I cannot believe my time is over and I’ve now been home for a week!

Over my final week in the hospital, the harvest finished. Gone was any hope of having a quiet week! Now, everyone who had been unwell over the past 4 weeks converged on the hospital to get the medical treatment that had been avoided over harvest.

Walking FelineThis meant that the paediatric ward went absolutely crazy! My last day, we started ward rounds at 8am, and still had not finished them by 6pm when it was time to start evening rounds on ICU. We drained the hospital of blood, from all the new admissions that were severely anaemic due to malaria. Unfortunately the supply of severely anaemic patients did not also dry up with them. However, no one died by some small miracle!

I managed to get some photos of my favourite patients – the ones who had been with us for several weeks and I had become quite attached. These ones often had characteristics such as waving whenever they saw us, which led to affectionate nicknames. So; there was waving girl (always waving at us), pointing boy (loved to point as us, and if we pointed back he’d grab our fingers if they were in reach), pen boy (if you didn’t give him your pen before you examined him, he’d cry) and lymphoma boy (the only patient who consistently thought our visits were a game).

Victoria FallsMy final night at the hospital was celebrated by dinner out at Tikos – the local volunteer organization, which made a fantastic pumpkin mash.  It was incredibly sad to say goodbye to so many friends, but all the same I was incredibly excited to be heading towards Victoria Falls for a few days exploring with NZ friend Rosie before our flight home.

Victoria Falls just blew my mind. It seems ridiculous to say that the highlight was to jump in puddles. But it really was – there is just so much adrenaline associated with running around jumping in puddles created by a waterfall that is spilling a million litres per second over its edge!

We also took the time to be real tourists and walk cheetah and lions – this was incredibly cool! Not every morning you take a lion for a walk!

However, tourist time in Africa felt extremely strange – having seen the poverty people came from, to stay in ‘luxury’ with running hot water felt like a different planet!

Rural SceneMy time in Africa has taught me so much. It has made me realize how Western society can get so hung up on the trivial things, and there really are ‘first world problems’ – like having too much food in the cupboard. It seems unreal from sitting back in NZ, that people really do walk for several days, just to get medical attention. And that already they know next year people will starve due to a bad harvest this year.

It has highlighted how unimportant things like a new pair of shoes really is. I was unbelievably touched when my nursing student friend went into the local market, to buy me a leaving dress and mittens so I wouldn’t get cold waiting for the bus. Even now I cannot truly appreciate the value on those items, but I am so pleased that I could in turn give her some clothes of mine.

Until now I have never truly appreciated the luxury we have of being able to go to the GP with minor aliments, just for reassurance. Or having a choice of antibiotics, or even what conditions we have medication available to treat.

We always say, we don’t know how lucky we are, but I think until going to Africa I didn’t have a true honest appreciation of this concept. I absolutely cannot wait to be able to back and spend some time there again.