If we could describe our pre-departure feelings, apprehension, anxiety and adrenaline would be the most accurate. We had no idea what to expect. No amount of training and research can prepare you for this type of journey. This is not a deterrence, this should leave you with a stomach fluttering feeling. A journey is not something that will always be smooth but it will be worth it. After all, who wants to stay still forever?

Having arrived a few hours before our national counterparts, we nervously awaited their arrival. Every minute felt like an hour. It felt like waiting to meet a family member you had never met but was eager to have in your life.

After a long wait, as our team members were held up by road blocks, we were greeted by smiling, welcoming and friendly faces. Road blocks we came to find are not a joke at all. Any sort of anxiety and fear immediately disintegrated. And we are glad to say, have never come back. Pritchard, our national team mate, expected there to be more testosterone than just him. Pritchard is the only male in our group of 12. He adapted extremely fast and is very happy to be the man of our family! 

When asked about her initial feelings towards meeting the UK volunteers, Pepe our national team mate replied, “I never held any negative thoughts, I was just thinking about the future and being part of a happy team.” Our national counterparts have played a huge part in our smooth transition into Zimbabwean life. 

We were thrown into the deep end, immediately sharing rooms with our national volunteers. “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.” We are genuinely so glad that we were pushed out of our comfort zone and believe it played a big part in our speedy bonding.

We stayed up until late hours of the night discussing some of their folk tales, which were extremely interesting. We learnt about the difference in culture between those living in rural and urban areas. This taught us that just like in the UK, there were a variety of cultures throughout different parts of Zimbabwe. 

The monumental activity to cement our bond, was a simple yet effective game. Skipping, of course. We had not skipped since we were in primary school and had almost forgotten how to. One of our UK volunteers comparing brief differences between countries told our national counterparts that she missed doing outdoor activities that needed little resources, as she had not done so since childhood and wanted to incorporate it into her lifestyle back into the UK. Our national team mates wasted no time teaching us some Zimbabwean skipping games. No one was left glued to a mobile phone, which was such a refreshing change. The cross cultural exchange had begun at day one and we were excited.

Written by ICS volunteers Helen Yan and Sylvie Carlos