Saturday, September 23, 2006



Right, so I was going to put up a post about life in Zimbabwe prior to our moving to the States. I had no idea it would come close to mission impossible locating my archive of pictures collected over the years and have gone to some length sorting and re-archiving into some kind of order that can be used as a means of sharing bits and pieces of our life. Funny question - why would I want to do that - simple - because I can and want to!

Over the next few weeks I will be going back in time a few years, along with some pictures and edits and posts to give you an idea of what life was and is like in Zimbabwe today. Many people have a misconception that most of Africa is mudhuts and wild animals all over the place. To some degree there is truth in that perception but in most capital cities and major development areas there are highrise buildings and people going about their daily lives just like any other city. The city we lived in is called Bulawayo - or in the local Ndebele language KwaBulawayo which translated is "slaughter ground". Why such a base name for the country's second largest city? Well, history tells us the unforgetable truth of an age old battle between two tribes - the Shona and Matabele. The Ndbebele warriors occupied the souther region of Zimbabwe, and the Shona warriors the northern region. The two never saw eye to eye and were at war with eachother and even to this day tribal differences are noticable and obvious. We won't digress into that at this point in time, because that is a history lesson for another post one day.

There are so many places to start with so I will just go ahead and post in the order that comes easily to memory. One particularly frustrating problem which has never eased since 2000 has been the shortage of fuel - gas! Yes there is a huge shortage of this liquid gold in Zimbabwe. Running a business and trying to source fuel for company vehicles became a nightmare. There would be often times where vehicles would line up for over a mile sometimes for days awaiting fuel delivery from refineries. This was a place where both the ordinary man in the street and top level CEO's would line up together and share the same woes until that liquid gold arrived. Status means nothing when you can't drive a fancy car, and have to leave your prized trophy baking in the hot African sun while waiting for fuel. The typical rush hour in Zimbabwe does not take you more than 15 minutes in any direction out of the city to reach your destination. You can always be on time, never stuck in traffic - imagine that? Fuel did become available on the street being sold at blackmarket pricing far higher than the price at the pump, but out of shear desperation everyone would make a plan to purchase fuel to run their vehicles at all costs.

In 1993 I left Zimbabwe for a short period of time to go work in the UK in order to raise enough capital to buy equipment and start a business. I worked in a meat packing plant in the freezer cold room which I hated with a passion but knew the goal set before me, and so labored daily in freezing temperatures to earn and buy equipment. During my stay in the Uk - Nancy took the bold step of renting an office, she went ahead and painted it, furnished it, and only told me about it upon my return while driving home from the airport! You may be wondering why all the details? Well, this little office would become a national focus point many years later. In Zimbabwe there are two major political parties; zanu-pf (note that this link leads to an article which will explain why the site will not open - Zimbabwe has not paid the Service Provider for internet accessibility and so 99% of sites and web connectivity are down across the nation) which has been in power/dictatorship since 1980 and THE MDC headed by Morgan Tsvangirai(this link opens because MDC had the wisdom to host their site externally!) Well, MDC needed a regional office in our city and the very same office that we started our business in became the regional head quarters for the MDC. During the run up to the parliamentary elections in 2001 street violence between the two parties reached alarming levles, and saw the regional office of the MDC bombed. The same afternoon MDC struck back and bombed zanu pf offices. Our business was located between the two offices and so the chaos on that day and the days preceeding these events were tantamount to being engaged in a civil war - you had to be there to feel the tangeable fear, anger bitterness and hatred between two parties filling the air. There are numerous stories and events that took place during this explosive period which I am not at liberty to expound on.

Onto more tranquil events now, a few weeks prior our departure we decided to drive to one of the world's seven wonders - the mighty Victoria Falls. This was a wonderful vacation spot for us as a family, and many fond memories of the drive, the food, the people and the experience are inscribed in our hearts and minds forever. At night as far as 5 miles away you could hear the mighty Zambezi River racing over the edge of the 420ft drop. From even further you could see the smoke or mist rising from the impact of the waterfall down below. We would find a spot along the 1.7km (just over 1mile) length of the falls to sit, and gaze mesmorized into the torrent of water going over the edge. This is a place where you experience nature in a form that will impact and change your life forever. Often on our drive between the Victoria falls and where we would stay it would be common place to see herds of elephant, buffalo and wildebeest going across to the Zambezi River to drink water. During summer the land is parched and dry and rainfall is scarce so the animals instictively make their way to the waters edge, and disregard human obstructions for the sake of quenching their thirst. The rule is obvious in Zimbabwe - do not exit a vehicle, do not attempt to be tarzan, and never attempt to feed wild animals - some folks have sadly not lived to tell the tale of their crazy bravery.

On our journies across the nation of Zimbabwe in certain areas and at certain times of the year an interesting phenomina would occur. The Mopani Worm starts its life out as a moth, it feeds on the Mopani Tree, then through the amazing process of metamorphosis it becomes this beautiful worm that is on average approximately 3 inches long and perhaps half inch thick. Here is the interesting twist; this beauty is edible and is harvested across the nation in huge volumes for human comsumption. Sounds gross - but, let me tell you when this beauty has been processed and cooked in the real traditional african way it is a delicacy par none. How is it prepared you may ask? Well, if you have time on your hands and venture into the wilds of souther Zimbabwe, you can harvest your own catch, take them home and begin the process yourself. How? Take said Mopani Worm pull of the head at one end, take finger at other end, press said Mopani Worm inside out, rinse, salt and place in hot baking African sun to dry. Be sure to watch over your "curing" process because the birds and others will make every attempt known to man to steal these delicious little protein filled delicacies. The most traditional way of eating the mopani worm would be to cook collared greens, peanut butter, Mopani Worms and ground maize commonly known as SADZA. Did we eat these...? You decide! The picture of the infamous Mopani Worm is actually our youngest Vicky who developed a relationship with our catch, and so these few worms were spared the process of being preapred and eaten.

Do we miss our home? Ummm...yes without doubt. Home is where the heart is, and also home is what you make it. Nancy has a real gift for making things look pretty, and so of the many hobbies and interests we share, the one project that I stepped aside from was anything to do with the house. This was her project and she did a fantastic job! Whenever a contractor showed up asking for the boss, I would point over to Nancy and their jaw would drop...and I would exit leaving them to discuss plans and production - pretty cool combo!! Of course my responsibility would be to make sure I brought home more than the bacon to make all of this possible - and it was tremendous fun! You would have to know us to understand...

There are a number of people that are very near and dear to my heart, and within that number are the people who committed 10 years of their lives to working alongside Nancy and I as team players achieving the common goal of ensuring client satisfaction regardless of how big or small the account. We started the business in 1993 with the two of us, and in 2002 walked away from 26 team players whom over the years we had developed relationship and bonds that to this day stand firm.

As a start to sharing life in Zimbabwe - this ends the first part and I hope that you have enjoyed this and will come back for more when you receive notice that the blog has been updated. Hope you have all had a wonderfu lweekend and ready to head into a new week.

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