally we made it safely to the shore and we could touch the warm white sand between our toes. After some quick hot showers we gathered together, enjoyed dinner and spent lots of time talking about our day. Kande Beach has been nice to us on our first day here and we can’t wait to begin our outreach clinic

Categories: 2015, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

St. John’s 6/11

Today was our last full day at the St. John’s Clinic and we were very busy! We’ve had a great time helping the people of Mzuzu and getting to know the Malawians! We’ve had so many people thank us for being here, even if they had completely normal hearing or we simply didn’t have the resources to help them. We’ve all found it very difficult to say no to people we would usually say yes to at home. Sometimes tough judgement calls need to be made because we know there are other people who would benefit more. As people who have chosen to work in a helping profession, turning people away is not easy! In these situations we are especially thankful that we are in “The Warm Heart of Africa” and that our patients trust that we have everyone’s best interest in mind when making recommendations. 

Today we also celebrated the birthdays of two of our teammates: Angela and Alinane. They spent the day hard at work as Angela performed hearing aid fittings and counseled patients on the use and care of their new hearing aids and Alinane ran back and forth between otoscopy and translating for us azungus! 

We joined forces with the Mzuzu Central District crew at the end of the day to help finish the rest of testing and hearing aid fittings. The ASU/ABC teamwork was in full force! 

We ended the night on a high note with a wonderful dinner at a cute little restaurant tucked away in the hills of Mzuzu. ASU and ABC students dispersed around the table so we could all talk and get to know each other a little better. Alissa recited a poem for Angela’s birthday that had everyone giggling and Dr. McBride led us all in singing “Happy Birthday” to Angela and Alinane. We finished off dinner with delicious deserts, embarrassing pictures, and enough laughs to last a lifetime!

Off to bed to rest up for our last morning at St. John’s! 

XOXO, The St. John’s Crew


Categories: 2015, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A smile is payment enough

Mzuzu Central Hospital 6/10

Wax, perforations, and more wax. That seems to be the theme of our trip as we continue to work at Mzuzu Central hospital. Everyday we assign jobs and the ones that everyone is eager to take are the ones that involve the grossest duties. Why? For some of us, these jobs are fun, for some they’re great learning experiences, and for some of us these jobs are entertaining. It’s always a mystery going into a patient’s ear for the first time, you never know what you’re going to find. Today’s findings included clumps of wax and dried pus.

Today’s clinic ran smoothly with some minor hiccups along the way. The most memorable of the day occurred early on when we lost all power in the room where we hold our clinic. Our hearing aid equipment immediately shut down leaving us confused and scared. Luckily all the other stations could run without electrical power and we could proceed with testing until the power came back. A fun fact about this incident we all discovered was that in Malawi to have power an individual must pay for electrical units, when those units run out you must go back and pay for more to keep the power running. Similar to a phone that runs on prepaid phone cards, when the minutes are all used you just reload by paying for more minutes. Finally after a few hours we got the power running and we could fit our patients with hearing aids.
Seeing a patient’s face light up with a big smile when their hearing aid is turned on and they can hear is why we do our jobs. It’s such an amazing experience that we as audiologists and audiology students cannot explain yet enjoy the most. Today we were able to share this experience with many of our patients and their families. It’s team effort to achieve this final goal. It begins with a case history, followed by lots of testing, then hearing aid programming and temporary earmold fabrication, and finally the actuall fitting. We all play a crucial role in this process and we collectively share the excitement and joy when a patient finally gets hearing aids and is overwhelmed with happiness. None of us may be able to speak Chechewa yet a big smile is plenty to tell us that our patients are happy. And that’s all we need. As the sun sets upon the hill we’re rewarded by a Malawian sunset, we all look at each other, laugh and smile, give each other a round of high-fives and call it another successful day. It’s still unbelievable to us that we’re in Africa doing what we love and helping people but when days like today happen we realize why we do all this, we do it for our patients and their smiles are payment enough.

Categories: 2015, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

St. John’s Hospital HIV Clinic 6/9

Our second day at the St. John’s Clinic was not as busy as we had predicted. When we arrived in the morning, there were some people there waiting for us, but the rush of the day seemed to get done before lunch time. We still saw nearly 50 patients and have some more great stories to tell. 

Our cerumen management/foreign body removal team pulled a seed out of a man’s ear that had been there for 8 years! Taylor (one of our speech pathology students) was happy to get a break from case histories and switched it up doing tympanometry and otoacoustic emissions. One positive of our relatively slow afternoon was that it left us plenty of time to get to know the ABC students a little better!

Gospel, Elijah, and Alinane taught us how to carry things on our heads! Here in Malawi, women carry many things on their heads so it’s easier and they have hands free. We have been making a list of things we see people carrying on their heads and will be sure to share it at the end! After our lessons in carrying, we saw a few more patients and then had another lapse of free time. This time… African dancing lessons from Gospel! Our one tip to dance like the Malawians do: it’s all in the hips! Of course we learned some more Chichewa and Tumbuka words and phrases today too. Wen learned how to say “I’m hungry” and repeated it all day long. We could hear Wen all day dramatically shouting, “Ndili ndi njala!” We found out Angela and Alinane share a birthday (this Thursday), so we asked how you say happy birthday in Chichewa. Their reply: “Happy birthday!” We were a little bummed to find there wasn’t a translation. They also only sing the birthday song in English as well. 

Even though we didn’t see as many patients as we thought we might, we were glad to provide quality services to those who came. Our goal is always quality over quantity! 

Categories: 2015, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

St. John’s Hospital HIV Clinic 6/8

Muli uli! (How are you in Tumbuka) The other half of the team is spending the week at the St. John’s Hospital HIV Clinic. We had a busy first day and saw over 50 patients, which is great because only 12 had pre-registered. 

We had another interesting day with a ton of fungus, infections, perforated tympanic membranes, and huge conductive hearing losses. Probably one of our most interesting patients of the day was a man who had small pieces of cotton in each ear. He explained that he puts them in himself because they help him hear better. He taught himself how to insert them by “trial and error.” Yikes! He proceeded to take them out right in front of us using a toothpick! We all had a mild heart attack watching him stick that sharp pointy thing in his ears. He also told us a story of how he perforated his own eardrum… Yep, we said it. He said his right eardrum was perforated and his ears were uneven and he didn’t like it… So he took a sharp instrument and shoved it right through his left eardrum! At that point we nearly passed out. Can’t even imagine how bad that would hurt! He seemed very proud of himself for perforating it and even more proud that it made us squeamish! 

Tomorrow should be even busier because the St. John’s clinic is open so they will send all their HIV patients to get tested. 

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