I did not blog, not that I missed the social media. I met the proudest and most generous people, but also feeling hurt from the sanctions. Reinforcing global similarities rather than differences meant a lot to them – and to me. So, do try to visit and ignore public perceptions, the country will not fail you, neither its civilisation nor its people.
But it also made me contrast and challenge assumptions. A well meaning visitor from Europe referred to “countries with nothing”. Really? 700 participants from the field were anything but. When I was asked for my views on improving the new day hospital, I…well…you know…I will try but….hmm (whisper it)…I knew of one, but it was closed down two years ago!
As for academic collaboration, I could not stop spelling out the benefits for western centres too to jointly develop and disseminate research, training programmes, and student exchange – I was certainly thrilled with my own.