Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Zimbabwe part I- from this Diasporan

This is the first in a series of blogs on my recent visit to Zimbabwe. They will be written as they want to be written, so here we go:

My Zimbabwe is beautiful. My Zimbabwe is radiant and vibrating with barely repressed energy. My Zimbabwe hums with possibilities, and potent power simmers like a mirage on its dazzling tarred roads. My Zimbabwe is rich in natural and human resources. Her people are “made of sterner stuff”. Her children are robust in spirit; resilient with defiance and determination in their eyes. Her children laugh from their gut; deep sincere infectious laughter that washes over their ragged clothes and bare feet, leaving them clothed in quiet dignity, heads held high, backs straight and shoulders square. Her children cry out, in quiet voice while quiet tears trail down their dusty faces and yet they laugh and they live. They do not want pity and they are contemptuous of patronage. They do not want hand outs and they do not need crutches and if there is an ear willing to listen, that ear will be privy to what they want, what they need, what they desire and dream about: Opportunity.

From the rural villages of Nyamaropa and Chivi, to the cities of Harare, Mutare, Masvingo and Bulawayo, I felt the energy, strength, determination and the hunger for a chance, an open doorway, or even a mere crack in the window of opportunity.  I saw Zimbabweans going about their daily lives, like hungry calves milking even the tiniest udder of opportunity they came across: selling produce, toothpicks and paper clips, making bracelets out of tiny springs from old parker pens, begging to guard your parked car for a dollar, while you attend to business in some office, selling boot leg movies and CD’s, braiding hair (“I will come to your house, mother”), pedaling barrels of second hand clothes from first world places, merchandizing firewood, air time cards, newspapers, biscuits and anything you can think of. I saw them.

 I witnessed the trendsetters, the go- getters, the dealers and the movers- and- shakers, strutting across the potholed streets as though they were marching purposefully down Oxford Street in London, or Michigan Avenue in Chicago; striding to some place, to take care of business, to close the next deal, to make that money: those Dollars, those Rands, and those other forexes.

 I saw Bright yellow Hummer jeeps, gas guzzling Escalades with Chrome rims. I saw women dressed in Gucci, Prada and carrying Coach hand bags while teetering on feet shod in Steve Madden, and red soled Laboutins, swaying to the sounds of Rihanna ring tones on Blackberries and I-phones.

I saw women sporting dreadlocks tinted in browns, shades of blond and gold. I saw women with straight and curly and flipped up weaves. I saw women in twist braids, short hair and long hair. I saw skinny women, fat women, dark skinned as well as light skinned women. I saw them all buzzing around at Nando’s and Chicken Inn and chatting and laughing and bearing pearly white teeth through painted lips- red lips, purple lips, pink lips, orange and brown lips. I saw them all. In their skinny jeans and jeggings and thick belts and bright colored cropped tops. I saw them all. With their men. Tall men skinny men, pot bellied men, short men, gray heads and stud muffins. Men. All of them with one thing in common: fat pockets too small to contain their bulging wallets. I saw them leaning over, all sexy and coy, laughing all languid and suggestive, leaning closer to their men, other women’s men, men old enough to be their grand fathers. I saw them, the “small houses”, the mistresses and minor wives wielding major power and spending major money. I saw it all.

I witnessed the church going mothers and fathers in their “kuwadzana” uniforms. I witnessed the feverish fervor of the young born -twice Christians, Bible in hand, the weapon against powers and principalities and the key to plenty money. I even had the fortune of being handed a flier to a revival “Come and claim your miracle, mother. (Mother is the term in current use in Zimbabwe for women of my age…[sigh])”. The only miracle I was in need of at that moment was the miracle of a clean public restroom- but that, my friends, is a whole ‘nother blog post.

Where was I? Oh I am witnessing and seeing Zimbabwe.

“The poor ye shall always have with you” [The Bible]. Indeed the poor were there, intermingling with the new rich, diluting the scents of Vera Wang, Cloe and good “Old Spice” with sharp, nostril stinging body odor. They were there, getting splashed in rain water from the puddles in the potholes as the big Hummers and the Mercedes drove through them. Holding their begging cups they ran across the streets, weaving in between the slow snake of cars, tapping on windows for alms. They were there, a part of the textured fabric of Zimbabwe, my Zimbabwe. My Zimbabwe with mountains of garbage scattered throughout her cities. My Zimbabwe with wood fires burning within the city as people cook their evening meals. Dazzling red sun set on the horizon. Zesa has taken the lights- power cuts, power sharing, power struggles. My Zimbabwe, enveloped in the dizzying drone of generators, distorting the night sounds and drowning out the crickets, the annoying high pitched mosquitoes and the croaking frogs.

As I settled down to sleep each night, my head would be full of the sights and sounds from the day and I would hold each person I had encountered, each scene in my mind and give it’s a story an ending.

My Zimbabwe may be broken, maimed and bleeding. But a clot has formed and the hemorrhaging will stop. The scab has formed and the wounds will heal. My Zimbabwe is ailing, but she is alive. My Zimbabwe has changed, but so have I. She will have scars, and so will I. My Zimbabwe will recover but it will take time, plenty of time, life times…