Thursday, 9 June 2011

A Playful Month in Zimbabwe

The school finished in dancing, celebration and glory on December 19th, 150 students racing out of Pemba believing they really could do anything. We raced out among them, but we knew we were returning in a month or two to this beautiful little Mozambiquan seaside town. Yes, during our stay God had spoken to us about staying, but more on that later.

Twenty of us jammed in the back of a truck, we left Pemba early in the morning. Zimbabwe – a land birthing stories of unparelled beauty and also pain – awaited us. An uncomfortable seven hours later, we emerged grubby and tired on a stunning farm outside Nampula, a town a little further south in Mozambique. Towering orange mountain rocks encircled us, and we spent a happy day playing in the greenery and running away from unnaturally huge insects. There we met two easygoing Zimbabweans who were driving to Harare the following day, and offered us a lift. Unbelievably helpful for us, we said yes please.

We broke for the night in a delightful guesthouse near the border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. However the ‘superbugs’ (as we called them) we came across on the Nampula farm paled in comparison to the creatures that surrounded our little room. Great lizards, enormous crickets and cockroaches in the sink all competed for the ‘most alarming’ prize, but our winner was surely the baby scorpion hanging happily on our curtain. We fearfully informed the lady preparing our room, who calmly pinched the curtain with her bare fingers, killing the little intruder in two pinches.

We arrived in Harare and had a strange couple of days. We foolishly accepted a lift from a stranger (I know, I know) and felt a little shaken afterwards, as it brought back some unpleasant feelings from Dar. It felt almost like a ghost city – once a hub of art, life and richness, our snapshot was of countless vacant hotels, slightly sad Christmas lights and angry men. Happy to leave on the bus to Bulawayo we met our wonderful friend Ezra who took us in at his farm for what ended up being a month.

And what a fun month it was! We remember that month full of good conversation round his huge wooden table, long mornings with coffee, worship music always playing on the ipod, lots of delicious food, rambling around the farm with his two enormous puppies, making new friends, jumping on the back of Ez’s pick-up. We enjoying glimpsing Ez’s daily life, visiting ladies outgrowing chickens in his project and meeting some of the Zimbabwean leaders he works with – and even visiting Ebeneezer, a beautiful stretch of land where youth learn to farm in a similar way to how God cares for the land. Seeing the land bursting with food brought hope to our hearts and portrayed a bright alternative to the British media’s desolate depiction of a bleak nation. We absolutely heard horrendous stories during our trip; no doubt many Zimbabweans have witnessed a terrible degree of suffering. But the inspirational people we meet, the crops waving in the breeze and the faith of many stirred us with excitement.

We spent Christmas spotting elephants and hippos, and saw the unspeakably beautiful Victoria Falls. Our first wedding anniversary was celebrated over a veggie lasagne in a cafĂ© – not exactly five star treatment, but full of good conversations, laughter and love – the good things of life! We even got to catch our dear friend Chris before we set out south.

And set out south we did, waving goodbye to our friends from the Bulawayo – Pretoria bus. South Africa here we come! I had never been before and this country of lions and landscapes, famous for countless reasons, held much allure. And it was only a night bus away…

We woke exhausted after a bad night’s sleep on the bus to Pretoria. (Picture it being the middle of the night, having to walk for ages carrying all your luggage. It was at this moment I remember saying to Nick in quite a cross voice ‘Why do we travel like this?’) Anna, our friend, came to collect us and hosted us in her beautiful house for what was an oasis of rest. We were still reeling at any Western food, and loved roaming around Western shopping complexes – we had seen nothing like this for months. Onwards to Cape Town - 24 hours in a train, but absolutely worth it for who awaited us there: the one and only Bill & Joyce Lear!