Back to Zimbabwe
Back to International Connections
- 3/18/98 Letter - Farrell settles in... The Pelum Project...
Different ways of Zimbabwean living... Home stay in a rural household
- 4/28/98 Letter - Preparations for PELUM College students...
Rock rabbits... Lake Chivero National Park horse safari... Amazing!
- 6/7/98 Letter - Mana Pools... Cape Buffalo... Elephants
and other Animals
Letter from Farrell Hochmuth
Writing from Zimbabwe
Dearest family and friends:
Jambo! Mambo Poa. Habari? (Hello. I'm doing
well. How are you?) Shona? No, Swahili.
Yes, I have just returned from another adventure--a one week holiday in
Tanzania and Zanzibar. The official language in Tanzania and Zanzibar is
Swahili, so I had the chore of both learning a new language, and remembering
Shona upon my return to Zimbabwe.
PELUM College Opens!
Things have been great in Zimbabwe, especially regarding my work at PELUM.
PELUM College Zimbabwe (P-C-Zed, affectionately) was launched on May 4,
and I couldn't have hoped for a bigger success. The students are diverse
in personality as well as experience, intelligent, and ready and willing
to learn. Opening day took place at a permaculture farm (an alternative
way of farming: organic, incorporating biodiversity, etc.) about 20 minutes
outside of Harare called Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre--Fambidzanai is
one of the sixteen organizations involved in PCZ. Most of the PCZ Board
members and training managers were able to attend, which was really supportive
for the students. The setting was perfect, the day beautiful. We all met
in an open air rondavel set amongst banana trees and granadilla plants.
There were goats bahing, cows mooing, and pigs snorting. My biggest achievement,
I believe, was getting Zimbabwe's national newspaper, The Herald, to cover
the opening-clip that baby!
The students spent their first week in orientation
at Fambidzanai, and the second week at University of Zimbabwe Faculty of
Agriculture and the Institute of Environmental Studies learning soil science
and research skills. The students really enjoyed their time at UZ; it is
a big status symbol to attend University (none of them have a University
education), so they all walked around like hotshots on campus for a week.
At the end of the two weeks, they were tired and fulfilled. This first group
is doing a "sandwich programme," which means they attend two weeks
of classes every two months. On opening day, one of our donors gave a speech
wishing us a "delicious, nutritious, and digestible sandwich programme."
We will see the students again in early July.
All work and no play makes Farrell very sad. Two friends, who are also doing
research related work in Zimbabwe, Kerrie and Allison, invited me to join
them on their holiday to Tanzania and Zanzibar. PELUM wished me a good trip,
and I was off.
We left on Wednesday, May 20 on an early flight
on Air Tanzania. Despite hearing many horror stories about Air Tanzania,
from late arrivals to skidding around the runway upon landing, the flight
was relatively uneventful. Allison attended a workshop last year, and became
friends with a girl who lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania named Muele. After
passing immigration (the most friendly immigration officials I've ever dealt
with), Muele's two sisters picked us up from the airport and drove us to
our hostel. El Nino has really done a number on the roads in Dar. At one
point, the potholes were so bad that Muele's sister said, "They are
more like those things that soldiers hide in." Yes, they were as deep
We dropped off our backpacks at the hotel and hired
a taxi to take us on a tour of Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is only two countries
north of Zimbabwe, but the differences are great-Zimbabwe is representative
of Southern Africa, where Tanzania is more of an Eastern African country.
There isa strong Muslim/Arab influence. The women are very modestly dressed,
with skirts down to their ankles. It is rather culturally insensitive to
wear shorts, so we all ended up buying some Congos-- large pieces of fabric
tied around the waist to simulate a long skirt. I might as well have just
worn shorts, my congo kept coming untied!
Walking along the streets of Dar was incredibly
interesting. The city is so different from "modern," clean Harare.
Dar was honestly pretty dirty, but had so much more culture than Harare.
Every so often, you'd hear a prayer calling from the Mosque broadcast over
loudspeakers on the streets. A friend of mine that visited Dar awhile ago
was sitting having a late lunch alone in a cafe. All of a sudden, a prayer
calling began. His waiter ran over to him and said he would be gone for
15 minutes. My friend asked where he was going, and the waiter replied,
"I have to go get salvation." Can't really argue with that. The
prayers sound beautiful (even though I have no idea what they are saying),
and talk about setting the ambience!
The fruit in Tanzania was delicious. Men ride around
Dar with baskets on their bikes selling coconuts, oranges, and bananas.
Other hot items for sale were fabric to wrap into skirts or make into clothing,
and statues carved out of ebony wood.
That night, Allison's friend Muele picked us up
and took us into town for some excellent (and cheap!) Indian food. After
dinner, we settled down at a nice bar near the beach and sampled the local
beers: Kilamanjaro, Safari, Serengeti, and Nlovu (meaning elephant in Swahili).
It was really interesting talking with Muele, whose father was Prime Minister
in Tanzania for a couple of years. She had some neat insight into the country.
Soon enough, however, we were all tired from our long day of trouping around
Dar and had plans to leave early the next morning for Zanzibar. We went
back to the hotel, tucked in our mosquito netting, and crashed. (Top)
We got up early the next morning and had a breakfast of fresh papaya and
pineapple, toast and eggs. Great fruit! We stopped at a local craft market
on our way to the ferry to Zanzibar, but didn't have too much time to wander.
The ferry ride from Dar to Zanzibar takes about 2 1/2 hours. As per the
usual, I got a little too much sun, tee hee.
When we got off the ferry in Zanzibar, we were
barraged by men wanting to show us to hotels. These men get a commission
from the hotels when they get visitors to stay there, so they are quite
persistent. Not really having any clue about Zanzibar, we accepted one man's
offer, who actually ended up being really nice. He offered to take us to
a couple of hotels to check them out. We ended up staying at the Stone Town
Inn--lots of atmosphere and only US $10 a night, breakfast included.
The main city in Zanzibar, Stone Town, is indescribable.
It was absolutely wild, and I wish I could even begin to explain how amazing
it is. It is like a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with old stone buildings
with intricate detailing. There are amazing carved wooden doors and doorways.
The Muslim influence is even stronger in Stone Town than in Dar; the women
are dressed from head to toe, with only beautiful, mystical eyes peeking
out. I wanted to photograph the whole of Stone Town, but the Muslims feel
that having their picture taken takes away their spirit. I only have the
pictures in my mind.
Our first day in Stone Town we just wandered around
taking it all in. The street food is delicious, and extremely cheap. One
of the staples is "flat bread," almost like a pita but heavy.
You can stuff your flat bread with mashed potatoes rolled into balls and
cover it with a spicy sauce, throw in some falafel and down it with a cup
of sugar cane juice. Mmm. I tried a lime veggie based soup with salad mixed
in. We also had some "Zanzibar pizza"--pastry on the outside with
salad and egg on the inside, formed into a square and covered with tomato
sauce (catsup). Not my favorite, butinteresting nonetheless. Other stands
offered grilled octopus, skewers of beef and chicken, and a few things I
didn't even venture to guess what they were. Stick to the things you can
The next day we went on a Spice Tour--Zanzibar
used to be one of the Spice Islands. Our tour group of twelve was ushered
into the back of a pick up truck lined with benches-Solomon was our tour
guide. We travelled to many places testing the fruits and spices grown on
the island. In one spot, we picked star fruit right off the tree. I had
only seen star fruit at Whole Foods grocery store, so it was neat to see
it at the source. Although a little tangy, it was good. We tasted three
types of mint, saw vanilla pods, burned our mouths on fresh peppercorns,
picked coffee and cacao beans (funny, coffee is sweet, cacao is bitter),
saw nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, smelled lemongrass and jasmine--quite a sensual
day. Solomon kept saying, "And when-a you-a leave Zanzibar and-a you-a
taste deese, you-a gonna remember Solomon!" What a character. For lunch,
we stopped at a local village where food had been prepared using all the
spices that we had just been shown. At the end of the day we went for a
swim-my first time in the Indian Ocean! The sand was white, the water clear
and warm as bath water. Standing in 5 feet of water, I could still see my
toes. Solomon had a hard time getting me out of the water. (Top)
The next day we went "north." Each day, minivans take about seven
people from Stone Town to Nungwi, the "town" in the north. The
roads leaving Stone Town are great, concrete and smooth. At the first turn-off,
the concrete was not as smooth. Soon, there were more potholes than concrete.
After that, the road was just dirt. Then, we turned off into what looked
like a big green field with a path running through it. My friends and I
thought the path must be leading to one hotel. The path, however, led into
Nungwi. The "town" has one sand road, about four youth hostels,
two places to get something to eat (can't really call them restaurants),
and a bar. We got a room at the Anaan Hotel, dropped off our backpacks,
and ran for the beach. There are so few people in Nungwi that if you walk
ten minutes, you have the whole beach to yourself...well, to yourself and
the crabs that kept peeking their heads out of their sand tunnels. I had
brought my mask and snorkel, and spent much time exploring the fish and
Around 1:30, we decided that it would be a good
idea to get off the beach for awhile. We had lunch under a thatch roof hut.
In the spirit of the Indian Ocean, I gave up being vegetarian for my stay
in Nungwi. I ate a delicious piece of Kingfish with rice and vegetable curry.
Excellent meal. After lunch, we walked down the sand path which led into
a local village. The village kids all ran to greet us with "Jambo!
Jambo!" The kids get so excited when they see the tourists. After our
walk, back to the beach for a little more R&R.
That night, after a frustrating shower of trying
to get the salty knots out of my hair with no lights (the electricity went
off for a few hours) and very little water pressure, we decided to try the
other place to eat. We found a table outside on the deck where the stars
were bright and the waves crashed below us. We ate a dinner of barbecued
Kingfish with salad and rice.
The next day we had planned a Snorkeling/Scuba
diving trip. I was so excited, this being my first time to dive in the Indian
Ocean. We took a 2 hour ride on a Catamaran out to Mnemba Atoll. The first
dive was a wall dive. The corals were so colorful. There were more Triggerfish
than I knew existed. I saw the Clownfish-Anemone relationship for the first
time in the wild: the clownfish swims into the anemone for protection, and
the anemone eats the small parasites off the fish. The visibility was amazing.
After that dive, we had lunch on the catamaran, and then back into the water.
The second dive was a drift dive. I was floating along, minding my own business,
when some eels began to follow us in the water. I had never seen an eel
leave its hiding spot in the coral before, and I have to admit I was a little
unnerved. Unless you offer them a finger, however, they won't hurt you.
I saw blue spotted sting rays, sea turtles, and so many more fish. It was
just amazing. Scuba diving tires me out, so I slept the two hours back to
Nungwi. Rough life, I know it.
On Sunday nights, a band called the Islander's
plays at the bar in Nungwi. We claimed the same table as the night before,
watching the stars and listening to the music. I was quite impressed with
how good the music was. They really played a diverse song list, from "The
Macarena" to "Blue Suede Shoes" followed by "We're Going
to Rock Around the Clock." It was interesting that in such an international
crowd, everyone knew how to dance the Macarena! Also, hearing Blue Suede
Shoes in an African accent was quite an experience....
I was disappointed to hear that a large hotel chain
is planning on opening a hotel in Nungwi soon. It is inevitable that a large
hotel would ruin the charm of Nungwi. I am glad I got to see it before that
change takes place.
The next day we took a dhow (pronounced dow: large, old wooden boats) to
Prison Island off the coast of Zanzibar, which was supposed to be used to
contain "reluctant" slaves (were there any non-reluctant slaves?).
No slaves were actually kept there, for some unknown reason. The island
was mainly used as a quarantine zone for cargo coming into Zanzibar. There
is a whole population of giant land tortoises that roam free, and the island
has been donated money to keep the population going. The island is small,
about 1/2 mile long and 1/4 mile wide. There were a bunch of rocks that
jutted out above the water, and my friends and I took turns diving off into
the blue water. We all wanted to forget that that would be our last time
to swim in the Indian Ocean on our holiday.
The next morning we took a ferry back to Dar es
Salaam. We wandered around Dar, looking at (and buying) material, eating
street food, and soaking in the last of our time in Tanzania. That night,
Allison's friend Muele picked us up from the hotel and took us back to her
home. Her family has a nice house right on the water. She prepared a traditional
Tanzanian meal: Ugali, which is basically like sadza but a little harder,
spinach, cabbage with tomatoes, coconut rice, prawns in coconut sauce, and
some type of beef (I didn't eat it, but I was told itwas also in coconut
sauce). It was a great meal to end our holiday.
The next day, we rose with the sun to catch our
flight back to Harare. In some strange sense, I felt as if I were going
"home." It was nice when we got back to Zimbabwe, I was able to
speak some of the native language again. It is also nice not to have to
live out of a backpack. Martha and I had quite a reunion with a big plate
of sadza and covo.
I've been wildly trying to catch up at work. I
am helping to coordinate an Information Management Workshop to take place
in Lusaka, Zambia in July, so that is taking up most of my time now. I am
leaving Wednesday, however, for another adventure. I am going with some
of the PELUM staff to Mana Pools National Park, home of the elephants (finally,
I'll get to see an elephant!), to schmooze three potential donors. I am
reallylooking forward to that trip.
So, until next time, take care of yourselves and
eat your veggies.Speaking of veggies, I've got to run. The woman who sells
covo at the end of my street will be packing up soon. Gotta' get my covo.