This is the eleventh 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. I was 21 at the time I wrote this.
7/8/97, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
I left the theatre meeting early, at noon on Saturday, to catch a bus into Harare. I was just going to walk to the stop nearest to the CHIYSAP offices, but Lance insisted on driving me to Makoni where the buses originate. It took 20 minutes just to get there! So I got on a bus there and after basically re-tracing the path I had just taken, we headed for Harare. The walk from the bus stop to the hotel was much farther than I thought so I was about half an hour late to meet Jayson (the South African boy I met on the bus from Johannesburg). It turns out that he only lives 15 minutes (walking distance) from the hotel so he had at least been there on time. We got into a taxi to try to find the 4th of July picnic for Americans that I had heard about from the embassy. It was in Mt. Pleasant, one of the poshest suburbs and pretty darn far away, it cost $50 Z to get out there! There was baseball, pony rides and one of those jumpy castles for kids, lots of tables with American theme stuff as well as a books and magazines table containing old American publications for purchase. Jayson, being only 18, wasn’t too excited about the name tags and the silly American flags. It was nice to hear familiar accents and eat hot dogs and hamburgers, but it only made me realize that I don’t much fit in among Americans either. The soon to be ex-ambassador was there and some Marines. There was a speech, they displayed the colors, played the national anthem, then we said the Pledge of Allegiance, it was all a little silly. We ate, drank several beers, then left. The taxi driver actually came back as agreed! We went back to the hotel for more beers and I called Graham’s (my friend in San Francisco who helped me organize this trip) friend Lucilia as we had arranged earlier in the week. She came and picked me up, I left Jayson to deal with his relatives who were coming to see his Grandma because she just got out of the hospital.
Lucilia had just moved all of her stuff into a new ‘flat’ and was still cleaning so she took me to her girlfriend Leslie’s house (an apartment). Lucilia is from Mozambique but she is here attending the University of Zimbabwe studying business. It is illegal to be homosexual in Zimbabwe so very few people are out. I would never have met these friends if Graham hadn’t initiated this contact. Leslie was very sweet, she works for an architectural firm in town and she is also a painter on the side. She is white and a native of Zimbabwe so some of our discussions touching race were colored by her views of black people which were not negative but occasionally ignorant. Lucilia, her girlfriend, is park black like me so she doesn’t have that much prejudice I suppose. I got to take a hot bath at her house and it was heaven! While Lucilia was cleaning up back at her new flat I talked with Leslie, we discovered we had a lot of things in common. Later Juan, another friend of Graham’s, came over. He was very cute and very gay, he helps run GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe). We ate dinner: some chicken and broccoli baked in the oven with bread, then went to pick up another friend, Ruth. It was decided we would go to “The Tube” club first to see if it was crowded. It wasn’t so we headed to Xscape, in a suburb called Borrowdale. The people there were a mix of gays and straights. It was almost like the Blue Lagoon (at home in Santa Cruz, except that the music was different.
I spent most of the night dancing, it was a mix of predominantly ’80s music but it included some stuff like Michael Bolton, AC/DC and Guns & Roses which I didn’t find very danceable. Juan is a fabulous dancer and we spent a lot of time together after he had cruised the place and declared that there was no ‘eligible talent’ for him to take home that evening. Ruth had a bit of a crush on me I think, but I found her a bit abrasive. She knew I had a girlfriend at home. We danced all night and went home around 3:30am. Lucilia dropped me off at her place and she slept at Leslie’s house. It was nice to have the bed to myself. In the morning after several tries I manage to talk to Jennie on the phone. My Sprint card doesn’t work in Zimbabwe and I couldn’t remember the AT&T number so I had her call me back and I left money for Lucilia’s phone bill. It was so great to hear her voice. I think her phone bill is going to be huge though…