Zimbabwe Part 3: Shumba Shaba


We could not return to ZimbShumba Shaba Blog_05abwe without going to Shumba Shaba. Set atop a massive rock formation in the hills of Matopos it is, quite simply, the most beautiful place either of us has ever been. The lodge is run by Denis and Sandy Paul, who are the warmest and most gracious hosts you could ask for. The chalets are perched on the side of the rock, each with a back wall of bare rock and a front window that gives you a spectacular view of the sunrise without needing to get out of bed. Stand outside on the rock at night and you can see stars not just above you, but also straight ahead and for 360 degrees around you. The only way I can think to describe it is that it’s like a planetarium, except that is the wrong waShumba Shaba Blog_03y around. This is the thing that planetariums (planetaria?) are meant to imitate.

The boys had a wonderful time exploring and clambering over the rocks. Julianne and I enjoyed the delicious food and breathtaking view. A place like this is, of course, a photographer’s paradise. A few favourite shots below…

 

Shumba Shaba_01

Shumba Shaba_05

Shumba Shaba_04 Shumba Shaba_09

Shumba Shaba_07

Shumba Shaba_02

Zimbabwe Part 2: Mtshabezi

The Ndlovu family.

The Ndlovu family.

I am not quite sure what you might picture if I told you I was going to visit old friends in rural Zimbabwe. But I’m pretty sure it would not be this.

I am sitting on the couch in a crowded living room in the home of our friends Richard and Snoe Ndlovu. Richard is the director at Mtshabezi hospital, and he and his wife took great care of us when we arrived there in 2006 and became our closest friends. As often happens in the evenings here, people have just started showing up. So there are not quite enough seats for everyone, and some people are seated on the floor or perched on the edge of an armchair. There are a few conversations going on around the room — about politics, or the economy, or what was and was not accomplished on a recent trip to town. There is a heated debate about a young woman who is about to be married, and whether she should be following Zimbabwean cultural traditions or set them aside in favour of a more Christian approach. The speakers in the debate are all switching fluidly between English and Ndebele, so I never quite catch what the actual issue is.

Every few moments, in the middle of this conversational chaos, someone will yell out in a way that always strikes me as particularly African. Ow-waaaaaaaaaaa! or Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-eeeeeeeee! And everyone else will stop and look at the television. For whatever else we are doing here — visiting or storytelling or debating — we are also watching professional wrestling.

photo (2)It was one of the many surprises about life in Zimbabwe for Julianne and me when we lived there in 2007, this obsession with pro wrestling. The kids in the community seemed to know when it was on, and they would cram into the living room until there was no more floor space and sit watching in wonder. The adults were no less into it, and with every big move they would cry out, contorting their bodies or shielding their eyes or ducking their heads, as if someone might leap from the screen and direct the next move at them.

I remember asking Richard once, as we sat in his living room with wrestling on the television, if he knew that it wasn’t real — that the moves were choreographed. He had not known this, and he sat quietly absorbing the news. After a long silence he turned to me and asked, “And what about NASCAR…is that real?”

It is an odd scene, I know, and one that still strikes me as funny. If you looked outside you would see all the hallmarks of rural Africa — there are chickens and goats running around, there are women walking past with water jugs balanced on their heads, and you would not have to walk too far down the road before you started seeing mud huts with thatched grass roofs. And here we are inside, watching Daniel Bryan bodyslam his opponent.

But I share this with you because I want you to have a picture, a little slice of regular life here in Africa, that sets aside the usual cliches. I am not sitting there marvelling that they have so little and yet “they seem so happy.” I am not turning to Julianne and telling her that I came expecting to give to them, but that I ended up receiving far more than I gave. I am just sitting in a living room, hanging out with good, good friends. We are talking, and laughing, and enjoying being together. And it feels like home.

Zimbabwe Part 1: Hwange

A little over a week and a half ago, we set out on a little trip to Zimbabwe, a few hours drive from where we are in
Zambia. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the annual retreat for BIC global workers in the region, but since Julianne and I lived in Zimbabwe eight years ago, we decided to take advantage of being there and extend our stay a little. We had an incredible time — visiting friends and returning to some of our favourite spots in a country we love so much.

Now we are back home, suitcases are unpacked, laundry is done, and we have had a chance to go through the many photos taken on the trip.

So buckle up folks, it’s Zimbabwe week here on our blog. First stop is Hwange National Park, on a game drive with the crew from the BIC retreat. Here are some photos from the day…

Hwange_01

Hwange_05

Hwange_06

Hwange_08

Chris climbs on top of the truck for a better view.

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Hwange Family_01

Next Stop…Choma

It has been a good week. Last Saturday we arrived in Lusaka in the pouring rain and, with a few breaks to tend to the needs of sleep-deprived children, managed to load our luggage onto a flatbed truck and make it to the guest house where we were staying. Seven days later, the jet lag is gone, the luggage has dried out, and everyone is rested and ready for the next leg of the journey.

It was not the plan to spend a full week here. But with some details still to work out about our housing at MICS, and some trusted friends advising us not to travel during the days surrounding Zambia’s recent national election, it made sense to extend our stay a little.

It has been a great place to transition to life in Zambia — a “soft landing” as one guest here put it. There is a swimming pool at the guest house, a luxury we certainly won’t have in Macha. The boys have been able to watch airplanes take off and land at the nearby airstrip. And none of us is complaining about taps that always seem to have water in them, power that is (almost) always on, and reliable and relatively fast wifi.

But, for all that, we are ready to move on. Today we make the five hour trip to Choma, which is the nearest town to where we will eventually live, and which will be our base for the next week or more. Julianne and I were on this road in 2005, and back then it was in brutal shape, with potholes that would swallow your pickup truck in a single gulp. But these days the road is paved the whole way, and the drive should be relatively smooth. The next time you hear from us, we will be at Nahumba guest house in Choma, and one step closer to our eventual home in Macha. Until then…