Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Reality check: From the tourist's and the patient's side

This weekend, we all went to Livingstone to experience one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls, or the Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders), as the locals call it.
Ask anyone, and they'll tell you I had a very weird weekend. However, I very much enjoyed it. I went in to the weekend excited to see the Falls, but hoping to spend some time reflecting and talking to other people. I wasn't too keen on spending a ton of money on adrenaline activities and safaris. As much as we all love each other, after almost three weeks of living together, it's nice to have some other folks around.

I spent our first full day touring the Zambia side and experiencing the soaking spray of the "smoke that thunders" that puts Niagara Falls to shame. The next day I had to go to Zimbabwe for visa reasons, so walked across the bridge with some teachers from North America who are teaching in Abu Dhabi, and a young woman who has spent almost 2 years traveling the world.

While walking and talking, one of the teachers described the kind of work we do as a reality check. I found that to be the perfect way to put it. It's seeing people in their reality. It's seeing the illnesses that we don't have. It's seeing the way people react to pain.

I had a reality check in a few ways this weekend. Firstly, while hanging out at the hostel, I was approached by a group of kind-looking men asking me to take part in filming a tourism video. They were Zambian men from the northern part of the country. They do a lot of travelling in Europe and wanted to show off their homeland when they are abroad. They figured it would be more effective if they filmed it with a tourist instead of themselves. They offered to take me to do the white water rafting on the Zambezi, bunji jumping from the bridge and a microlight flight over the falls. I was shocked, but obviously said yes. It was interesting to see these gentlemen who wanted to draw people to their beautiful country so much that they were willing to spend their own cash to produce a video. I mean, they were mining engineers, so it's not like they were short on money, but it was a nice to experience the Zambian hospitality.

Kyle and I ready to take on the mighty Zambezi

My next reality check came the next day when we set out to get their footage. They suited Kyle and I up with GoPro cameras to go white water rafting and we had an absolute blast. While on the water, we flipped and I got a paddle to the forehead, leaving a small, but heavily bleeding gash. They patched me up on the boat, but when we returned, they sent me to a clinic to get stitches. It was uneasy for me as I knew that although I was going to experience Zambian healthcare from the patient's side, it wasn't going to be the same as what we have been seeing. We went to a private clinic where I waited with Kyle for about 6 minutes before seeing the doctor. In the doctor's office there was a TV blaring the latest music video from the top Zambian artists. While he pulled on my face trying to get the dull needle through my tough skin, the doctor paused once in a while to look at the screen. It was odd, but he seemed to do a good job. I went back to the front, had no trouble paying the 470 kwacha (about 50USD) bill and walked out in a matter of about 35 minutes.

Getting zipped up

I knew that if the patients we see on outreach or in the hospital were to hurt themselves with a paddle while on their longboats, it would be a stretch for them to: a) get to healthcare at all and b) afford, private health care. They would wait for hours after cleaning their wound with Zambezi water and stopping the bleeding with a t-shirt before probably seeing a nurse who wouldn't have the supplies available to him or her to be able to do what was needed for the patient. So they'd patch it up best they could, send them home and hope it doesn't get infected.

So fitted with 3 stitches to heal my "Zambezi tattoo" Kyle and I went back to where we were meeting our friends again and went to the airstrip to take our microlight flights (it was too late in the day to bunji). We did a little interview for them afterwards and bid our goodbyes. It was an incredible connection to make and we were so pleased about our free day.

My Zambezi Tattoo
My quiet little weekend turned into a bit of a crazy adventure, but it was an amazing experience. I will never forget it and will always have a little reminder of the power of the Zambezi over my right eye.

Now back to reality.


1 comment:

  1. That looks just like you had a 'Glasgow kiss' Markie!!?? Ian and Louise.