This is the twentieth 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.
8/4/97, Chitungwiza, ZimbabweI’ve been writing letters so by the time I think about writing in this journal, my hands are tired. The village experience was trying to say the least. After my bath Francis drov me into the main part of the village which is centered around a Catholic mission. There is a general store, two hospitals and a good school all relatively close together. So this village is actually well off. I some areas of the country, people have to walk up to 20km to get to a school or a medical clinic. After the drive we took a walk out into the bush, through cattle fields and down a narrow dirt track. The ‘forest’ consists of low trees and scrub brush. This particular place is said to be the home of one white baboon and if you say anything negative while in it you will get lost and have bad luck. Although most everyone is a Christian, many traditional beliefs still exist, there are witch doctors, or traditional healers. Cats are believed to be evil so no one owns one for a pet. Many animals are sacred or said to have particular powers, the white baboon and monkeys among them.
After the walk we came back to the homestead, which consists of several buildings centered around a well. The main house has electricity but none of the others do and the toilets are holes cut into cement over a deep pit, one for men and one for women, separate from the house. There is a hut especially for cooking that has a fire in the middle going all day. The whole area is fenced in and the chickens with their small broods and the dogs run free within this enclosure. Usually only Francis’ mother and son Tafara live there and maybe one other person but this weekend most of the family was there to sort out his father’s affairs. He died a few months ago. Family relations are quite complex around here. The terms uncle, aunt, cousin, mother and father are used to mean a variety of different relationships, depending on if the relation is on the mother’s side or father’s side. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. All the women did the cooking and the washing up. When they are done in the morning they sit under a tree on goat skins and knit or embroider.
I went to the ‘shebeen’ with the guys to have a beer. A shebeen is an illegal drinking place in the village, every village has one, they serve traditional beer which tastes horrid and also bottled beer which usually isn’t very cold. The traditional beer is thick and gritty, you really can chew it! We went back to the house, just a short walk, later. After I sat through various male conversations in Shona, I learned that the women who runs the place is called a ‘Shebeen Queen’ and watched several TB patients from the hospital sit apart and drink their beer. Lunch was served to us (me and the men) inside the main house, the women ate separately. Sometimes it is really gross to watch men, especially ones who have spend most of their time in a village, eat their food with their hands. Especially if that food is sadza and goat intestines. At least there was some chicken for me. After lunch the guys went back to the shebeen and I went to the room and read. I wasn’t feeling very social or feeling like I belonged in either group, men at the bar or women under the tree knitting, all conversing mostly in Shona.
Continued in Part 21