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Door-to-Door in Zomba

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Door-to-Door in Zomba

After 2 days of hosting static clinics in Zomba, we split into 8 teams of 3 to trek door-to-door to vaccinate any dogs that were not brought to the clinics. We do quite a bit of walking on these days, but thankfully the weather held up for us—it could not have been more perfect.

On our first day trekking door-to-door, my group hiked a total of 6 miles. Many of the families we visited had already brought their dogs to the static clinics, so we had less vaccinating to do than expected, but we have already administered more than 3000 vaccinations.

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As we go, we often get to sit and chat with families, and many offer us refreshments along the way. One team got to try cassava, a tuberous root of a tree native to tropical climates; it’s one of Malawi’s main crops. You’ve probably seen the powdery version at the grocery store—in that form, it’s called tapioca. At any rate, we learned that although cassava is an excellent source of carbs, if raw cassava isn’t prepared properly, it can carry trace amounts of cyanide (sometimes enough to be toxic). The more you know! 

A couple of us have picked up a virus with accompanying tackling aches and fever (unrelated to cassava consumption), but the good news is it doesn’t seem to last long, and we have plenty of meds to care for those who are unwell. Tonya and Leslie have been religiously wiping down doorknobs and surfaces in our living space to keep everyone else from catching it.

At one of the homes we visited, we were vaccinating 5 or 6 cats on the back patio. While we worked, we heard a rooster causing quite a ruckus. I looked up just in time to see one of the women hand the cranky rooster to a man, who then picked up a knife and disappeared around a corner. Shortly thereafter, the rooster stopped making noise.

We were greeted at the conclusion of our work day with no power. We made the most of it by huddling in our room, laughing, talking, and exchanging stories from the week by candlelight. I’ve loved working with this team so far—we enjoy each other’s company and work well together.

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The lodge has been a great place to stay, despite the power outages. The food, in particular, is excellent: we have nsima (a staple in Malawi), which is essentially thick pancakes and is served with a variety of meats and vegetables. Some mornings, we have treats like French toast and strawberries!

We leave Thursday for our 2-day holiday at the Majete Wildlife Reserve. It’s a 3.5 hour car trip to the Thiwale Resort, where we’ll be staying in impressive outdoor tents (essentially glamping, minus the electricity). Send positive vibes—we’re hoping to see an elephant or two while we’re there.

We’ll return to Zomba Friday afternoon and will resume static clinics on Saturday and Sunday. It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through our trip!—Jessie Foley

JESSIE FOLEY has a degree in veterinary technology from Cedar Valley College, as well as a degree in advertising and public relations from University of Arkansas. She was previously on the veterinary nurse team at University of Tennessee Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Foley plays a key role in Brief Media's partnership with Mission Rabies. In 2018, she joined the Mission Rabies vaccine drive in Malawi for her third year.

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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