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1997 in Zimbabwe, Part 15

This is the fifteenth 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.

Part 15
7/11/97, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
After the grocery store we went to Talita’s brother’s house to drop off the stuff but not before stopping at their house to put away the groceries for the family. I opened the bathroom door and a cockroach ran across my hand into a crack. I wasn’t bothered, as no one else seems to be, they are just part of life here. So after the stop at the house we arrived at Tom’s house. Talita is Ndebele, not Shona which is the dominant tribe in this area. She said her father had 3 wives and grandfather had even more. her mother was very nice budi didn’t speak any English except “How are you?” a phrase that even little children know because the bold ones shout that to me whenever I am walking down the street. We did spend much time there because Joseph was impatient. He just says anything he wants without regard for politeness. Also, he has been here for a while (he is from Sierra Leone) and has not bothered to learn his wife’s language (Ndebele) or Shona which most people speak (including Talita). He insists on speaking English and eating the way he wants. I have to respect that but I find it occasionally irritating. After visiting the Mom we went back home and they had dinner with us. Florence is working the night shift all week so she was gone. We had dinner and then I watched Melrose Place which I have to admit is growing on me. Tonight, Friday, they show Star Trek: Next Generation but it comes after two stupid soap operas: Empire and Santa Barbara. I’m not feeling very well, I have the beginnings of a sore throat and feel generally tired so I may not make it through all of that tonight.

Tomorrow I’m going into town again with Lovemore to get bus tickets to Bualwayo for an all week conference on public policy. We get to stay in a hotel with hot water! I’m so excited, Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe and I’m told we will have time to explore it. It does seem as if life is one big meeting here. On Thursday, I went with Joseph and Revai (one of the CHIYSAP secretaries who reminds me very much of my little sister Dolly) to a workshop to revise the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP). ESAP was put in place after the revolution, it is how the World Bank/IMF influences poor countries. They will not give them money unless they comply with their guidelines and creat things like SAP. I found it mostly pointless because there was much talk about poverty and it was blamed largely on ESAP but only in a general way. There was no real revision in progress only the idea that there needed to be a revision. It was a learning experience though, it was attended by both NGO’s and church groups.

I’m slowly beginning to learn all about Zimbabwe and it’s struggle as a developing comtry to improve life here without becoming a mini America or Europe. Today in the leadership session at CHIYSAP, we read from a book called Our Forefather’s Blood, a series of interviews of people who have seen the history of British colonization, been through the wars and the oppression. People read and then it was discussed among the groups. Much of the history is based around tribes and tribal affiliation. The Shona and Ndebele have tensions between them as well as other tribes the Zambezie, the Zulu. The British came in with religion to soften the people, then took their lands away from them and gained wealth from the untapped resources that were in Zimbabwe. Blacks were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk in the 1930s in Harare. A great chief was tricked into signing away all his lands to the British. It is a sad story but not unlike many others around the world. Zimbabwe gained their independence relatively late in the game as compared to other African nations so there are still may challenges to be faced in a country that has owned itself for only 17 years. Right now unemployement is at 62% and those who do have jobs are striking daily for better wages. I wonder what will be the future of Zimbabwe? I’m involved at the NGO level in helping the people realize their power to change things for the better. It is only a small part buy I feel that it is a step in the right direction.

Continued in Part 16

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