Thursday, May 29, 2008

Famous and free (?)

We did it! We reached 1,000,000% inflation (yep, that's a million percent and climbing!) We're in a country that's making history. Too bad it can't be for something good... I always pray for a complete turnaround in the economy here. But it will take a miracle.

We just got a huge salary rise ($9billion each or $22US/month). That's better than we've had in a long time. In fact, it can buy 2 chickens or 2 high school exam fees for one student. Last night we were visiting with some good friends from Nigeria. They have 4 children here who are all in school, and they are struggling to pay for their fees and exam fees (never mind finding food...) I admire them immensely for their integrity, and the way they are avoiding the corruption that has become normalized in society and in the church here. They are in high positions, and so they are always getting pressure to just "take" money from the Army funds, or to start a business or to accept financial gifts, but they refuse. "It's not The Salvation Army way." It's a bizarre situation here, where hardly anyone is making enough to survive off of. So "alternate means" have become normal and accepted. I heard a youth complaining yesterday that no one talks about spiritual matters at his church anymore; it's all just (informal) business deals. When I was at the training last week they encouraged us to mix and mingle and to try to refrain from only meeting people to sell them the goods we had brought for our business. One lady told me she steals from her boss' account each week in order to get money for transportation. Her boss found out that she was stealing from the company and when she explained what the money was for, he said, "well, I guess that makes sense." Does it? I do wonder... when the economy does stabilize; when people do get paid enough to both eat and send kids to school - will the corruption and the business deals stop? Or has it just become a way of life?

Oh, and about school. School should be free. That's my belief. They say school is free here, but it's absolutely not. We've been paying for several students to be able to take their high school exams, because if they don't, they'll never finish school. We paid $3billion 2 weeks ago for one friend. She came back last weekend saying the school had a small "top up fee" ($4billion) - more than the original. We also heard about a high density area where the sewage is getting really bad and cholera is a big problem. People in the community were told, "if you're worried about it, just try to fix the problem yourself." Public sewage has become a personal responsibility. And don't get me started on the private hospitals and mission hospitals that are full of people who have been injured in political violence (note: public hospitals won't take them). I'm not allowed to talk about that.

The other day I was humming along to the radio and my neighbour said to me, "do you know what this song is about?" no. "It's about the liberation struggle. They're playing all of the old war songs on the radio these days to remind people of liberation." Is this what liberation looks like? Is this what freedom looks like?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A nice long weekend

First off... CONGRATULATIONS to my brother Josh and sister-in-law Jenn - they are pregnant. The cousins will be very close in age. We're so excited for them!

Happy Africa day (for Sunday)! I hope you celebrated in style. The only celebrations we heard about were political rallies, so we decided to abstain. We did enjoy the long weekend though... Friday night we hosted an exciting game of Monopoly with some friends. John and I tend to get a wee bit competitive with this game, so we decided to tag-team. I started playing with our four friends while John cooked pasta. Then we broke for dinner, and John took over my (pitiful) hand while I did dishes and baked (don't get too excited - it was a "just add water" mix!) It was fun. Saturday I spent most of the day writing a sermon, and John ran, but we also had yummy Thai food at the Blue Banana. We were going to walk there for exercise, but a white guy in a meat-packers' truck offered us a lift near the shops. He kept referring to the fact that Saturday was his drinking day, and he had just packed away a few, so we were thankful to arrive safely. Sunday we spent the day at Highfield Temple - a huge Salvation Army corps. There were people everywhere - standing at the back, sitting on the floor, and sharing seats. It was a blessed day, and I enjoyed preaching/leading the service/using my limited Shona. John gave two excellent talks on giving and praying. We went to Highfield with one of John's mother-in-laws, and we discovered that she is a bit picky for food. Between the services we went to the officers' house for lunch where 2 of the home league women had spent the whole morning preparing rice, beef stew, chicken, coleslaw, etc. (a feast). This officer sat down and said, "I don't take rice. Make me sadza." And she wasn't joking. So we all ate and she waited for her sadza. When it arrived she complained that it wasn't cooked well. Our hosts also brought bottles of fanta (a big treat) and she immediately said, "I don't take fanta - find me something else." But that was all they had. The salvation service started and had been going on for 20 minutes, so the C.O. came in and suggested, we may want to go in. My mother said, "can't you see I'm still eating my ice cream?" So we waited a bit longer. I was reminded of the importance of graciousness! Monday we rested. To be honest, we slept in, and then when John went for his run, I got in the bath and stayed there for 45 minutes. I was a prune. After I got out I went to read and ended up having a 2 hour nap. Talk about a day of rest! What am I going to do when I can't "blame" this type of behaviour on the pregnancy any longer? We did walk (exercise!) into town for an interesting movie about Saudi Arabia. I stupidly wore my "I'll fight club" t-shirt (referring to William Booth's famous speech about fighting injustice). Not a good choice for tense Zimbabwe these days... In the evening we visited some friends, and I was humbled and blessed by these two old women who have failing health and yet spend most of their time caring for others who are not well. That's Zimbabwean women for you - very self-sacrificial. I hope I can be like this when I'm an old gogo!

This morning in the bath I was thinking about my totem (monkey-baboon) because we referred to our totems at Highfield and that was a big hit! I realized that because totems are passed through the father, all of my siblings, and my dad and his siblings and my grandpa are also monkeys/baboons. And I started picturing a family reunion and it got me cracking up.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A few tidbits

Well, I was all offended about John's comment that my pregnancy is resulting in mood swings and then last night I had a complete meltdown. So yeah... it's true.

It was awesome to see our friend Kim this week. She is a continual source of blessing and encouragement to us. Plus, usually when she comes to Harare, we get to go out for yummy Chinese food. I really miss all my friends in Toronto who used to bring us bags of fresh dumplings! I know how to make them, but it's much more fun to make them with my friends.

My training is over. Thankfully I knew how to put a condom on a wooden penis (gotta love those demonstrations) and my bag wasn't chosen for the object lesson on discrimination. They took all of the ladies' purses and put them on a table. Then they announced that they would be emptying the contents of one. The ladies went crazy (a woman's purse is private!) As it turns out, they had planted a "used" condom (thankfully only filled with water) in someone's bag. But when they pulled it out the "chosen" lady just started laughing nervously and saying, "I was sure I disposed of that last night..." AWKWARD!

New photos are up! Namibia, swimming with penguins in Cape Town, Z.S.Y.L. in Trojan and even one of me looking a bit pregnant.

Please pray for South Africa. As I'm sure you know, there is a lot of violence happening against Africans from other countries (including a lot of Zimbabweans). I'm proud of my friend Stacey who has been mobilizing a lot of action to help them and volunteering her own heart and time. We need to keep that country in our prayers.

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Q&A with John

Rochelle is attending an HIV/AIDS training seminar at a local hospital this week, so I said that I’d post another blog today. I usually prefer to publish a blog post once every three to four months, but I’m sure the parental figures will appreciate reading another entry and knowing that I’m alive and well and still know how to spell correctly.

I have nothing profound or particularly moving to share (which is why I never bother to blog), so I thought I’d just answer a few questions that have come from various friends and family members over the past few months.

How is The Salvation Army different in Zimbabwe from Canada?
Well, The Salvation Army has over a hundred thousand members in Zimbabwe, so it’s quite a bit bigger than in Canada. When we walk down the street, we frequently meet people who want to introduce themselves to us and tell us that The Salvation Army is their church.

Salvationists love wearing their uniforms. We have a cream-coloured uniform that we wear in summer (Sept-April) and a grey uniform in winter (May-August). Women always wear Salvation Army hats or head cloths.

In Canada, The Salvation Army is primarily known as a social service agency. In Zimbabwe, the Army is a church first and foremost. We have two hospitals, a few small social centres and schools, but the emphasis of the Army is always on church life.

Zimbabwean Salvationists love dancing and using their timbrels and hoshos (a small gourd that is filled with seeds or beads and shaken to make music). It’s not uncommon for meetings to last many hours (we’ve been to lots of six to seven hour services), so it’s good that the worship is lively and fun.

Salvation Army officers (pastors) receive a lot of respect. At regional or national events, the officers have special seating apart from other Salvationists and will also eat separately from them.

What is the hardest part about working for The Salvation Army in Zimbabwe?
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of organized religion, so it can be difficult to work with such an autocratic organization. Culturally, the structure works well here in Zimbabwe, but as a postmodern Canadian, I have trouble conforming and surrendering my individuality and freedom. I have to keep reminding myself that I am an outsider, and that I need to be respectful of the way things work here. I also struggle with the way senior leaders have so much power and authority over others.

I’ve been a bit critical about the Salvation Army’s involvement with politics, but I probably need to chill a bit about that. It’s easy for me to decide what’s right and wrong, but I will never truly understand how complicated and dangerous the issue of politics is for local Salvationists. I can always jump on a plane and leave for Canada, but Zimbabwean Salvationists need to live and survive through it all. Some Salvation Army officers and soldiers have lost their homes and belongings and even family members due to political violence, so it’s important to use wisdom and discernment when dealing with politics. The activist in me wants to do something, but as a foreigner, the best thing (I’m still figuring this out) is for me to just shut up and concentrate on loving people.

To be honest, the hardest thing is seeing our coworkers struggle to survive in harsh economic conditions. They keep smiling and remaining cheerful, but we know that it is not easy to feed, clothe and educate their children when their salaries are so low. And many of them are looking after their nieces and nephews as well.

We have been treated with so much kindness and love by Zimbabwean Salvationists. There are frustrations, of course, but we have enjoyed the privilege of living and working here and sharing life with so many people.

What’s with the electricity blackouts? How often do you have no electricity? How do you cook?
It varies week to week. Due to the economic challenges in the country, we face frequent power cuts or load shedding to conserve power. Last week we had no power in the mornings or the evenings, but then we had electricity for most of the weekend. Some weeks we have lots of electricity, and then the next few weeks we will be surprised when the power is on. You get used to the situation pretty quickly. We have a small camping stove that we use to cook our meals. Most of our neighbours cook over a fire in their backyards. We have a rechargeable lantern that helps us see in our home, which enables us to save money on candles. We actually don’t mind the electricity cuts too much. We only get anxious when we experience water shortages.

What do you do to relax in the evenings?
Most of our neighbours have TV’s and satellites, so they generally watch South African television. We don’t have a TV, but we do have a laptop that we use to watch DVD movies or TV show series. The laptop is great because even when there is no electricity we can still watch a movie or TV show. We also read a lot, but not as much these days as it is dark early (winter) and we have power cuts most evenings.

We heard that there are food shortages? What do you eat?
The worst of the food shortages were last year, between August-December. These days the situation is pretty good, but the prices are very high. We eat very simply, though, and get a lot of our food items from a local fruit and vegetable market down the street from our house. We eat tomatoes, onions, carrots, peppers, potatoes, squash and, when available, peas and corn. We also have oranges and apples and, when in season, avocadoes and mangoes. Every few months we travel to South Africa and buy lots of rice, pasta, lentils and milk powder to tide us over. I make bagels for Rochelle every couple of weeks. We also have some beef a few times a week. In the morning we usually have some oatmeal. We eat healthily and we seem to be in good health. My dad sends me lots of chocolate, so I probably eat too much of that.

What’s with the running? Do you really enjoy running such long distances? What exactly is an ultramarathon?
I think I’m most relaxed when I’m out running. I don’t run too fast, so I just cruise along at a comfortable pace and then think or meditate or just float along without worrying about too much. Once you’re in decent shape, running is just like walking, so you don’t have to concentrate on what you’re doing. When I’m out running, there are no distractions, so it really is a great opportunity for me to relax and find some peace and quiet. Sometimes I bring along my iPod, but I usually run without music. An ultramarathon is any race that is longer than a standard marathon (42 km). So a 50 km race would be a baby ultramarathon, and then there are 50 mile and 100 mile races, although there are other distances as well. I’m running an 89 km (56 mile) ultramarathon on June 15 in South Africa. Running long distances is easy as long as you stay relaxed and bring water and some type of food with you. Shoes are optional.

Are you really addicted to chocolate?
Yes. It’s not healthy, so I need to do something about it. They say that the first step in beating an addiction is admitting you have a problem. Does anyone know what the second step is?

Does Rochelle look pregnant yet?
I can tell now, but most people would never be able to notice. She’s about 15 weeks at this point, so it’s still early for her to be showing. And since she’s so skinny, she could probably hide her pregnancy for at least another couple of months. Her mood swings, fatigue and constant gagging provide much more obvious signs of her pregnancy.

Do you know the sex of the baby yet?
No, not yet. We might find out next month. Feel free to vote on what gender you think the baby will be (see poll to the right).

There are lots of news reports about Zimbabwe these days. Are you sure you’re safe?
At the moment we are quite safe as long as we are careful about where we travel. There are definitely some areas of the country (and even in the city) where it is not safe for us to visit, so we just stay away. We hope that the situation will calm down after the run-off elections being held on June 27. We trust that no matter the outcome of the presidential election, peace and stability will return to Zimbabwe and the country will move forward. We are safe at home and at work, so please don’t worry about us.

Let's talk about sex!

I'm in a training this week with Ignite Africa. It's about finding a new way to talk about HIV/AIDS and it's really interesting. In Zimbabwe, it seems that most people are tired of hearing about HIV and yet there are still lots of misconceptions and so education needs to continue - but perhaps in a different way. Yesterday we spent most of the day talking about sex. The really strongly held beliefs here that I struggle with are: a) "sure a woman is equal - she can even be the president of a country; but not in the home. At home, a woman can never be equal. It's not Christian" (this might be related to the high price of lobola that men pay to "buy" their wives) and b) "men need to go out and have girlfriends outside of marriage, but a woman should remain pure."

An awkward moment yesterday was being put into groups. The officer John shares an office with was in my group. Our topic was: "common mistakes made before, during and after sex" and they wanted specifics. Things like "not knowing the movements" and "not assessing climax time" were some of the more "tame" ones. There were some young girls in our group with honest questions, and they were asking us (as married people) to give the details. It was just awkward. I view my sex life as private/intimate! Oh well. We need to learn to talk about sex if we're going to address HIV!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

She's So Drama

As you can tell from her blogs, my wife is so drama… She loves people and cares deeply for them, so it’s difficult for her to see innocent people suffer. Being silent is hard for her, and since we are not allowed to speak out against injustice, this blog is a way for her to express some of her frustrations. Thankfully there are other organizations and churches in Zimbabwe who believe in social justice and who are willing to speak out on behalf of the oppressed. We, however, will just have to remain quiet and do our best to love and support the people we are in relationship with. We do feel like sell-outs on a regular basis, but we’ll just have to keep working through that. One thing that has really helped me deal with this situation is to keep my copy of Oscar Romero’s writings hidden at the back of my bookshelf. I also try to avoid reading two-thirds of my Bible.

Life was so much simpler when we were young. As adults, we are learning that life is a lot more complicated than we ever thought it would be. As children, we were taught the importance of obeying our leaders, following through on our commitments and promises, maintaining our principles and integrity, and helping those who are suffering. As adults, we now realize how difficult it can be to do all of these at once.

If you see people being beaten, what should you do? As a Canadian, my natural response is to stop the violence and do my best to ensure that it does not happen again. However, as a Zimbabwean resident who works for a high-profile organization, I need to think about how my actions will affect the people that I work with. If I complain about one person being beaten, does that mean that I am condemning 20 more people to be beaten as a consequence of my actions?

Does being non-partisan mean that you offer unconditional support to the ruling government? When does it stop being non-partisanship and instead become complicity? Why is it acceptable for politicians to use church platforms to campaign for their parties, but not acceptable for the church to challenge governments about significant issues?

What is the role of the church in society? To look after its own members and ensure they’re dressed smart, or to see God’s Kingdom established on earth as it is in heaven?

Why do churches care more about their reputation than about doing what is right? Why do I care more about my reputation than about doing what is right?

Anyway, I know that some of you have been concerned about Rochelle’s well-being, particularly now that she is pregnant with our first child. Yes, she struggles with the situation here, but she also loves living in Zimbabwe and sharing life with Zimbabweans. She laughs, sings, smiles and prays on a daily basis, so don’t worry that she carries the emotional baggage of her blog topics with her throughout the day.

Please continue to pray for Zimbabwe.

Monday, May 19, 2008


It's a shame when you're really tired on a Monday morning. Especially when you've had a 3 day weekend! At our workplace, women officers are given the option of taking Fridays off. I was given this option too. For 2 years my feminist heart cried out "sexist! unfair!" but now my pregnant body is crying out "thank the LORD! another day of rest!" Friday my body won out. It was a tiring weekend, not because we did too much... but just because I spent a lot of time thinking. Trust me, that can be tiring.

I've learned a lot in Zimbabwe, but one big lesson has been how to live in survival mode. People in Zimbabwe are excellent at this. I admire them hugely because no matter what happens, they keep going; they keep surviving. Sunday I got to talk to my brother Joel on the phone. His first question was, "How's it going?" and of course I replied, "we're ok!" Then he said, "Right. As long as you're not under direct threat, you're ok." And I burst out into tears. Because that's what's expected here. No matter what happens, in Zimbabwe you have to be ok. Whether there's food in the shops or the shelves are bare. Whether there's power and electricity or you're in the dark. Whether you're being beaten or tortured or having to sleep outside at night to try to somehow protect your home from being burned down or not. Whether you spent the weekend at funerals and visiting people in the hospital or not. You have to be ok. You have to keep getting up, finding a way to feed your kids breakfast, and making your way to work. That's how you survive.

I've always wondered about the unacknowledged stress of Zimbabweans; what will happen to people's mental health if they finally have a break from this crisis that's been lasting for years. This weekend I started to wonder about myself. The sad truth is that although God - through Zimbabwe - has made me a stronger, deeper person, I still get stressed. I'm still more scared than courageous; more spoiled than noble. For me, living in Zimbabwe is physically, emotionally, ethically and often spiritually exhausting. Physically, I feel like I've aged 20 years in 2. Emotionally, it's sort of hard to assess. I don't feel stressed all the time, but I recognize the nightmares, the effects of severe restrictions on freedom (i.e. freedom to walk places or freedom to say what I'm thinking), the way I felt when I was home in Canada and when I knew there were only a few days before we had to return, etc.. Ethically, due to a lot of reasons I'm afraid to put on a blog (but can I just say that social justice is a lot easier from the comfort of a laptop with a cup of Tim Horton's in your living room than from the field?!?) Spiritually because it's hard not to question God about why He's not intervening in a more obvious way for people who are crying out to Him daily.

Now I'm pregnant, and of course that adds a new element - for parents worrying back home; for a husband who is excited but anxious; for a mother who tends to worry about the whole world and who maybe needs to think of a more limited definition of "family" for a time... (thanks to my wise brother for that too). Whew - I need a nap. I just don't know if 9:30am is too early to get under my desk for some shut-eye...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My hero the Candidate

I am absolutely afraid of mice and rats. Terrified. They're cute in the animated movies; not in real life. My fear has amused certain people over the years, but I assure you that it is a real fear. It's somewhat illogical because I am much bigger, but... ewww! (Did I tell you about the time when we were kids and I saw a mouse in our kitchen? I jumped on a chair, as did my brave young brother Joel. We both screamed like girls to the joy of my dad who had to come and see what the trauma was!) Anyway, about 10 minutes ago a mouse ran by my office door. I screamed (in moderation) and it got running. I called John and he asked me what I honestly expected him to do about it. Then, thankfully, the Candidate arrived. Candidates are people who are waiting to go to the training college to be trained as Salvation Army officers/pastors. We have 3 at THQ who are learning about ministry mostly through cleaning offices and serving tea (!?) So Tapihwa came, and I reported the unwanted visitor. He found my fear funny, but went straight to the area I'd seen the mouse run to. He moved a table, and it ran out, so the candidate ran after it down the hallway. There was crashing and banging and then he came back with the dead mouse. He left it lying outside of my door for a few minutes as he finished preparing the tea, and then brought it outside. He is my new hero (sorry John!) Thank the Lord for candidates!

P.S. I just told someone that Tapihwa is my hero. She told me to be careful because that could be interpreted as a political statement. Only those who won the liberation war are allowed to be heroes...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

November 13 - here we come

We just had our second appointment with the gynocologist. We had another ultrasound, and our baby is now 8cms. S/he was moving around, turned to look at us and even gave us a thumbs up. What a miracle and a joy! It was awesome. Of course this is Zim, so we didn't get a fancy printout, but we have the images in our minds. The doctor is very impressed with my fitness, which is another miracle, since my exercise has been reduced to lunchtime and weekend walks! God is good. There are still pregnancy challenges - like stomaching certain foods/insulting John's cooking, tiredness, worry that something will go wrong... but seeing our little baby on the screen like that... it makes it all worth it! There's a living, growing, beautiful life inside of me - and not just any life - our child!! OK, so I'm excited! November 13 - here we come. We are daily committing this little life (including health and safety) into the hands of God. Thanks for those who are also already praying for her/him.

P.S. You know when you have a pimple on your face (yes, I'm still treated with these at the age of 30) and it looks huge to you, but you just hope that it can be ignored? No luck here. Zimbabweans are so brutally honest. One lady simply said, "you have a pimple on your face" and another said, "you are looking very ugly these days - your whole face is covered in pimples! I hope it's a phase..." Oh well, nothing can beat my spirits today!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bagels and Bribes

It was a fairly relaxing weekend. Well, John ran 65kms on Saturday, but he finds that kind of thing relaxing. I opted for watching our wedding video. I still love it, think it was the best wedding I've ever been to, and cry and laugh in all the same parts (yes, I'm a geek). Best day of my life... John also made bagels, which I have been craving (do I have the best husband or what?) We saw two interesting movies ("Lions for Lambs" and "Into the Wild") and I finished two books ("Who are these Salvationists?" - Shaw Clifton and "Blood River" - Tim Butcher). Blood River is about a journalist's voyage in the Congo - trying to copy the route of the explorer Stanley. It's a fascinating commentary on the Congo today, and interesting to me since we have just been to one small part of that country recently. One theme that comes up over and over is the absence of law and order in the Congo. We certainly sensed this corruption and this fear of those in authority! Even at the airport, when we arrived, we never went inside. Our friend had hired a "protocol" to handle our papers and bags. As foreigners, we would never have been able to tell who was asking for legitimate fees and who was asking for bribes. Even leaving, we just sat in the waiting area while the protocol did everything. Everything just seemed "random" - some people are in uniform and others aren't, the security test for our bags was someone shaking them. How would you know who to trust? I would have never identified lack of law & order as a number one problem in a country, but now I understand how it can destroy a nation. Back in Zim, they've announced that there will be a run-off for the elections, but no one knows when. In the mean time people are being beaten - some for voting the "wrong" way last time, and others because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. People have taken the "law" into their own hands in the rural areas, and it's scary. We're safe - don't worry. It's just worrying.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Another dream

I had another interesting (less intense) dream last night. I was with a friend (that I don't know in real life) and we went to go buy a sandwich to share. The older lady selling it to us in a cafeteria was very confused. She initially charged $2million and then said $55,000. She was so muddled. So I said to her, "I think the price is $5.5billion." My friend seemed surprised by the price, but I insisted I was right, and we shared the tomato/cheese/lettuce sandwich. Then I woke up from my dream and realized that that would have been about $50US even at blackmarket price. So I tried to go back to the dream to get our money back, but it didn't work. When I was younger, I used to be able to go back to any dream that I thought was particularly interesting. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. I actually slept almost the whole day yesterday. I was home sick - but mostly just exhausted. Everyone says pregnancy is a lot of work, so you need a lot of rest, but I must confess that I just feel lazy. Wednesday I even had to take a little (short) nap under my desk. To think that I ran a half-marathon 6 weeks ago. Now just getting out of bed is a half-marathon! I did wake up in time to have some Kraft Dinner ('cause I heard that more is on the way! - and today got 6 boxes fedexed from an old friend - how sweet is that?!?) and to watch "Rent." Usually I also have a nice, long hot bath on sick days, but the water running from the tap was extremely dirty, so I went in and out - afraid that it would make me more sick.

For Sunday... HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY! None of us would be here without our moms, so let's give them proper honour and love. To my own mom - you have always given me support to dream huge dreams and you have always been there to dry my tears and hug me when my dreams have crashed or taken a twisted route. Thanks - you know I love you. xo

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mother-in-law woes

I share an office with 2 other people. One of them is married to a tsoko (monkey), which is also my totem, so she is considered to be my mother and John is her son-in-law (mukuasha). Every time he comes to my office and she is here, he must crouch down, clap his hands and greet her properly. The few times he has forgotten to do so, she has pointed and told him to get down (she's a tad traditional!) Monday afternoon at 4:30pm we were packing up to go home. John rushed in to give me his stuff so that he could run home from work. As soon as he came in she started shaking her head and saying "zvakaoma" (it is difficult). I asked what was wrong and she explained that he hadn't knocked. She said that when a mother-in-law is in a room, and the son-in-law comes in without knocking, there must be payment - a chicken, to be precise (live or dead was not clarified). So now we owe her a chicken, but we haven't seen chickens in the shops for months. She said the best thing to do might be for her to keep a list of all of his infractions (there are already several) and then present it at the end of the year. At that point we'll probably have to give her all we own! Sometimes it's not easy to have in-laws!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stress and a dream

Since we moved to Zimbabwe, people have told me not to get stressed. Especially now that I am "with child" people are advising me not to worry/not to get stressed. Trust me - I try. But sometimes it's hard in this country - especially if you have a heart. I can't describe to you how painful it is to see people continually suffering; to see a country continue to get more and more difficult each month. This morning we heard about another officer family who had to flee their home due to political violence and slept the night in the bush. Teachers are no longer going to school in rural areas because it's too dangerous. Of course, many people are still starving. And the economy... well they just introduced 2 new bearer's cheques this morning - $100million and $250million. It's helpful (because I mean, we spent a good 15 minutes at the checkout yesterday as the people in front of us had a bill of $33billion - that's a lot of notes to count out!) but it's just a bad sign! Zimbabwe is very Christian, and everyone says, "we are waiting for God to intervene - it's the only way." So when will He? When is enough enough? You can only shed so many tears; cry out so many prayers. How long, LORD?

I had a powerful dream on Sunday night. I was in a rural area and there was a young girl of about 8 with a worn, simple dress. She had been caring for her mother, and her father had already passed away from AIDS. People asked me to be the one to tell her that her mother and 14 year old brother died. She didn't speak any English, and there was no one to translate. So I had to bring this little girl into the church - where her mother and brother had been laid out. She had no relatives left. I hugged her, but it was awkward, because I'd never met her, and didn't speak her language. She just sat on the floor and stared at her late family - occasionally singing; alone in the world. And I crouched in a dark corner, and felt absolutely helpless. I tried to read my Bible, but I couldn't see any of the words. Then all of a sudden, my best friend was there. She was sitting in her own corner, with her own Bible, and she invited me to come sit in the light with her. It was so good to see Sherri and to sit in the light. So we sat and we prayed and we tried to have hope for this little girl. Then my dad appeared, and it was also good to see him. I gave this big speech, saying something like, "Sometimes I miss being a little girl. I miss the days when you - my father - would protect me from all the evil and the injustice in this world. When I would ask you hard questions and you would answer, 'you'll understand when you're older' or 'just trust God.' At the time I thought maybe you were brushing me off, but now I see that you were trying to protect me for awhile - protect me from seeing all of the hate, hurt, selfishness, greed and pain in the world. When I was a kid, I thought you were my superhero - in your own type of uniform - out trying to help people find God and to help one another. Now I'm an adult, but sometimes I feel like I need a superhero. I see too much evil; too much injustice; too much pain. It's realistic. I need to feel it; to see it; to have it rip open my heart. But sometimes I just want to return to that time when I was shielded from it or when I had a superhero that I knew would save people from it." I woke up crying. It was a very vivid dream.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Back from the Congo

We're back from our long weekend in Lubumbashi, Congo. It was great to see my friend Rachel and catch up on life. She is doing important work making sure mining companies are working with communities for human rights and health and safety. Katanga Province is resource rich with tonnes of copper and cobalt mines, but the province has also seen a lot of exploitation and pillaging. Lubumbashi is very dusty and the roads are terrible, but Rachel's house and friends were beautiful. We relaxed so well and I took naps every day. We read, watched movies, talked, went to a pool, ate... We braved crazy downtown on Saturday afternoon so we could get our Congolese "souvenirs" (imported pasta and cheese!) My respect for Rachel really increased as we braved traffic and crowds.

Friday, Rach had to work, and we played tourist. We went to the museum and the zoo. I loved seeing all the species of monkeys and chimps at the zoo. The Bengal tigers and lions were also cool. The governor of Katanga is rich, and investing a lot of personal money in re-creating the city - including tigers from Asia! Unfortunately, on the way to the museum, I had a little encounter with the security personnel for the police general. Supposedly, I walked on their grass illegally. A few of them were in military fatigues and drunk, so I was quite nervous when they were saying I had to stay in their hut for questioning, but that John had to leave. The military in Congo is famous for rape, so I was quite scared, especially when they were pulling me inside the gate and pushing John out. Eventually I said that I couldn't leave John because he didn't understand French, and we ran away. Yikes. John was totally confused because of language, but thankfully did not allow us to be separated.

So, we had a good weekend and now we're back. We got 2 prayer requests at devotions today - for a couple who just had a still birth - for the 5th time, and then also for a pair of retired officers who had to flee their home in the south because people are being tortured for voting the wrong way in the presidential elections. The date for the run-off is yet to be announced. I wonder how many people will be harassed, tortured and intimidated before then...