In 1997, when I was just 21 years old, I lived in Zimbabwe for 6 months. I worked as a project manager for a non-governmental organization called the Chitungwiza Integrated Youth Survival Alternative Programme (CHIYSAP) and lived with a family in Chitungwiza, just south of the capital city Harare. I planned this trip with the help of my friend Francis, who had been to Zimbabwe before, and the International Development Exchange which was one of CHIYSAP’s donors at the time.
This trip wasn’t part of any specific program, it was just something that I decided that I wanted to do. I paid for it with my own money and made the arrangements with the help of Francis and IDEX. Looking back on the trip, it now seems like a very brave thing that I did. I’m not sure that I would embark on such a journey now. To remind myself of the risk-taking person that I was and can be again, I’ve decided to start posting excerpts of the journal that I kept during that time. This will one, get me to type up the journal (something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time) and two, serve as a reminder that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. Here’s the first entry:
6/21/97 2:50pm Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
It’s overcast and heavily humid outside and in the corridors, but my small room is a potential icebox with high powered air conditioning. My hotel is directly across the street from the airport which is convenient but a 40 minute bus ride from the city center. Not being quite the seasoned world traveler, I’m opting to stay in my nice room in the comfy bed, napping and reading. Boring, but safe. I’ve already been accosted by men eager to carry my bags for me and do other small favors(!) I suppose I need to learn how to say no and really mean it. The meals on the flight (12 hours LA to Tokyo, 6 hours Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur) gave me terrible gas so I’ve been eating very cautiously. The hotel has buffet style meals combining western standards and local foods, so far I’ve been sticking to familiar starches like dinner rolls and pasta but there are lots of interesting fruits which are very fresh and sweet. CNN is on the television with world news, the shower is almost hot (I practiced washing my underwear in there, which I’m told I’ll have to do in Zimbabwe) and the toilet won’t flush no matter what I do. My legs have been itching, I hope it’s not a food allergy.
Continued in Part 2