King Shaka International Airport in Durban

We woke early and had a delicious continental breakfast on the porch at Makakatana, said our goodbyes and took to the N2 to Durban International for a flight at 130 to Port Elizabeth on the south shore.

The small staff at the lodge provided an excellent example of effective teamwork. Everyone did her or his designated job as well as supporting others and jumping in to do what needed doing. There didn’t seem to be any tension between whites who were rangers and office staff and several Zulu women who were kitchen, meal service and housekeeping. The camaraderie and respectful joking among them was good to watch even though we knew as guests we might not be allowed to see tensions that were under the surface.

The trip south by car is beautiful – everything very green and lush, acres and acres of planted eucalyptus trees and sugar cane, lots of pretty little Zulu villages with their round thatch-roofed huts reserved for the ancestors, and many cows – some grazing too close to the highway! The roads are very good and lots of people are employed repairing the roads and building new lanes, cleaning the roadsides, picking up any garbage. Everything is very clean. Speed limit is 120 km/hr and everyone moves fast, lots of trucks and “taxis” that the blacks cram into – 16 (or more) seater vans that stop on the side of the road to take people to work or shopping or whatever. They look stifling hot but seem to work in this evolving economy with 25pc and more unemployment rates depending on the area. Tourism is down considerably with recession in Europe and USA and people are feeling it.

Bad luck with weather in Port Elizabeth and we’re still here at 630pm waiting in the airport for a flight out which does not look promising but they don’t want to cancel yet. Apparently all flights from Joberg to PE have been canceled so it’s just a matter of time for us to be cancelled as well….

We’ve just changed our flight to an early one tomorrow to Cape Town. SAA was very accommodating. There is a Fairmont Hotel nearby so we will head there overnight.

Interesting story when gasing up the rental car at a Shell station on the highway (BTW the rest stops are the same as ours in Canada with gas, food and drink, cash machines and the like). There was a power outage at the station on our side of the highway so several red shirted employees with the Shell logo directed us to drive into the culvert under the highway to the other side where the power was working in that Shell station.

Getting gas here is a pleasure. Many uniformed employees, both men and women, are at the ready to pump your gas, wash your windows and check under the hood if you wish. They are very grateful for a 20 rand tip (about 2.50) which goes to help feed the extended family.

We are sorry to be leaving Zululand behind. From what we have seen they are a kind and gentle people who are struggling to make it in a rapidly changing world. HIV Aids and unemployment are huge challenges. The men seem to have trouble staying with the family. Many women are supporting their extended families on their own. Two days ago we took a very early morning game drive to Hluhluwe. On the way we saw dozens and dozens of kids of all ages walking along the highways to school, very neatly dressed in clean uniforms despite the fact that living conditions are very rough. It was 630am! We are told that kids walk very long distances (even 10 kms in some cases) and sadly teachers are in very short supply and poorly paid so the kids might get to school and no teacher is there.

Evenings at the Clinic

Last night was my first evening at the Polyclinic. It’s beginning to feel really comfortable. Lots of fantastic people many from BC, others from all over North America. I worked with 3 nurses – 2 young fellows from Edmonton and another from the Royal Columbian here in Vancouver. All have taken their vacation to volunteer here for 3 weeks. They are all computer savyy so we get things organized together.

The sports med doc was from Minneapolis, loves volunteering at the Olympics. He has 3 young kids at home so he’s only here for a week. The other doc is from Quebec. We saw a steady stream of walk-in people until about 9pm and after that dead quiet. There’s lots of chat about where people are from and why they chose to do this.

I’m beginning to better understand the concept of a Polyclinic. Wikipedia says that a polyclinic is a place where a wide range of health care services (including diagnostics) can be obtained without the need for an overnight stay. Polyclinics are sometimes co-located with a hospital or may be located in another locality entirely. A typical polyclinic houses health practitioners such as doctors and nurses and provides ambulatory care and some acute care services but lacks the major surgical and pre- and post operative care facilities commonly associated with hospitals. Apparently polyclinics have existed for 10 or more years in Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and the former Soviet republics such as Russia and Ukraine; and in many countries across Asia and Africa.

In this Olympic Polyclinic working alongside nurses and doctors are volunteer physios, massage therapists, chiropractors, optometrists, and dentists. As well we have lab, pharmacy, Xray, MRI, and CT scanning – all staffed with volunteers. Multi professional services are provided to the athletes and their entourage, IOC and NOC members and their families and the workforce which consists of hundreds of volunteers who are stationed in the Village. There is no hierarchy. The culture is very respectful of everyone’s expertise and the tone is highly collaborative.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see inter-professional care in action. I intend to watch carefully.