The President's Visit
I am an AHI volunteer and this is my first week as CEO of Malamulo Hospital in Malawi. For my “Welcome to Africa; Take your time settling in!” we are hosting a state visit by Her Excellency Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi. I know this is where God wants me to be so I try to look confident, be visible but out of the way. I suppose my interview on national TV belies my aspiration for anonymity.
Thanks to the thinking of our business manager, Levy Misomali, a beautiful new “Malamulo Seventh-day Adventist Hospital” sign, that was put up at about 10:00 PM last night, smiles down from below the main roof gable. The fountain in the garden bubbles while the sun swims in its pool.
…and I am a fly on the wall.
Last Thursday, the president’s events coordinator had seemed less then impressed with our preparations, but by today, Tuesday, she was all smiles and compliments. She rung my hand as she got into her car and thanked me for the changes.
But…I was only a fly on the wall.
She congratulated Malamulo on a job well done and I let her know that if not for our head nurse, Mrs. Kamwiyo keeping everyone focused and the maintenance crew working late into the night it would not have happened. I felt pride that I was part of it all and called of God to be the leader in this organization.
Now we wait for the president’s 10:00 am arrival. It is a very warm day and since I ripped the sleeve buttons off my summer suit jacket two days ago, I am dressed in my wool one. I stand between doctor Shank and our chief surgeon Dr. Ryan Hayton and wait, envying their crisp, tranquil and more importantly, cool exteriors.
And suddenly at 11:00 she is here and right on time. Her convoy surrounded by guards in camouflage, riding in and on black Hummers arrives at the silver painted gate phalanxed by dancing party members dressed in orange.
I hurry to join the “Conga Line” of those greeting Madam President and wait for my turn. Having been prepped that I was to grab my right wrist with my left hand as a Malawian sign of respect, I proceed to grab her right wrist with my left hand as we meet. Smooth, real smooth!
She gives a questioning yet warm smile and I wish I were a fly on the wall!
We fall in line behind the president and enter the Private Care waiting room decked out with flowers, flags and a portrait of Her Excellency above a white and orange cloth-covered desk where she sat. There were chairs around the room and everyone who could sit, did…save me. I was too excited to realize my lack of culture and pomp until Dr. Shank, obviously no rookie to state visits, pulled on my pant leg and commanded me to sit!
Her Excellency signed our guest book. She takes a whole page and writes of her affinity for “the people” and her thanks to Malamulo Hospital and staff for the care given over the years to the “Mothers” of Malawi.
The president shakes my hand again as she gets into her car. I remember my lesson from earlier and grab my own wrist. We share a knowing smile and she thanks us for the tour.
At that moment I realize I am no longer a fly on the wall but the leader of an amazing AHI institution, ”Malamulo Adventist Hospital”.