Monday, December 24, 2007

We're in Canada!

We arrived in Canada Tuesday night to a beautiful banner and huge hugs. The journey was long (40 hours) but we got to tour Amsterdam, and I'm actually glad it took so long because this is a whole new world! It's cold here... Toronto and Harare are quite different - in every way. I must admit that I'm loving being in Toronto - eating all kinds of foods, using a bank card and wallet, seeing familiar streets, walking everywhere and feeling free, saying whatever I want, getting lots of hugs, eating mountains of food (have I mentioned this already?), hearing all the old family jokes, etc. It's amazing to see family and friends, and I am constantly happy (although crying a lot too).

Oh yeah - John is here, and we didn't even need to do a prison break. But you can keep praying for our safety.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! This is definitely going to be a memorable one for us.

Friday, December 14, 2007

We're coming home for the holidays!

This is our last day in the office for 2007. Tonight we're having our church concert (I hope people come with despite all the thunderstorms!) tomorrow is the Thanksgiving ingathering where all Salvation Army divisions come with their financial offerings, and then Sunday is the retirement of our Territorial Commander. Monday morning we jump on a plane to Nairobi, and then catch another one to Amsterdam, and then finally a third one to our beloved Toronto. We'll be home next Tuesday afternoon - yay! I'm so excited to see family, friends, food and all of the Christmas festivities. We'll be home for 2 1/2 weeks.

In a way, it feels like betrayal that I'm so excited about going home. Everyone always says to me, "you must just love living in Africa!" And there are definitely things (and people) that I love. But Zimbabwe is a tough place to live too. I was reading a beautiful Advent devotional this morning about how only the poor can see God; and about how Christmas is really for the poor. I do believe it's true that when all else is stripped away, the Saviour shows himself more clearly. But I need to say again that there is nothing romantic or beautiful about real poverty. It is horrible. It makes you feel sub-human. It makes you live in a constant state of worry about your survival. No one here wants to talk about Christmas - it's too sad because no one can afford to go home or to get food or treats for their kids. So, is Christmas really for them? Last year we were disappointed that Christmas wasn't even mentioned at church. Surely the birth of Jesus is still important if no one has money! This year I have a better understanding of why it's avoided. It's painful. We had hoped to give away some money for Christmas, but it was impossible because when we tried to exchange money it was confiscated by the police (and John was temporarily put under arrest - now that was scary!!!)

On a more cheerful note: If you're still looking for some last-minute Christmas gifts, consider goats, sheep and school fees for people in Tshalanyemba, Zimbabwe: www.silokwethemba.org

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anyone got cash?

So, there's a huge cash shortage in the country right now. There are long, snake-like queues at every bank - people waiting for hours and hours to withdraw their own money. Our friend had her salary deposited into her bank account Nov. 15 and she has gone to the bank every day since then trying to withdraw it. She is still unsuccessful, so has to beg and borrow for money to come to work every day. And what with inflation, the money has lost most of its value by now anyway. It's so sad. Everyone's looking for cash - for daily groceries never mind Christmas gifts and trips home to the village...

A friend invited us over for dinner last week. We were so touched. Then she came to my office and showed me the list of food items she needed to buy and how much each cost. So we had to fork over the money, and then the dinner ended up being canceled! Hmmm... good business opportunity (scam)! When she showed up with a new purse and hairstyle, we had to ask for it back!

This morning on the way to work there were police men (and women) with guns everywhere. The amount of resources spent on security for one man is quite remarkable. They were standing around in the rain. It has been pouring since last night. I don't know how our newly planted tomatoes are going to fare - they are drenched. I know we've been praying for rain, but this is a bit much... If only we could sell rain for cash... (uh oh, I'm starting to think like a Zimbabwean!) :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bible

For the past few years I have read the Bible cover-to-cover in a year. This year I read it backwards - by book, not by word (I'm not insane!) What a great book. I know the Bible has caused a lot of controversy over the years, and I don't want to get into all of that. I just want to say that it is an incredible narrative. Seriously, there's something in there for everyone - historians, cynics, poets, romantics, story tellers, those of us trying to lead a full life. Sure, there are boring parts (is that sacrilegious?) but there are also amazing parts. Can I just say that I love Jesus? It's true. I love the way he loved others, I love the way he bothered religious people, and I love the way he started a revolution. The Bible - check it out!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Monday

Yesterday I was walking the last few minutes home of my run (it's really hard to actually run when you're having digestion problems!) and I heard a loud gunshot. I ducked, looked to my left and saw 4 young guys laughing and playing with a rifle. It made me nervous, but it also reminded me of when we were first married and we moved to Regent. We would lie in bed, listening to the sounds of our neighbourhood and make guesses - firecrackers or gunshots? We'll be home for a holiday soon - we can finally say NEXT WEEK!

Yesterday was also international human rights day, and we had the day off (although I think that was more to do with the fact that most people who work at our office are officers, and they are having an officers' councils). We actually both had to work in the morning, but we took the afternoon for a movie and pizza (Bourne Ultimatum - has it come out in the theatres yet for you?) :) Then we walked home and tried to plant some tomatoes, but it started pouring.

By the way, did you read about Christopher Smith? He is a man with schizophrenia who was deported to Jamaica last month. He was found roaming the streets of Kingston, and his family in Canada were very concerned. So Canada Border Services brought him back! The world will never stop amazing me!

Friday, December 07, 2007

3 everyday occurrences

#1: Inflation. A man was selling tomatoes outside of our office building, and they were cheap - only $400,000/bag - so everyone was buying some. Our friend who was driving our combi home bought two bags. Then on the way home, we drove past a lady selling tomatoes outside of her house. He offered her one of his bags for $800,000 - double the price. That's inflation! Everyone is always thinking of business opportunities here.

#2: Stealing and consequences. Sunday at church the youth choir got up to sing their song, and while they were doing so, one of the youth had her cell phone stolen from her purse. This is quite common. You often hear of people going to pray at the mercy seat up front and finding their purse/cellphone/money/child in one case(!) missing when they come back. This particular girl had had things stolen on several occasions, and had a suspect. The officer (pastor) talked to the suspect, and the girl kept denying everything. So the police were called. When the police arrived, they asked the pastor to leave. The police recovered the cell phone within 10 minutes. The girl had been beaten and thrown in prison, and she doesn't have any family, so no one is bringing her any food in the cell.

#3: Accidents. 4 officers were driving to South Africa this week to try to find some food for officers' councils. A cow ran into the road, so they swerved to miss it. They ended up in a ditch, and before they could get back onto the road, they went onto a bridge, and then off of it at a 90 degree angle. It's a miracle that they're alive. Road accidents are unfortunately very, very common here.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Flying ants and farmers

Last night I went to visit friends and there were a multitude of flying ants in their living room. I was conscripted to run around trying to catch them by their wings. Then I put them in a bowl of water. They would later be stripped of their wings, fried in oil and eaten. You can't knock free protein! I have been missing the hustle and bustle of Christmas - concerts, lights, snow, caroling and hot chocolate... but I guess I'm making new traditions!

I read a very interesting book on the weekend: "When a crocodile eats the sun" by Peter Godwin - a white Zimbabwean now living in the U.S. It was strange to recognize most places in the book; to have met some of the people in the narrative. The book tells the story of his family, but also the story of Zimbabwe up to a few years ago. To be totally honest, before moving here, I didn't have much sympathy for white Africans. I got a very liberal, anti-colonial education at U of T. In reading this book, however, I was really moved to compassion reading about white farmers who had their lands taken over in the early 2000s. Of course everyone agrees that land distribution had to take place - it's obvious. But the way it was done was so... horrific. So dehumanizing. So economically devastating. Imagine - people who had legitimately bought and tilled their land, and employed hundreds or thousands of black workers had to flee and see everything they worked for just demolished and taken over by war veterans, or people who claimed to have seen war but really just wanted to take advantage of an opportunity. It was so disheartening to read of young men who had been adopted, cared for and schooled by some of these farmers then turning on them in violence. My family has joked that I'm racist against white people, and maybe I am a bit, but it's really not funny. Racism in any form is wrong. Abuse of power and oppression is wrong in any situation. One of the major themes in the national media here is that the West only cares about Zimbabwe because they are in solidarity with white farmers; and they want to punish Zimbabwe because of what happened to the whites; they are racist. For myself, I don't really feel a connection with these evicted farmers because we share similar skin tones, but because they're human beings. Just like I feel a connection with Zimbabweans who don't have a similar skin tone as me but are also fellow human beings - who are hungry and mourning and coping in miraculous and marvelous ways. Do you believe me?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

We got mail!

Today I got a wonderful surprise in the mail - a Catholic hymn book in Acholi. One of the girls that I met in Gulu, northern Uganda, sent it to me. When I stayed with Kathy at St. Monica's we would sing with the girls in the late afternoons until the sun set. This one girl - Nivana - was very curious about me because I knew some Acholi words (which were similar to Shona) and I can also sing harmony ("are you sure you're white?") :) She was very sweet, and today she sent me the hymn book in the mail, marked the numbers that were my favourite, and said in a letter "things sound tough in Zimbabwe - I'm praying for you." She also invited me to her wedding next year. I can't tell you how touched I was! God is good. It's a wonderful thing to be remembered. My highschool friend Katherine also remembered us. We got 9 packages of Kraft Dinner and chocolate bars in the mail. She had posted them in February, but better late than never!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Weekend in the South

We have just been away for 5 days in the south of the country. It was hot, and we fought mosquitoes and runny stomach (did you need to know that?) but it was a great trip. The people of Zimbabwe are friendly, welcoming, fun and gracious. Wednesday we had a heavy 5 hours of rain in Harare, which was amazing. Zimbabwe REALLY doesn't need more drought right now... We got absolutely drenched on our lunchtime stroll, but we couldn't really complain, because we have to think of farms and food production, etc. To be honest, we tried to escape the rain by going to the country's best burger joint. Unfortunately, they didn't have any burgers. In fact they didn't have anything we tried to order. Eventually we suggested that the waiter should just tell us what they were serving rather than bring a menu!

Thursday we drove to Bulawayo with the Chief. Bulawayo is the second largest city, and about a 5 - 6 hour drive south of Harare. There was barely any traffic because of the severe fuel shortages. Friday we went to Tshelanyemba hospital. It was good to be back there. Our friend Dawn is a Canadian doctor who has been serving the rural community there for ages. Actually, she is due to retire soon, so if you know of a doctor who is willing to work for peanuts and be the only doctor for about 100kms with water and electricity restrictions, please let us know asap. We were there for the unveiling of an irrigation project, a container of supplies and "Canada house" (built and paid for by Salvationists in Newfoundland). It was sad to be there - to hear of the numbers of people dying of hunger, to hear about the difficulty in accessing basic medications, etc. but at the same time it was a hopeful place - because you see the commuity coming together despite hardship. In the late afternoon we drove through the beautiful Matopos (they say God just started throwing rocks down at the place, because the way they balance on top of each other is incredible!) and spent the night at Masiye camp - which is gorgeous. In the morning we ran to a beautiful dam, and more than once John asked why we had to have been posted in stressful Harare at THQ!! We saw some really beautiful places this weekend.

Saturday we went to Usher Institute - a Salvation Army boarding school which is infamous for the murder of a few white teachers back during the troubles, but famous for its quality education. They have about 700 female boarders - secondary and primary. The young ones were very cute - we'll have to post a photo. Usher is struggling to retain teachers, so again, if you want to teach in a rural area and get paid in tomatoes - please let us know!

Sunday we had 2 church services in Bulawayo, and we got to hang with our friend Kim. I had the chance to speak out against discrimination in the church re: HIV/AIDS (since December 1st was World AIDS Day) - and that was good. A Salvationist came up to me after saying that she's positive and thanking me for my words. HIV is still really associated with adultery, prostitution and sin and so there is still a lot of stigma in the churches. The decor in the second church was interesting - they had made centerpieces of fake flowers, spinach and carrots. I noticed there was a mad rush after the service to get the produce. We didn't shop, but we heard that there is food in stores in Bulawayo. They say the food is expensive because they get it from Botswana, but at least that's better than the bare shelves of Harare. I think it's one of those stresses that kind of goes un-talked-about - the fact that you can't buy food in shops. It's all about connections. We have a lady who can connect us with eggs, and our neighbour is now sourcing bread for us. We hear rumours about sugar or flour and then follow them up. It doesn't matter if you have money (although, obviously money helps if you're going to the blackmarket!) - you have to have connections in order to get basic commodities (which are usually found through someone doing cross-border trading). Even cash - you have to have connections to get money! Right now people are lining up for hours to withdraw the daily limit of $5million (less than $3u.s. in real money). We're all just waiting for the new currency to be announced. Oh, and did you hear that Zim made it into the Guinness book of world records again? Next year's government budget has been proposed, and it's the only in the world to be in quadrillions (12 zeroes). Ah, Zimbabwe... Unfortunately, we missed the million man march in support of the President on the weekend. Never a dull moment...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ups and Downs

Sunday afternoon I took the plan home from Vic Falls. It was a small plane, so we were flying quite low, and I was marvelling at the landscape. I had several of those, "wow, I am in Africa moments" and felt awed at the privilege and honour of living here.

Monday morning I couldn't go for my run, because our compound gate was locked (the security guard hadn't showed up). I went back to work, and I was locked out of my office because my work-mate has lost his set of keys as well as the extra set, so he borrowed mine. I was also locked out of the main building, because I'm not important enough to have a security key! It took 2 hours for my computer to logon, and I can't access my email or the internet. Printing a letter took 3 hours and a lot of running around. Yesterday I was just frustrated.

I guess that's life - ups and downs, good days and bad days. I once said to my dad (full of youthful enthusiasm), "you know, you should live each day as if it were going to be your last). And he said something like, "it's a nice idea, but sometimes you just have to have ordinary days." True. (By the way, speaking of my dad, please go to my brother Joel's blog and watch his video of the week - it is HILARIOUS!)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Weekend at the falls

I just got back from Victoria Falls, and John's still there. We decided we needed a mental-health weekend away, and it did just the trick. (John has a few extra holidays so he stayed on, but I'm assuming that he WILL come back to Harare on Tuesday...) :) We saw the glorious, majestic falls, we ate a lot of food, we swam in the pool, we watched movies late into the night (t.v. is such a novelty!) and we read (by the way - we both just read "The Glass Palace" by Amitav Ghosh - set in Burma - recommended!) We didn't take any photos - but we just rested, relaxed, and avoided talking about work. We've been married about 5 1/2 years, and we're still so in love - it's awesome. I hope you had a good weekend too!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thursday musings

I miss having the internet at work (something blew up...) and I can't believe we didn't get a raise this month. My monthly salary is currently worth about 26 cents. I make $3us a year! Oh well. They were having a discussion in the combi about how we're not going to receive pay slips anymore because the cost of the paper/ink/envelope is more than the actual salary. You know it's bad when...

But I shouldn't complain. I was reading the story in the Bible about the Israelites starting to complain about being sick and tired of manna. Really they should have just been thankful that God was providing something for them to eat every day. I am truly thankful for daily provision - in a way I never was in Canada. The other day a friend was saying to me, "when you go back to Canada people will try to convince you to stay. And it's true that we don't have food here, and our economy is terrible. But you just remember that people here love you. We need you here." It was sweet. Another friend just got her cast removed from her arm. She came to show me because where the cast used to be, her skin is quite white. She said it made her think of me! :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bread

We found a loaf of bread and bought it. This is an event in Zim. We got home and cut it - imagining a nice chewy piece of bread with home-made (not by us) peanut butter. But the bread wasn't cooked inside. What a shame! But we're ok... We'll be in Canada for a holiday in less than a month! I hear they still have lots of bread there...

Monday, November 19, 2007

They graduated!

Did you miss me? I've been away from my internet life for a week. Oh, it was a stressful week, but an amazing one too. It was the final ingathering for the Zimbabwe School of Youth Leadership. I wasn't sleeping much, and marking papers almost every moment of every day (I even gave up running for a week, and trust me - this morning was painful!) But the graduation
was on Thursday night and it was SUCH a blessing. I felt like a proud mom. 12 graduated, and I think another 2 will finish (they couldn't attend because of medical reasons). The school has been challenging, in terms of finding enough money for basic food items and getting support for a new programme, but I feel like it's been a really good thing, and an accomplishment. The students have written some amazing stuff, and I'm hoping some of it will be published somewhere. The students bless me and encourage me. They're great leaders, and I know they'll become even better. And this country is crying out for good, non-corrupt, unselfish leaders.

The day after the graduation the students were doing some visitation at the men's shelter on our compound. They were moved by some of the men's stories. They came to me and asked if they could do laundry for all the men who stay in the shelter here. So they washed all their
blankets and sheets, etc. by hand and then shared their last bit of food with them. And they all said - "this time last year, we would have never noticed these men, never mind talked to them, but now we now that God is at the margins and we have to be too." Ah, it was a blessing! Leadership is influence. I'm not saying this to be arrogant, but I feel proud that they learned this message from our school (my particular interest for the marginalized and for justice!) and that this will affect their leadership for the rest of their life.

Wednesday I attended the Zimbabwe AIDS network national annual general meeting. It was sort of surreal. We were at this amazing hotel, and when they reported how much money was spent on this one day conference, I must admit that I felt angry. Think of how many people could go on ARVs for that! But anyway.... I felt privileged to be there. There were 2 other white
women, but they were with donor agencies.

Sometimes life in Zimbabwe is really tough. But sometimes I just look at where I'm sitting, and who I'm sitting with, and I feel incredibly privileged and honoured that I get to be here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

105

So I was reading Time magazine over the weekend, and read a startling fact that for every 100 births in Eastern Europe (including Russia), there are 105 abortions. More babies are being aborted than being born in that part of the world. To me, that's scary. In elementary and high school I used to be a strong advocate of anti-abortion - in my writing, speechifying, etc. Then I went to university and was introduced to feminism and realized that there are lots of special circumstances, and that women's control over their own bodies and their ability to make choices is important. So, like any social issue, it's complicated. But I read a stat like that and I wonder... In the same issue I was reading about all kinds of heroes who are fighting climate change and other environmental issues. And I became so thankful for these scientists, entrepreneurs and businesspeople who are using their brains to save our earth. Reading about them made me grateful, but it also made me wonder about all these aborted babies; all of this potential life that is just gone. What if they were going to be the next brilliant minds? What if one of them was going to find the cure for cancer? What if they were going to be the next generation of great political leaders? Just wondering...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kitchen party

I went to my first kitchen party on Saturday afternoon. It's pretty much like a bridal shower. My friend's young sister is getting married in December, so a whole house-ful of ladies got together to celebrate with her. We ate a lot, and sat on the ground in a big circle in the living room. When the programme started, the soon-to-be-bride had to sit in the middle of the circle and be covered with a towel. She was only allowed to be "revealed" when enough money was raised for her (don't worry - I gave more than a month's salary!) Then all the advice started. The main items of advice were: always look sexy/smart, keep your house really clean, and don't talk too much! One lady suggested that you clean your house in a mini-skirt because it kills two birds with one stone! (I guess three birds if you clean the toilet in a mini skirt and don't talk while you're doing it!) I was fascinated by all of the practical sex tips, and there was a lot of advice about in-laws too. I continue to learn new things every day. I was glad I wasn't asked to give advice though. Most of the things that make our marriage really good would have taken the party in a whole new direction (i.e. sharing house-hold chores, respect for one another, communication and telling the other person you love them every day, enjoying each other...) To each her own!

Friday, November 09, 2007

2 tomatoes


Well, we're still making $350,000/month, but now instead of 4 tomatoes, we can only buy 2 (and one of them has to be small). Inflation is killer!

OK, don't judge me but this week I spent a year's salary on a box of Rice Krispies (well, not really Rice Krispies, but a South African version of them - the Rice Krispies were out of my league). It's not in my nature to spend all of my money as soon as I get it, or to blow a month's salary on a breakfast cereal, but this is Zim....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Click

My mom & dad sent us the movie "Click" which we got in the mail yesterday and watched last night (did you know that we've had power for 4 nights in a row? It's a bit eerie!) I wasn't expecting to get anything out of an Adam Sandler movie, but I was actually quite moved by the story. If you haven't heard of it (I have no idea if it's new or old) - it's about a guy who gets a magical remote control and starts fastforwarding his life (intentionally and then unintentionally) so that he can skip showers and fights with his wife and sickness and boring times at working waiting for a promotion. And he learns to absolutely dread this fastforwarding because although he is skipping over tough times, he is also missing out on amazing moments and years! I cried (and this was ALMOST as ridiculous as crying at "Jack Frost"!) but it was just really touching to remember that in all of the tough times there are good times, and I don't want to fast-forward through any of my life. I want to live it and feel it - with all the ups and downs, feasts and famines, tears and laughs, hugs and fights. Life is the great adventure.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kids say the darndest things!

This morning a friend was talking about her 10 year old son. At Sunday school, his teacher had asked him who created the world. He thought for a second and then answered "Mugabe." She figures it's because he is praised so much and given credit for so much in the media everyday. The propaganda machine strikes young - yikes! (John thinks the scariest part is that his parents are pastors - shouldn't the identity of God as Creator of the world have come up in conversation?)

Confidence is my favourite kid. I know you're not supposed to have favourites, but she's mine. She's just so cute, and from day one she has made us feel welcome and special in this country. She made me a card the other day and this is the inscription: "For my friend Rochelle from Confidence. I love you like a golden bus moving on a silver road." So sweet!

Jealousy

I was reading the Ten Commandments this morning, and the last one struck me - about not coveting/not being jealous. Yesterday we walked to the supermarket at lunchtime. The shelves are pretty much empty, but we did find some beans, corn and peaches, so we brought them to the checkout counter. The woman who was packing our bags placed a loaf of bread in our bag and quietly said to the till manager "just charge them $100,000." We haven't seen bread in shops for months! It was a real treat, and $100,000 for a loaf is a steal! When we got back to work, everyone was asking about the loaf. Some were congratulating us on our success. The 3 ladies I work with in my building were angry because they had been to that same shop and did not get any bread. They were jealous, and refused to speak to me for the rest of the afternoon. A loaf of bread. If I'm honest I'll admit that there are some days when I'm jealous of my friends who are actually making/saving money, driving cars, enjoying electricity every day, embarking on careers and families, etc. Jealousy is not good - it tears us apart rather than bringing us together. I think that's why it makes a nice 10th commandment. I guess we all have a lot to learn about just being content with what we have, instead of always wanting what others have.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Weekend wrap-up

We got an unexpected announcement that our office would be closed on Friday and that we all had the day off. Unfortunately, we both had to work. John went to Howard where the chief of the region was donating 100 tonnes of maize to the Howard Hospital. And I went to Kadoma with two other women to lead a grief seminar. I find the seminars really interesting - for example hearing about the myths and superstitions surrounding death (such as if a twin dies, no one should cry/mourn because it means that the other twin will die - how tough for the parents - and for that other twin!!) I also led a very interesting discussion on how men and women grieve differently. The women were all saying that men don't feel anything and get over death quickly. They believe this because men don't cry and stay outside of the house during all of the mourning. Of course, the men said that they do feel grief, but they show it in different ways (I tried to point out that society would never allow them to cry or be on the inside). The women wouldn't buy it. They're convinced that men just don't care.

Saturday John went to Mazowe high school for their prize giving day, and I stayed in Harare doing normal things - lining up for an hour to get a bag of rolls from the bakery, visiting with friends, watching "Simon Birch" with some teenagers who haven't had electricity at their house for 2 months. I cry every time I see that movie (the girls all cried too). There's just something very beautiful about true friendship. Saturday night we were planning on going to hear Fred Hammond. There are posters all over town advertising "Fred Hammond in concert." I was thrilled that one of the best gospel singers in the world was coming to Harare! We went to buy the tickets and someone admitted to us that Fred wasn't actually coming, but that members of the church would be singing his music. He admitted that they were using false advertising to try to make some money. That's corruption for you... This is Zimbabwe!

Happy Birthday today to my Grandpa - bless his heart. Saturday was John's dad's birthday, and Friday was Johnny's birthday, so we are very thankful for the lives of these 3 special men, and pray God's deepest blessings of peace and joy on all of them.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Snippets from life

Ordinary thing: It's hot! October is the hottest month of the year here. It's not humid though, so I love this weather! It will be nice when the rains come though. We've planted some corn and coriander and green beans in the garden, so we want to see them grow!

Sweet thing: Yesterday John went to a grocery store and found meat! It's been over 4 months since we've seen meat in any shops, so it was quite exciting! He made this lovely lamb dinner last night - it was almost like we were back in Canada. And he found cream cheese. This morning I had a toasted bagel with cream cheese - it was heavenly. The other day John also brought home red roses for me. I have a really good husband.

Embarrassing thing: Monday morning I was to attend a workshop at the Zimbabwe Council of Churches re: HIV/AIDS and the Churches' response. The letter said to meet at the Kentucky Hotel. So I went there and waited around. It was supposed to start at 8:00am. At around 8:20 I was starting to get a bit anxious, so I went outside, and heard some singing coming from the building marked "Zimbabwe Council of Churches." I slipped in through the front door and sat down in the only available seat and started singing and clapping. It turns out that it was being reserved for the chairman of the meeting, so that was a bit embarrassing, but they went and got another chair. I sang, and listened to the devotions. And then came announcement time. And I realized this wasn't the Zimbabwe Council of Churches - but rather a board meeting for Christian Care (who had moved into the building, but hadn't changed the sign!) and then I was introduced as the special guest!!! I tried to explain that I was in the wrong place, but it wasn't translating well, so I just tried to say some encouraging words about Christian Care. It was awkward and difficult to leave, so when I finally did, I was an hour late for my own workshop that had started at the hotel!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

I am often amazed by people who don't just think of doing good things, but who actually do them. My friend Gaia - who I went to high school with and got reunited with on facebook - sent us movies and Halloween candy. I must admit, I wasn't expecting Halloween candy this year! She sent candy corn, which is kind of funny, because John and I always joke that Zimbabweans like maize in any form. And maize is similar to corn - so now people can all try a whole new form of maize!

I know a lot of Christians get uptight about Halloween, but we're a very Christian family, and we always celebrated in full force. Not in the "worship evil spirits and dress up as ghosts and ghouls and have an excuse for vandalism" way. But we got dressed up and had lots of free candy, and always went to see old people in our costumes so that we could sing for them. And we always carved jack-o-lanterns with my dad and then baked the pumpkin seeds. My dad was really good at making creative faces on the pumpkins. And the 4 of us would always come home and start trading. Uh oh - I'm getting sentimental, and I just might cry.... happy halloween!

P.S. Happy engagement to our good friend Kim and her soon-to-be-husband David!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A year and a half

On Sunday we celebrated 1 and a half years in Zimbabwe. So now we're over halfway through our 3 year term here. I'm tempted to say, "my the time has flown" but if truth be told, it's felt like we've been here 10 years already!! Of course (geek that I am) I had to evaluate myself and the past year and a half. There are things I could have done better at (i.e. learning Shona or visiting people more) but there are things we've done well too. We've made some good friends, and done some good work, and shared life with people.

For example... Saturday I went to my friend Alice's baptism at the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was eventful. I was sitting with Gogo and Melissa. Gogo is quite old and doesn't know how to whisper, so she was making all her comments to me in quite a loud voice (like when someone was testifying and she said "I have no idea what she's going on about, but she looks sweet!") Melissa has down syndrome. She would say random things to me (like "I don't want to go to Afghanistan") and at one point she was enjoying the singing and so got up and started dancing. We were in the front row, and this caused quite a stir. I refused to ask her to sit down even though everyone behind us was sneering! Sunday night we took some friends out to celebrate birthdays - and it was just fun to eat together and share jokes. That's what we came here for - to share life.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Back to business

And we're back! It's so marvelous to have electricity/internet/phones at work again. John's bagels are so yummy too. I've got an amazing husband. Oh, from last time - Amai Shumba: it means Mrs. Lion (John's totem is lion, and a lot of people here men by their totems).

We continue to learn new and interesting things in Zimbabwe. I was reading an article in the paper last night that caught my attention. It was entitled, "Employees adopt survival plans" and it was about how employees are using their businesses/government offices/places of employment to run their own business. For example, Moses works in a garage. Customers come in to the well-known establishment, and he tells them the prices for service but then in a hushed tone says, "but if you come to my place after work, I'll do the service for cheaper." Or Thomas works in a bar and stocks half of the fridge with his own beer to sell and make personal profits on top of his salary. Blessing works in a government office which registers companies. But he ends up referring most of them to his friends/partners who operate a company registration firm and give him a share of the profits for recruiting so many customers. People use company vehicles/phones/time for personal business transactions. Would you call this unorthodox? Corrupt? Survival?

I remember when we moved here, everyone asked me what my business was going to be. I explained that I had a full time job with The Salvation Army, and they were like, "no, outside of your work." EVERYONE here has a business - whether they're unemployed or working full-time as church pastors or government ministers or business people. It just gets a bit tricky when there's corruption involved, or when this business takes up all of the time you are supposed to spend on your "real" job. But I guess it's survival. By the way - want to buy some onions? :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ahem, yes I'm the new secretary!

You are looking at (ok, well reading the words of) the newest Secretary to the Executive council of the Zimbabwe AIDS Network - Harare chapter. Yep, I won the election today. The funny part is that no one even knows my real name - I ran as Amai Shumba, because I knew no one would be able to understand spell either my first or last (real) name. It will be a lot of work - but great exposure.

In other news, we're still without power at work - it's been over a week now. It makes you realize how dependent you are on computers! The Pritchetts are visiting Zimbabwe, and it's wonderful to have faces from home - they brought us chocolate and Pringles too - God is good. And our friends the Wards are heading to Pakistan to lead The Salvation Army there - which is huge! There's a short little update. 2 months til we land in Toronto for Christmas....

Friday, October 19, 2007

I miss electricity!

Sorry I've been out of commission for a while. We haven't had electricity/phones/internet at work this week. We're on the same power grid as the main public hospital, so we think they're rewiring cables to make the hospital a separate grid (so that they can keep their power on while giving the rest of us in the city centre our fair share of load-shedding). Fun! Although, obviously I'm thankful that they're interested in keeping power on at the hospital. I'm writing you from an internet cafe in town - and it only took 20 minutes for me to load up this page. I shouldn't really complain. It's just that I thought we were going to get a raise this week, and we didn't (so with inflation, now John and I each make 50 cents each a month!) It's so hard to know what to do with our monthly salary - buy 4 tomatoes or combine our salaries and get an ice cream cone (it's hot in Harare these days!) I'm just kidding of course. As soon as we get paid, we give the money away. I wonder if there's a way to store electricity in our suitcases when we go home at Christmas....

Monday, October 15, 2007

Trusting God

Last Sunday I gave a presentation on sexual trafficking at one of the churches here, and as a thank you, they gave me $2million (what can I say? I'm a good speaker!!) Anyway, John and I agreed that we should give this money straight away, so when we got home, we brought it to one of our neighbours. As it turns out, she had been very sick, and was heading out the door to buy medication. She was dressed and ready to go, but did not have any money, so she had been praying that God would send her some. And He did - $2 million; right on time. Saturday she was marveling about how God always takes care of her. Whenever there isn't a morsel of food in the house, she prays, and then someone comes by with a little something. Every time. She and her husband had been arguing over giving money in the offering plate at church. He was saying that they have so little, and she was saying that if they gave it, God would continue to bless them. When I came by yesterday with a small gift, she said to her husband, "see? now you have to admit that I was right!" I'm not a fan of the prosperity gospel - the whole idea that you can become rich if you give to God; televangelists asking people to put money in the offering plate, or send money via a cheque so that God can bless them threefold. It just doesn't ring true to me because I know too many people who are poor economically but very faithful to God. But my friend made me think twice. There's definitely something very special about trusting in God and listening to God and sharing. There's something wonderful about giving to God - not because you expect to become rich, but because you expect that He will use your family members and friends and neighbours to take care of you and bless you. My friend's faith humbles me and astounds me. She (and so many of our friends here) are literally relying on God for their daily bread - and trusting in a good God who will continue to take care of them. It's a simple, beautiful faith that I admire and desire. Our friend got tears in her eyes when she said to me, "I thank God every day for you and John. All of the time I was crying because all of my family is gone, and then God sent you - in an airplane - all the way from Canada. I know that you are a gift to me, because God always answers my prayers." What an honour - to be part of a miracle; part of the answer to someone's prayers. I see miracles every single day. I love God.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In sickness and in health

Yesterday I finished up the two day workshop on mainstreaming gender into the church. There was this one really interesting discussion/debate on whether pastors need to review the wedding vows - particularly the part about "in sickness and in health." It would seem that in Zimbabwe this verse is interpreted as "a woman must stick by her husband and obey all of his wishes including unprotected sex and reproducing children even if he is ill; and even if he is HIV+ and exercising these rights means that the wife will become infected. This isn't exactly the framework I was thinking of on my wedding day... Personally I feel that these conjugal rights are related to lobola. If you buy your wife, you probably feel like you have the right to do whatever you want to her/with her whenever you want, right?

There was also an interesting discussion on paternity leave. One guy spoke up and said, "but if you have 6 wives, you'll be on paternity leave all year, and that will severely affect production and the economy of the nation." True... I guess if you're in that situation, you just really have to get your timing right!

The Great Zimbabwean Bagel

We ate bagels this morning. I baked them two nights ago, and I was surprised at how easy it was to make them. The key is to boil the dough before baking, which gives the bagels a smooth and chewy crust. Yumm… Does anyone know how to make Montreal smoked meat?

My next culinary experiment will be replicating the Big Mac. It’s good to have goals.

We are running out of books!!! I just downloaded four new ones to read on my Palm Pilot, which will hopefully get me through the next few weeks. I downloaded Alice Munro’s The View from Castle Rock, Ernest Hemmingway’s Short Stories and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I’m really looking forward to reading Murakami’s stuff. I read one of his short stories from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman last night and thoroughly enjoyed his writing style.

We’re coming home to Canada at Christmas for a short vacation, so we’ll be stocking up on some more books. I will definitely be picking up MG Vassanji’s The Assassin’s Song and Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air. Do you have any book recommendations?

Two of my recent favourites: Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero and Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Rochelle’s brother Joel just sent us some movies, so that should slow down my reading rampage. We watched a few episodes of Lost last night (thanks, Joel!) on my laptop while we ate a very Canadian supper: Fried egg on a bagel, corn on the cob, watermelon and strawberries. All of the food was grown locally, except for the flour used to make the bagels. We haven’t spent much time on our garden lately, but we’ve got onions, peppers and carrots growing right now and we’ll plant a new batch of sweet corn this weekend. We also have plenty of lavender growing in the front of our house, so I occasionally cut a few branches and throw them into our morning bath.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gender, curses and a feast

I just spent the morning at the Holiday Inn for a meeting with UNICEF. They were gathering churches from the National Faith Based Council to come and talk about gender mainstreaming within the church. Gender is such a fascinating topic anywhere, but in Zimbabwe it always makes an interesting discussion. I was sitting next to a woman who has founded and pastors her own church. The first Sunday she led services her husband was ashamed and left home never to return. There is such a difference between what people say in meetings like this one, and what they say over the lunch table afterwards - or in the combi ride home. (Like, "gender equality is a foreign, white thing. It will never happen in our African culture" or in The Salvation Army they'll say, "oh of course my wife could be a divisional commander, as long as she knows she's the slave at home!") Right. I still can't get over the whole "girls are only valuable because they bring in money at their wedding" thing. At the wedding on Saturday they raised $182 million (we know this, because each relative and friend goes to the front and announces their gift as they present it and then totals are announced). I can't imagine being bought by my husband (although here, everyone can't believe that John got me for free!)

I am SO thankful for a husband who both loves and respects me. Actually, last night I was visiting some friends, and one of them asked me if I had given a magic potion (made mostly of boiled lizards) to John. You see, he was home making bagels (who does that? what a clever guy - they're delicious!) while I was out visiting. Because John likes to be in the kitchen, people assume that I have put a curse on him. And they're serious! I know one thing for sure - I would not have lasted 1 week as a Zimbabwean wife (because of my total lack of skill in almost every home-making activity!) People here generally preach that if you don't go by prescribed, traditional gender roles, you will be unhappy in your marriage, and it will never last. But it works for us! We don't fit the mold at all, but we're happy, and we both feel like we have an amazing marriage.

P.S. We had a buffet lunch after the meeting. I don't know where hotels are getting their food, but it was a feast! At the end, one of the waitresses came up to me and asked if I'd like to settle the bill for everyone. I realized I was the only white person in the crowded restaurant. I guess assumptions are hard to beat in any category!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sorry about the jacarandas

There are jacaranda trees all around Harare. They are beautiful trees which make lovely archways and a beautiful purple carpet on the ground. They are similar to lilacs (my mom's favourite), and remind me of Anne of Green Gables. Yesterday I was in the back of a pick-up truck and I asked if the jacarandas were native to Zimbabwe. Then I got an earful! As it turns out, the jacarandas were brought here by the varungu (whites) who thought they looked beautiful, and so they planted them everywhere. They even used to have festivals where they would all dress up in the same colours to match the trees and get their photos taken. But most "real" Zimbabweans are allergic to jacarandas. It makes them cough and sneeze (the people talking coughed here to emphasize the point). The people who were telling me about the jacarandas were angry. So I decided that I should apologize - on behalf of "my" people - the horribly racist whites who obviously wanted to poison the Blacks with their lust for beauty (wait - this is sounding like "The Herald"!) So, I said I was sorry, and this satisfied the people in the back of the truck. I didn't have much to do with this tree decision, but I'm guessing that no one else is lining up to come here about apologize about the jacarandas. (By the way, did you see that descendants of Lothar van Trotha apologized to the Herero people for the 1904 massacres and forced starvation over land ownership in Namibia? Better late than never, I guess...)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! We are missing family, friends and turkey in Canada, but we still have hundreds of reasons to give thanks. I am thankful for John, family and friends, running water, flour from Zambia (and a husband who makes good bread), our health, people who support us in prayer, our washing machine (and enough electricity on the weekend to do 2 loads of wash!), e-mail, our garden, great neighbours, people who don't judge me, chocolate, so, so, so many good people that I know and love.... I won't get into the whole list, but you get the idea.

We had a good weekend. We spent the day Saturday at a wedding. It amazes me that in these difficult circumstances, people still pull off events with 8 bridesmaids in gorgeous dresses and feeding hundreds of people, etc. etc. It was a beautiful event, and the photo shoot was at a wonderful sculpture garden (which, of course, the Shonas are famous for). In the evening we went to a concert to commemorate World Palliative Care and Hospice Day. It was put on by Island Hospice, where I do my volunteer work, and it was a delightful concert - with everything from the National Ballet to African Voice to a jazz band to classical piano. It brought back a lot of memories - of high school days in the stage band, to piano recitals, to seeing the Canadian national ballet at the Harbourfront to singing at National, etc. It made me thankful for my past, present and future.

Then yesterday I had my own little private Thanksgiving service - listing so many things I'm thankful for - and just really being grateful to God. It's so easy for me to complain, and yet when I looked at this list of all I'm thankful for I wondered how I can ever not give thanks! In the absence of turkey, we celebrated at a French restaurant (I had prawns and John had lamb curry - yum!) with our friends David and Brenda. At home I chatted with Gogo for a bit (she had this long, intricate, fascinating story about being bit by a monkey!) and then watched "Moulin Rouge." It was an odd Thanksgiving weekend, but a nice one. Thank you, God!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Teachers' Strike

This morning I was asked to pray about the teachers' strike, which is a sore point for parents because many students are supposed to write exams starting next week (i.e. grade 7 exams, which determine where kids will be able to attend high school). Teachers are requesting $16.7 million/month, up from their current $3million (note: I met a teacher last week who was still getting $30,000/month, so I guess things are even more desperate the rural areas!) This is quite a rise, but keep in mind that we have the highest inflation in the world and that in real money, this pay hike would still amount to less than $35us.

Paying teachers is quite an important justice issue - at least paying them enough to feed their own children and send them to school. Zimbabweans are always bragging to us about how ours is the best education system on the continent. I would guess that in order to keep it that way, we would need teachers who need to be slightly motivated to keep on teaching. Before the strike, some teachers were refusing to teach during regular school hours, and then charging their own rates for after-school tutorials. Everyone in Zimbabwe has some form of business. In fact, it was one of the first questions people asked us when we moved here - "what's your business going to be?" They meant outside of our full-time jobs, of course.

About those jobs... my new job is challenging but great, and I'm trying to learn as much as possible in a short space of time. We're still going strong at $350,000 each, but we get housing/electricity/water/phones, etc. paid for. Well, when there IS electricity, and hmmm, when was the last time our phone worked?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ability

The Salvation Army is working on a national-level partnership with World Vision, and so last week I spent 3 days with World Vision staff in Hurungwe, seeing how they work. Of course, I have always been impressed with the multitude of services World Services offers and the way they are helping so many thousands (millions?) of people around the world. I'm also impressed by the way World Vision is trying to integrate disability into a more general HIV/AIDS framework. Last week we visited a Disabled Persons Organization deep in the rural areas. When we arrived, the whole crowd was huddled into a building they had constructed themselves. Their strengths were obvious from the beginning. For example, 40 out of 56 disabled children in the community are not attending school, and so the group is advocating for them. The district told them that the kids were not allowed to be integrated, and that they needed special classrooms, but that there are no spare buildings. So the group started making bricks, and they're still fighting. I was touched by the way members of the group helped each other - a woman using her only hand to guide a blind man using a stick, a man with a heart problem inventing sign language to communicate with a girl who cannot hear.

In this country there is a lot of discrimination against people with disabilities. Children are often hidden away in their homes, and not allowed to play with other kids. Pregnant women fear seeing disabled children, because some believe that the sighting will cause their babies to be born with a disability. An officer couple we know had a disabled child, and suddenly their church attendance dropped, and rumours of curses spread throughout the community. How painful!

I must say, Zimbabweans continue to impress me. Sometimes I get into a "woe is me - I live in economic hardship" mindset. And then I meet people who are not only living this hardship, but living it in the rural areas with drought, HIV+ and with a disability - and yet living with grace, hope, strength and a desire to help others. It's humbling.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Giraffes and meat

You know it's going to be a good day when you go for your morning run and see a mother giraffe walking with her brand new baby in the Woodlands near your house! By the way, we heard about a random giraffe that ended up in Chitungwiza (a high density suburb). Supposedly there was great debate in the community - do we set it free or kill it for meat?

Speaking of meat... the other day I arrived at a friend's house, and he served me meat on rice with some vegetables. I was surprised to see meat, and he said that a friend had given it to him that day, and so he decided to give it to me. He also said that this was the last food in the whole house. I awkwardly ate it as the rest of the family members looked on. I knew it would be rude to leave anything on my plate, but I couldn't help it - I left the best pieces of meat because I knew kids in the kitchen would eat it later. When I had finished, the family asked me to lead a prayer, asking God that somehow there would be food on the table the next day. Sometimes I feel like I'm a character in a Bible story, and it's humbling... (by the way, the prayer worked - someone gave us a chicken the next day, so we slaughtered it and killed it. It was really hard for me to get the meat off the bones because of its age. I learned the true meaning of "tough old bird!")

Monday, October 01, 2007

It's good to laugh

The last two nights I've woken myself up from a deep sleep laughing. I feel sorry for John, but I obviously couldn't help it - my dreams were just very funny. One of them was about a childhood play that my brothers and sisters and I put on about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the other one was about negotiating about meat prices in the rural areas (and I was laughing because of how Zimbabwean I've become). Actually, there have been a few times lately where I've noticed how Zimbabwean I am - like when I spend a million dollars without thinking about it, or I join a queue without knowing what it's for (but it's got to be for something good - like bread or sugar - if people are lining up!) or I look at what other people are carrying (like eggs) and then think, "I wonder where she got those? I wonder if there are any left?"

It's good to laugh because there is simply too much to cry about it. Last week after church a young man came up to John and asked who he was. John said his name, and then the man said, "oh good, I have something for you - from God." It was a fresh painting - very nouveau art with the whole paper being covered in dark green and brown. And it smelled like a toilet. The event was so random that I broke out into giggles, and could not even stop them to greet people properly. In Francistown I approached a security guard at the mall and asked where I could find the washroom. He was confused, so I said, "sorry, I mean the toilet" and his response was - "why do you want to wash in the toilet?" Crazy white people!

P.S. Happy Birthday to my Grandma - a courageous woman of prayer who has kind eyes and a wonderful laugh. We love you! xo

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Coughing Fit

Life in the season of influenza. This is a hard time of year in Zimbabwe… Sorry, I just had a coughing fit and now I can’t remember what I was writing.

I’m going to live. I’m popping antibiotics like they’re candy. Well, I’m taking them twice daily with plenty of water. I’m supposed to be at home resting, but it’s too quiet there. And other than the coughing, I feel much better. Except for the brief moments of dizziness, nasal congestion, ear pressure and that faint-throbbing sensation at the front of my head.

It’s nice talking with you (whoever you are). With Rochelle traveling so much I’ve had no one to talk to during the days or evenings. Last night I sat in my dark house (no electricity, no phone service) and spoke to the giant wall spiders in my living room. Of course they didn’t talk back (I’d be crazy if I thought that could happen) but one of the spiders did seem to understand me when I said that I’d have to get rid of him before my mother-in-law visited. The spider responded by quickly moving to our wall of pictures and stopping over the face of Rochelle. I’m not sure if that was his idea of a threat or not, but I’m not going to take any chances. I guess my mother-in-law will have to stay somewhere else when she visits.

I’m fairly introverted and a bit of a loner, so I’ve been surprised by how lonely I get living here. People are nice to me, and I suppose that I have many friends, but our conversations are quite limited. For example, last night two of my neighbours visited me to see how I was doing. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

“…Thanks for visiting. I’m doing much better but I still have a bad cough. I went to the doctor yesterday and he said that I have a chest infection and he gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I should be fine in a few days.”

“Well, you should see a doctor. Why haven’t you seen a doctor?”

(Right! Wait, it gets better.)

“…Rochelle’s away in Karoi for a few days. She went there with World Vision to explore some ways our organizations can partner together to fight HIV/AIDS. She should be back Friday night.”

“Good. So, where is Rochelle this evening? Is she home?”

(I had three similar conversations/miscommunications yesterday. Perhaps it’s my crazy Canadian accent?)

Rochelle is my primary friend, so when either of us travels, it becomes quite lonely for the other. I don’t know a single person here who would be interested in hearing about the last five books I’ve read. That’s not a bad thing, but it sucks for me. So all I talk about with my friends is The Salvation Army, the weather and the lack of bread and meat in the shops. And, of course, the constant greetings throughout the day (How are you? I’m fine if you’re fine…) Oh, wait, I almost forgot the ongoing discussion about why Rochelle and I have no children. Those are fun, too.

I went out for lunch today. I had some chicken, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Yesterday I had a potato for lunch and canned grapefruit for supper. The day before I had canned guava and an orange for lunch and then half a bowl of Kraft Dinner. Monday I had an orange and a red freeze-it (so cool on my sore throat). This was the tastiest day of the week. And probably the most nutritious. Don’t worry, Mom. I’m getting enough food.

There’s a man screaming outside. I think he’s in the parking lot of the medical clinic next door to my office. I’m not sure what sort of clinic it is, but I often hear people shouting or screaming. This does little to ease my fear and mistrust of the medical profession. Thankfully my doctor does not work there. He’s actually a nice man, considering that he sticks needles into people.


Here's a photo of Rochelle's new hairstyle. She's posing with Florence Pamacheche. Wait a minute, that can't be Rochelle. It must be John.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A few thoughts from Time

I get TIME magazine now. There's always something interesting... like the Chinese government trying to create legislation on re-incarnation (honestly - I can understand that governments like control - but trying to control re-incarnation!) or like half of the world's weapons being housed in the U.S. for private citizens (I know Canadians can tend to be a bit anti-American, but you have to admit that this is CRAZY!). I also read this fascinating article on the popularity of bottled water, and its environmental consequences. I have to admit that when EVIAN first came out, I thought, "there is NO way that people are going to pay for water - when you can get it for free!" Especially thinking that evian backwards is naive!!! And yet people do. I can't say I've never bought a bottle of water, but at home I always just drank from the tap. And trust me, now that I have to boil all of our water, I miss the beautiful luxury of just bringing a glass to the tap and drinking the sweet nectar. Seriously... sometimes we North Americans are crazy...

There was another very interesting article recently on Mother Teresa's "confessions" that after she heard the call of God to the poorest of the poor, she no longer felt the presence of God for decades, and yet was still faithful. Woah - I admire that. Personally I think I would go insane if I didn't feel the presence of God for more than a couple of months. I can't imagine for decades. I've always admired Mother Teresa for her simplicity, self-sacrificing love, Christ-likeness and joy. This makes me admire her even more.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

John was feeling a bit better on Saturday, but now he's got a chest infection, so he's on anti-biotics and "house arrest" for a week.

I just came back from Karoi on a ZUPCO bus. Public transport is starting to wear on me... I've realized that I value fresh air a lot. I don't value getting hit on (must be my stunning new haircut!). And it really bothers me to see the way people are treated so badly. I know it's a stereotype, but most public transit is run by young men who are quite corrupt! There's a driver, and one or two conductors (to take tickets, etc.) Government buses (ZUPCO) have to be monitored, so the conductors tell you a price (this morning - $520,000) and then write that price on the ticket (that gets inspected) but you actually have to pay more ($600,000) so that the conductor pockets some. One lady on our bus paid extra so that we dropped her off right at her house. People shouted and yelled "unfair!" but it didn't make a difference. Money talks.

This country has an 80% unemployment rate, and I'm assuming that's climbing because I have conversations with people every day who are considering leaving their work because they can't live off of their salary (I met a teacher yesterday who gets paid $60,000/month. One loaf of bread - if you can find bread - is $30,000). I'm almost afraid to ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, because I don't know what their options are. I remember asking a kid in Regent Park what his dream job would be - "cook at Kentucky Fried Chicken - but I know I have to work really hard if I want to do that." I don't know if it's wrong, but I wished more for him. And I wish more for Zimbabwean kids than cross-border trading or taking people's money in a crowded kombi. But what are the options? This morning I was thinking that if there was war in this country, all of these young men would take up arms (by the way - "A long way gone" - Ishmael Beah - awesome book about the experience of a child soldier).

Friday, September 21, 2007

John is sick

John has got the flu. It's so hard to see the one you love sick. Last night some friends came to pray for him. The first group was a bunch of 6 young boys. One boy said, "we want sweets" but an older boy corrected him - "no, that's not why we came. We came to pray for John." Their prayers were so cute, that I had to give them sweets afterwards! Our adult neighbour was a bit less reassuring: "you really should go see the doctor and get an injection. My uncle had the exact same flu as you last week and we buried him on the weekend." Well, that's blunt reality! I can't get used to this eerie idea of possibility of death whenever someone is slightly ill. So many people at work are saying to me, "don't worry Rochelle, John will make it!" It's just a flu, right? Please pray...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cauliflower

This morning on my run I noticed a head of cauliflower on the road. Obviously a truck had dropped it, and it had been run over once, but was quite big. As I approached, I noticed an old man eyeing the cauliflower, his eyes looking around furtively to see who might be watching him. He scrambled to the road and grabbed the cauliflower, putting it in his bag. As I jogged by him, I smiled and said good morning, and I realized it was an old man. And he looked worried - like I would judge him or try to take the cauliflower from him. Really, I just wished more for him. I wished he could be at home, sipping tea with grandchildren on his lap - remembering the good old days and laughing about incidents in his past. Instead he's just fighting to survive. Give us this day our daily cauliflower...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quotations

"I just don't understand why our leaders wants us to suffer so much."

I was talking to a friend this morning, and these were his words. I had to admit to him that I don't understand this either. The state media tells us all of Zimbabwe's problems are due to Western racism and sanctions. The independent media tells us they are due to government corruption, greed and mismanagement. Either way, whatever the cause, good leaders should do their best to take care of their people, right? ALL of their people. I thought this was a given in leadership, but it's not.

"It's hard to believe that the Zimbabweans aren't rising up and demanding change."

This was said to me by a random lady on the street this morning. It is surprising, and we always wonder, "how bad do things have to get before people demand change?" Pius Ncube recently resigned from being the Archbishop of Bulawayo. He was one of the government's harshest critics, and he resigned because of some state media photos of him sleeping with a married woman. He is detested by the government; in part because he always urges people to rise up against torture, forced starvation and other human rights abuses. And yet people rarely speak out, never mind rise up. Scared silence reigns. Zimbabweans are fiercely proud of their peaceful, non-violent reaction to any situation. And of course there are severe consequences for having even a hint of disrespect for the government.

"You'll want to stay here forever, right?"

This was said to us by one of our neighbours. She conceded that the economy is quite bad, but said that in comparison with other countries, Zimbabwe is still one of the best in Africa. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. In other African countries we've been to, there is food on the shelves, fuel at the pumps, hopes that things will get better rather than worse... but I think it's better that people here don't know that or don't believe that. It might be too painful.

"Happy Birthday James"

This was said by us to John's favourite brother - have a great day today!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Embarrassing moment

So, I forgot to bring a sweater on the weekend, and the evenings were a bit cool. My room-mate (who is a beautiful friend who always shows me grace) said it was no problem - she would lend me something. It turned out to be a big fur coat. It was a beautiful coat, but a bit extravagant for my tastes! Friday night we went to the praise meeting, and it had already started, so everyone was seated and singing. John and I were supposed to sit on the platform/stage, but there weren't enough seats left, so John suggested we go sit on the ground. Because of the crowds, the only way we could get there is to walk down the steps at the front of the stage in front of the whole crowd. In a crowd of 10,000 women there were only 3 white people. It was already hard to blend in without the fur coat! Anyway, we went. I hurriedly put my mutigida (wrapper) on the ground so that we could sit on it. Then John noticed that the ground was wet, so he was urging me to get up and go back up the steps, but I was embarassed to be making a scene. I wanted to stay put, but then the lady next to us pointed out that it was sewage that was making the ground wet. So, me, my husband, and my newly procured fur coat went back up the steps and sat on the ground on the platform. Thankfully the sewage didn't affect the new fur coat. I laugh every time I think about it, but at the time, I was just humiliated! Ah, it's good to be humble...

Monday, September 17, 2007

100 years of home league

We just got back from the Home League Centenary celebrations. The Home League was created in 1907 to help women in The Salvation Army learn about how to properly take care of their households in a godly fashion. As a child of officers (Salvation Army pastors) I attended home league meetings in Canada with my siblings to entertain the ladies with singing and drama. I didn't picture myself joining home league as an adult until I had a bit more grey hair. However, I was really blessed to be one of the 10,000 women to celebrate being women. Our theme was "Women in Mission: While Women Weep." I have long admired African women for their joy, their faith, their capacity to absorb pain, their capacity to put everyone else's needs above their own, their capacity to take care of others no matter what the circumstances, and their ability to praise no matter what. There's also nothing like a big hug from a "traditionally-built" African woman! I was challenged this weekend to praise rather than to despair. It's so easy for me to become discouraged, to complain, to worry, to despair... and yet the way of African women is to carry on by grace, and to trust and praise God through anything. I was challenged and blessed. The singing and dancing on the weekend was awesome, and I danced my heart out as usual. I was a bit alarmed in one song when an old lady kept smiling at me, and then grabbing her breasts, but she was very happy! We had special guests from Zambia, informational talks on menopause, breast cancer and inheritance laws, Bible studies, dramas, a fashion show, and lots of praise & worship. A low-light was in the final meeting when the sewage system exploded right near the stage, but a high-light was seeing thousands of women dancing and singing and praising God. We also ate a lot of meat on the weekend... more in the last 3 days than we've had in the past 3 months! Ah, God is good.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Botswana

I'm back! I see that John is the preferred blogger in our family, but sorry - you're back to me. He's on strike again. (Oh and by the way - don't stop sending chocolate - I'm usually around to monitor John's addictive personality...) This one's long... sorry.

The good news: Being in Francistown
Our time in Botswana was a blessing. Despite all the logistical nightmares of the school, whenever I am with the students, I am grateful to God for the Z.S.Y.L. Leadership development is important in any context, but especially in Zimbabwe it is crucial that non-selfish, non-corrupt leaders who will care about all of their people are raised up to lead this nation. Botswana was good. It felt wonderful to be in a country with food in the shops, fuel at the pumps, and electricity. The Salvation Army is brand new in Francistown, so we were encouraging the families there, and trying to reach out to the community.

The cross-cultural exposure was good for our students. Most of them are used to being in the majority group, and to being in a Salvation Army that is huge and well-known. It was good for them to struggle to communicate, and to get exposure of being a persecuted minority (there are lots of Zimbabweans in Francistown, but they are mostly unwelcome). We did open-airs and door-to-door, "fishing" at the malls, and visitation. We had to leave early because we found out we were putting the families we were staying with at risk of deportation by being in such a large group. And we also learned that one of the guys on our team lost his mother and so he needed to get back for the funeral.

The bad news: The journey
OK, I know mature people are supposed to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination, but for me, the journey to and from Botswana was like a huge, long game of survival of the fittest. We left Braeside (our neighbourhood) at 4:30 on Friday morning. We got the 6:00am bus direct to Francistown at Mbare, and started the 600km journey to Francistown, Botswana. Public transport here is sort of like a crowded TTC subway - but for hours on end. We stopped in Bulawayo and I heard a rumour that we needed a few minutes for servicing. 6 hours later we were back on the road. In typically over-patient Zimbabwean style, everyone accepted this long delay without questions or complaints. We arrived at the border at about 7:00pm. Then we joined the LONG queue waiting outisde of the immigration offices. I felt like we were a long line of refugees - trying to flee to a country that has food. We weren't individuals with our own stories, personalities, hopes and histories. We were just a mass of people trying to survive. And of course there were all the secretive figures approaching us and whispering about trading Zim dollars on the blackmarket. It got really cold and so people started taking towels and blankets out of their bags to keep warm. Finally around 12:30am we got to the front of the line. There were soldiers barking orders and yelling "move over here!" "faster! don't waste time!" etc. The immigration officials were so rude. I was sent back to fill out my entry form twice, and some people next to me were threatened to go back to the end of the 6 hour queue. I felt like a criminal, and it was made very clear to me that Zimbabweans may be tolerated, but they are definitely not welcomed in Botswana. There's a huge difference.

Finally we all arrived back on the bus and started the one hour journey to Francistown. I prayed for grace - just one more hour! After half an hour we stopped on the side of the road, and people started getting out of the bus to pee in the bushes. I decided to hold it - we could see the lights of Francistown, and I could almost feel my bed. Then the engine stopped. We were spending the night on the side of the road! I cannot tell you my devastation. The bus was very stuffy, and I started to have a panic attack about not being able to breathe. I could open the window above me a crack, and my saving grace was that sometimes a car would drive by us, and I would get 2 seconds of fresh air. It sounds over-dramatic, but it was one of the hardest nights of my life. The entire 5 hours I was begging God to let me fall asleep and trying to keep my breathing steady. Finally - after 27 hours we made it.

Coming back was a bit easier. We had to wait a while for transport at the border, but we did get into a bus. There weren't any chickens, but every available space was taken up by people and televisions. A lot of women are making a living by being cross-border traders. The top of the bus was packed with t.v.s and groceries, as was the whole bus. The door was blocked entirely, so if anything ever happened, no one would have been able to get out. 6 hours before arriving back in Harare, some acid was spilled at the front of the bus. We were all chocking and coughing - and I felt so badly for the 3 week old baby who was right beside the acid spil. I prayed for almost 12 hours straight - a simple prayer, "Lord, bring me home to John safely and in good health" over and over again.

In Canada, if I was going on a long journey, I would pray for safety. But I didn't think much about whether or not I would make it to my destination. Here, I think about it a lot. I guess I've just become a lot more aware of my mortality here, and a lot more thankful for each day that God wakes me up and keeps me healthy. When we heard that Lawrence's mom died, the TYS pulled him aside and told him, then reported to me "he knows and he has accepted it" and then it was back to business. Later I asked him how he was feeling and he started to cry, but right away he was told to stop crying and be courageous - he's a man. Death is just so greedy here...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Recent Additions to John’s Bookshelf

Well, she won’t fit in our bookshelf, but Rochelle has returned. Early. This morning. To me. I haven’t seen her yet, but I did speak to her on the phone. She was dropped off in town, on a street called Rotten Row. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? She traveled on a hot sticky overcrowded chicken bus. They call them chicken buses because every available space, including the roof, is filled with chickens, furniture, vegetables and screaming children. Chicken buses either slant to the right or the left, depending on the weight of the goods piled on top. They are quite comical to watch on the road, horrific to experience. The trip to Botswana took her 27 hours, but I’m not sure how long it took to return. Or whether she had a seat or had to stand. What I do know is that she traveled all night, so she will go home and rest for the day. And I will need to be exceptionally pleasant and supportive for the next few days, particularly since I backed out of the Botswana trip.

We both leave tomorrow morning for Munyati, where we will be attending a four-day women’s celebration. My job is to take hundreds of photos and try not to get too sunburned. Rochelle’s job is to be a woman and sing songs while trying not to get too sunburned. Perhaps on Saturday we can shake things up a bit and have Rochelle take photos while I try being… well, maybe sunburned.

This is my third day with no chocolate. I can live without it. This is my third day with no chocolate. I can live without it. This is my third day with no chocolate. I can live without it. Sometimes it’s helpful to repeat things that aren’t true but which you really want to believe. Even the sound of the word chocolate is sweet on the mouth, compared to the harshness of beef, pork, carrot, pepper. If chocolate was really so unhealthy, it would have a dangerous name like garlic or cardamom or cabbage.

Our home continues to be a fascination for the children living on our compound. Yesterday a small girl walked into our living room (the children don’t seem to knock anymore) and stood in the middle. She didn’t want to talk, just stood motionless while her eyes moved from one area of the room to another, studying everything. I tried speaking with her, but she remained quiet. I even spoke in Shona – most of the children don’t speak English – but she didn’t want to talk. After five minutes of watching her stand there, I picked up my book and started reading. She stood there for 15 minutes without saying a word. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist, but I think she might need a prescription for chocolate. Unless (and I'm just considering this now) she wasn't really there at all...

We received some new books in the mail, which will hopefully keep us entertained for the next few months. We’ve got Banville’s The Sea and The Untouchable, Ondaatjes’ Divisadero, Hearn’s The Harsh Cry of the Heron, Hussein’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, Matar’s In the Country of Men, and Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.

I’m currently reading Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, which Rochelle highly recommends. She just finished reading Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and is now fully immersed in Hugo’s Les Miserables. In the past few weeks, I’ve read Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost, Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Hearn’s Across the Nightingale Floor, Brilliance of the Moon and Grass for His Pillow, McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, and Hussein’s The Kite Runner. As you can tell, we don’t own a television. I do miss watching the cooking channel, so sometimes I sit on the couch and flip through our cookbooks. Did you know that chocolate is a welcome accompaniment to beef? Possibilities include beef and chocolate ravioli, beef tenderloin covered in a chocolate jus and roast beef with a ginger-chocolate crust.

Rochelle will post a blog on Monday and tell us all about her Botswana adventure. And I will slink back into blogworld anonymity and lurk in the shadows.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Bachelor

No, this isn’t a plug for a TV show. Rochelle left Friday morning for Botswana, and will return either next Thursday, Friday or Sunday (she likes to keep me guessing). I was supposed to accompany her, but I am more than two weeks behind at work. So, I am here alone for at least a week with only my books and chocolate. Well, not chocolate anymore. By Sunday I had eaten far too much of it, coming to the realization (brought on by dizziness, headaches and an ever-expanding waistline) that I have a problem. I’m addicted to chocolate. I should have clued in years ago when I started putting M&Ms into my breakfast cereal. In a brief moment of lucidity, I gathered up all of the chocolate in the house (including our jars of Nutella and packages of hot chocolate) and wrapped the milky sweet collection into a red canvas bag. After a few minutes of staring at the gigantic red chocolate wrapper, I brought the stash to my neighbours and asked them to hold on to it for the week. Give the bag to Rochelle when she comes home, I said to them. I’ll probably ask for it about Tuesday or Wednesday, but don’t give it to me. They looked at me as though I was crazy, or perhaps dangerous, but they nodded their assent. Then I slinked back to my empty house. A house with no wife, no chocolate.

Life is so much better with Rochelle around. Life is so much saner.

On Friday night I read some Rainer Maria Rilke (Stephen Mitchell translations) and watched a few episodes of Arrested Development on my laptop. I pulled up some carrots and onions from the garden and cooked up a nice stir fry with the addition of green beans and garlic. And then washed it down with a few packages of chocolate. I went to bed early, and read some Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by candlelight. I’ve stopped reading Plath and Hughes before bedtime, as I often read poems out loud and I think they give Rochelle nightmares. They’re both a bit harsh for her… She does enjoy Rilke, though.

On Saturday morning I went for a 21 K run. I am in the worst shape of the past four years and a bit heavier than normal (see top paragraph for a clue), but I felt stronger the longer I was out running. I plan to run each day this week. I haven’t run much since my last race in June, but it only takes a few days for me to set a new routine.

When I got home I locked myself inside our house and hid in the bedroom. Within seconds children began knocking on our doors, trying to enter. They seem to have radar. Last week we told them that we were tired and needed to sleep, but they went around the back and opened the door anyway. Locking them out is the only way to keep them out. This sounds harsh, but I do need moments of peace and silence. I relaxed in bed and finished reading Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost. Before lunchtime I had already eaten a chocolate bar, but justified the action by my run earlier that morning. I also spent two hours writing some fiction, which was a welcome diversion to the Salvation Army propaganda I specialize in (although some may argue that both forms of writing are fiction, the creative stuff I write for no pay always seems more truthful). Then I walked into town and ate a chicken while reading some more Rilke. You can’t buy chicken in the shops, but you can get it at restaurants. Strange. And yes, I ate a whole chicken. I had planned to take half home, but the charge for the brown take-away bag would have increased the bill by 50%. Even stranger. And very filling. But I did walk the 5 K journey home.

Anyway, this play-by-play of my weekend is already boring and long, so I should get off. I’m not much of a blogger, but Rochelle left me four instructions for the week: 1. Miss me; 2. Write fiction; 3. Clean up after yourself; 4. Put up some blogs. So, that’s why I’m blogging. Bear with me.

Now, before you think I’m a big meanie, I did let the kids come and play in our living room in the afternoon. They were noisy and messy, but they had a lot of fun. I played with them a bit, but started reading some of Neruda’s Residence on Earth when the game shifted from crokinole to whipping the wooden game pieces around the room. The book was a useful face shield from incoming missiles. Some of the crokinole game pieces are now missing. And so is Neruda, which saddens me more.

On Sunday I wrote for a few hours and also watched The Way Home, a Korean film released in 2002. The movie tells the story of a deaf and mute grandmother caring for her grandson. For those of you into religion, the movie offers a wonderful illustration of the relationship between God and humanity. For those of you into lifestyle simplicity, the movie will challenge you to examine your wants and needs. For those of you who dabble with self-absorption, you will wonder if people hate you as much as you hate the grandson. For those of you into Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, you may just want to give this film a miss.

By now I’m sure we’re all missing Rochelle. Don’t worry; she will be blogging again soon.

Next blogging topic: Recent Additions to John's Bookshelf. And no, there's no chocolate hidden there. Anymore.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Page in a future textbook?

Ever since I had an incredible teacher in high school (Mr. Pierre-Jerome) I've been interested in international politics (and particularly African politics). But I must admit that it feels bizarre sometimes to be living what I used to read. The other day I was in a combi and someone started passing around some political cartoons. Of course, in Canada these are published in the newspaper as normal practice. Here, publishing them could have serious consequences. So, people were crouched over looking at them, and others were acting as look-outs to make sure no one was peering in through the windows or over shoulders. Some people giggled nervously at the satire. I recognized the person with the cartoons from our neighbourhood and know the family to be involved in the CIO (Central Intelligence Organization - government spies). So I thought it was odd that she be passing around cartoons, but then realized it was a trap - trying to source the infidels. Creepy! The whole looking over your shoulder/whispering/being wary of typing these words thing is eerie! I also made a slip-up in devotions yesterday morning. I said a phrase like "in this room we are all leaders" and immediately many heads turned towards our TC. In this country's context there can only be one supreme leader (or a small group). I learn every day...

If you pray, please pray for our friend Ruth. She is not well. We visited her in the hospital yesterday and she is looking very thin and weak. They have not given her any treatment (besides food and water) since she was admitted - I guess because there is no treatment available. It's heart-breaking. I was crying at the hospital - realizing that I used to view hospitals as places of healing. Now it feels like hospitals are places I visit friends before they die. Reality is harsh.... but God is faithful.

Tomorrow I'm heading to Botswana with the ZSYL for their week-long cross-cultural experience. Of course there have been huge challenges with logistics, because it's next-to-impossible to get travel documents (with many excuses ranging from no paper to no ink to...) but half the team managed to get something. We had considered changing the location to Zim, but of course it would be impossible to find food for 20 people for a week. So, perhaps my over-worked husband will write some posts on OUR blog (a rumour is circulating that it's only MY blog!) but if not... you'll hear from me later.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Who is to blame?

I mentioned earlier that a Salvation Army officer couple recently lost their baby. I found out yesterday that they also lost their first child in the same way - a few days after birth. How sad! They have one child who has survived, but the other two have died when they were only a few days old. I was actually nervous when I heard this because I knew that there would be accusations of witch-craft. And there are. No one ever dies naturally or because of a medical or scientific reason... there is always someone to blame for the curse. The two families are at war, trying to figure out which side of the family is cursing the babies and causing them to die. Usually in cases like this, the couple gets divorced immediately, but there's some hope that since they are Christians, they will stay together. I must admit that this angers me. Think about this mother - how traumatic to have lost her child, to have lost 2 children! and then to have to deal with all of the family fighting and accusations and blame. We all die - we will all face death, and yet we all still fight it, and are shocked to some degree when it comes. And we all want someone to blame - God, ourselves, in-laws... it's so traumatic.

Beauty

For 2 years in Canada I worked at the Salvation Army's immigrant & refugee services centre and loved it. It was my first "real" job, and it was an excellent one. I was blessed to meet people from all around the world, and many, many friends. One lady I met was Beauty - who came from Zimbabwe. Beauty ended up becoming a soldier of The Salvation Army and now attends the Harbourlight corps in Toronto. Beauty's mother passed away last week, and so she came back to Harare for the burial, and yesterday I visited her. It was a small world - from being together in Toronto to then being together in her mother's small home in Mbare. I also visited with some other friends last night - just to chat about troubles and joys. It was wonderful. It's easy to feel alone and it's easy to develop an "each person for himself" attitude in a drastic environment like this, but having friends just to share life with is a treasure I will never take for granted.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Happy 70th!

There is a lot of bad news here. I always find Monday mornings sobering because everyone discusses all of the people who died on the weekend. I was particularly saddened to learn about an officer couple who lost their new baby on Saturday. And then there was the accident of a Salvation Army vehicle where people were rushed to the hospital only to find out that there was no medication (even pain reliever). Also, a new law also just came out saying any employer found to be increasing wages for their workers will be imprisoned immediately. So, I think we might be at $1/month for a while!!!

So, there's a lot of bad news, but because I'm a follower of Jesus, I think I can always see grace amidst the sorrow. I had a beautiful moment yesterday. Our friend Mac turned 70, so we threw a mini birthday party for him. We asked a friend of a friend to bake a cake, and miraculously she found eggs to do so. We brought it over with a card and a candle (another precious commodity) and some singing. He said he'd been waiting all day, because he knew we wouldn't forget. He was so happy. We all had a piece of cake, and then I kept seeing him sneak more bits (especially the icing). Mac is from Scotland, and so we screened the movie Braveheart on my laptop, and he loved it (it IS a great movie - and interesting to watch in this context - thinking of independence and freedom!) Mac has had a tough life, and his only family left is his (wonderful) wife and us - his kids. It was wonderful to see him smile - seeing scenes from his homeland and sneaking bits of cake on his 70th birthday! It requires a brave heart to live in Zimbabwe these days, and I am continually humbled and blessed by the hearts of people here. Please just pray that people won't give up hope.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Comissioning weekend

It was a busy weekend. Friday I spent the day in Karoi - handing over the ARVs to the hospital. It was unfortunate that no one from the community could be there. I asked why they hadn't come, and they said it's because they couldn't afford the transport money. This made me a little nervous seeing as they need to come in to the hospital to actually take their meds, but Zimbabweans always find a way...

Friday night we launched into Commissioning weekend (when 40 cadets were commissioned and ordained as Salvation Army officers/ministers). Friday night was the Silver Star - where all the parents were awarded with Silver Stars. I was touched to see mothers, fathers, aunts, sisters, brothers, etc. going up to receive these Silver Stars. I was imagining that the parents were thinking about when those children were born, and all the hopes and dreams they had for them - and then to see them becoming officers (which accords a huge amount of respect in Zim). I was touched. And, of course, everyone was curious about my own Silver Star, and how I could have a grown up child somewhere when I only look 16! Sunday was the actual ordination and then appointments. The tent was absolutely packed, and it reminded me of my childhood when I used to love watching the cadets march in, and then watching their faces as they found out where they were going to go for their first appointment. Yesterday, most of the cadets were sent to deep, rural areas. Personally I don't feel called to be an officer, but I felt really proud of all of these cadets - and the lifelong commitment and covenant they are making to God and The Salvation Army.

Saturday was awards and prize-giving, and the top students were very proud of their new bicycles. I was actually remarking to John that the top students were all Ndebele (the minority tribe). In Zim, the Salvation Army is VERY Shona (the majority tribe here). For example, the whole commissioning weekend was conducted in Shona, and all of the Ndebele new Captains were sent to Shona corps. We've actually discovered that we know many women who are Ndebele, but we never guessed because they never speak the language, they married Shonas, and they hide their past - like they're ashamed of who they really are. I guess it's the tricky thing in post-colonial Africa. Of course, no one wants to use the colonial language (English) and yet what seems to happen is that everyone ends up just merging into the majority language - and that has psychological and social effects on people who speak minority languages. The General's message was read in both languages, and everyone from Matabeleland was very happy to hear the message in their own language. Life is complicated.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sinead O'Connor look-alike

Tomorrow is my first big function as HIV/AIDS coordinator. I'm going to do an official handover of some ARVs to a hospital in Karoi. There are going to be a lot of important dignitaries there, and I have to give a speech. So I thought I'd better get a haircut today. I had a meeting all morning, so I was running late, and didn't think I'd have time to go all the way into town to my regular hairdresser's. John recommended a hair salon up the street. I guess my first worry was when I sat down and there wasn't a pair of scissors in sight. Then he started with a razor, and kept going shorter and shorter and shorter. I know he was enjoying it, and kept saying, "you like it right? I'm doing a good job, right?" I don't think he gets too many white customers. Let me just say that John and I look like identical twins now! I'm so embarrassed. When I asked the guy if he didn't think I looked like a man, his response was, "well, you're still young" and then he proceeded to whack me in the face with a towel to try to remove all of my precious locks that were stuck to my clothing. I saw the TC in the parking lot and his response was, "well, John is going to get a shock!" He did, and advised that I wear lipstick for the next couple of weeks. At least I'll be in a skirt tomorrow...

Power - yay!

Last night our electricity came on at 9:30pm. All around the compound we heard a big "YAY!!!!!!" (very similar to the "yay" you hear from kids when Santa Claus appears at the Christmas party). John and I were in bed, and we'd just said our prayers (including a prayer for ZESA!) I was so happy! I put on some laundry, and started boiling some water right away (I have a full litre to drink today!) And this morning we had a nice, long, clean bath. Mmmmmm. It took me a long time to fall asleep because I was so excited. I know I shouldn't worry about things that I have no control over (like electricity), but I don't try to hide the fact that I'm "city", and I enjoy some of life's comforts - like being clean or cooking on a stove or using a washing machine. I'm spoiled. I'm also pretty ghetto. Imagine - being so thrilled that I couldn't even sleep! Or having this huge grin on my face seeing hot water coming from the tap this morning. I've also started killing cockroaches with my fingers (because if you wait for a piece of toilet paper, they get away). That's ghetto (or pro-active, depending on how you look at it). Anyway, the power went off again this morning at 6:30am, but nothing could spoil our joy - of having a bath and putting on clean clothes. John thinks it's sort of like being in prison when you get over-excited and over-grateful about the small "privileges" they give you...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Name them one by one...

There are many things I could complain about today. For instance, we haven't had electricity since Sunday morning. That means no hot baths, no drinking water, no laundry, cooking on firewood in our fireplace, etc. Last night we had to clear out our freezer and fridge. Have I mentioned how I hate wasting food? There are bread queues everywhere - people snaked in long lines waiting outside of shops to find bread. Of course, there are also longer queues for rare items like sugar or cooking oil. For those, you have to stand in line all day. Yesterday a man yelled at me in town because he is trying to help orphans and The Salvation Army (my new department!) isn't doing anything to help him! I just made our departmental budget, and was told not to expect any money for the entire year. We want to get next year's Zimbabwe School of Youth Leadership applications out, but none of our photocopiers can do more than 20 pages a day (and we need 200 applications). So I'm going to pay to take them to a printer's, and it's going to cost me almost 3 years' salary just to do the photocopying!! Being poor sucks. The Mayalas are returning to the Congo today, and we'll miss them. Yesterday I ran into a friend in town. Her mom had just died, so she was trying to find transport money to return to the rural areas.

BUT God is good. There are many reasons to give thanks, and I was trying to count my blessings as I was bathing out of a bucket this morning. I had a glass of milk last night. I know a lot of good people. I have access to the internet at work. I have a new job - which is a huge challenge, but a blessing. I have been published this week (on http://theRubicon.org - an article I wrote about being white and labels we give people). We read a lot more here. John reads about 2 books a week. I can recommend 3 good books I read recently: "Half of a Yellow Sun" (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), "The Book of Negroes" (Lawrence Hill) and "The End of Memory" (Miroslav Volf). They're all good - check 'em out.