August 4, 2012 – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
I peek through the door which divides customs at the airport from the waiting area and I spy my friend Lisa who is visiting us for a few days. My heart is happy as I know that Lisa will get to see the work AFCA does first-hand and that she will enjoy her time here.
Like Jodi, she is easy going, ready to do anything and to eat anything. It will be a nice stay, I am sure.
We have so much to do in the next few days!
August 5, 2012 – Matopos, Zimbabwe
After church, we pack up a picnic lunch and head out to Matopos National Park in search of some animals and beauty. Most of the Stambolies are with us, as well as Lennon and we are out for some adventure! The drive is gorgeous and the sky is bluer than blue, expanding from one horizon to the next. Breaking up the horizon are acacia trees -those loved by giraffes – looking valiant in the dry earth. They struggle for water, but somehow, still have greenish leaves in a landscape dominated by sand and brown earth. I have found the trees in Zimbabwe to be beautiful, full of character and strength. With gnarled limbs and trunks, these old beauties house birds, big cats and insects, providing life to many.
During tea time, Juju and I walk off to take a potty break. Hiding behind a rock, we believe we’ve found our perfect spot when I hear Juju say “we have a problem, mom” and I look up to see that we are situated between the rock (behind us) and a troop of baboons in front of us, on some more rocks. We are literally between a rock and a hard place. I convince J to remain quiet and to get on with business when suddenly, a fight breaks out between the baboons and we hear screaming behind us as Eric and the rest of our friends think we’ve been attacked by baboons. I hear feet rushing towards us and all I can think of is “my pants are down!!”. As we try to get ourselves organized as quietly as we can so as not to stress out the baboons even more, our friends worry that we aren’t popping out, telling them that we are ok. But, we are just fine, my Juju and I. We laugh together once again.
August 6, 2012 – Sizeze and Mayezane, Zimbabwe
We pile into the truck to do home visits and to make sure that the animals we’ve given out and beneficiaries are doing well. Q drives us and there is an air of excitement as we head out to Mayezane and later, Sizeze.
I am always amazed at how Q knows where to turn and which small path to take. To me, each path looks the same and if dropped here, I’d be lost in 3 minutes. I drive as Q tells me where to go, passing by trees, huts, fences, goat pens, and dust. Unending dust. A grandmother comes out to greet us, wobbling on her aching feet, holding herself up with a cane. She creeps over to her goat pen, smiling and laughing as she tells us that one of her goats has had a female baby. These are welcome news, indeed!
As we visit different families, we hear the same story – babies are being born and the animals are doing well. We are told how excited families are that their flocks are already growing and that they are benefitting from the milk and that their gardens are growing thanks to manure from the goats. As we make our way back home, Q tells us that these visits are what encourages him. It makes him know with all certainty that this program is working, that it is changing lives and that it is of value.
August 7, 2012 – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Fiesta time! Throughout the past two weeks Eric, Morgan and I have been making tortillas in preparation for this evening. We’ve invited approximately 50 friends over for a Mexican goodbye party. The day passes with us chopping tomatoes and onions, making guacamole, spicing ground beef, grating cheese, making Mexican rice, hanging a homemade piñata the kids made (Chicken Joe), and decorating the yard. We purchase wood for a fire and get ready to light it on a wheelbarrow so we can move it anywhere we want once we set up seats outside.
Soon, 5:30pm is here and friends start arriving. Juju and Ria stand at the gate welcoming everyone with a loud “bienvenidos!”. In no time, the main house is streaming with people and everyone has a fabulous time with Gypsy Kings playing in the background and chocolate cake topping off the meal.
How neat it is to have so many of our Zimbabwean friends joining us on this night! We don’t say goodbye, but rather, “until we meet again”. I look around the room and know I will miss these people terribly. They’ve welcomed us into their homes and into their lives and we are grateful.
August 8, 2012 – Coronation, Zimbabwe
The dancing and singing start before we arrive at the meeting place where grandmas are waiting for us. We make our way through a huge group of people who are waiting during a feeding program and I am grateful that we are not doing feedings in that way. I firmly believe in development (unless the help is in response to an emergency) and am grateful that we are working on getting families to a place where they can help themselves.
We arrive at our meeting place and join in the singing and dancing, clapping to the rhythm. Feeling incredibly welcomed, we sit with the grandma’s to discuss how their animals are faring and to plan for the garden pilot project. They each receive three packets of seeds and Aiden passes them out as each name is called. I am so proud of these children of mine – how they have adapted, how they are growing up showing mercy and kindness, how they are not afraid simply because someone is different from them, how they eat foods which aren’t in their normal food repertoire, and how they willing to try new things. The children have a blast visiting some of the grandmothers and children, holding newborn kids and petting older, cantankerous ones.
The day is long and we don’t get home until after 8pm. Aiden and Juju are asleep by the time we return. I wish I were too, because I know tonight will be a long night.
As we enter the cottage, we are faced with packed suitcases, suitcases needing the last minute items in them and a myriad other small things to be done. Up until close to midnight, we get it all done, saying over and over again how we really aren’t ready to go home yet. We miss our families but we love the slower pace of life in Africa and the less focus on time. I am not looking forward to hectic days but would rather be in place where I can get my work done without a ton of stress attached to it because of other outside stressors.
Zimbabwe has been a refuge this summer and I am grateful.
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