Should old acquaintance be forgot. Times working in the rehab unit of a Glasgow hospital often provide a stark contrast to the way things have gone so wrong in Zimbabwe
The name Glasgow comes from a Gaelic phrase meaning ‘dear green place’ and to this day the city lives up to its name. Driving into Glasgow I couldn’t help but notice lots of green spaces. I arrived in Glasgow in February 2006 to start a new job at Stobhill Hospital after completing my nursing training at City University in London, where I had come from Harare in 1999.
Glasgow is a city of vast contrasts. On its eastern side there are post-World War II tower blocks where almost two-thirds of the population lives on benefits, and life expectancy is low due to alcohol and substance abuse. Cross to the western side of the city and it’s a different story – five-bedroom bungalows, manicured gardens and brand-new American-style apartments lining the banks of the River Clyde.
I live in an 18th-floor flat in Sighthill, ten minutes away from the city centre. It is an area with a large number of non-Scottish residents, and it is not an unusual sight to see Somali, Ghanaian and Nigerian women with their babies in the local playground.
There is a surprisingly large number of Zimbabweans here, and the majority are asylum seekers who have moved from other parts of Britain. As evidence, there are three mainly Zimbabwean churches in Glasgow: Agape FANM, ZAOGA FIF and AFM. Each church meets every Sunday and each boasts on average about 100 members. In summer, we meet regularly on Saturday to play football, play pool at the Sports Cafe or watch football on TV in each other’s houses.
The Scottish are very friendly people and they won’t pass a stranger without saying good morning. I struggled a lot with the Glaswegian accent when I started to work on Ward 47 but settled in very well. There are only three non-Scottish members of staff out of 50 at the rehab unit. Sometimes I go for months being the only non-Scottish member of staff on duty but I never feel any different. My colleagues have made me feel so much at home that sometimes I forget I am from Zimbabwe.
I experienced the health system in Zimbabwe twice, once as a patient and once as a relative. I had a car accident in early 1992 in Harare and I ended up as a patient in Parirenyatwa Hospital. It was before all the political isolation and sanctions. The service was first class. We had three meals a day including a breakfast of toast, oats, bacon and eggs. We had drugs free of charge, the nurses were professional, the ward spotlessly clean with fresh white sheets every day.
Night and day?
Ten years later my brother’s son became unwell while I was visiting Zimbabwe. I took him to the same hospital and what I saw almost brought me to tears. We had to bring him food from home, and we had to go and buy intravenous fluids and antibiotics from a private pharmacy and bring them back to the hospital for the nurses to administer. Nurse morale was very low as they were earning the equivalent of about £10 a month. When they realised I was visiting from the UK, almost all of them asked me how they could get there too.
Scotland is a very beautiful place and I am an adventurous person. In the two years I have been here, I have been to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, climbed mountains near Stirling, visited castles, been to Loch Lomond and spent a weekend near Loch Ness. Next summer I am hoping to climb Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Britain.
As for going back to settle in Zimbabwe, with the current situation, the Immigration and Naturalisation Department will have to hold a gun to my head.