On the afternoon of the second day our team was joined by another doctor, Dr. Samuel Verkerk. He is an ophthalmologist from the Netherlands and is currently serving in Macha, Zambia, about a 3-hour drive Northeast of Zimba. He arrived in January and is continuing for two and a half more years while he is developing an eye clinic. He hopes to find a Zambian ophthalmologist to train and to whom to leave the clinic.
As clinic ended early this day we had time to walk through the surrounding community. On our walk, we ran into a patient, Ernest, who acted as our informal tour guide, generously giving us his time and knowledge. Ernest walked us through a “neighborhood” which is a collection of huts. One resident eagerly offered to show us his hut, which is an 8 foot by 8-foot room built of mud with a thatched roof. The only things inside this windowless room was a mat for sleeping and some sandals on a dirt floor. He also was excited to show us his pig hut, which had a thatched roof and was built of sticks, branches and any other materials he could find such as an old tire. Dr. Verkerk’s accompanied us on this walk. His time in this country proved to be a wealth of information about this culture, teaching us much about its male dominated family structure.
As we continued, we passed many stands and small shops selling a variety of products from fresh produce to chips, soda and more items we could not recognize. We also passed bars, barbers, restaurants, butchers and more. Our tour guide showed us a primary school and the campus of a boarding school. We saw the soccer field where Ernest helps train a local team. The team had congregated to try to solve the problem of an air bladder protruding from the ball.
On our walk, we were often greeted by a chorus of young children eager to practice their English, which would consist solely of “How are you?” Our reply of “Fine” and “How are you?” would initiate a gaggle of giggles.
Everywhere we walked there was trash; pieces of plastic bottles, chip bags, banana peels, smalls boxes, shoe parts, wrappers and more littered on the ground. Most people burn their trash because they don’t have a garbage pick-up service. We are so accustomed to throwing our trash in a bag and having a service whisk it away to an unseen landfill. They don’t have this luxury, so the trash lies where they leave it. It makes us think about this culture as it adopts western products and their efficient delivery systems in containers such as plastic; how that may be a burden on an immature infrastructure; and, despite our mission here to bring western medical advances to the third world, we wonder if all of our western influences are truly advances that are good for all people everywhere.