June 14, 2012 – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
After a breakfast of rice and a fried egg, Jodi, Morgan, Juju and I head out to distribute fifty-six goats to beneficiaries approximately three hours away. Q takes us in a pick-up truck and what starts out as a ride on an asphalt road ends up on a narrow dirt road with small villages suddenly appearing on the side of the road.
Q tells us that we should be able to spot a giraffe and that keeps us looking out the windows. While no giraffe materializes, we do see a group of baboons on the side of road and we go wild with excitement, taking photos of the monkeys. We also spot impalas, which makes us happy, too. We never do see the giraffe, but we have a fun time looking anyway.
Jodi getting ready to tag ears
Three hours later, when we reach the delivery place, we are greeted by nineteen grandmothers and grandfathers who are raising orphaned children. We are welcomed with great smiles and a song, which is always such a welcoming sound and one with I treasure for months and years afterwards. The goats are brought in by the chief of the village and everyone’s smiles grow even larger, if that is possible. The para-vet vaccinates the goats. I am given the task of marking ear tags with family names and “AFCA”, Jodi is given the task of tagging ears, Morgan and Juju take photos and video the whole process. We are busy for quite a while and it is exciting to see how happy everyone is. When we name one goat “Darryl”, the owner keeps repeating “I am so happy, I am soooo happy!” She is thrilled to take three goats home with her, knowing that the orphaned children she cares for will be able to become self-sufficient if they stick to the program.
Morgan getting a hug
When all the goats are vaccinated, tagged and distributed, a song starts. A bit of clapping joins in and finally, foot stomping as the song changes from Shona to English and we clearly hear words in the song – “thank you very much”. It is so sweet, this thanking for a simple gesture. They are indeed grateful for the animals and they show it in their smiles, their hugs, their music.
Some goats are tied together with twine. Some with plastic. Some with rope. Six are put on the back of a cart and are taken away by a team of four cute donkeys. Everyone is in a celebratory mood and we are invited to join them for lunch. Q is unsure how we’ll react to this, which is just silly, since I’ll try just about anything. I sit in the round kitchen hut with the chief, the pastor, Q and the para-vet who’s been trained through this project. A huge plate of sadza ‘n chicken is placed in front of me and I eat with my right hand, making a ball with the sadsza (corn meal cooked with water) with my fingers and thumb and dipping it into the sauce to grab a piece of chicken with it. I pop it in my mouth and find it delicious. Because people only eat once a day, they are hungry and they are happy to eat the big portion of sadsza. I, on the other hand, am trying to figure out how I am going to eat it all. Q notices that I cannot possibly eat it and kindly, lets me know I don’t have to finish it up. I do my best and when I am quite done, a plate of melon, maize and squash soup is placed in front of me. Yikes! There is no way I can make this happen, so I ask for a small portion and eat that.
Gertrude, Juju and a goat named Juju
This time around, I tell Morgan and Juju that they can eat the sandwiches we brought, giving them time to get more accustomed to the food and way of eating. I want their bellies to be ready. Because the soup was boiled hard, for a long time, I thought it was ok for them to taste it and they both did. Now, they are so curious to try other foods and that makes me happy. Little by little, though…don’t want their bellies rebelling.
Lunch is done and I wash my hand in a bowl of water. We say our goodbyes and hear the beginnings of a song. It is so beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes and I notice that I am not the only one affected. Morgan and Jodi are all emotional, too, and I think to myself, “welcome to Africa”.