Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter from Zimbabwe !
Dear Family and Friends,
Having spent three weeks in a civilized country south of Zimbabwe, I must admit that there were many things that made me not want to come home. Food was one thing - its existence, huge variety and consistent pricing. Money was another thing - coins that are actually worth something, bank notes that don't have expiry dates printed on them and money that keeps its value from one week to the next. Then there was the freedom of the media with abundant newspaper and radiostations with criticism and debate encouraged. There was the joy of petrol stations that always had fuel and of being able to travel freely without incessant road blocks and police checks. Even little things like public toilets that were fit for use by human beings, water that was safe to drink from a tap, street signs that haven't been stolen and dustbins being emptied - all were cause for stares of amazement.
For three weeks my eyes were open wide and slowly it began to sink in just how utterly shocking everything in Zimbabwe has become. We have all been so busy trying to survive the horrors that not only have we forgotten how a country should work but also how to demand that officials paid with our taxes do our bidding and not their own.
Crossing the border back into Zimbabwe there were just three people in the queue. On the other side of the counter at least 60 Zimbabweans were jostling to get out of the country. I knew I was home within minutes of leaving the border post. Deep potholes litter the highways; cows, donkeys and goats have right of way and there are no roadside fences. Road markings have worn away, cat's eyes in the tar have gone and sign posts have been stolen.
But it was good to be home and the scenery this time of year is exquisite. Baobab trees in full leaf, crowds of yellow flowers in the dry bush and eagles soaring in the skies. The names of dry, dusty places conjure up images that can only be of Zimbabwe: Bubye, Nuanetsi, Sosonye, Mwenezi and Mount Guhudza. In the middle of nowhere there are always bottle stores: The "Try Again Bottle Store" caught my eye - a shabby little building, surrounded by red dust, women trying to sell water melons and men sitting drinking beer in the middle of the morning. This for sure is home!
Breaking the journey at one stage and in the middle of nowhere, two young teenage girls appeared. "Hello," I called out, "How are you?" "Hello," they answered, " we are eating!" One girl opened her hand to reveal a dozen shiny black berries. "Take them" she said, "you are welcome." I thanked her and took two. She told me they were called Subvu and I gave her some peppermints in exchange. We all clapped our hands in thanks and the girls went away giggling. Instantly I was overcome with emotion and patriotism. In a land where hunger is rampant, in a country with the lowest life expectancy in the world, two young girls would offer me a mouthful of their food. Where else could I be except at home and this is the Zimbabwe that everyone knows and loves. Later I found that the berries are from the Mutsubvu tree and also called Chocolate berries.
The grim reality of being back home came soon. On the bottom of the electricity bill waiting for me when I got home were the words: "Tariff increased by 350% effective 1 April ." I thank the two young girls on the roadside for making me feel welcome , and my mum for writing her letter 'from the diaspora' these past three weeks and keeping the news current.
Copyright cathy buckle 28 April 2007http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books: "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available from: email@example.com