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


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


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


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!


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!