Today marks the first day of our last week in Zimbabwe. We have done so much in the past couple of weeks and learned so much about this country. With only a few days left we are beginning to be sad to leave.
We have met so many people and each one of them has given us a little insight into the Zimbabwe that we are experiencing today. We have spoken with doctors who are only willing to meet in public places away from the public institutions where they work so that they may speak freely about the sector they work in. We have met doctors who have no interest in talking to us and some who fear that we are spies coming in time for the elections. But we have also met doctors who are willing to help us, talk with us, and arrange for us to learn as much as we can about the healthcare system, the conditions in which they work, and see what improvements can be made.
Harare is where we are now, the largest city in Zimbabwe and since getting here we have had a flat tire and a dead battery. I am beginning to think that the city is rebelling against the number of cars on the roads by cursing any that drive through it. When we got our flat, we were immediately told to replace the spare since “this is Africa, you will get another flat tire in a week.”
Compared to Bulawayo, Harare is fast, hectic, and has a lot of activities to offer. But Bulawayo, the smaller city down south, has more to see around it, contrasting Harare with its natural beauty and promise of adventure.
In both cities, we have made friends. It is a good feeling to talk to peers and learn about the culture from yet another perspective. Be it watching the sunset over the hills, or celebrating someone’s birthday, we have gotten to hear and learn from many different opinions.
It is hard to say what has been the most valuable conversation or who has been the most helpful to meet because every conversation is further forming our understanding of the problem we have chosen to solve. As we meet with doctors, are ignored by doctors, wander lost through hospitals, walk up mountains with locals, drive through the towns, and explore life here we are getting more constraints that are informing our design problem. The value in this trip is constantly proving itself.
Despite the car malfunctions, Leyla’s broken shoes, the surprisingly cold winter, the unexpected power outages, and the numerous surprises we have had from the doctors we have met, we have had an amazing time in this place.
And because we can’t always be working since doctors don’t work on the weekends here, we have also gotten to do some great things. We were able to visit a game park and see beautiful animals and stunning African landscapes. We were able to see the sunset over a national park and watch the finals of the world cup. We were able to find our own adventure and see cave paintings and witness a tribal ceremony. And we have somehow managed to climb the same mountain twice in one day because we wanted to make friends. “Sundown” is an event here and the coffee is as good as the “free” wifi that accompanies it.
With only four more days in this country, we are starting to dream of our return trip.