Reflections, Thoughts and Opinions From Africa.
I returned to Zimbabwe in July 2010, having spent seven years in Greece and Turkey. Africa is in my blood; it's the place I call home.
I completed two blogs during my time in Greece and Turkey, and I'm hoping my third blog will bring inspiration and awaken my inner scribbler. Writing from Africa is far more of a challenge than writing from places steeped in history.
"Garlic, Feta Cheese, Olive Oil & Brinjel" is the story of my life in Greece.
"The Magic Carpet Ride" contains memories of my life in Turkey.
The Baobab is one of Africa's most famous trees, and has attracted many myths and legends. I hope it'll be an inspiration for my writing.
Thank you ♥hOOves♥ for the very special and treasured awardicon adorning my blog.
Books I am reading and have read in 2018 (three being excellent):
Cleopatra's Journey by Iain Macdonald
Sibanda and the Rainbird by C M Elliot
|Happy New Year, WDCers! May our minds be filled with inspiration, our pens/keyboards flow effortlessly and easily onto the page/screen and may some of the dreams we have for our work be realised.
A New Year is like a new notebook... all those pages just waiting to be filled with words. I doubt I will be blogging every day, but I do want to try and write regularly. So whether my scribbling sits here or in one of the many pristine notebooks I have collected over the years it's still writing. I don't make New Year's resolutions; I prefer to think of them as setting personal targets. Like trying to walk 10,000 steps every day. I have a Samsung proFit watch Ivan bought me in Dubai in November, and it tells me how many steps I've walked every day. As long as I can get my morning walk in it's easily achievable. I'm still 1,200 steps short of the target, but I am sure I can make it up before going to sleep in the next couple of hours.
We had a quiet New Year's Eve... well, quiet apart from the appalling number of fireworks in our neighbourhood. It was one of the reason why we chose to stay home - our Giant Schnauzer Solo is terrified of fireworks, thunder and lightning. We were also dog-sitting a big brown mastiff-type dog called Jessie, who lives in one of the houses in our complex. Last year poor Jessie knocked frantically at our door shortly before midnight, desperate to escape the fireworks. Jessie's human parent visits her daughter who lives in Zambia just north of Zimbabwe.
My next door neighbour is the Minister of Health, a man whose political connections to our ruling party mean he does not even possess a medical degree. He decided to have a huge party, with a disco and fireworks. He started the fireworks at 10 pm, and for the next four hours there were periodic "booms" and "bangs"... the music was dreadful and his speeches so loud I reckon the entire neighbourhood heard him.
I took Jessie back to her home at 7.30 am and Solo and I set off on our morning walk. Just near the university I was stopped by Givemore, a security guard. He was holding a pretty little brown and white dog. He told me she'd run into his guard house at 2 am, and he kept her with him until he got off his shift at 6 am. He'd been trying to find her home since then, and was being hassled by people who wanted to take the dog from him - dog theft is a huge problem in Zimbabwe, with many animals being stolen to sell or to be used for breeding or as bait dogs in dog fights. He asked me to help him take her to the local veterinary clinic. So we walked back to my house, and I left Solo at home while we delivered the little lost dog to the vet. After dropping Givemore in town I returned home, and wound up rescuing a chameleon trying to cross the road near our house. He's now in the mock orange bush near our entrance, hopefully safe from speeding cars and electric fences.
I don't mind rescuing animals, but I am hoping this isn't an indication that I'm going to spend 2019 saving little creatures. Not that I mind, but it can be terribly upsetting if said animal is injured, sick etc... and when the dog has not been claimed (like little brown and white ) that is heartbreaking. I posted her photograph on several lost pets' pages on Facebook, because there is usually a good response to their notices. I hope she is claimed soon. Scrolling through the page I see there are many lost and dead dogs, which makes me furious. If you cannot take care of your pet for a few hours one night a year you do not deserve to have a pet. To those people who leave their dogs outside when the fireworks starts, resulting in terrified canines rushing onto the street and being hit by a car... SHAME ON YOU. YOU do not deserve to have animals in your life.
Fireworks are a scourge and should be banned. In a country like Zimbabwe, where foreign currency shortages mean there's bread shortages, no coca colas in the shop, fuel shortages and serious shortages of medicines we spend our money on fireworks. I'm sure I'm not the only person questioning this logic... or are we simply becoming a more and more inconsiderate species?
|On Sunday we met up with a group of friends to watch "Bohemian Rhapsody". The film has received mixed reviews from critics, but thankfully moviegoers have ignored the criticism, resulting in the film becoming the highest grossing musical biopic ever made - I believe it has taken over $600,000 at the box office.
I grew up with the music of Queen. While I'm more familiar with songs like "Radio GaGa", "Another One Bites the Dust", "Under Pressure" and their other songs from 1980 to now I do know "Bohemian Rhapsody". I don't remember when I first heard it but it's one of those songs that will never grow old, despite its length and rather interesting lyrics... a bit like Don Maclean's "American Pie", I suppose. Both are classic songs. And I am sure most, if not all of us, know the lyrics by heart.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The band members looked and sounded so like the actual group members it was almost as though we were watching a documentary. For me one of the most positive elements of the film is that Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May were involved in production of the film, meaning it was going to be pretty close to the band's real story. Fourth member John Deacon, who took Freddie Mercury's death very hard, stays out of the limelight, but was supportive of the film.
Which brings me to the critics' reaction to the film.
Much has been made of how the film doesn't focus on much of Freddie's personal lifestyle, which was said to be wild and hedonistic. As one of the first world famous celebrities to die of AIDS he is as famous for only confirming his illness hours before his death as he is for his flamboyant stage performances. It seems many critics would have liked more attention to be paid to what Freddie got up to behind closed doors with less focus on the musical legacy he left our world.
There are a number of historical inaccuracies in the film, such as the circumstances under which the band formed and claiming that Freddie learned of his HIV status before the 1981 Live Aid concert. The band never broke up and reformed and Freddie's lover Paul sold secrets of the singer's lifestyle to a newspaper and not on television. I find the condemnation of these anomalies a world where we're often told about "artistic licence" and "playing fast and hard with the truth" being acceptable somewhat hypocritical. Are we now so conditioned to reality television and "stars" such as Kim Kardashian someone's private life is of more interest than the fact that he wrote some of the world's most famous and recognisable songs? That he is rated as one of the top live performers of all time?
I went to see a film about a legendary musician and his band. I wanted to see the relationship the band members had with each other. I was not disappointed. All four members of Queen were (and are) loyal to one another. They called themselves "family", and they were. And the relationship they had with each other is why Queen was such a successful band.
I left the cinema, feeling sad that I've neglected Queen's music for so many years. The scene where Freddie tells his bandmates he is HIV positive and their reaction is heartbreaking, especially as they rehearse for Live Aid - one feels this is the last time they ever performed in public. While the film has Freddie struggling with his voice because of his illness I have read that he was battling a throat infection before the concert so I guess the slight "liberalisation" of the truth is forgiveable. Queen's 25 minute performance in front of a crowd of 72,000 people, telecast to a worldwide audience of 1,9 billion was the highlight of the entire concert, and is regarded by many as the best live performance of all time.
Just 24 hours before he died Freddie Mercury issued a statement confirming he was suffering from AIDS. The last two sentences tell me how "Bohemian Rhapsody" and his friends and family have remained true to him and his memory. That's true friendship, in my humble opinion.
My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.
|In his entry "Invalid Entry" , The Literary Penguin mentioned his dream about befriending a dragon. Naturally I replied. I love dragons because I think they are noble beings, much like unicorns. I know various myths portray dragons as unpleasant, but I prefer to think of them in a positive light.
Anyway, in response to my reply The Literary Penguin informed me that he'd travelled to southern Africa a few times and now figured he'd rather have a genet cat or a bush baby as his friend or sidekick - far easier to manage. I've tried to attach a photo of each animal to this entry... we'll have to wait until it's posted to see if I've succeeded.
As an animal love I have to say I find both genets and bush babies very appealing. The only issue I have with the latter is their propensity to wash themselves with their urine... I know, it's nature and I've seen volunteers helping the sweet little primates at a rescue centre outside Harare. But still...
Naturally I got thinking about what animal I'd like to have as a pet, and one immediately springs to mind. It's known to be the most fearless animal in the world. There is nothing it won't take on. It has a very thick and loose skin so if a lion gets hold of it it will twist inside its skin and usually escape after biting its attacker. I've never seen one, and it's one of the animals on my bucket list.
One of my favourite YouTube videos raised the honey badger's profile to a universal level a few years ago:
I'm not too sure I'd ever be able to make a friend of a honey badger. They are very aggressive, and don't seem to have much loyalty to anyone, not even their offspring. The live alone, only meeting up to breed, usually producing two cubs. They're more closely related to weasels than actual badgers. Their name refers to their love of honey, and they will raid beehives with great success because bee stings do not penetrate that thick skin and fur. They are omnivorous, and have been known to chase lions off a kill to feed themselves! They eat snakes, and snake venom does not kill them. They often pass out after a snake bite, but recover in a few minutes and will continue eating the snake.
Imagine having a tough, "badass" honeybadger for a friend. I think I'd have to be careful, because one wrong look or misinterpreted word might cause an attack. Watching it chewing on a snake and knowing it has zero fear of the biggest predators in the African bush would ensure I'd always want to be on my honey badger's BFF list. How on earth would I gain his loyalty, trust and respect? Food? I do not think that will help, as he "just takes what he wants". He doesn't need my protection; that little animal is more than capable of defending himself. I wouldn't need to give him a home because he quickly digs himself a burrow and is so tough he'd probably scorn any home comforts I might provide. He's a loner... he doesn't need friends...
There is a list on Wikipedia of the books featuring the badger as a character, but very few about THE honey badger. The couple I looked at had human beings as honey badger superheroes, but no books with an actual honey badger character. I guess because we don't know too much about these tough, solitary and aggressive little predators they're not really literary material...
To close, this video was featured on the BBC about a honey badger called Stoffel. The way Stoffel engineers his way out of the safety of his enclosure is incredible to see...
|This morning I shared a link on my Footprints Facebook page about National Geographic traveler magazine naming Zimbabwe as one of the top ten places to visit next year; in fact, Zimbabwe was the only African country featured in the list.
It didn't take long for people to start picking on the post. I understand their gripes, because most of the comments were from people wanting to travel here from overseas. Unfortunately there are plenty of local tourism operators whose charges will leave all of us, apart from the exceptionally wealthy, sweating and considering taking out a mortgage to meet the costs of a "holiday" in Zimbabwe.
There is a serious fuel shortage in Zimbabwe. Most service stations have received sporadic deliveries during the last two months. I sat in a queue for three hours to add a quarter of a tank of fuel to my car. It's not something I enjoy doing.
There is no cash in Zimbabwe. We have a local currency called a bond note, which is basically as valuable/less as money from the Monopoly board game. It is supposedly on a par with the USD, but everyone works on the black market rate, which is currently 3:1.
Visitors should NOT use their international banking cards here. They often get rejected on the first swipe through the machine, and are accepted on the second swipe. Unfortunately your account will probably be debited with both transactions, but the Zimbabwe bank will not refund you because they claim only one payment went through.
our hotels and safari lodges have become some of the most expensive in the world, and one generally pays for every single activity. Example: hiring a 4x4 vehicle will cost you USD3,000 over two weeks.
Very few airlines fly directly into Zimbabwe, with the main route being a ninety minute flight from Johannesburg in South Africa to Harare. This is, mile for mile, the most expensive flight in the world.
Thoroughly depressing. Now I wish I'd never posted something that was simply designed to bring a bit of good news about our country to the people who follow Footprints. It certainly did get people debating, which may be a good thing. I tried very hard to bring my past PR and marketing experience into play, but I'm not sure it works twenty-odd years after it was last used!
The feather on my cap was being told that my opposition (who try very hard to kick us in the teeth any chance they get) posted the same news on their social media account. I had a little chuckle, because social media is supposed to be about getting reactions and interactions between your 'followers". So I may have won on that front (Opposition: 4 likes, zero comments zero shares... Footprints 31 likes, 17 shares, 8 comments), but as the ghastly party that rules our country saw fit to share my post I've probably attracted some attention that I'll either enjoy (the ruling party thinks we are fantastic and so do our advertisers and contributors) or regret (time to lock that editor up and throw away the key)...
|Trying to keep the writing muse alive I've been looking at blog prompt sites on the internet. Letters to our younger selves seem to be a popular topic, so I'm going to give it a bash today. I give myself 30 minutes to write, starting now:
Dear Sixteen Year Old Sarah
As I know you as well as you know yourself (probably better, because I'm writing this after living the forthcoming 36 years of your life) I imagine you're sighing, and rolling your eyes in exasperation. Wondering how I am going to tell you what to do. Well, don't worry. I know you're stubborn, and you'll always do things they way you want to do. There are things I wish I could tell you NOT to do, but I don't want to change much in your life because our experiences are what makes us who we are; Unique and Special. So I have decided to write a list of five things to watch out for to help you live your life to the fullest.
Do not try and fit in with the crowd: right now you have three very close school friends, and you will stay in touch with them throughout your life. They will move away from you and away from Africa, but you will keep those ties you've built at high school. You will meet a lot of people, and you will try to be friends with all of them. Be careful, especially when you get older. There are some rather unscrupulous people in our world, and in trying to make them happy and fit in with them you will get used. And hurt. You're at risk of losing yourself by associating with those kind of people, so be selective. Quality, not quantity is what's important.
A brief note here: the "List of Five" is a concept you will come across in the future. The person who conceives the idea and her friends will be in your life for many years. You will probably not meet them in the flesh, but they are going to be true friends and a good support for you. So watch out for them - their friendships are special.
When you get the chance to go somewhere, do it: travel is a wonderful thing, and you will get the chance to go to some wonderful places. Go. It's going to get easier to go to places in the future, but it's also going to cost a lot of money and effort. Do not let this put you off. make that bucket list and start on it as early as you can. Do not wait, because as you get older long walks through jungles become more difficult. Planet Earth is a beautiful places, so travel whenever possible. You will not regret it.
Take up photography: sooner rather than later. It's a hobby that will enrich your life while you capture those special moments, especially during your travels. Buy a decent camera earlier (you will not believe the cameras available in the future!) and learn a programme called Photoshop when it first gets issued. It will open a whole new element of creativity in your life.
Continue writing: write as often as you can, and I'm not talking about the silly little diary you start as part of your annual New Year's resolutions. You know that by your birthday in February you've stopped writing those teenage angst-filled daily paragraphs. You will discover a love of buying notebooks and journals, so make sure you use them and don't have them hidden in a sealed plastic box underneath the table in your spare bedroom waiting for your pens/pencils to flow across their pristine pages.
New Year's Resolutions: stop them. As soon as possible. Why wait until 1 January to make a change to your life? Life is about living, so waiting for a specific date to do something is wasting a lot of time. And time becomes important when you're older... you'll see. If you decided to do something don't put it off until New Year - do it now, or as soon as possible.
Don't throw this letter away. I want you to open it in 36 years time, and see if you've followed the advice given to you by your future self. If you do I know you will have LIVED.
PS: When you discover this song remember this letter, and the advice it contains.
|I recently discovered a new singer. While there is no singer who can topple Neil Diamond from the top of my list (after all, he's reigned supreme in my affections for 40 years!) she has moved into my top five list of favourites.
Her name is Lady Gaga.
When she first became famous I admit I did quite enjoy her songs, but never bothered to purchase any of her music. Part of me found her stage name silly and pretentious, and there was a lot of weird publicity around her. The meat dress... arriving at an awards ceremony in an egg... and that's just two of the "publicity stunts" I found annoying. She seemed to be more famous for her outlandish behavior than for her songs. So I didn't pay much attention to her.
When I first heard the song "Born This Way" I began to pay a little more attention. Her voice was strong, and every word was easy to understand. I downloaded the song, but not the album. I remember a lot of discussion in the media about the "Born This Way" video; she had such prominent cheekbones that discussions about possible surgery to make her look this way attracted more attention than her album.
I didnt watch any more videos. For me the Lady Gaga persona and mythology was featured more than her music. I thought here music was so good she didn't need to sell it with an odd video.
And then came that song "Shallow". And "A Star is Born".
I read the reviews. I listened to the songs. And I was blown away. Because without the makeup and odd videos her raw natural talent came to the fore. I began to read about her. And watch her videos.
I feel Lady Gaga has taken an extremely clever approach to her fame. She's often compared to Madonna, who is a singer I've never really enjoyed and who, in recent years, seems determined to hold onto her youth.
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta's stage name is taken from the Queen song "Radio Gaga". And perhaps she developed the character in a way that maintained her real self. I am sure that Stefani Germanotta used to be able to pop down to the store in total anonymity because without the Lady Gaga styling she looks very ordinary indeed. She writes virtually all of her own music, her voice is magnificent and she seems to have kept a lot of her private life private.
After watching "A Star is Born" I listened to more of her music, and discovered an album called "Joanne", which is rather different from her earlier work. Stripped down music and raw, honest lyrics... it made it to my download list. I watched her YouTube music videos, and while I would still rather listen to her earlier music than see her interpretation of a lot of those songs her talent is undeniable. The 2017 performance at the Superbowl was completely unexpected - her liberal views are well known, but her performance was entertaining. She skydived onto the stage, and I do not think this has happened in any previous Superbowl half time show.
During my immersion into her videos I found she had performed a tribute to "The Sound of Music" at the 2015 Academy Awards. No dancing, no strange makeup - just a singer in a pretty dress showing the world her fantastic voice. I am sure the audience didn't believe she could carry off this performance, because the applause at the end of her set was rapturous. They were stunned.
The discovery of Lady Gaga is a reminder to me to never judge a book by its cover. I may not agree with her politics and some of her statements, but she's made a difference to the entertainment world. And she's here to entertain us, and she does that very well indeed. I hope she continues to evolve and does not become a caricature of herself, the way I think Madonna has become.
If you haven't seen "A Star is Born" do yourself a favour and watch Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's incredible performances. They have great chemistry, and Bradley has a great voice!
The picture above was taken by my boyfriend at my 21st birthday in February 1986. That's more than thirty two years ago. I look at that girl in that picture, and I cannot believe she is me. I think I was about to make a thank you speech at my party, which was held at the boyfriend's house. I was standing on the edge of the swimming pool, and there were around thirty people there. Thank goodness nobody thought to shove me into the pool!
That feeling of disbelief has less to do with the "Once upon a time in a place far far away from this one" (apologies to George Lucas and Star Wars...) and more to do with that Sarah's naivety. Had 21 year old Sarah known what life had in store for her she might well have leapt off the raised edge, chucked out that yellow dress, those high heels and white plastic hoop earrings and gone into hiding.
I do not own any yellow clothes. It's a colour I'm happy to see in nature, but not in my wardrobe. I feel the same way about orange. And red. Nor do I wear plastic jewellery; my pierced ears react to fake earrings. I most certainly do not own a pair of white shoes, and there are no high heels in my closet. There haven't been since the day I got married: 30 January, 1988. Not through choice, because I'm not tall and always enjoyed the few centimetres high heels added to my height. This Sarah would probably be in dark clothes, either trousers or a long dress with a pair of flat shoes (probably Sketchers) with my favourite pair of silver dangling earrings. The guest list would be around 15 people, and I would do my very very very best not make a speech.
A lot has happened in the 32 years between that Sarah and this Sarah:
The boyfriend became my husband in January 1988, and we are still together.
My first car was a yellow VW beetle, purchased in September 1986.
I had a car accident in April 1988 that cost me my unborn daughter and my left leg from the knee down.
I travelled to the United Kingdom in December 1988 - my first overseas trip.
I travelled to the USA in February 1994 - North Carolina and Tennessee.
I travelled to Namibia in February 1995 with a film camera, and now I want to go back with my digital camera.
I ran a public relations firm for four years.
I worked as a real estate agent for seven years.
I visited Cape Town for the first time in January 2001, and it remains my favourite city in the world.
I became a homeowner for the first time in June 2001, and I still live in that house today.
I travelled to Seychelles in December 2002 and spent two weeks on a houseboat in the Indian Ocean.
I joined WDC on 8 April, 2003.
I moved to Thessaloniki in Greece in August 2003.
I visited Mount Olympus for the first time in December 2003, fulfilling a childhood love of Greek mythology.
I watched "Lord of The Dance" on a stage in Thessaloniki.
I went to a exhibition of artifacts from "Titanic" in Athens.
I watched Vanessa Mae perform live in Thessaloniki.
I became a homeowner of a house in Harare for the second time in October 2006.
I moved to Izmir in Turkey in November 2006.
I met Tatenda, a baby black rhino in January 2008, and was allowed to feed him his bottle.
I returned home to Zimbabwe in July 2010.
I drove to Bethlehem in South Africa in April 2012 to collect my Giant Schnauzer puppy Solo.
I met Moyo, an elephant calf, at Zimbabwe's only elephant orphan nursery in May 2014.
I went to my third Neil Diamond concert in Johannesburg in April 2015.
I visited Gonarezhou for the first time in August 2015, and it is my favourite place in Zimbabwe.
I travelled to Australia in November 2015 for my oldest nephew's wedding.
I became a homeowner for the third time when we bought a house in Knysna in South Africa in December 2015.
I was appointed editor of a Zimbabwe travel magazine in May 2016.
I launched my own magazine in October 2017.
I travelled to Brazil to spend a week on the Amazon River in November 2017.
I marched to support the movement to remove Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
I was fitted with the world's most progressive prosthesis in Johannesburg in June 2018.
Those are highlights of the last 32 years of my life, and I have to say there are only a couple of regrets I have listed. Every one of those events has made me the person I am today, and I really would not change anything I've gone through. Life is for living, and I believe I have lived a reasonably full and interesting life.
I guess inside I'm still that same girl in the yellow dress with the white shoes and plastic earrings... thankfully that '80s fashion sense vanished at the end of the decade!
|In "Reality Sucks." I briefly mentioned my guest from New Zealand, who was supposed to stay in Zimbabwe for six weeks, but wound up leaving after five days. Well, it seems the guest has decided to take me, my friends, family and country to task for cutting her trip short. And she's doing it in an extremely unpleasant manner.
Kiwi arrived in Harare at lunchtime on Monday October 15. I collected her from the airport, brought her home and got her settled. She met my parents, who were staying with us at the same time. Everyone got on fine - lots of laughter and jokes and early to bed as we were leaving at 6 am the following morning to go on a trip to the Zambezi River.
She spent most of the 400 km journey asleep in the back of the car. She wasn't feeling well, and we figured she might be starting a cold from the long flight from Havana to Madrid to Addis Abbaba to Harare. We stopped at Marongora to confirm our permits to enter Mana Pools National Parks, and then again 20 minutes later to photograph the iconic baobab in the middle of the road.
We decided not to wake Kiwi. She was tired, had endured a very long flight to Zimbabwe and her cold was beginning to sound like 'flu. Besides, she would be able to see the baobab when we returned on Thursday. We arrived at the lodge, put our gear into our rooms and had a light lunch. I took Kiwi down to the hide, a pizza oven-shaped building in front of the waterhole below the lodge. It's a fantastic place to get up close and personal with the wildlife coming to drink, without them being aware that we are there. Kiwi spent 30 minutes in there. I stayed for two hours - I can never get enough of elephants, warthog, impala, bushbuck, kudu, eland, buffalo...
We went on a game drive that evening, and were thrilled to see five lionesses sleeping off the excess of a meal of an old buffalo they'd taken down the previous day. It was an incredible sight - and I live in Africa! Kiwi took a few photos with her cell phone. She didn't get too excited... I thought it was the 'flu.
She never went on another game drive. Nor did she come down to the hide again. By the second evening I realised she was not feeling sick - she was angry. With me. She never said goodnight to anyone, never thanked the camp managers or staff after a meal. She just stormed off to bed.
The following morning she told me I was incredibly rude because I didn't stay with her in her room. I pointed out that she had told us she was sick, and feeling unwell. She'd told my mother the previous day she thought going on a drive to see animals was a waste of time, and I was a horrible friend. The tension built, and finally burst on Thursday morning during breakfast.
One guest brought up the Brett Kavanaugh issue, laughing because he is very right-wing, his wife is very left-wing and telling us about how they argued over the hearings. My father, who is also pretty right-wing AND 78 years old, made a comment that caused Kiwi to totally loose her temper. She swore at him. Called him a "F*^&ing P$#%*".
I put down my coffee cup and walked out of the dining room back to my room. Five minutes later my mum and my niece Megan came to see me. Megan hugged me and I burst into tears. Mum said Dad was out of line, and yes, perhaps he was. But arguments are not settled by name-calling and swearing. Megan confirmed Kiwi was furious with me, and had told Megan that we were all racists and bigots and she could not believe how much I had changed in the year since we first met when I was in Brazil. Megan told her we are not racists. Nor are we bigots. She explained to Kiwi that if she'd lived in Zimbabwe and experienced 38 years of Robert Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa and their appallingly corrupt party she might feel differently. Kiwi has never been given 24 hours to leave her home, had her bank account emptied or struggled to find essential medicine. Nor been denied the right to vote simply because she is white.
It made no difference to her opinion, even when Megs explained that just because we don't like our government doesn't mean we are racists.
Kiwi arrived at my room, and I told Megan and Mum to leave. I then told her that I was sorry I was such a disappointment to her, and suggested that when we get back to Harare we go to my travel agent and get her a ticket home. She asked me about what to do with her volunteer opportunity at Imire Game Park. I told her that if she hated driving in the bush looking for animals she would hate Imire. Plus, the owners of Imire are friends of mine, and I would be ashamed to inflict this girl on them.
I did what I said I would do when we returned to Harare. I made Mum and Dad go and stay with Megan for Thursday night. Kiwi was booked to fly out Friday evening. I took her to Mbare, Harare's oldest township on Friday morning. My friend Garikayi (a black man) took us on his informative tour of Mbabre. We had lunch, eating and drinking traditional Zimbabwean fare in a cholera-ridden part of Harare. And Kiwi loved every minute of it. Especially the history of Mbare, and the cemetery, where the Jewish, Greek, soldiers from World War I and II, the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean whites and blacks were buried in separate areas. She was disgusted with that segregation - even the Catholic cemetery had its own burial area.
During lunch with Garikayi we met Patrick, a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I invited him to have lunch with us, and he told us how he had hiked from the DRC through Tanzania and Zambia into Zimbabwe after his parents and older brother were killed by militia last year. His sister escaped with him, but he has no idea where she is in Zimbabwe. His story upset me dreadfully, but for some reason Kiwi didn't seem too affected - she was arguing with Garikayi about why African culture accepts a man having more than one wife, asking him why she couldn't have more than one husband. When she brought sex into the debate I began to cringe, and I could see Garikayi and Patrick were uncomfortable with the conversation.
She also met a Sangoma (a traditional healer), who was not impressed by hearing about the weeks Kiwi spent with an Afro-Cuban priestess in Cuba learning African religion. I don't blame her - I don't know much about African religion, but what Kiwi told me did not sound like anything I've ever heard in Zimbabwe. We stopped at the local market where she bought a couple of paintings and spent time at a Zimbabwe Dancehall (yes, it's a musical genre from Zimbabwe) listening to their latest recordings.
I think her time in Mbare is the only thing she enjoyed about her visit to Zimbabwe. After a stop off at Wild is Life, where she fed orphaned elephants and giraffes I delivered her to the airport. Apologised that Zimbabwe was not what she thought it would be and left...
A few days ago I saw a posting from her with a photograph I sent her of herself sharing a beer with Garikayi and Patrick. She wrote:
There is a very special story which goes with this photo- about the immense racism, sexism and small-mindedness I encountered in Zimbabwe... but I am writing that one for the newspaper and will share the link when it’s done.
You can imagine how I feel. This girl intends to write a scathing article about me, my family, my friends at the lodge and Garikayi based on a five day visit to Harare and Mana Pools. She has no idea what it is like living in a country with an economy in a moribund state thanks to 38 years of total misrule by a kleptocratic, inept dictatorship. I have counselled this girl for a year, listening to her tirades about her mother, her fears that she could be pregnant after a one night stand in Columbia, her determination to live life as a gypsy because she is ashamed of her birth into a wealthy family when so much of the world is in poverty... I thought she was a friend. I would NEVER betray her in the way she intends to betray me.
I have unfriended her, blocked her emails, her phone number etc. I do not need to read her thoughts and opinions on my country. I am not a racist, nor am I small-minded and I am not a sexist. Why should my friend Garikayi be criticised by her for cultures, beliefs and traditions that have existed in Africa for thousands of years? I love my country. I just do not like what the government has done to Zimbabwe and her people, and I know most Zimbabweans feel the same way.
Am I hurt? Yes... Am I angry? Very.
|A local news site, Kubatana, asked members for their memories of 18 November, 2017 - the day Zimbabwe marched to express our desire for Robert Mugabe to step down after nearly 38 years in power. The word limit is 500 - I managed to meet it! The text is below if anyone would like to read it:
“Patriotism” is the word that springs to mind whenever I remember 18 November, 2017. For the first time in 20 years, I felt truly Zimbabwean. I felt loved and accepted by every single one of my fellow Zimbabweans. Under Robert Mugabe, the ZANU PF political party and government had, since 1980, ruled the country in a deliberately divisive, tribalistic and xenophobic manner. Regardless of one’s gender, race, political or religious affiliation; if you were not a member of or related to someone in ZANU PF’s hierarchy you were side-lined. And marginalised. Zimbabwe was not for you. Zimbabwe belonged to Robert Mugabe and his select hierarchy.
On 18 November, 2017, none of this mattered. We were united. We spilled out onto the streets to celebrate the beginning of change. For 37 years we had no choice but to watch as our country turned into a fiefdom, where virtually every single citizen had absolutely no rights. We watched helplessly as our “leaders” systematically set about seizing Zimbabwe, enriching themselves and their families and friends at the expense of destroying a beautiful, vibrant country.
“Hope” flared as we spilled onto the streets. The army, used as a tool by the government to supress any hint of rebellion over 37 years, watched as we united. We chanted, danced and took photographs around the military vehicles under the bemused eyes of armed soldiers. Once feared for their brutal enforcement of the government’s laws, on that day they were our friends, our protectors and our liberators. Supporting Zimbabweans in our desire for change, they were behaving like an army in a truly democratic country.
I was excited. I relished the feeling of belonging to the country of my birth. Being able to express my love for Zimbabwe without fear was a heady feeling. Standing on the corner of Josiah Tongogara and Simon Muzenda Streets I felt part of history. We were doing something positive for our Zimbabwe, the country we love.
Hope began to dim after the elections. The discrepancies and the performance of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, following by the shootings of seven civilians in Harare on August 01, 2018 were the first indications that the new dispensation was not going to be much different from the old dispensation. The hope that we were going to get the change we marched for on 18 November, 2017 flared briefly when the new cabinet members were announced. It faded when some of the hierarchy of the old dispensation were given jobs working at the party’s headquarters. It became clear they were not being side lined; they would still be a major influence on the new dispensation’s operations.
The purchase of vehicles for party stalwarts when the country is suffering from a desperate shortage of medicines, fuel shortages and the introduction of a two percent tax on most money transactions has virtually extinguished that hope. In its place is a sadness with the realisation that “the more things change the more they remain the same.”
God bless Zimbabwe.
|So... I find myself blogging THREE MONTHS after my last post. This is an entry in a place where I feel safe, able to vent and say things I am unable to tell my physical real-life contacts. So... let my vent begin!!! I will keep it to the esteemed "List of Five", in reverence and respect to our dear friend Scarlett :
Almost a year after I joined the march to see off Zimbabwe's only leader in 38 years, I find myself living in the situation that once gave me so much writing inspiration. What happened to Zimbabwe from 2003 to 2010 is now happening again, only it's even worse.It's like living in a surreal world, and I find myself struggling to understand how my friends and family coped with that hell. There's also a very real sense of shame that I once found so much to write about, and the realisation that I never actually understood just how dreadful those seven years were for the people living in Zimbabwe. The elections to usher in a new leader at the end of July were blatantly rigged, despite the new president inviting international observers to oversee the process. A few weeks ago the European Union released a report to say they elections were not free , not fair and not credible. Well, that's a bit late... six people were shot dead in front of international reporters on the streets of Harare. Not a single observer said anything at the time.
Perhaps the most horrible thing has been trying to find medicine for Ivan and my parents. There is no foreign currency in the banks, and in 38 years this government has destroyed local industry so badly we need billions of dollars. The local pharmaceutical industry has collapsed - it needs US$7 million/month and the government allocated it US$2 million over three months. Mum and Dad are on medicine for blood pressure, cholesterol and heart issue while Ivan is on meds for his heart and his ankylosing spondylitis. My parents are pensioners in a country which can no longer pay pensions... we managed to get three months supply of these meds before the pharmacies changed their pricing structure. Future meds will have to be purchased in South Africa.
The collapse of our economy has seen me having to step back from my magazine... the new tax introduced by our appalling government has affected our fragile economy so badly it's not longer viable to print a magazine in this country. I'm looking at perhaps doing an online version, which means I won't be stressing about looking for advertising support which was actually the worst part of the whole magazine production process.
Trust has been a major issue in my life this year. A person I trusted because she really seemed to support our magazine has literally stabbed me in the back. After we wrote a really great article about the lodge she represents on the Zambezi River, managing to get the publicity-shy head of Hemmersbach Rhino Force to approve a piece about his work in Zimbabwe and correctly crediting a top international photographer with his fantastic images I discovered she'd given the same article to our opposition, who wrote a dreadful article full of mistakes and didn't bother to credit the photographer. To add insult her husband, who did a great job distributing our second issue, has made no effort with the third issue, meaning I have been unable to publicise the articles because the magazine is not in the shops. I found myself questioning why we at Footprints go to so much trouble to produce a decent, international-class magazine with advertising rates lower than the opposition when we cannot get the advertising support we need to continue publication. Once I made the decision to stop printing I had my first decent night's sleep in months.
We met a New Zealand girl during our trip to the Amazon last year. We really clicked with her, and kept in touch over the past year. She decided to come to Africa for a visit on her way back home. What was supposed to be six weeks in Zimbabwe turned into five days - after having her insult my parents, call white Zimbabweans "racists" and attack me personally for many tiny insignificant issue (not waking her up to see a baobab tree because she was "feeling sick" after her flight from Cuba) I took her to a travel agent and made her buy a one way ticket home. Her insults hurt me dreadfully... and taught me to be very careful of people you meet on holiday.
So there it is: a summary of the last few months of my life right now. I need to get back into my OWN writing now... it comforts and helps me deal with the world we now live in, and gives me a little bit of an escape from reality. Maybe that's true for all writers? The world we're living in now is changing so quickly, and not in a good way. Writing and interacting with writing friends from all over the world is something that helped me deal with the loneliness and isolation of those years in Greece and Turkey.
It is a world I loved, and I want it back.
|Yesterday I ventured out of my house by car for the first time in six days. Yes, I have taken Solo for our morning walks, but because of the Easter weekend we encountered just one or two walkers in the three days we took to the street. Yesterday was the first time I've interacted with people in six days.
After delivering my lawnmower to be serviced, I stopped at the local supermarket to pick up a few groceries. My surprise at the complete lack of carrots on the shelves turned to annoyance, because now I would have to go to another shop to find a vegetable we add to Solo's healthy meals. At the till a cursory glance over the few magazines for sale quickly got rid of my annoyance because Footprints was proudly positioned among the South African magazines and another excellent local magazine called Zimbabwe Artist.
I did purchase Fair Lady, a South African magazine that has been a part of my life since I was a child, and was probably my first introduction to journalistic and magazine writing. After stopping at my local butchery (alas, no carrots either), and buying some sewing thread at Mount Pleasant Fashions I returned home. It was lunchtime, so I settled down with a few bits of fruit, a mug of coffee and my Fair Lady.
The article that attracted my attention is responsible for the title of this entry. The premise is that because so many of us are conditioned to saying YES we have forgotten how to say NO. because of the guilt we feel when we say NO - and this is exactly what happens to me - we end up over-committing to things we just don't have time to do, resulting in our own commitments suffering. In addition to the guilt we feel resentful, frustrated and angry... and those emotions are not good for our psyche. In addition, society has conditioned us to accept every single invitation that comes our way... a condition so common it's known as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Example: in January I attended a meeting held by a local Zimbabwe Tourism organisation. I do believe this organisation is really useless, but I went anyway... and wasted three hours of my life at a function that has done NOTHING for myself, Footprints or Zimbabwe. There has been another meeting since then, and this one we were expected to pay for, which reaffirmed my initial decision to not attend any more of their meetings.
Some of the points raised in this article:
Taking on too many things leaves little or no time to do one's own things.
The more we say NO the easier it becomes.
Turning down opportunites gives others the chance to step up to the plate and be responsible.
Learn to accept that honesty is the best policy, and most people are understanding when you cannot do something.
Make time for YOU.
I can do this. I have already decided to take more time to do the things that are important to me. This weekend showed me that I cannot please all of the people all of the time. And I think I am getting there... while editing an article this morning I needed to check a fact, so Googled one of the sentences. Immediately the exact sentence popped up as having been used in a 2012 article about the same resort by a Zimbabwean Journalist I've known since my days in PR in the 1990s! Plagiarism sucks, and he would have been pretty unimpressed to see his article reprinted by Footprints under another writer's name. On further inspection I found several of her paragraphs have been copied and pasted from different reviews and internet sites on the resort! I have returned the piece to the writer, asking her to edit it to avoid plagiarism.
Once upon a time I would have done that editing... NO MORE!!!
The difference between sucessful people and very successful people is that very successful people say NO to almost everything.
|Thank you. vivacious , Kåre Enga, P.O. 22, Blogville and Veritas for your kind comments on my Good Friday blog. Also to my friends RICH and Natechia dos Reis ... just reading your sage words of wisdom has helped me re-evaluate my current situation.
I spent an Easter weekend completely at home. I worked in my house and my garden, and reconnected with me. I sewed a blouse and a fitted tablecloth. It's been so long since I touched my sewing machine I felt as though it was chatting away to me as we sewed, asking me not to forget how well we have worked together in the thirty years since my husband bought it for me.
I also wrote an essay for "Project Write World" that turned out to be cathartic. The prompt for this round is a quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers." I scribbled an entry about the seven days last November, when Zimbabwe underwent "the coup that wasn't a coup" and removed the bully that spent 37 years destroying our country. My entry is "A Week is a Long Time in Politics." .
I reviewed - something I loved to do before I came back home to Zimbabwe. It felt good to be reviewing pieces for me and not for Footprints, where I have to be so careful about offending writers when I edit their sentences to avoid the inevitable preposition at the end. This has happened a few times with both issues of Footprints and the previous Nzira magazine - I don't think this writing mantra has changed, but even if it has I don't care because sentences ending in a preposition do not read well.
I relaxed... I cooked a couple of meals (I love cooking) and I caught up on my favourite TV shows. My husband and I also watched the three "Mummy" films that featured Brendan Frasier in the lead role - loved the first two, but the third was ghastly!
This morning I took Solo for a walk. As we turned onto Quorn Avenue off our street an eagle owl landed on one of the lamp posts, his distinctive shape and "ears" clearly outlined in the lightening sky. We stopped to watch him, his bemused face looking down on us. I love owls, and I think this is one of a pair that is living in our little cluster home complex. During the last twenty minutes of our walk the bird song was clear, almost heralding the dawn of a lovely day. We didn't pass a single fellow walker or a car... I arrived home feeling calm, clear and refreshed.
I feel more able to tackle the issues around Footprints now. It is not going to be easy, but I will not chase the new distributor. That does nothing but upset me. Not him. I will wait for him to reply to me. I am upsetting myself and giving myself ulcers over this. And life's too short to stress over things I really cannot control. The days away from social media have also been refreshing. I have not reactivated my account; I will consider my options if and when the new distributor gets back to me. One thing I can say for sure - I DO NOT MISS FACEBOOK.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir, Environmentalist
|Last night I managed to get myself into a situation which started off badly. Not for me, thankfully. The way it was resolved certainly gave me pause for thought.
We had just delivered a couple of fishing reels to Master Angler in Borrowdale’s Sam Levy for servicing, and were having a drink before heading to a friend’s 60th birthday party dinner when my friend Lara arrived. She told us she was a bit late because she’d stopped her car to move an owl off the road. She was upset. There was a lot of traffic, and she thought the owl might have been hit by a car. It was alive, and she managed to get it to move off the road. The owl clicked his beak at her, fluffing up his feathers defensively. Lara was concerned he was injured and that by picking him up she might make his injuries worse.
My family and friends know I’m a stringiformesphile – a person who is obsessed with or loves owls. I immediately offered to go back with Lara and find the baby owl. My mother in law lives around the corner from Kingsmead lane, where Lara had found the owl. We were supposed to be at the birthday dinner at seven o’clock, and we had just twenty minutes. I knew our friend would understand, and we set off to find the injured owl.
As we parked the car my heart sank. There were a crowd of people sitting around a fire next to the wall where Lara had last seen the owl. Lara was just as worried as me; many people in Zimbabwe associate owls with black magic and witchcraft, and the birds are often stoned or deliberately mutilated. Not wanting to draw attention to ourselves, we began to walk along the wall. I used my cellphone torch to see into the clivia bushes at the foot of the wall. We search behind the taller bushes, but found nothing.
At one point one of the house’s workers approached us, and we told her we were looking for an injured “zizi” – the Shona name for an owl. She expressed her sympathy, and told us she hoped we would find it. We were encouraged by her concern – obviously an enlightened lady!
I found the owl five minutes later. His feathers were fluffed out, and he had pushed his face and front as far into the clivia plant as possible. Lara brought a towel, and carefully placed it over him and lifted him. He had huge yellow eyes, and stared at us without blinking. When I raised my hand and spoke to him he clicked his beak. It sounded like a set of castanets. As we drove in to my mother in law’s home in her retirement village his eyes remained fixed on me; even when Lara moved his body to smooth the towel over him his head never moved. Nor did he blink.
To our delight Mel, general manager of local animal welfare organization Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe (VAWZ) was visiting one of her friends at the retirement village. She identified him as a spotted eagle owl, and told us he is very young. I held him while mom arranged a box for him. He seemed to calm down; his heartbeat slowed a little, and his very soft fluffy baby feathers seemed to settle. Before we left I asked if one of the ladies could take a photograph of the owl, and the image below was Whatsapped to me this morning.
Sometimes one is in the right place at the right time, and there’s no way last night could have had any better ending for the owl. Coincidentally, he was taken to my Solo’s vet to be checked over (Mel said he seems to be rather underweight, and she was concerned he may have injuries from perhaps falling out of his nest. He will then be taken to Twala, a local animal sanctuary that will release him once he’s ready. Spotted eagle owls begin to fly at seven weeks of age, and leave the nest five weeks late.
And that is the final perfect coincidence in this story – I wrote a feature on Twala for the first issue of our Footprints magazine!
|I have to agree with Paul Eulard’s sentiment. I have loved elephants my entire life; for so long that I cannot remember exactly when it started. Perhaps it was Jean de Brunhoff’s “Barbar” books; I am sure Mum read those books to us at bedtime. The young “Me” loved elephants so much my maternal grandmother knitted me a splendid elephant wearing a red shirt with a blue tie and trousers for a birthday present. I called him Henry. He was my favourite childhood toy, and I still have him today, almost fifty years later.
I recently spent three days at Kavinga Safari Lodge in Mana Pools National Park, in the north of Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River. I last went there two years ago, when the five lodges were still being constructed, so a visit was long overdue. I also haven’t seen a wild elephant since November last year… I was experiencing some serious withdrawal symptoms!
Kavinga has an incredible hide built at the foot of the cliffs below the lodges. Once inside the hide, guests can watch animals at the waterhole. For photographers, it’s a wonderful place to capture amazing images of animals being… animals. Shortly after we arrived my sister in law Heather and hurried down into the hide, where we remained for three hours. We were entertained by guinea fowl, impala, warthog, baboons, emerald spotted doves… and elephants.
It is hard to describe how I feel when I see an elephant. There’s the overwhelming sense of awe at seeing the world’s largest land animal – how does an animal weighing six tonnes (13,000 lbs) manage to move so silently? Watching them interact with each other is humbling – they are considerate of and kind to each other. There were several very young babies with the herd drinking at the waterhole, playing between the adults’ legs underneath those massive bodies – the adults never stand on the babies! Listening to them breathing and rumbling… watching them drinking and throwing water over themselves and sometimes at each other… puts life into perspective.
One thing I did realise during this trip is that elephants have a sense of humour. One baby pushed another one over the edge of the waterhole, before climbing on top of the submerged baby! Not that there was any furious retaliation; submerged baby scrambled to its feet in the water and rolled over onto the protagonist! The adults simply continued bathing, watching their babies… being babies.
Our room was overlooking the waterhole, and I woke up at 3 am to considerable splashing and grunting. I hurried onto the balcony – it was a full moon, so I did not need the spotlight. The camp’s resident hippo had moved into the water hole, his dark shape clearly visible in the moonlight. A lone saddlebill stork was fishing close to the hippo. As I watched an adult elephant moved silently into the moonlight – she’d been drinking from the pipe that fills the waterhole. Elephants love clean water; despite the fact that there are still pools of water in the Ruckomechi River close to the lodges, elephants prefer to dig “boreholes” and kneel down to drink the water filtered clean through the sand.
The elephant was tuskless, and she was followed by a tiny baby, hurrying to keep up with Mom. It is unusual to see one adult with her baby; most of the time I’ve seen them they are in family groups with several aunts, cousins and siblings. We’d seen a huge black maned lion strolling across the sand shortly after we arrived, and a hyena taking an evening walk down the road into the camp when we returned from sundowners in the riverbed. A tiny elephant with one adult has little defence against a predator such as a lion, hyena or leopard – there are three leopards at Kavinga.
The mother elephant stopped, and her little one bumped into her back legs, before scrambling around to stand next to her. They paused for a moment, before continuing their walk away from the waterhole and over the sand towards the grassy area next to the riverbed. I’m not ashamed to admit a lump came into my throat as I watched them walking. So many thoughts flooded my mind: the baby elephants ripped away from their mothers at Hwange to be sent to a veritable prison in a Chinese zoo for the rest of their lives… poachers taking advantage of the full moon to slaughter elephants and rhinos… terror that I was going to hear a lion or hyena attack the baby…
I’m not ashamed to admit I sat down on that balcony and cried. As the couple disappeared from view, I prayed they would be safe. I hoped there were a few more family members waiting for them. The bond between a mother and her calf is one that lasts for many years; female elephants stay with their mothers and other relatives for their entire lives. Knowing she is the largest land species on the planet didn’t stop my tears – poachers and trophy hunters have reduced the numbers of African elephants from almost three million in 1930 to just over 500,000 today. She has no defence against a poacher’s snare or bullet.
Thankfully, that was the only sadness I experienced during the trip. I am certain the melancholia was enhanced by the time. Not for nothing is 3 am known as “the Witching Hour”, “midnight of the Soul” and “The Devil’s Hour”… it’s that time of night when our souls are supposedly at their weakest. Anyone who has ever awoken at 3 am probably knows how anything troubling seems overwhelming, not matter how small or trivial.
I didn’t see another lone mother and baby elephant for the rest of our stay at Kavinga. We did see several herds of elephants, with a number of tuskless adults. I hope and pray my 3 am sighting is part of a close-knit and protective family.
Save the elephants, and then you save the forest. And then you save yourself.
Mark Shand, British Writer
|The thirty one days of August passed in a flash and a blur, but for all the right reasons. I don't think I've been so active on WDC since leaving Turkey back in 2010!
I undertook a number of writing activities during August. It was absolutely hectic, frantic and wonderful. Even better, it got my muse back into action, and made me very productive indeed.
Game of Thrones
My dear friend iKïyå§ama in Wonderland! invited me to participate in this annual writing event, organised by Gaby . I happily accepted, without too much of an idea as to what I was undertaking. August 01 arrived, and I found myself writing a couple of short stories, daily reviewing and scribbling chapters for interactive stories. It was hectic, but was absolutely fantastic. I desperately needed a push in the writing direction, and I got it with "Game of Thrones" . I wrote 56 reviews in August, and produced six short stories. I don't think I was ever that productive in one month, not even while living in Greece and Turkey!
Official Site Contest - Quotation Inspiration
Shortly before Game of Thrones began I discovered I was one of the three judges for the July 2017 "Quotation Inspiration: Official Contest" contest. My heart sank, but only for a moment. I actually didn't understand how busy I would be with Game of Thrones... well, I managed to complete the reviews of all entries in good time. I often think I work best under pressure... perhaps I'm right! So far just 20 percent of the contests have responded to my reviews, and they seem to have been helpful...
Official Site Contest - Short Shots
Three days before the end of the months, a selection of new short story ideas was posted. The 51st prompt invited participants to enter the "Short Shots: Official WDC Contest" . I spent the day thinking about the picture: sunrise or sunset on an ancient temple with massive marble pillars. The following morning, I started reading a few Egyptian myths (my favourite mythology), and 24 hours later a story had been written. A day of editing later and "Cleopatra's Heart" was posted and entered in the contest.
The first issue of my travel magazine is being delivered on Monday for distribution all over Zimbabwe. My team - Jean (my amazing DTP guru) and Chrissie (my marketing lady) and I managed to put it all together. It is the culmination of a dream I did not think I would ever realise. This time last year I edited Nzira, a local magazine the publisher pulled while we were compiling the December issue. It was the best job I have ever had, and I was heartbroken when it was cancelled, especially as management of the magazine had been handled so badly by the publisher. Last week I learned he is resucitating Nzira, "in response to massive public demand" - his words. His advertising rates are three times higher than Footprints, and his freelance writers were delighted to write for our new magazine. I have also been told by a couple of very reliable sources he knows exactly what I have been up to... although he had no idea we were printing end August. I'm nervous, but excited. And we're already planning our December issue and have secured several more advertisers for the next issue!
August wasn't all writing... I had one week off, when Ivan and I travelled to the sugar estates in the South of Zimbabwe for a friend's 60th birthday. It was a great party and we had a lovely weekend. We then drove to the Midlands of Zimbabwe, staying at Lake Mutilikwe near the town of Masvingo. I managed to explore a lot of the area... saw bushman paintings, incredible natural aloe gardens, Zimbabwe's smallest church built by the water bailiff in the 1960s in memory of his daughter and a Catholic Church built by Italian internees held in Masvingo during the Second World War.
My holiday means I actually did all that writing in just over three weeks! Certainly cause to celebrate, and it also means I have NO EXCUSES about not finding the time to write!
Excerpt from "Stars", a poem by Katherine Mansfield
I was utterly dazed,
In a word I was floored,
|Last week my marketing manager and I went on a city tour of Mbare, Harare's first township. We'd been invited as editor and representatives of my new travel magazine…
I can't say too much about the tour in this blog – well, not yet. It was exciting (200,000 people live in this suburb), and I need to save those experiences for our website and our Footprints blog. But what I can write about is the Pioneer Cemetery. Situated opposite Mbare, it is the place where we had arranged to park our car and meet our guide, Garikai.
My maternal grandfather, who died 1958, is interred at the Pioneer Cemetery. Mum tells me he did not want a tombstone, so his grave is unmarked. The Caretaker, who asked not to be named, told me that if I know his full name and his date of death it will be in the register and he can show me where my grandfather rests. That's something I intend to do in the near future, but last week I did not have the time. My shock at the state of the Pioneer Cemetery must surely have showed on my face, because The Caretaker spent a lot of time telling me how much he and his team of three municipal workers try to maintain Harare's oldest cemetery.
Despite the fact that three of its borders are busy main roads (including the road to Beit Bridge, the Zimbabwe border post town with our main economic partner South Africa) there is a solemn reverence to this piece of Harare. Even the appalling amount of rubbish/trash strewn between and over the tombstones does not detract from the peace of the final resting place of over 5,000 people. The Caretaker told me the living do not show any respect for the cemetery's inhabitants: "They sit on the gravestone and take selfies with their cellphones," he whispered, shaking his head. “Sometimes they come and sit on the graves in the evenings and on weekends, drinking beer.”
The cemetery is divided into sections. The Anglican/Church of England section and the Roman Catholic sections seem to be the largest. Harare's Jewish and Greek population are further away, and not as large. The most recent burial was that of Kiki Divaris, matriarch of one of Harare's oldest and most respected Greek families. I did not walk between the Greek and Jewish tombstones, but they appeared to be reasonably well cared for compared to many tombstones in the other sections.
Even in death religious and racial segregation is and was observed…
There is a large section that was reserved for the "native" population living and working for some of the first settlers in Salisbury - Harare's pre-independence name. Time was not on our side, so from a distance I saw the mounds over each grave in what The Caretaker told me is the "African’s graveyard”. The amount of litter strewn around the weeds on each sad, neglected mound was made sadder by the fact that there are no tombstones on these graves.
The most well-maintained section houses the war graves, which includes 66 men from the British South Africa Police and Rhodesia Native Regiment. White tombstones contain the name, rank, regiment, date of death and age of almost 260 soldiers who served in both World Wars. The flowering shrubs between the tombstones are neat and appear to be watered, and the lawn is trimmed and tidy. A couple of the soldiers interred there were middle-aged when they died, but most were in their early 20s. Apparently members of one of the Commonwealth organisations hold annual ceremonies to remember the war dead at Pioneer Cemetery, and they also take care of the soldiers' graves. I find this incredible as our president pulled Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth in 2002... but it's comforting to know there are some people who want to take care of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, regardless of a dictator's political posturing and manipulations.
The Caretaker told me nobody comes to take care of their family member's graves. I imagine that is because so many of the pioneer families have left Zimbabwe, and are dispersed all over the world. Many tombstones look unkempt; some have sunk into the soil and sit as a lopsided address and notification as to someone's final resting place. Others have had their brass decorations removed, leaving a memory in small circular depressions in the marble or granite in the shape of a cross or the letters of a name.
I've been fascinated by cemeteries and graveyards since I was a child. I'm not afraid of dead people; the living are far more dangerous than a pile of bones resting underneath six foot of earth. Cemeteries are history. They are a record of our ancestors, places where families and friends once gathered to say a final farewell to somebody they loved. Most of those people interred at the Pioneer Cemetery left their homes in England and Europe to move to the country called Rhodesia, and they died in a land far away from their place of birth. Now their descendants have left, many returning to those same lands from where their ancestors originated.
I want to find my grandfather's grave. I want to clean it up, and tidy it and plant a beautiful and hardy shrub over his final resting place. I am his descendant. I am still here, and I want him to know I have not forgotten him. Because if he hadn't moved to Salisbury I would not exist. He is part of my own personal family history. I don't want to think of him forgotten in a dirty burial ground.
To the solemn graves, near a lonely cemetery, my heart like a muffled drum is beating funeral marches.
|This morning I watched the last episode of “American Gods”, a new television series based on british author Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name. Before the last couple of the eight-episode series, I had decided not to both with the second season; too many characters, too many sub-plots and stories made it a bit confusing. Until the last episode…
I first decided to watch the series because I’ve loved mythology all my life. Egyptian, Roman, Norse and Greek myths spring instantly to mind – imagine how delighted I was to discover I’d be living an hour’s drive from Mount Olympus back in 2003! I read a bit about Norse mythology, but to be honest I’m not too knowledgeable about the stories. I am ashamed to admit I know very little about African mythology, other than stories of Nyaminyami the River God, mermaids, tokoloshes and hyenas. I really need to broaden my understanding of the mythology of Africa…
But back to “American Gods”. The basic premise of the story is that the old gods of Roman, Greek, Egyptian and other folklore have become irrelevant because people no longer believe in them. The first immigrants to America brought their gods with them, but over time the gods’ powers waned as people are more interested in drugs, technology, social media and celebrities. The central character is a man named Shadow Moon, who learns his whole life has been planned and orchestrated by the mysterious Mr Wednesday, who is actually Odin, the most revered god in Norse mythology.
Wednesday wants to unite the Old Gods to take back the world from the New Gods. With names like Media (goddess of television), The Technical Boy (god of the internet and computers), The Intangibles (gods of the invisible hand of the stock market) and The Black Hats (Messers Town, Wood, Stone and World representing conspiracy theories) the New Gods certainly demonstrate what has replaced so many human beings’ religious and mythological beliefs. Aware of Wednesday’s plan, the New Gods periodically interact with the Old Gods, causing destruction and mayhem. Example: Vulcan (Roman God of Fire running a town through its citizens’ belief in the right to bear arms) forges a sword for Wednesday, before betraying him to the New Gods, telling them where Shadow and Wednesday are going. A furious Wednesday kills Vulcan and curses his followers.
There’s a leprechaun named Mad Sweeny, Anubis (the Egyptian God of the Underworld), a Jinn and Biquis – the Queen of Sheba. When the first few episodes of the show aired the media chose to focus on the very graphic sex scenes featuring the Jinn with a young male Muslim and Bilquis devouring her lovers... having watched the entire series my writing mind wonders if this isn't the New Gods trying to influence the true story of the series! In the final episode Jesus is one of many guests attending a party celebrating Easter, hosted by Ostara, Germanic Goddess of Spring. Ostara calls herself Easter, and she has successfully adapted to the modern world by aligning herself with the Christian celebration bearing her name.
Neil Gaiman’s 2001 book won six international science fiction/fantasy writing awards of eleven nominations. I’ve not read the book… perhaps it should be on my “to read” list. After all, the book is usually better than the film or television series. I had concerns this series would be a contradiction to Christianity, Islam and other modern faiths. It isn’t – it’s a fantasy writer taking folklore and mythology to a modern generation. And in today’s world, increasing ruled by selfies and social media, perhaps “American Gods” is something we should all be watching.
American Gods is about 200,000 words long, and I'm sure there are words that are simply in there 'cause I like them. I know I couldn't justify each and every one of them.
|In January 2015, three weeks before my 50th birthday, I underwent a hysterectomy. A few days after commemorating my half century on Earth, I learned that the sudden sweating and insomnia I'd begun experiencing shortly after the operation were part of parcel of menopause. It was a brief, albeit sobering moment. I was now experiencing that condition usually associated with middle aged women.
Fortunately, I'm not the kind of girl to dwell on these sort of things too long. My gynae suggested HRT, and after chatting to my GP (I've been his patient for 32 years!) I decided this was the way I wanted to tackle my middle age. No mid-life crisis for me... although, to be perfectly honestly the diagnosis of severe osteoporosis shortly after the hysterectomy helped me make the decision. HRT treatment is considered beneficial for osteoporosis patients.
In hindsight, 2015 was a very bad year for me. I made several terrible decisions . Perhaps the adjustment to hormonal changes after the operation affected my capacity to think clearly and make some questionable judgements... at any rate, 2016 seemed to be easier. A couple of my friends in Zimbabwe also entered the same phase of life, and after a few discussions with them about HRT I began to worry about the long-term effects.
In January this year one of Ivan's friends gave him some cannabis oil capsules his mother had got him for his headaches shortly after a mild stroke. The tablets did not help him, and he figured they might help Ivan's arthritis. I'd heard of several success stories about cannabis oil and menopause, so one evening I took a deep breath and swallowed a 2,5 mg tablet. I have never had cannabis in any form before, so I was a bit concerned.
I woke up the next morning, refreshed and revitalised. I'd slept a full seven hours, and not woken once. Toward the end of 2016 I had started to suffer with insomnia caused by night sweats, and I was worried I was going to have to increase the HRT dosage. I went back to my faithful GP, told him about the cannabis and he told me: "If it is working for you then carry on." The girl who produces the tablets is the only person in Harare with a licence from the Ministry of Health to work with cannabis, and she and a professor from the University of Zimbabwe are working to get cannabis legalised for medicinal purposes in Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately night sweats and insomnia are just two symptoms of menopause. I was diagnosed with high cholesterol in February... so high my GP wanted to put me on statins. I begged him to give me the year to bring my cholesterol back down naturally, and he agreed. So... I take a brisk walk for an hour every morning with my wonderful Solo dog, and I work with a nutritionist named Laura. She's been fantastic, and got me being far more aware of my diet and lifestyle. I want to loose five kilograms, but somehow this has been impossible. I haven't been on a scale in six weeks, and when I climbed on last Friday I saw to my horror I have gained three kilos.
I'm also suffering with pain in my joints. My hair and skin is dry and recently my neck has been hurting. I spoke to my nutritionist on Monday, and she suggested I see my doctor ASAP for full blood tests, including liver and thyroid function. Yesterday my GP weighed me, examined me and told me my thyroid feels enlarged. He drew a big syringe full of blood, and booked me for an ultrasound scan of my thyroid next Monday.
Part of me was a bit upset - after that dreadful car accident in 1988 I figured I'd been through enough life-changing medical procedures. Now, almost thirty years later, it looks like I'm facing a whole new set of "challenges". Not that an underactive thyroid gland isn't treatable; all three of my sister in laws have this condition, and they manage it fine. This morning, after my walk I got on the scale, and found I'd lost 1,5 kilos! It certainly brightened my day, although I am sure this has to do with the fact that Ivan is with the Zimbabwe National Bass Fishing Team at an international competition, which means I'm eating small salads full of vegetables, nuts and protein like chicken and tuna and I've had no coffee or wine for six days!
Fingers crossed we can get a grip on the cause of these latest menopause symptoms... otherwise the next ten-odd years are not going to be pleasant.
|Back in 1986, the first series of an American television show was launched. It ran for eight seasons, and had a huge impact… not only on future television shows but also on people all over the world. It showed so many of us (Americans included) about the legal system in the USA. In Zimbabwe it was “must watch” TV – at the time we only had one television channel and if my memory is correct it was screened at 8.15 Sunday evenings, after the evening news bulletin.
I guess today’s series “Suits” is perhaps the natural successor to “LA Law”; it’s just as slick and very well written with excellent actors portraying believable and all-too-human characters. I have to confess I caught the first two episodes of the latest series on Sunday morning for the first time in my life, and I really enjoyed the show. I’m going to have to find the earlier episodes, and with all the rubbish shows on TV these days I imagine one of our satellite provider’s many channels will have re-runs.
Crime dramas are my favourite television shows. It’s a love I discovered in Greece and Turkey when, unable to follow the local shows thanks to my inability to understand both languages, I would watch the Crime and Investigation Channel. The show was in English with subtitles, and that didn’t bother me… in fact, it helped me understand a few Greek and Turkish words!
Some of my favourite shows over the last ten years include “CSI” (Miami, Vegas and New York), “NCIS” (not New Orleans… could never get into that), “Bones”, “Rizzoli and Isles” and “Hannibal”. Of all the shows my current top pick is “Law And Order”. The original show, and its spinoff “Special Victims’ Unit” are gritty and tough, with some storylines that leave the viewer wondering just how people can be so evil. The details of the investigations and the court case leading to the prosecution (usually) of each crime are featured in each episode.
A third show in the “Law and Order” franchise is “Criminal Intent”, with the absolutely brilliant Vincent D’onofrio as Detective Bobby Goram. A brilliant, intelligent man, Goram has the ability to understand the psyche of many killers, including psychopaths. He has his own personal demons, and the way D’Onofrio portrays the character is probably some of the best acting I have ever seen. The show was cancelled in 2011 after ten seasons, and I’ve only seen perhaps two of the later seasons. Thankfully, every single episode is being screened on weekdays on Universal Channel.
Isn’t it a sad refection on the state of our modern television networks that many of us are watching re-runs of old shows?
We all live in a televised goldfish bowl.
Kingman Brewster, Jr.
|Today is the seventh anniversary of our return to Zimbabwe. Perhaps that's why I've been so introspective over the last few days...
When I read over the blog entries I wrote during my years in Greece and Turkey I am amazed at how much I had to write about. It seemed I never ran out of topics, and there's no doubt in my mind the interaction and support I received from my fellow bloggers helped my muse. We forged some great friendships, that have moved from WDC to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
I feel as though I left my muse behind when we returned to Zimbabwe from Turkey in 2010. And yet, during my years in the diaspora, Zimbabwe was one of my favourite topics, along with Greece and Turkey. I think perhaps it's not easy to write about the country I love so much, living here as she slowly and quietly dies a lingering death at the hands of a few hundred evil people while the rest of the world is exploding.
This month my parents, my sister and I undertook a challenge: to post photographs on Instagram using a word of our choice from A-Z. Tomorrow is the last day, so I will find a photograph of Zimbabwe. Something to remind me this country is more than just a few evil politicians. I have been going through hundreds of photographs to meet the other letters, and the memories this exercise has evoked have been intense. I almost feel like I am a different person to the one that welcomed July with relief after the stresses of June.
At the same time I set myself a personal challenge; using the alphabet I have shared 25 of my favourite songs on Facebook. Going through the 5,000-odd songs in my iTunes made me realise how much music helps my creativity. Right now I'm listening to my personal playlist, and the songs are really making me feel good!
Today I've spent time going through my portfolio. I am ashamed that I've written some stories that I'm actually rather proud of, and I've done nothing with them. I have friends here that submit their work to publisher and magazines... friends that have continued to blog and write... and I look at the last seven years and see I've really not done much. Sure, I edited one magazine, and am about to launch a new magazine. But I want to do more.
I've also signed up to participate in an August challenge called "Game of Thrones"... I'm one of perhaps 100 people on the planet that has never watched a single episode of the television series. I believe this challenge involves reviewing and writing, and if that is what it takes to get me back into WDC-inspired writing mode I'm all for it.
The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.