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1997 in Zimbabwe, part 6

CHIYSAP Theater Group

The Theater Group giving a performance in front of the CHYISAP offices

This is the sixth in an ongoing series of posts that capture journal entries from my incredible trip to Zimbabwe in 1997. You can read more about my motivation for the journey and why I’m revisiting it now in the original post.
Part 6
6/29/97, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
I ate porridge again this morning, it is a combination of cornmeal mush and peanut butter. It is actually very good, much better than oatmeal. It thought that would be the extend of my breakfast, but then Florence brought me a huge plate of sudsa, pork and greens. People seem to eat a lot here, I can never finish a full plate. Perhaps it is because they don’t have much so it is important to get enough food while it is available. They think I am strange because I don’t eat much. I say it is because I am small, but they just laugh because I am taller or as tall as most people here. Florence gave me more food because she said I needed it after a night of drinking. We had a party here last night, in honor of me I think. I’ve been drinking an awful lot of beer, every time I turned around someone was refilling my glass. If I keep this up I’ll really get fat.
The first night I came here, Wednesday, I had beer with dinner. Friday night there was a small party at Joseph and Talita’s house for me. Joseph wanted me to set up a printer for him and install the software but there was not enough room on his hard drive and I don’t know enough about PCs to remove the old printer software without losing it forever. I think Joseph was disappointed, oh well.
People at the Chitungwiza Youth Alternative Program (CHIYSAP) where I work have many high expectations of me, especially the theater group. Everyone wants to talk to me, to have me give them acting tips, to read their poetry, etc. I saw a play they had written and though it was very good (much better than I expected). They did a series of sketches called “The Eye of Poverty” illustrating real life problems and situations faced by people here. Joseph doesn’t seem to think it is very good though. I’ll help them as best I can. I brought the book “Theater of the Oppressed” by Augusto Boal. I think it can help us learn together about methods for bringing messages to and instigating change amoong audiences. The theater group’s production was illustrative, but offered no solutions. The group meets on Saturdays because during the week all members are involved in other projects within CHIYSAP.
My jobs here are to work closely with the theater and dressmaking groups as well as supervise all the training units of all projects. In the supervision job I have a partner, Lovemore (other interesting names here are Luckson, Patience and Prudence. I think they are English translations of Shona names). In my first few days working with CHIYSAP I have spent most of my time in long boring meetings where everyone is encouraged to speak their mind. It takes forever, but this is the CHIYSAP way. The program is designed to empower its members so I’m told that long meetings are just part of the process. My first day there was a Thursday which was unfortunate for me because that day is spent entirely in one management team meeting. Fridays are dedicated to leadership training sessions. In the morning a small group meets and discusses some part of Paolo Friere’s work, then everyone in CHIYSAP gets together for a group discussion.
This Friday was a little different because there was a welcoming session for me involving a performance by the theater group and then a discussion with me. I think that I was supposed to prepare something for it, but that wasn’t made very clear so I just answered questions. Nobody tells me what is going on , we just do it. Like today, the trip to the city was already planned bu I was told only a few minutes before we left. I’ll have to say something if things like this continue to happen. The parties have been fun though.
Continued in Part 7

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