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


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


"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


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.


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.