We were so excited for the next two nights at Chimwemwe Lodge in Petauke. We were told that this was where the President stays when in town, and we made reservations in the best of the three categories of rooms. Goodbye cold water, rats, lack of coverage — here we come Petauke!
So, like with many experiences here, building up expectations can be problematic. And that proved true in Petauke… We arrived at Chimwemwe — but couldn’t check in as our room was being cleaned. No problem — we would happily partake in eating the “best food in town” at the Lodge’s resturant. We sat down in the garden, looked at the menu, and both of decided it was time for a Castle (or two). Obvious from the menu that the best place in town was, well, not that awesome. With a plates of fries and egg omelete ordered, a couple of Castles (beer) were consumed at we prepared for what was likely to be a room situation different than we had hoped…
Let’s just say that we were happy to have running water and even a wireless service! The first “shower” was cold… and the ones after, while warm, were better described as stand in a cold bathroom and have some water run out of a hose from a spout on the wall. And, to top it off, the laundry service ironed a hole through Dustin’s pants (one of two on the trip). So, that was less than awesome.
BUT – our one full day in Petauke was neat. We headed to the District Health Office bright and early; we met the Director immediately, but he informed us that the entire staff was gone — and he was leaving too! So, no interviews to be had :(… But he did connect us with the head of the malaria task force, who, as it turned out, was doing a training in a rural health post on malaria that day! We asked to accompany him, and he said yes. We were off!
Traveling to the village took about 45 minutes over perfect dirt roads. We arrived and started the training in a school house. It was so great to be able to witness one of these trainings — we had been hearing about them but had never been able to see one. There were about 15 people local people attended (chosen from the community), and while the program was mostly in the local language, we could understand a lot. There was teaching about how malaria gets transmitted, the life cycles of both the parasite and mosquito, and time for discussion about treatment and prevention.
After about 2 hours of training, it was time for lunch. Again, feigning stomach issues (and escaping to the outhouse to wolf down a granola bar!), I sat lunch out. And, I am so glad that I did! As it turned out, the main (and only) course was goat intenstines wrapped around themselves to make it look like some sort of michelin-man type of sausage. I stepped out to take pictures while Dustin happily (??) ate his share. He was served first, and everyone was interested in watching him eat the intestines with nshima (the local fufu-like paste used for eating).
With the training wrapped up for the day, we headed back to Petauke. Starting the government vechile by pushing it, we then climbed in and started back the way we came. I requested a quick stop at a rural health center I had seen as we drove up. I really wanted Dustin to see a Rural Health Center before leaving, and this was the perfect opportunity! The RHCs are feeders from the villages and communities to the larger clinics and hospitals. Their pressence increases accessibility, and they are key to successful malaria control and prevention.
RHC tour complete, we got back to Petauke and then were offered a tour of Petauke’s District Hospital, which we gladly took in. We headed back the lodge, packed, and prepared for our 4am wake-up and 530am departure to Lusaka!