Everyone expects different things when departing for the developing world, some expect rolling mountains and fresh mangos, and others expect potholes and Malaria. When we departed for Zimbabwe, we came armed with GoPros and Doxycycline, ready to shoot the perfect sunset fit for Instagram and not end up in hospital. Yet one can never anticipate the unexpected pleasures found amongst the unknown, joys that you cannot prepare for, and usually when they do appear, the GoPro will be out of battery. 

Personally, I was most nervous about the food when leaving the UK, and although it is fair to say that at times it has not always been easy, the team and I have found some vices. I don’t think any of us have ever eaten as many chocolate biscuits in our lives as we have over the past seven weeks. Zimbabwe’s Bermuda Creams are delicious and you have to eat the whole packet in one go, because you just have to. You will almost always be eating them to a soundtrack of some sort, whether someone is singing or music is coming from a car or KOMBI, there will always be some sort of music playing. Zimbabweans love singing and they love Westlife (I know, Westlife). I genuinely walked along the highway in the blistering sun one morning with the team singing ‘I’m flying without wings!’. It was surreal but magical. 

Besides chocolate biscuits and the fact that Zimbabweans are always ready to party, the kindness shown by the people is astounding and never fails to surprise me. We quickly learnt that when an accident happens, which could be as small as stubbing your toe, you absolutely must say you’re sorry to that person. In the UK, we may laugh or make fun out of someone tripping over a rock, but in Zimbabwe you say you are sorry and you mean it. You are always welcome in someone’s home and you will be expected to eat when there. Zimbabweans are exceptionally hospitable and treat you as family as soon as you walk through their door, even referring to you as daughter or son or cousin. 

I don’t know if I will ever be able to watch someone stack and not say “sorry” again, and God forbid I ever have to live without Bermuda Creams. Apprehensiveness is normal, everyone feels it about one thing or another, but the joys found in unexpected cultural exchange quickly override any feelings of doubt you have about this new place you call home. If not, just start singing and I know that at least three people will join you in breaking into a rendition of TLC’s ‘Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls’.      

Written by ICS Team DOMCPP