Leaving Zimbabwe

Posted on Updated on

Leaving Zimbabe
Leaving Zimbabe

Next month it will be a year since we left Zimbabwe to come back home to South Africa. Although living up there for almost two decades it was also home to me, and I wouldn’t exchange the memories of it, both good and bad, for anything in the world. Apart from the fires – those were terrible, and were mostly started on purpose.

fire1

For all of those years we lived in rural areas far away from any sort of town, which is why I used to go on my epic once a month shopping trips and stock up on everything needed till the next month. A couple of hours drive each way to Harare, being stopped by endless roadblocks along the way, being fined US$20 for having dirty tyres (truth).

Toll

And being nearly squished several times by ancient, overloaded, but still very zoomy buses and taxis. It was all a massive adventure though, and I remember all these things now with a smile.

Truck

After the farm invasions started and the economy collapsed there were several really lean years – years of fear too, because there was no rule of law. Large groups of youths went around beating people both black and white, and very often killing them. The currency was worth nothing, not that you could buy anything with it if it wasn’t though. Shops closed. The end. People in rural areas died of starvation and disease – hospitals had nothing. Power went off for days, sometimes weeks. No more water on tap in the capital, and sewage pipes left broken with effluent in the streets causing cholera, and more death.

I’ve never seen a people with more heart than the people of Zimbabwe though. Apart from those who had the power to harm whoever they felt like harming and did, the vast majority of Zimbabweans are a wonderful and very canny lot. Plans were made. There was a mass exodus of white people at that time, and not only farmers. Some got out in time to hang on to any cash they had, but when the economy collapsed those left behind lost everything including pensions, and any investments people had been building for their entire lives crumbled to dust before their eyes. So many were fearfully stuck there with no money to get out, but there were also quite a few of us who stayed because that’s what we decided to do. We knew that it was dangerous, especially out in the rural areas on farms, but I guess guardian angels were working overtime those days, so even though I had the daylights scared out of me quite a few times, nobody ever managed to physically harm me. Apart from all the hurting though, Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, and there was also lots of laughter and joy, even from those hurting. Regardless of whether or not you’d be munching on an old potato for lunch, or if you had “made a plan” and would be having something a bit more filling, the houses up there were always gorgeous. I do miss a couple of things. I miss my freshly picked veggies, and also seeing all the wildlife and birds that crept around the garden – although not so much the black mambas and the baboons lurking behind bushes waiting to scare the pants off innocent me. And I really miss looking out of my window and seeing shining tranquil water. Our front lawn meandered down a couple of terraces to a gorgeous dam.

If you fancied a swim, in you popped. Not that I ever ventured out too far because there was the meanest monitor lizard in the world who used to hang around on the wobbly old jetty that would hiss and leap at you without any provocation at all.

Still, it was a lovely place to watch the sun go down behind the fields of tea on the other side of the water.

I miss the palm trees loaded down with nesting weaver birds every year – especially the one right outside my office window.

Weaver Birds

Would I ever go back to live there? No – I don’t think so. There was so much hope a couple of years back. After seeing the misery and the hunger on the faces of those people who I came to love and respect so much for their strength and humility in the face of appalling abuses by their own, I actually used to grin like an idiot and shed a tear or two when I saw them happy, well fed, and hopeful again. Now things are going so badly again – I couldn’t bear to see that again.

For now I’m very happy in my sleepy little rainbow nation town. I certainly don’t miss that constant small feeling of not being safe, but I’ll always treasure my years in Zimbabwe, and strangely, the fact that the very hell that everyone went through brought us all so much closer, and I got to know and love so many people of that country in ways that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere or anywhen else.

Louis Trichardt

Advertisements

56 thoughts on “Leaving Zimbabwe

    Mark Myers said:
    July 11, 2014 at 11:07 am

    This is tragic and fascinating, Jo. We sponsor a little guy in Zimbabwe and I’m always wondering how life is for Clarance. Thanks for recounting those tough days.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      That’s wonderful of you Mark! Things aren’t going to well there nowadays so much after the short interlude of a couple of years ago. We have friends that pop down now and then, and it seems that it’s becoming a problem for people to survive again, which means going to school stops being a priority. There have been some not cool items in the news too, so you sponsoring little Clarance is awesome!

      Like

    Charles Yallowitz said:
    July 11, 2014 at 11:20 am

    That definitely sounds like the adventure of a lifetime.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      I don’t know if I’ve got some sort of Stockholm syndrome going on today, but I’m thinking fondly of the days when attempting to make my own cheese was the norm. 😀 We were actually very lucky – there were a couple of people who had some bad adventures. There was a man who lived down the road who got tied up with fencing wire, roughed up, and left out in the bush, although he was lucky too really to have survived the whole thing. The people who were hurt the most, and the most numbers of those killed weren’t actually whites though. It’s ironic that not all the people who were supposed to benefit from the whole deal survived. I’ve learned how to make lots of stuff from scratch though, so I’ll be fine in when the zombie apocalypse comes. 😀

      Like

        Charles Yallowitz said:
        July 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm

        As long as the machines don’t join in the revolution. 😉 Sounds like a harrowing time back then.

        Like

          jorobinson176 responded:
          July 12, 2014 at 2:19 pm

          If the machines are in I’m done for – I can bare operate a teaspoon. 😀 It’s weird, because I haven’t thought about the really crazy days for ages, and then all of a sudden there they all were again. Getting old and decrepit probably. 🙂

          Like

            Charles Yallowitz said:
            July 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm

            Curious. Wonder what the trigger was. I get that way with a scent that comes and goes quickly.

            Like

              jorobinson176 responded:
              July 13, 2014 at 11:55 am

              Scent and music often gets me like that – this time it was probably trying to make sense of my calendar and seeing the date.

              Like

    First Night Design said:
    July 11, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I would not have been so brave. You paint a wonderful picture. Let us hope that one day all will be well.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 11, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      Thank you Sarah! I think after a while you get used to living like that – when we left we never really had much choice, but now looking back I can see how dangerous those times really were. I don’t regret it though – I’m glad I saw the real story of what happened there, and I’m sure that one day it really will be well. 🙂

      Like

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    July 11, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Such bravery to stay in the face of all the challenges -Black mambas and baboons included- I feel for those wonderful people without a choice who must live in fear daily. Great post Jo XXS

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

      That baboon was probably the universe playing a joke on me. I used to leopard crawl around with the dog to scare monkeys (they used to eat the baby weaver birds, and we couldn’t allow that 😀 ) and we were creeping around a rockery to make the fright a good one, and there was this massive baboon. He really screeched and bared some massive fangs. I only almost caught up with the dog at the house – brave guy. I really hope Zimbabwe would come right though – now with all the rally talk, and pretty much suggestions to resort to violence again, the real people who are going to suffer are those who really have no idea what lies behind the political posturing. Thank you lovely Sally! 🙂 XXXX

      Like

        Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
        July 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm

        Reminds me of the night we heard screams from my parents bedroom, all four of us children raced in to find a mouse calmly eating my mothers tissues smeared with cold cream she used on the bedside table. My father was away – and my mother, the dog and the cat were huddled together all screaming and whining in terror!!
        XX

        Like

          jorobinson176 responded:
          July 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm

          HA HA HA HAAAAAA! The dog and cat too! Did they know it was a mouse? 😀 We used to have snakes sometimes come into the house and curl up under the old coal stove on the farm when I was a teenager, and when they slithered out my mother used to vertical take off on to the kitchen table and then freeze – never mind daughter in the room. 😀

          Like

            Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
            July 12, 2014 at 2:55 pm

            They knew it was a mouse alright – the cat nearly had a fainting fit…. my mother was not impressed – I think one of us picked up the mouse in a cap and through out the back door – it was probably back in again the next night…. XX

            Like

              jorobinson176 responded:
              July 13, 2014 at 11:58 am

              Those mice know where they want to live, so I bet it was! So far we haven’t had any creepy crawlies in this house – touch wood – even the lizards have learned to stay away from my weaver guys. 🙂 XXXX

              Like

    olganm said:
    July 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Such a shame. Beautiful place but happy you came through the experience and still have some good things to say about it.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      It really is a beautiful country Olga, and the people there have lots of patience so hopefully soon they can all relax and be as happy as they deserve to be. 🙂

      Like

    Cay said:
    July 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Someone once said to me that living in Africa is like living with the nerves on the outside of your skin; everything is a bit more intense here. After more than a decade in a rural part of Namibia I think I understand what he meant. There’s fear when the police come to warn us planned farm raids and when the mamba crawls into the garden. And during this time of the year there’s certainly a strong fear clenching the gut when the smoke clouds fill the air and you know that you’ll have to try to stop it somehow. I hate veld fires too.
    And then there’s joy and love and just…passion, I suppose. For the beauty and strength, that especially the women display. And there’s anger regarding old wrongs and new equally bad wrongs, just wrapped in new paper and rhetoric.
    And there is no doubt in my mind that I would miss it terribly if I left. Even if I’m sometimes very tempted.

    Like

    cicampbell2013 said:
    July 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    What very mixed emotions you must have, Jo, when you remember your decades in that beautiful, boisterous country. It’s so good that you remember the positives and focus on them, while not forgetting the negatives. You have painted a wonderfully clear picture of life in Zimbabwe. Thank you.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks to you Christine. ❤ It's such a crazy, lovely country, and I'm actually sure that it will get back to being that happy place again. It's nowhere near as bad as it got now as when it hit rock bottom – still the lives that were lost and upturned will never be the same. So much happened there that never made international headlines – I must dig it all out some day and scribbler another tale maybe. HUGS XXX

      Like

    Jack Eason said:
    July 11, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Two very dear friends of mine back in New Zealand started their life together in Zimbabwe or Rhodesia as it was then. John(a kiwi) and Rhona ran her father’s tobacco farm until all hell broke loose when Mugabe first reared his head. Because they had three kids, and all whites, in particular farmers like them were being targeted, taking a few precious possessions, they got the hell out and settled in New Zealand.

    Now I hear that once again Mugabe has dictated that any white Zimbabweans must give their land up!!!

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      My husband’s family mostly all went to New Zealand too – quite a lot of people went there. When we made the quick decision to come back to South Africa, we pretty much left with what would fit in the car – and that was mainly my feathered horde. 😀 It’s been on the news that he said that no whites are to own farms at all anymore – they’re only allowed businesses and apartments. He also subtly mentioned that it’s not overly necessary to be “nice to white people”. You never know though what could happen – that could just have been a one off rally thing. The people who really suffer the most with all this are the poor people – his own people – the people he’s supposed to have fought for.

      Like

        Jack Eason said:
        July 14, 2014 at 6:16 pm

        Rhona and John did much the same thing when they left. They loaded themselves, their three kids and a few precious possessions into their ancient Pugeot station-wagon and headed for Cape Town where they set sail for Wellington in New Zealand.
        Several years later, John and I were replacing a few rusty panels on it. When we got the first of the door sills off, out fell a compacted lump of Rhodesian red dust along with dead spiders and a desicated snake. 😉

        Like

    Harliqueen said:
    July 11, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    It’s good to remember good and bad in these times. Stunning photos though! 🙂

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      Thank you! I’ve been looking around for photos from those days – my last computer died a sudden death, so I’m not sure where I put them. 🙂 X

      Like

    P.S. Bartlett said:
    July 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    What a lovely and poignant remembrance. These memories may have been shared in a completely different way by someone with a different way of seeing things. Had you not brought your own light to shine through the darker days there, I doubt you would think of that time in your life so fondly. That is definitely not Stockholm, that’s inner peace.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      You say such wonderful loving things – thank you so much. There were some really dark times there, but strangely there also really always good things at the same time, and a lot of lessons learned too, so I hope I came out a bit of a nicer person than when I went in. 🙂 X

      Like

    coldhandboyack said:
    July 11, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Thank you! It’s a funny thing when memories appear out of nowhere and refuse to leave, but it’s so fantastic to know that with our blogger family there are always friends to share them with. 🙂

      Like

    Mira Prabhu said:
    July 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Poignant and beautiful and says a lot about the big heart of the writer…

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Thank you wonderful Mira. I suppose we scribblers do see things differently, because there aren’t any walls around our hearts. HUGS XXX

      Like

    teagan geneviene said:
    July 11, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    A fine for dirty tires! My gast is flabbered. I thought they nickle-and-dime me to death here. Once the police drove up into my parking lot and left a ticket on my car… That’s like coming into your yard or driveway to give you a ticket for an unmoving car on your own property… But a fine for dirty tires — okay these guys win. 🙂

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      LOLOL! Driving into your parking lot and giving you a ticket sounds like those police guys all get the same training no matter what the country. Some of the police at the roadblocks were quite cool and funny even while they were trying to think up good reasons to part you from your cash. We had allsorts, like the wrong colour fire extinguisher bottle – not sure if that’s international, but I never clicked on to why a blue fire extinguisher bottle wouldn’t work. 🙂

      Like

    Kev said:
    July 11, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    A really remarkable and touching recollection, Jo. My great aunt fled persecution from Zimbabwe many years ago. She first lived in Bulawayo and fled from there to Zimbabwe and finally came back to England, already old and here she died several years later. I will be writing about my aunt in Miedo 2. She had a great effect upon my life when I was a teenager.

    You got me thinking about her again. Just as you did when I read “African Me & Satelite TV” Still my favourite. 😉

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you Kev. I felt so bad when I realised how much time had gone by since I left, and how my thoughts seem to have headed off everywhere else but there lately – I don’t ever want that to be out of sight, out of mind. I got so far out of my reading these last couple of months that I couldn’t remember what books I’d been reading. I closed everything up and rewrote my TBR list down in a notepad, and I’ve actually started Miedo properly again yesterday on my Kindle on the couch. I’ve taken to growling at any disturbances, so I reckon even an apocalyptic horseman might be wary this time. It’s quite a book Kev – hard to put down. It will be cool to see a mention of Zimbabwe in Miedo 2 – most cool! 🙂 X

      Like

        Kev said:
        July 12, 2014 at 3:48 pm

        I could always send Rico over (my little black cougar) to stalk outside and keep other predators away. 😀

        Like

          jorobinson176 responded:
          July 13, 2014 at 11:53 am

          Rico would probably have stood his ground too – amazing how massive big attack dogs suddenly become sprinters in the wrong direction sometimes. 😀

          Like

            Kev said:
            July 13, 2014 at 8:38 pm

            😀

            Like

    theowllady said:
    July 11, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Like

    Carol Balawyder said:
    July 12, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Jo, I truly appreciated reading your post. These types of posts nourish me, open my mind, make me more aware of this global village. I will likely never go to Zimbabwe but you have made me see part of it. Your photos are magnificent, especially the one watching the sun go down. What a rich experience you have had. How fortunate I am to have you share with me part of this experience. Thank you. 🙂

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks to you Carol, for your wonderful kind words. It’s a funny thing what happened up there – the whole country seemed to be waiting for something good to happen, and every time it just got worse, everyone said again that it couldn’t last forever, but it really did. Hopefully it will get better soon, because its still wild in so many places, and absolutely beautiful. 🙂 X

      Like

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    July 12, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Because of all of the travels in my life I have left many places, friends and family behind. But I have left knowing that they are safe and living fulfilled lives. I have left with wonderful memories and the knowledge that I can go back one day if I choose. This poignant post celebrates a wonderful home for many years with all the additional fears and dangers which were part of the daily routine – but there is also that knowledge that for those left behind life may not be stable or safe for the conceivable future.

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Thank you for sharing my lovely Zimbabwe, my lovely friend. I love the way you say that – knowing that they are safe and living fulfilled lives. I’ve been zooming around for the last year thinking about small silly things, and forgot it all until I realised that it was almost a year now. But lots of memories I’ll always have, and lots of wonderful ones too – lots of happy ones too. LOVE AND HUGS ❤ XXXXXXXXXXXXX ❤

      Like

    Sherri said:
    July 12, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Oh Jo, what a beautifully written but heart-breaking story, thank you for sharing it. You are such a brave, amazing lady, you inspire me so much.
    We have the most wonderful neighbours, an elderly couple whose adventures and travels amaze me and hubby. We just love listening to their stories. I told them I want to write about them, haha!!!
    He is originally from Glasgow and she is Zimbabwean. He worked in banking and moved around a lot in the 50s and 60s, throughout Europe and Asia and settled in Zimbabwe where they lived until they couldn’t bear it any longer. They said that it was like living in a 5-star prison. They got out with what ever the allowance was back then, a paltry sum, and moved to England where they have lived ever since but they have one or two friends who come and visit from time to time.
    Reading all you share here really does remind me of so much of what our neighbours have told us and it is just so very sad. But what a breathtakingly beautiful country..and your photographs of the sunset, wow! And those views! Incredible…
    But…I’m so glad you are settled now and enjoying this next phase of your life, back home in your South Africa. Love and hugs to you my dear friend 😀 ❤ ❤ ❤ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      Thank you my gorgeous inside and out Sherri! It’s amazing where Zimbabweans pop up these days – they’re all over the place. 😀 That country and its people get into your blood and your heart though, and being in a situation where you really see how broken the people got, you’d have to be made of stone not to really wish that all the hardship stopped now. It’s been twelve years really, so way too long for that kind of suffering. Your neighbours sound lovely! I bet you’d have a ball writing their stories down. I translated a couple of things from old high Dutch for someone once (using LOTS of dictionaries 😛 ) of a couple of people who headed up there with ox-wagons and horses, and my jaw dropped at what that lot got up to. What with getting sloshed and falling into crocodile infested rivers, and into a homemade latrine on one later occasion. Such fun! LOLOLOL! HUGE HUGS AND LOVES TO YOU lovely, wonderful Sherri. ❤ XXXXXXXXXXXX 🙂

      Like

        Sherri said:
        July 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

        That sounds hilarious! I think that getting sloshed figured in my neighbours stories too, a fair bit! They had a lot of parties by the sounds of it…and when we go over there they ply us with booze so that we practically stagger out and they are in their mid 80’s, ha! We are lightweights obviously!
        It is so, so sad though knowing all that is going on for those poor people still there, 12 years is far too long…
        Lovely huge hugs and lovely days to you gorgeous Jo…..see you soon!!!!! >3 >3 >3 😀 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Like

          jorobinson176 responded:
          July 13, 2014 at 11:52 am

          Ha ha haaaa! I’d love to meet them! We tend to be a generous lot with booze down this end of the world – got to keep your guests well lubricated so they don’t notice that the supper got burned sometimes. 😀 ❤ XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

          Like

            Sherri said:
            July 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

            You got that right my friend o_O ❤ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

            Like

    M T McGuire said:
    July 12, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Wow. I don’t really know what to say there other than wow. Really interesting post about something that was difficult to watch from the outside. There are so many places where people are just being cretinous to one another and it’s really time it stopped. And yet as you say, the crap brings people closer together…

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Cretinous is right – all over the place these days. It’s right what you say that it’s time it stopped, but these days it seems to just get worse every time you put the news on. Crap really does bring people together – you should have seen the effort people went to to get their hands on pucker bog roll at one time. 😀 It was quite a mission, and for a couple of days took front stage in front of anything else.

      Like

    Jack Eason said:
    July 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Memories from another time…

    Like

    Margaret Lynette Sharp said:
    July 15, 2014 at 10:55 am

    A fascinating article with wonderful photos 🙂

    Like

      jorobinson176 responded:
      July 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks Margaret! It was actually quite good taking a short trip down memory lane. You would have loved the birdlife around there too – really gorgeous little guys all over the place. 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s