Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Saturday, November 09, 2002
    Here again is a post from my friend Chuen-Yen in Malawi. She has just been to a wedding, which sounds more entertaining than your average American ceremony (or at least different):


    I have finally experienced one of the most popular Malawan events � a wedding. The bride was the granddaughter of a non-compliant patient. She was marrying a local grocery boy. I showed up only 15 minutes late (far too early) with my gift wrapped in a big brown x-ray envelope. The venue was the bride�s family�s house. In their dirt courtyard, surrounded by crumbling walls with projecting shards of glass, rows of hot metal chairs faced a decaying concrete structure. Colored toilet paper and a few
    balloons decorated the porch, where the couple would be displayed on the family�s couch. An unsteady table displayed gifts wrapped with newspaper, plastic bags and one with an x-ray envelope. A few chickens and a goat picked at a pile of nearby refuse.

    As everything was in Chichewa, I probably misinterpreted most of the ceremony. But it was clear that some of the ritual revolved around soliciting frequent donations from guests. There were even �cahiers� to tally the gifts and make change in case you didn�t bring the right denominations. The bride and groom were showered in small bills every time the announcer gave a certain cue, which always stimulated lots of hooting.

    Between fund raisers, candy was passed around (one piece per person please), people feasted on rations of oily salted rice and then had a sliver of cake. No utensils were involved. Hence, buckets of water were provided for sanitation. There was also some dancing � shaking of the butt without
    moving the upper body � which I am told one can become proficient at in about 3 months.

    During the celebrations, many people approached me for medical evaluation and a chicken flew into my head. Just after that, with much hooting, it was announced that 4,500 Kwacha and 12 gifts had been collected. Everyone had a great time. I admitted the bride�s grandma to the hospital the next
    morning and saw a few of the guests in my clinic. Everything is amusing here.

    Hope all is well over there.



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