Sunday, May 17, 2015

Return from Vilankoulos to Harare, 1999

Journal Entry, May 9th, 1999.

I sleep little. Wake with a start. What time is it?  My watch reads just before 3:00 a.m. There’s no sign of the guard who’s supposed to wake me. I deflate the air mattress, take down the tent, pack up.  The nearly full moon lights my way as I walk southwest, then north around the Vilankoulos loop of small colonial-style houses to the bus terminal. Not a soul in sight. A mongrel barks at me from behind a fence.  The ticket office is closed, but I am prepared with cash to buy my ticket on board. The bus arrives on schedule at 4:00 a.m. I take a seat next to a middle-aged woman. Good, she speaks English. Spiwe is a teacher returning to Mutare, near Zimbabwe’s eastern border, after visiting her son in the Mozambique capital.  
Hours later, heading north to Chimoyi the bus breaks down. We wait roadside for an hour or so, until a large open truck stops to pick up the remaining passengers. Spiwe and I stick together, as we’re hoisted up into the back of the truck by soldier-passengers. Also on board are several pretty young women who flirt with the soldiers as we travel on.  Two have babies tied to their backs. I think of the AIDS epidemic already raging in Zimbabwe.  Girls – don’t do it – protect yourselves! But even if I’d wanted to, we can’t converse. After several more hours travel west toward the Zimbabwe border we arrive, hungry and tired, to find the post closed for the night.  Spiwe and I are the only two planning to cross into Zimbabwe. I spread out my tent flat on the ground near the gas pumps outside the closed border office. We eat the last of our bananas and share blankets.  It’s cold!
 Sunrise over the peaks of the Vumba Mountains is welcome and serene. When the border opens we pass through without delay. Spiwe guides me to the bus stop and waves goodbye as my bus departs for Harare. The mountain skyline retreats. The three-hour drive through the Midlands is peaceful and uneventful. As usual, at stops along the way, women vendors offer mangoes, bananas and other fruit and nuts for sale, from baskets on their heads which they bring to the bus windows. Once at the Harare bus depot, I take a taxi “home” to Lynde’s to relax and unwind – take a bath, do laundry, and sit out next to the pool where I finish reading the first volume of Doris Lessing’s Autobiography – her childhood and early adulthood in what was then Rhodesia.

Journal Entry, May 10th, 1999, Harare

4:30 a.m.  I wake warm and cozy under two quilts in Lynde’s spare bedroom. 
The toilet is running. I get up to jiggle the handle.  The back verandah light is on,
and the kitchen door open, so Bruno has no excuse not to poop in the back garden.  Unregenerate dog. My feet are cold by the time I’ve made this short excursion.  Winter is coming to the Highveld.
            Lying back in bed, I remember the question I woke with.  “What, dear God, can I do now with my life – now that the PhD is over and done with?  What is the highest, best use of my particular bundle of skills and talents?”  I think of the prayer:
      “I desire and dedicate myself to give the best that I am and have to Life’s service.”
I read over the journal entries of my week in Mozambique, and before that, the week revisiting my friends in Mutoko.  There have been significant changes in the five years since I was last in the villages. Changes for the worse. AIDS is now rampant in Zimbabwe.  The Zim dollar is plunging.  The question all seem to be asking: “How will we survive?” And the answer “Only God knows.” 
I’m moving on in a day or two. Heading west to Namibia – with a stay planned at an Oxfam project in Omaheke on Namibia’s eastern border. I pull out my copy of The Lonely Planet Guide to Southern Africa. Look at the map. Where am I going next? And what will be my next project? 


1 comment:

  1. Judith, your are incredible. I am so enjoying reading your stories. Words that come to mind besides adventurous, brave are sensitive, caring, understanding, accepting, resourceful and innovative. I don't think anything could have daunted you. Can't wait to read more.

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