This summer my church is doing a humanitarian trip to Zimbabwe. I have been on six mission trips with my church, all to South and Central America, or Fiji. I have been waiting for a trip to Africa my whole life. This summer I am going to study abroad in France to complete my university language requirement. I am thrilled, but I am also disappointed that the Zimbabwe trip is at the same time. I have felt a longing to visit Africa for as long as I can remember. The timing is horribly coincidental. But the more I think about it, the more I’m coming to the conclusion that Africa might not be as safe as I had thought.
Our church usually stays in hostels or camps. There are usually around six people to a room, sometimes more. We mostly eat local food that is prepared for us by either some of our church members or the local cooks. While it’s nice to be submersed in the culture, sometimes people get stomach bugs from the produce. I remember on one trip we saw one of the ladies who was cooking for us crack raw eggs and stir them into one of the drinks. There was definitely a potential for sickness there. There is a possibility that the locals won’t wash the food or cook it thoroughly. A lot of the time our immune systems are used to what we know, and simply the water can make people get a bug.
Another thing that could be dangerous is all of the diseases that are in Zimbabwe. They have hepatitis A, hepatitis E, typhoid fever, malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever, just to name a few. For some trips, my church requires shots in advance. I don’t know whether or not they have required any for this year, but I think it would be a wise idea. But getting all of those shots would be pricey.
That brings me to my next point. It is expensive to fly to Africa. My church gets a deal because we have groups of about 40 people going every year, but the cost is still high. I think this is one of the most expensive trips we’ve ever offered, costing around $1,500 per person (without the two-day extension). The flights usually cost anywhere from $1,800 and up to fly to Africa. On top of traveling for over 24 hours, which is miserable, it’s expensive. The lodging will also cost a pretty penny. There is two day retreat tagged on at the end for anyone who wants to go. This year it will be an extra $600 to go on a safari. While that is one of the main reasons I really want to go to Zimbabwe, the extension is half the price of the week-and-a-half long trip. It seems very overpriced.
Lastly, I think going would be unsafe because there is a lot of social unrest in Africa. Caucasians and travelers alike are more likely to be robbed or attacked by locals looking for money. Although we would be in a group for the most part, I think it would be one of the more unsafe countries my church will visit.
Regardless of these things, the trip sounds very fun and I’m really sad to miss it. It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime, but as I thought about it more, I realized there could be some dangers. I will keep these things in mind if I ever get the opportunity to visit Africa again.