Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cathy Buckle's Letter from Zimbabwe!

Value Bacon for a house.
Saturday 18th March 2006.

Dear Family and Friends,


It was with a feeling of great sadness to watch the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games this week and not see Zimbabwe walk in with all the other countries. All our African neighbours were there, smiling, colourful and bursting with patriotic pride. Even though I knew that our President had withdrawn Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth, still I watched, expectant, hopeful but at last sad and disappointed as we were not present at the "friendly games." What a shame it is that our rising young sportsmen and women have to suffer this isolation. It is things exactly like these lost opportunities which push more and more Zimbabweans into the agonising decision to leave the country. For six years we have been going backwards in nearly every regard and now almost a whole generation of youngsters have gone from home. It is hard to see what Zimbabwe has to offer that would entice them, or their parents, to come back. There is still no place like home but right now Zimbabwe feels like somewhere else, nothing makes sense anymore and the overwhelming feeling is one of exhaustion.
A simple shopping trip to a supermarket has become an exhausting and depressing event. You cannot take the price of anything for granted as almost everything seems to go up every third or fourth day. It doesn't take long to gather up the few things you can afford and then you wait, twenty or thirty minutes to get to the tills. A combination of exorbitant prices and ridiculously small denomination bank notes makes for very long delays while tellers count great handfuls of money. As I stood behind ten people, none of who had more than six items to pay for, it was a long twenty minutes to get to the front of the queue. The woman in front of me had a bag of flour, it cost four hundred thousand dollars, she was paying in ten thousand dollars notes and that meant forty notes for her to count and then forty notes for the teller to count. As I stood waiting for my turn I looked at the prices of things and it is like being in cuckoo land. A 500 gram packet of "value" bacon costs more than I paid for my entire house just five years ago ! A single egg now costs twenty five thousand dollars and a friend told me that he had bought his two thousand acre farm a few years ago for the price of two eggs and half an egg shell! Familiar international brands of things like toothpaste have disappeared and been replaced by complete unknowns. Products once made in Zimbabwe but now imported because companies have relocated, are ludicrously expensive. You see a familiar product, put your hand out and then gasp in despair when you realise that just a bottle of shampoo costs 1.2 million dollars. Five years ago I could have bought a prime luxury car for just over a million dollars. When you finally get to the till and your goods are rung up, there is a scam going on but you have to know about it to benefit. If your goods have cost more than three hundred thousand dollars you can buy a bag of sugar - its on the floor under the tellers feet. People being supported by families outside of the country are still coping with Zimbabwe's nightmare days but the vast majority are struggling desperately and everyone is so overwhelmingly tired of it all.
Until next time,
with love cathy.

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