Before the journey…
So, after the group was organized we all first met in a meeting that was held in Stockholm with Jenny and Maloue, dental hygienists who are part of the organization. The group consists of five people, Aos (dentist), Yousif (dentist), Nariman (dental hygienist) Greta (dentist) and myself, Rim (dental hygienist). Usually we were going to be a group of 7, but unfortunately the others couldn’t come with us due to personal issues.
The meeting contained a lot of information and for a moment it all seemed very overwhelming, especially after seeing videos and pictures of previous groups but, Jenny and Maloue talked us through everything in detail and left us with clearer view of how it all will work out.
After the meeting we began packing our, then, empty bags, with materials, that we had to bring with us to Zimbabwe. One tip is to divide the materials so that everyone in the group gets the same weigh, we just happened to be lucky and divided the materials just right from the beginning. Given that we were only going to be one group and not divided into two groups I guess the situation differs a bit.
However, this meeting was a good chance for the group to get to know each other, so we took advantage of it and hung out afterwards. Oh and you may ask why I’m writing in English, that is because Greta is from Lithuania. This review might help international dentist, dental hygienist or dental nurses to get an insight on how it would be like to contribute from another country. Well, everything is basically the same except that Greta had to take a different flight and meet us in the transit.
I remember us having trouble knowing what clothes to bring with us since it was “wintertime” in Zimbabwe. Even though we experience four seasons in one day in Sweden, one would think this would be easy peasy lemon squeezy, but WRONG, we still managed to have trouble knowing what to bring with us. Later on, I’ll write more about it and the story behind why we had the right to be confused about the weather.
….On the way….
On 18/6 our journey had finally begun!
The closer the date the more nervous we became. We had prepared so much and had so much information stored yet we felt nervous, or maybe it was all the excitement of what was waiting? One thing is for sure, you could never prepare yourself enough. However, the group decided beforehand that we would like to take a vacation before starting the project, and so we did. As a group we would highly recommend doing that beforehand. But of course, it depends on the group and the time and other aspects.
On 18/6 four of us met in Arlanda airport in Stockholm at 7pm ish to fly out to Victoria falls, the transit was in Addis Ababa which is located in Ethiopia. There we met Greta and proceeded to the next flight right away. In total the journey took us 15 h give or take.
….When In Victoria Falls….
We barely got any sleep during those 15 hours, but, that didn’t stop us from doing activities right away as soon as we arrived. Sunset cruise was the first activity on the list. It was a relaxing and a wonderful way to start off our journey.
In Victoria falls, we stayed at a place called Lokuthula lodge, it had this African vibe to it with an amazing view from the restaurant (with amazing dinner and breakfast). They also offered free shuttles to locations we wanted to go too, which was very practical.
In Victoria falls, we planned activities for 3 days, the second day we went to the boat safari, and later on that day we did the car safari. Personally, I preferred the car safari since we got to see more animals up close, elephants in particular:D.
On day three we were ready to get soaking WET. Yes, I’m talking about the Victoria falls. If there is no water in the tap, don’t worry, Victoria falls got your back! So, we basically went there and got a free shower. Joke aside, the view was mesmerizing and jaw dropping so it was all worth it.
No matter how much you plan you need to be flexible on journeys like this. Later on, that day the group decided to divide to do other desirable activities, so two of us did the bungee jump, the other two did the lion walk, and one of us went to the elephant back ride.
Overall, this was an amazing way to start this journey. At this point I could tell we were totally looking forward to the project and what was waiting. We had high expectations and were full of energy to start working although we were unsure of how it would be.
Not sure of how it will go? No worries. While we arrived in Harare, first thing led to the other, and we as a group helped each other to figure out everything. We had Ian who was picking us up and bringing us to the hotel. So, in Harare we stayed overnight and took a stroll through town and later on met Dr. Advance who’s a part of the organization but located in Zimbabwe. He was so kind and invited us for dinner to his home aswell, and we got to meet his lovely family and kids and wife. We had such a great time and ate lots of tasty African food.
…When in Old Mutare…
The next day it took us approximately 4 hours of drive to arrive at Old Mutare. There were stops on the way where we stayed and took a lunch bite, otherwise the road would be unbearable, for those who get car-sick in particular. But we were in good hands and arrived safely thankfully. The first thing we realized in Zimbabwe is that there were a lot of accidents (well small ones at least), and that the traffic was totally different then home. With that being said, if you were to drive legally you would be the one endangering yourself.
Eventually we arrived and the first thing we did was buying groceries in a town nearby called Mutare. While arriving at home we arranged the rooms to begin with. While in the rooms we were greeted by our fellow roomies, the spiders that is. I can admit we were terrified at first, but as the days went by you kind of develop a connection. If you leave their space, they will let you be. And that’s exactly what we did. And the mosquito net? In winter? Is not a necessity I would say? I’d prefer sleeping comfortable.
And of course, we had to organize the groceries. One thing is for sure, you won’t need to bring all those noodles and stuff from home, since they basically have everything in the supermarkets there. Had we known I bet we would’ve brought less food from home.
We were informed that on working days we would only get access to water 1 hour per day, so if you have plans on taking showers every now and then, I would probably say save the shampoo for better days. We took it upon us to fill the bathtub and other plastic containers with water as soon as we had access, and that water would be used for flushing the toilets since it was tap water in not so clean plastic containers. On desperate days maybe even washing our hair would be appropriate at the least and sometimes when nobody was watching you would wash your face with it, well I know I did. So, if you are reading this, bring baby wipes with you, alooot of baby wipes. Most useful thing in there.
So, the first night at Old mutare arrived and it was time for sleep. Remember I brought up what clothes to bring in the beginning, well here is the confusion. Cause in the morning the weather was nice and sunny, but at night you would turn into an ice princess, or a prince. I remember having thick clothes on, a thick blanket (which we got to borrow from a friend called Caroline) + like 3 blankets above me. And still I somehow managed to freeze. So, forget your comfy PJs if your going in winter:P
…When in work (outreach and the dental clinic)…
I think the group could all agree that on the first day of work we were all kind of nervous not knowing what to expect. Just like living without electricity (at times), not having water 24/7, and no wi-fi we had to adapt to the routine of how we were going to work for the coming weeks, especially since it was under different circumstances. As the days went on we started to find our a flow. First day of the first week was like a free trial, and the next following days and week went on brilliantly, except the last day, it started to rain and it was freezing so we could barely focus on work, but still we managed to get it done, yay us! And the kids who were freezing as well while waiting on their turn.
Work went as following:
- We woke up at 7 am to get picked up at 8 am by Tatenda and Touli (who is a dental nurse that was helping us out on the outreach)
- (well, being on time was a rule invented in a parallel universe, in Africa 8am usually means 9am)
- Next, we drove out to do the outreach at the school that was expecting us that day. First thing we would do was meeting the principle to give our respects and get permission to start working. And they all gave us their consent and they appreciated us being there. Such nice people, in general!
- After having the consent, we were given a classroom where we would unpack all the materials on the table and organize them.
- Next, we would divide into two groups whereas the first group went out to give lectures about caries, sugar and basic dental hygiene (usually two of us) and the others would receive students to do the screenings on, and if necessary treat them as well.
- We focused on 6 and 12 year olds, and if we had time over we screened more children.
- At some schools we even gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste, the children were so excited and thankful. And so were we.
- Work would usually end by lunch time, and on one school we even got to eat their school lunch contained sadza and cabbage made on wooden fire.
Sometimes after work some of us went to a dental clinic (that is usually closed when we are not there) to treat some patients. So, they would open the clinic and receive patients who had been waiting outside since 7 am. That was pretty hard to take, that they would sit there for so many hours. But thanks to Aos and Yousif who were mostly there every day, they managed to get the help they needed. Aswell as Greta and Dr. Advance who went there the second week to help out.
…After old mutare…
We surely brought home (except for dirty laundry) a lot of mixed feelings and experiences and made memories for life. This journey affected us in so many ways, that only our minds could understand. Whenever I get the question “how was it?” I always find it hard to answer. Where do I start? I could go on forever, and honestly, no words or pictures could describe it 100%, but I hope this would give you all an insight of how it could be. I will definitely be doing this again.
Also…I would like to give a special thanks to everyone involved in this journey, you all rock! From the beginning to the end, each and everyone of you! Thank you!
Some words that are useful:
- Makadi (hello how are you)
- Tatenda (thank you)
- Rara (lay down)
- Gara (sit)
- Wia (come in)
- Pindai (come in)
- Shamisa (open your mouth wider)
- Shama (open your mouth)
- Meza (swallow)
- Fara (bite your teeth together)
/Rim Hesam from Nora