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- 4/28/98 Letter - Preparations for PELUM College students...
Rock rabbits...Lake Chivero National Park horse safari... Amazing!
- 5/31/98 Letter - Opening of PELUM College!.. Tanzania and
Zanzibar... Spice Tour...Prison Island
- 6/7/98 Letter - Mana Pools...Cape Buffalo... Elephants and
Letter from Farrell Hochmuth
Writing from Zimbabwe
Dearest family and friends:
Mhoroi kubva ku Harare! (Greetings from Harare
in Shona, the native language). After seven
weeks of impatient waiting, I have finally received a notebook computer
that allows me access to email. I was under the impression before I left
the U.S. that I would have email at the
Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Epworth, Harare.
Working my muscles in Zimbabwe.
University of Zimbabwe (U-Zed as we call it fondly),
however, they are only offering email to faculty this year. My status is
as an Occasional Student. I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to get
in touch, but I have been busy adjusting to life in Africa. I will write
each of you individually, especially after I hear from you, but I wanted
to share my experiences here in Zimbabwe thus far.
Arrival in Zimbabwe
I spent my first week in Zimbabwe fighting the flu (a going away present
from my niece) and jet lag. I stayed at the George Hotel during that time,
and after one week, was quite ready to find my own accommodation. I looked
in the newspaper, and found a nice garden cottage in Mt. Pleasant. I called
the owner, took a taxi to the cottage, and signed the lease. The other Fulbrighters
were jealous, as it had taken them anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to
find a place to stay. In addition, I had a telephone already installed.
In Zimbabwe, it can take up to 10 years to get a phone line hooked up to
your home. My cottage is connected to the home of the family who owns the
property. I have two bedrooms, one of which has been converted to a wine
cellar/pantry, a full-service kitchen, and a bathroom. It is nice, and the
yard is beautiful. There is even a pool. My cottage is only 1 1/2 miles
from both work and the University.
The PELUM Project
I love working at the PELUM Association. PELUM stands for Participatory
Ecological Land-Use Management. I am helping to promote sustainable agriculture
and environmental awareness in community development programs. Because we
are an NGO, funding is scarce. PELUM is short-staffed, so are very grateful
to have extra help. I will assist them in four main areas. My biggest priority
is PELUM College Zimbabwe, which will be launched in early May. PCZ is a
revolutionary school where students will travel between 14 different organizations
within Zimbabwe learning Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development.
It is such a neat program. It rises out of the need to provide students
with an education that they can use upon graduation. I am a big supporter
of this program, as I have seen the benefits of internships and cooperative
education experiences. There is still much work to be done on the program,
and I have been given many duties. For example, I will be handling all the
public relations for the opening day-thanks to WordHampton PR. In addition
to working on PCZ, I will help to coordinate the PELUM workshops for 1998.
There are many neat workshops, and I will be attending three in Uganda,
Kenya, and Zambia. So, besides learning how to coordinate a workshop, I
will be able to do some travelling. PELUM was impressed with my organization
skills (not that advanced in the US, but very advanced in Zim), so have
asked me to help them with information management. They had never heard
of filing cabinets, so I have already instituted that system. I also taught
them how to use post its. Can you remember a time when you didn't use post
its? My last duty is to start a permaculture vegetable garden on the property.
The yard is already beautiful, but lacks an actual garden. We have lots
of banana trees, and each day during tea time (from 10:30-11), we go out
and pick a few. (Top)
I am registered at the University for two classes,
Agricultural Economics and Development and Horticulture. I will also sit
in on some lectures in the Rural and Urban Planning Department. Thetime
schedule of the University made it difficult to take the classes I wanted.
I am so busy at PELUM, however, that I don't mind not taking too many classes.
Life in Downtown Harare
When I am not working or going to school, I spend most of my time in downtown
Harare. It is a large city for Africa, but small compared to American cities.
There are some beautiful parks with flowering trees that provide an ideal
spot for book reading; on Sundays they have live music. I have already found
my favorite spots for cappucinos and croissants. There are endless markets
where you can buy anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to stone sculptures
and woven baskets. I have started to master the art of bargaining, as the
vendors offer a price and most times you can talk them down. I have also
made good use of the pool in Mt. Pleasant. It is only a 15 minute walk.
I have a favorite spot underneath an avocado tree. Miraculously, each time
I'm there, avocados manage to fall off the tree (thankfully not on my head).
I have been enjoying making homemade guacomole.
I have been so busy getting registered, immigrated
(I'm still not legal-last I heard they had lost my file and I was to come
back in one month), and settled, that I have not done too much travelling.
Transportation also makes travelling difficult. Most of the other Fulbrighters
have bought cars, but the idea of sitting on the right side of the car and
driving on the left side of the road scares me. My main mode of transportation,
second only to my feet, are commuter omnibuses. Basically, they are minivans
that are stuffed with as many people as possible. They would never go over
in the US, but you get used to the smell of 20 sweaty bodies squished together,
and for only Z$3, you can't go wrong.
I have been able to experience the three main ways of Zimbabwean living:
low density, high density, and rural. I live in the low density areas, the
suburbs of Harare. This is where the rich white people live. The white families
all have black help. The staff work for so little money-80% of Zimbaweans
make less than $1000 U.S. a year. For example, the man who does the cooking
and cleaning for the people who own the house earns Z$400 a month=US$25.
For the first time in my life (with the exception of my loving mother) I
have someone doing my laundry and cleaning my house, for only US$7 a week.
Yes, I know, don't get used to it. Living here, it is easy to forget you
are in Africa. With the exception of being the minority for the first time,
life is pretty close to what it is in the States. People live in houses,
drive cars, go to work. The biggest thing missing here is salsa. They don't
even know what it is! I asked someone, and they said, "That's a spice,
Most of the blacks who aren't employed by white
families live in the high density areas. These areas are located about 30
minutes out of Harare. The best way to describe them is like a subdivision,
but where the houses are all the same design and are very close together.
There are hundreds of houses all shoved together. The amazing thing is that
each house is made to be unique. The family may choose to put up a fence
with intricate stonework, grow a garden, display rock art, or paint their
house a different color (like the Zimbabwean flag, for instance). The houses
may all be the same design, but the people pride themselves on their homes.
The high density areas are pretty intense. I was the only white person there
when I went to visit a friend's family. Although I felt safe with them,
I would not want to be walking there alone at night.
Martha's Home. Left: cooking hut; middle:
chicken pen; right: sleeping hut.
Home-stay in a Rural Area
My best African experience thus far took
place in a rural area. I have become very good friends with Martha, a girl
who works for the family who lives across the street from me. Martha invitedme
to visit her family in the rural area where she was born. We took the overnight
train from Harare on a Friday night. For only US$6, we slept in the first
class train. We had our own room with 2 beds. Martha had never taken the
first class train before (US$6 is 1/2 of her salary for a month), and was
like a little kid at Christmas when they delivered our bedding. She is constantly
reminding me of what I take for granted. We arrived in Mutare, a town in
the Eastern Highlands on Saturday morning. We shopped at a flea market (the
markets are incredible here-you can get fresh fruits and vegetables for
nothing!) and bought some food to take to her family, and I bought her mother
some plates and her siblings some playing cards. I thought it strange to
bring someone plates, I'm accustomed to bringing a bottle of red wine or
some flowers. However, that was what Martha suggested. After shopping, we
boarded the bus to Gonouyea, the rural area that Martha is from. The bus
was probably dated back to the sixties. It was a nightmare. I think we bounced
entire three hours to Martha's home. In order to
make as much money as possible, the bus drivers allow as many people as
they can get on the bus. In a two-person seat, I sat next to a mother with
two young children, an infant, and three chickens. Aside from the smell,
we were a bit cramped for the next three hours. (Top)
Marhtha's family hamming it up for the
Martha's Family and Home
I was glad to finally arrive in Gonouyea. We were dropped off at the Gonouyea
General Store. From there, we walked 15 minutes through waist-high grasses
to get to Martha's family's home. I don't know how Martha knew where she
was going, as there were no paths. She said she just knows. Each family
plot is about 50 square feet, not including the property they use for farming.
On these plots are three buildings: one for storage of dry goods, clothes,
etc., another is the cooking room, and the third is where you sleep. The
buildings are made of mud, manure, rocks and stones and have thatched-grass
roofs. Martha's family had baby goats running around the yard, as well as
chickens, turkeys, and roosters in pens. Thankfully, Martha had written
her family a week before we arrived to let them know I'm a vegetarian-it
is custom to kill a chicken or goat for a guest. When I was approaching
Martha's home, I felt as if I was stepping into an issue of Time/Life. Martha's
family has no running water, no electricity, they cook over fires, and they
eat only the food they grow. I finally truly felt that I was in Africa.
Her family and friends all came over that night to meet "Martha's friend
from America." Some of the younger children had never seen a white
person before, and after the initial shock, wanted to touch my skin and
run their fingers through my hair.
We had a large "feast" in the cooking room. We ate sadza, the
staple of the Zimbabwean diet, which is corn ground up very fine into what
they call mealie meal. The meal is then mixed with water to make a substance
the consistency of mashed potatoes. We also had "mealies," similar
to our corn but the kernals are bigger. They soak the mealies in salty water
and you pull the kernels off to eat them. We ate covo, a green similar to
spinach, cooked with tomatoes, and boiled pumpkin. Finally, we had nyii,
which are similar to raisins, but taste much better, since I don't like
raisins. We ate all of this food with our fingers, they don't use silverware,
and washed it down with sweet tea. It was one of the best meals I've ever
eaten. I had bought an apple pie for dessert. They had never had anything
like it. I was an instant celebrity. We sat around the fire talking after
dinner, with Martha translating. Most Zimbabweans, especially in the city,
speak good English. In the rural areas, however, they have not gone to as
much schooling, so they know hardly any English. Martha has five brothers
and sisters: Zito, Martha, Jealous, Loveness, Manu, and Maria. The first
three work in Harare to support the rest of the family. Loveness helps her
mother on the farm. It has been decided that the two youngest will go to
school, as there is only money to send two. The school is a 1 hour walk
each way. That night, we slept on the floor on straw mats. In the morning,
we woke to have sweet tea and round-nuts for breakfast. Round- nuts are
similar to chick peas, but you have to peel the skins off them. We had contests
to see who could peel and eat them the fastest. After breakfast, theentire
family walked us back to the busstation. I took many pictures. Some of them
had never had their picture taken. I've promised to make copies and send
them. My rural adventure was absolutely incredible, something that I will
always remember. I hope that I will have another chance to visit Martha's
So, that brings you up to date on Farrell's African
Adventure. I am going to Masvingo, a town 3 hours southwest of Harare this
next weekend. I'll write to let you know how it is.
I hope you are all well. Take care of yourselves,
and eat your
veggies. Write soon!
Ava manguana (good night).