Sunday, October 3, 2010

All About September

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10/3/10 The weather is changing and fall is here, I’m afraid. Days are probably in the 70’s, but nights are now cool. I have permanently added that second blanket to my bed. Although, if I would close some windows at night it might not be necessary. Anyone knowing me well knows how much I love my windows open so they will get a chuckle out of this comment!! I can’t say that I am looking forward to winter’s cold and snow, and I’m hoping it stays away for a few more months. If I remember right, it didn’t get downright cold here until January. Please let this year be the same since I remember it to be quite miserable. I actually like the snow, but then again, I have a nice, warm house to live in when I am in the states and that makes all the difference in the world!

While working on the world map I woke up one morning to right knee pain. I thought I wrenched it, but didn't remember a specific incident. I did all the right things for it i.e., iced it, wrapped it, elevated it and took ibuprofen whenever possible. Obviously, I had the map to finish and I had the trip to Zimbabwe planned - both of which were probably hard on the knee. Well the knee still isn't better, although no worse I think. I am fearful that I might have a torn meniscus. I’ve read that it can sometimes heal itself and I’m hoping for that if, in fact, this is my problem (self-diagnosing can be dangerous  ). I know that the surgery itself is easy, but the recup/recovery time is what worries me. I don't live in a place where the walking is easy or conducive to good healing. PC will give me 45 days to fully recover, otherwise, they will medically separate me and I will be done with PC. Unfortunately, I know of a young(er) woman who went through this and was discharged. I debated whether I should just try to live with it as it is, but I hate to cause more or permanent damage to the knee, so I do have an appointment to see the doctors this week while I am in Rabat for a committee meeting. Let's hope the knee recovers in the meantime and the appointment is not necessary. Otherwise, I’m feeling great and doing well.

Despite long delays, missed flights and rescheduled itineraries, I am safely home in Morocco. I traveled to Zimbabwe from Casablanca via Frankfort, Germany; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then into Harare, Zimbabwe. The trip home was a bit different since I left Harare, Zimbabwe about six hours later than planned. This return trip took me to Lusaka, Zambia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cairo, Egypt and then into Casablanca. I arrived home around noon on Friday, September 24th after traveling since Wednesday. Of course, not actually having rested in a bed for two nights, my legs/ankles looked like they belonged to an elephant and I was ever so thankful to be home again. I had a great time visiting Kudzie (the last student I hosted while still at K) and her family. They were kind, gracious hosts to me and I had the opportunity to view Zimbabwe through the eyes of black people who live there. I was the first white person to stay in their homes. My thanks to Kudzie, Patience, Anne, Sipho, Jean, Francis, Keanne, Chamichael, Steve, Millicent, Mpo, Thembi, Tinashe, Kudzai and Dominic for being the wonderful people they are. As is the Zimbabwean way, families take an active role in the lives of their family members. It was often said that Kudzie has four moms (real mom, two aunts and me), note the picture of us. I also had the opportunity to see Sydney, who studied at K in 2006-2007. I feel like I know Sydney fairly well too since he and Ayane & Naomi (two Japanese girls) spent the Christmas holiday with me and my family that year. Sydney is doing well and about to graduate from grad school. I think I represented the USA in a positive manner and hopefully changed some of their neighbors and friends' perception of us in some small way. I was continually impressed with the importance they place on literacy, and education, for that matter. And, I can say that most people in Zimbabwe have beautiful white teeth. I am told that Colgate did a big campaign there some years ago where they stressed the importance of good oral hygiene. It seems to have made a big impression on them and most brush faithfully.

I want to go back to the topic of education at this point. Ironic timing, but I was just forwarded an article from a friend referring to continuing adult education while I was in Zimbabwe. In part it reads:

“It may surprise people why the literacy rate in Zimbabwe is so high (to date the highest in Africa,
according to UNDP reckoning) despite the economic challenges the country is facing. The secret
lies exactly in the underlying message of the article under discussion. Women have dominated
literacy classes over the years following the launch of the literacy campaign in the early 1980s.
There has been a multiplier effect in the sense that women, being closer to the children, have
assisted children with their home work and this has led to better performance by the children in
schools. With better performance in formal education, literacy rates remain high as less people
relapse into illiteracy. Literate mothers pass on literate tendencies to their children and neighbours,
consciously or unconsciously.

The challenge with achieving high literacy rate is that the citizens continue to demand more and
Zimbabwe is now grappling with providing continuing education for adults who have acquired
literacy skills. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) remains the best option for accommodating
women in developing countries where a lot of delivery in the provision of continuing education
is needed. Of course in developing countries choices are limited because of resource constraint
as priority tends to be given to formal education for the school-age children.”

I guess I didn’t imagine it – it’s real!!! Obviously, I can only really compare Morocco’s education as it is my rural village. Unfortunately I have found that most women my age are illiterate. Many 20-30 years younger than me are illiterate. Those younger than that typically have a 6th grade education since we have a primary school here that allows them to attend until then. I’m told that 50% of the boys and maybe 10% of the girls will go on after 6th grade but they have to travel to the next village which is twelve kilometers away and a taxi ride of 5 dirham each way. Just too much money for most of these folks to bear. Students going on can attend three more grades here and then they will have to go away to a boarding school, at least 1.5 hours away for high school. Few will do this. But there is hope. I also just read an article re Morocco. As reported in the “Global Arab Network”, “Education – Key Development Issue for Morocco. Getting — and keeping — boys and girls in school, particularly in underprivileged areas, is a key development priority for the Government of Morocco. The World Bank is assisting in this effort advising on the design and implementation of targeted cash transfer programs, as well as by evaluating results to facilitate optimal scale-up in the future

However, in rural areas only 40 to 50 percent of first graders actually complete the six years of primary school, with significantly smaller rates for girls. The baseline value of school drop-out was 23 percent per school sector on average in school years 1-5. The government’s CCT pilot program target value is 16 percent or lower in beneficiary school sectors. 73% of the sampled household heads cannot read or write, as well as 95% of their spouses.”

I truly hope that Morocco is serious about this and that improvements are made to educating our youth. They are obviously the key to Morocco’s growth and future.

Back to Zimbabwe -- being one of the few whites in the group I was with, we found that we received some preferential treatment and we had great fun and many laughs because of it. They began calling me the “diplomat”. A few of the things that happened – we were in a shopping center and wanted to use the restroom. The door itself was locked but we were let in. When someone else wanted to use the restroom, they were told that it was only for staff use. When asked why we were there they were told that it was because of the white person. We were also charged less for taxi rides than usual. I would have thought they would have gouged us since a white person was along, but no they charged less – go figure? Also while in a taxi we were stopped by the police for a routine check. The taxi driver told the police that I had an important meeting to attend – they waved us through and let us be on our way. Too funny!!

Kudzie graduated with an agriculture degree, with emphasis on animals from Africa University in Mutare and we had the opportunity to visit. It is a college for all of Africa and luckily it was put in Zimbabwe. It was developed on an American model and I felt like I was walking on any campus back in the states. It is a beautiful campus and note the picture taken in the library. As Kudzie and I were about to travel there one day, she told me we were going to hi-jack a ride. I’m thinking – this is a criminal action, I think I could go to jail for this…. Not so sure it is a good idea. Well, she really meant hitch-hike. Just a little bit different and heck, I was once good at this! Not sure if being white helped or not, but we usually got a ride without any problem. I found that many people hitch-hike, including Kudzie’s mom, named Patience, a 45 year old woman. The only big difference is that people pay for their ride. Granted they probably pay a bit less than they would pay for the bus, but they pay nevertheless. We ended up doing a lot of hi-jacking during my stay.

Zimbabwe began using the American dollar as its currency in 2008, I think. Got to tell you though – the money is filthy. Do we send them the stuff that is almost beyond recognition? Luckily, the country has stabilized a great deal in the last few years, thank goodness. Most stores now have items on their shelves and those stores that don’t are in the process of stocking them. Since I’ve been away a year already, my memory of US cost for goods might not be correct, but first impression was that many items were selling for about the same as we would pay for them in the States, yet they earn much less. I brought home a few billion, trillion dollars from the old Zimbabwe days with me to share with my family and friends. You too can be a millionaire!!

Raising chickens seems to be a good thing to do. You don’t need to live in the country to do this since today’s chickens are kept in rather confined quarters. For the investment of $1 a peep, you can feed 100 of them for around $105 for six weeks. Granted the first two weeks require rather intensive care, but in six weeks you can turn around and sell them for around $6 a chicken and then you can begin again with the next batch. Hmmmm Speaking of chickens – Kudzie just began a job with one of the chicken producers in the country. She is in a one-year management training program. In fact, her boyfriend, Dominic, just began the same job with the same company. How convenient is that? They will earn $350 per month, be provided one chicken and 2.5 dozen of eggs per week and a place to live for free (not together, mind you). They began their jobs just before I left and their first impression is good. They both still hope to go to grad school in a year though and thought the job experience would ultimately help them do that.

While visiting Kudzie I had the opportunity to meet and stay with her two aunts and their families. Because of UK’s rule for so many years, Zimbabwe is very modern and westernized be it their furniture & homes, western toilets, and eating habits in general. I will post a picture or two of their homes so that you can see what I am talking about. I felt completely at home with my newfound family. The comment was frequently made that Kudzie has four moms (note picture). What a lucky girl she is! Funny though, as developed as they are they lose electricity and water several times a day, even in the capital city of Harare. It would frustrate the heck out of me, but they are accustomed to it and roll with it well. It is usually cut around 6a and comes back on around 10a and then again they lose it around 5:30p and it comes back on around 9p or so. Could they pick more inconvenient times? Most homes have a generator and their own water storing system. Patience generally cooks dinner around 5p and then keeps it warm in a thermal container until it’s time to eat. Otherwise, they build a fire to cook – everyone has a place to do this in their yard. Makes having a refrigerator a bit challenging too and Patience elects to have a freezer instead, since it holds the cold longer. Patience does have a generator, but hates using it because of the noise, so frequently just makes do. The country really must do something about their utility problems if they want industry and businesses to grow.

In this regard – Morocco is thinking ahead. Note: USA (Washington) - Morocco is well positioned to become North Africa's leading provider of renewable energy, especially solar-thermal power, the US magazine Newsweek wrote.

"A year and a half ago, the country shifted gears and turned to a resource that exists in abundance across the region: the sun," underlined the Newsweek, which is one of the largest weekly magazine in the U.S.

The magazine recalled HM King Mohammed VI's decision to make the development of alternative energy one of Morocco's "top priorities", putting a legal framework in place to encourage European investment.

In this regard, the magazine said that Morocco is privileged by its Sahara and geography, noting that "what distinguishes the country from its desert-dwelling neighbors is its close proximity to Spain."

Ooops, sorry I digress. Okay, now back to Zimbabwe again. I’ve made lots of silly one line notes to myself and think I’ll just give them to you with a bit of an explanation where possible. They will not be in any particular order or even grouped together. Hope you can make some sort of sense of them.

• Shona is the traditional language spoken where I visited. Ndebele is the other prominent one in the country. All children in school learn English.
• Most homes have high fenced yards. Most homes also have a dog or two or three. They are not necessarily treated as pets, but they appear to be well taken care of and are there for security purposes.
• Zimbabwe does not have a national television network. Most of their news is from South Africa.
• Patience frequently referred to “Fong Kong” and “Jing Jong” as the cheap junk imported from China. She said that they might make some good quality products, but unfortunately, most of what is imported to Zimbabwe was not worth bringing home since it wouldn’t last.
• A maid makes about $4 a day and most homes have one, plus a garden guy (I don’t know what he makes).
• Sadza is probably their national dish. Kenya has ugali which is similar. Kind of reminded me of cream of wheat, although it is cooked a bit more solid and then it is balled up and used as a scoop for the other food items being served. Silverware is not usually used when eating this dish.
• Covo is a green vegetable, kind of like spinach, but a bit more tough. Every garden grows it.
• Zimbabwe’s Big Five -- the lion, the elephant, the cape buffalo, the rhino and the leopard.
• A ngorzi is a revenging spirit (now why did I write this down?)
• White sliced bread in plastic wrap (Wonder Bread equivalent). I didn’t see anyone make homemade bread like they do here in Morocco. Everyone eats generally 5-6 slices per meal.
• 2008 – climax of country’s crisis.
• Food take away --- take out food
• A red rose near the gate (or the place where you enter a yard) is a sign of welcome.
• Most everyone starts off the morning with a bowl of corn flakes.
• When setting up a community, it should have a butcher, a grocer, a grinder and a bottle shop (well duh!)
• Mazvita means Thank You
• Clapping cupped hands means many good things – like welcome, it’s great, I’m happy, etc.
• Families have a clan name in addition to their given family name. While in the market, one vendor gave me a hippo as a present. It was decided that Schubel’s clan name is “hippo”. This means we have a connection to water and basically that I shouldn’t eat things from the water. Sorry, but I can’t abide by that one.
• Zimbabwe has a public primary school every 10 kilometers and a health clinic every 12 kilometers. I had the good fortune of visiting many schools since Patience was once a teacher herself and Kudzie has brothers, nieces and nephews in schools and we visited many of them.
• One of Kudzie’s aunts is a head mistress at a public school for girls aged 12-18. She earns $200/month. She has advanced degrees from universities.
• Zimbabwe has the saying – Why worry or hurry. Africa is ahead of London (or Greenwich).
• Avocados were plentiful and I made Chris’s recipe for guacamole for each household I stayed in. They loved tasting a Mexican dish.
• While waiting for transport on Sunday afternoon, I observed many young men imbibing on beer and ??? Drinking in public seems to be accepted. Unfortunately, most had had too much and they were hanging in our vehicle’s window wanting to chat with the white. Had I been alone or traveling at a different hour, I would not have been comfortable. Made me appreciate Morocco’s view on drinking in general (not to say that it’s not being done), but I have never really been in this situation and felt unsafe in Morocco.
• Olives and almonds were a new taste for them. I shared some of Morocco’s fares with them.
• I made Berber eggs for Patience and Kudzie. Ymmm, maybe I’ll make some for you?
• OMG – they have “Curves” in Zimbabwe. Harare is the first city to have one in their country.
• They are building HUGE houses in Zimbabwe. Interesting thing is that mortgages are not available. They must have cash for everything they do, so it is a slow process – little by little and eventually it is complete.
• And finally -- a sundowner is a cocktail that you enjoy as the sun is going down. A lady I met at the airport shared this one with me. I like it ….. “sundowner”. Think I’ll adopt this saying!

One day while staying near Rusape with Patience, I had the good fortune of meeting David. He drove us around in his pick-up for a good portion of the morning. David is a retired school head master. David is an environmentalist/naturalist/everything good you can think of. He has developed a conference center where he has hosted groups from Europe, UK and other parts of Africa. I can’t remember if any American groups were part of this? The topic discussed is the environment and how to preserve it. His center is built around natural rocks and uses natural building products. Each individual sleeping quarters building is a bit different in its construction. I can’t begin to express how impressed I was with this man and what he has accomplished. He has greenhouses and Patience herself is becoming quite a gardener and environmentalist because of his influence. She has worked with him at the center in the past. David has given each school and health clinic a few fruit/shade trees. His feeling is that if there is someone that is hungry or hot while there, they can always remedy it. Unfortunately, because of the economy being what it is, nothing is happening at this location now. I can only hope that things improve and it can again be utilized since it is a wonderful place. David also stopped at a homestead so that I could see it while we were driving about. There was this old woman there sitting in the kitchen hut. The smoke was pretty thick and David, Patience and I had a hard time breathing. She didn’t seem to notice. I’ve posted a picture of her for you to see.

Well, I doubt that I’ve told you everything, but you are likely getting tired of reading. It was a wonderful trip and experience. Again, I am grateful for this opportunity to visit Zimbabwe.

I am back at my site, school is in session and I’ve been there a few times already. We have a new school director and he’d like me to be more involved so I will try to be. I have cleaning supplies for the school bathrooms and I want to go give them a thorough cleaning and then have a talk with the children about the importance of microbes, hygiene, soap, etc. I have toothbrushes and need to do that instruction. As I said earlier, I am off to Rabat early October for a committee meeting but it will take a day of travel to get there and back. National Geographic is coming for two visits in October. Since I had three visits here in my village last spring, it is only fair that we give Anna’s town the same opportunity, so the visits will be there this time. Our association is once again open, but unfortunately we don’t have a teacher for our non-formal education classes or our pre-school. Not sure what the plan is, but it is so unfortunate since there are a number of girls that used this service. I will likely teach some English there soon. Elaine, my hitchhiking buddy from years ago is coming for a visit in mid-October. No we won’t be hitchhiking, but I will be showing her a bit of Morocco via the buses and trains. I can’t wait for her to meet my Moroccan family. They are already planning on us for lunch one day. So in summary – that’s about it.

I remember telling Kudzie when she came to Michigan that each season had it’s own unique smell and that I hoped she would take note of them. She eventually did comment that she did notice the distinction. Gosh, how I love the smell of fall. I hope you’ll enjoy fall’s weather and the last of the warmth for this year. Until I write again – take care. Hugs, Linda