Sunday 16 November 2014

The best of Zimbabwe...

The most important thing I take with me when I leave is the memory of all the good and friendly people I have met here. I can’t describe how much it meant to me, to be embraced (or hugged) by your warmth and kindness. There are so many people who have left an everlasting impression on my soul and who I will carry around in my heart - guys, you are kind of heavy ;)

First, there are Oili, Seppo, Mikko and Esko who made it so easy to feel at home in a new and strange place. Oili, always chatting friendly with everybody or playing with her dogs, Seppo, who has been established as a bear, who might growl sometimes but always means well with his cubs. Mikko – you could once in your lifetime let go of the rope! Esko - please don’t be afraid of the thunderstorms in rain season - I promise you they won’t get you.

Then of course there have been all the other lovely volunteers from Finland, who were going more or less through the same experience as me. Satu, who arrived with me and was the best person I could ever imagine to share these experiences together – whether it was eating Sadza, teaching Geography or having a Sport’s Day. Then there are Jenni, who always made us laugh and Sara with her beautiful voice and musical talent, which she so generously shared with everybody. Of course we can neither forget Simon, the poor guy who had to work with four females as his partners. He will be remembered for his love of nature and especially birds and unforgettable “mottorisahalla menän metsän jokes”.  Let’s also remember all the lovely helpers, who I only met for a short time: happy Bo, the great Seinäjoki teachers, knowledgable Prof. Olavi Lukanen, nice Hanna and experienced Jussi.

Even more important are all the Zimbabweans at Dzikwa, who taught me so much about their culture. First in the office you can find Levita, who has the most amazing memory ever when it comes to the names of the children, their family situation and their home address. Edina, who is a social worker and kind of the right hand of Levita, while Tatenda is the left hand and a student on attachment for Development Studies. Both of them are really lovely and have taught me so much about how life is in Zimbabwe for a youngster. Then there are so many others whole-heartedly engaged in Dzikwa: Priscilla, I have no clue how she fits 30 hours into the day, Assan, our loyal accountant, Farai, the “rejoicing” assistant IT teacher, Tinotenda, our nutrition specialist, Alouise, who is not only a great teacher but also organizes the culture club and benefits in both through his eloquence. Neither can I forget our five lovely kitchen ladies (Karuwa, Shingirayi, Beauty, Yeukai and Stella ), our brave cleaning staff(Belta, Albert and Linda), our creative culture club teachers (Takawira, Samudan and Michek) and our watchful guards(Pardon, Jimmy, David and Ronald). All of them have unique characters and will be remembered.

I have already told you about all my great Shelter mates, but I still want to mention them here once more, because they are the ones I shared my daily ups and downs with. First of all there is our Shelter Mom, Nyaradzai – I miss even the moments when she called me “special”. Edina, so lively and funny, Tonderai, more thoughtful and observing, Bless - ing joking around the house. Happy Rachel, whom I have to say I admire very much, “Mother” Theresa, who was always there for me to accompany me to the shops, and Bridget, who doesn’t miss me at all, even though I miss her terribly. Letwin and Michelle with their beautiful voices – I wish I could hear them now or simply be spending time with them.  And finally Joyline - our little Joy – who initially shy, warmed up to us and was a great playing companion. Of course, there were also other regular visitors, mainly friends of Joyline: entertaining and cute Ropafadzo, Nomsa with her huge smile under her hoodie, my “sisters” Talent and Nyasha.

At the Center there were so many other faces, names and personalities, who would take too much time to describe. I am just going to give you a few, but be assured that just because they get into this blog, everybody else whom I can’t mention also owns also a piece of my heart. Let’s start with little acrobatic and extremely talented Betsy and her loyal friend Rachel(Radzschii).

In Primary School: Cute Spale, brave Loveness, cheeky Ever, sharp-witted Patrick, affectionate Lucy, pretty Hazel, opposite-to-everything-she-is-told Charlene, always-there Tabeth, open-hearted Munashe, the quick-witted twins Tamsanq and Spiwie + their smaller brother Tinotenda, high-voiced Progress, dancing Lilly, Tanyaradzwa, Ruvarashe, Rutendo, whose name I never could pronounce correctly, Charmaigne, who improved incredibly, Tinotenda, the drama-queen, and Agnes, cheeky in her own right, Plaxcedes with her beautiful smile and cool new earrings, Amanda, Lianah, Mercy, Leah, Nancy, Isabel, Hazel, Chantel and Charmaigne, sincere Thandiwe, great at Maths Mitchel, Russel, smiling Trish, Tanyaradzwa, welcoming Shamiso, Nyasha, who will always remind me of a brave lioness, quiet but still trying to do her best Norma, always making fun Courage(I … don’t know), Isheanesu, who had to move while I was there, mischievious Munashe and Takudzwa, provoking, but warm-hearted teenage friends Melissa and Gladys.

Tinotenda and me

From Secondary School I particularly remember lovely and very thoughtful Moilah, who wrote me the most beautiful goodbye letter, so very happy Precious, really nice and musical Tawanda and Edwin, quiet and intelligent Ramus, chatty Natasha, Lucia, Nelyssa, Kundainashe, Moreblessing, Norvella, Chido, Emily, sporty Chantelle, Moreblessing, who lives up to her name, Thelma, who is like a flower starting to bloom, funny Michelle(and I am hundred percent sure that is your name!), Sharmaigne Muriva, the most eloquent person I met in Zim, Dassy, Locinda-e, who I mixed up one too many times, Mitchel with her new self-belief, Samantha, anxious Nobuhle, Lynnet, the poet. I neither can forget Munyaradzi, Wisemen, Tafadza, clever Quinton, Tendai, Takudzwa, Glory and especially Bishop, Samuel, Gibson and Zvidzai whose names I finally got right.
Satu, Antioch and me

A totally different group of “Zimbabweans” are the Finnish Society of Harare, whom I got to know more or less. Definitely more I learnt to know was Larry, who gave so much of his time to Dzikwa and also to us volunteers - as a driver, guide, barbecue master, extra hand unpacking the container and so much more; not to forget his dog Heinz(named after the Ketchup!). Then there is Virva, who once started as a volunteer like me and now has been living many years in the warmth of Zimbabwe and is even married to a Zimbabwean. Although she has a household to do and no car, she often came to support us with our projects especially when it concerned our precious environment. Kaisa was the one who gave me so many hints how to cope with my gluten allergy in Zimbabwe and has been travelling all around Southern Africa to look after the sick as the responsible Red Cross member for this area. Not so well I got to know Hasse, the Palestinian embassador, who however has strong ties to Finland, and Tertuu.


Friday 14 November 2014

Travelling around Harare

If you ever drive in the boot of a car, I'd advice you to look out of the back window. Not only will you see some of the most amazing views, such as the soft, yet intensive purple of the Jacaranda trees, but also will you have the funny feeling to be moving backward as soon as you stop - especially funny when you are standing downhill ;)

So when you move away from Harare the houses with high fences and high security level are replaced first by apartment buildings then by fields. On your way you will drive through beautiful avenues with amazing trees like the Jacaranda tree. Then you will pass by the Harare Stadion and see a tiny glimpse of it from the outside. While you are driving, there will be more and more holes in the street leading to a bumpy ride if the driver isn't good. Be careful with your head. 

At the Redan fuel station one then turns left in the direction of Dzivarasekwa, which you can already realize by the fact that there are little tables selling vegetables and bricks beside the road and an occasional goat passes by. You continue the road till you cross the railway, which marks the beginning of Seppo-Landia, also called Dzivarasekwa. And you will see the three funnily shaped hills, which we like to jog up to. By the way I must warn you of the road bumps which are quite common in Harare and its surroundings.

Slowly the fences are replaced by little houses closer to each other with more provisionally separations and the cars by people and dogs on the streets. It becomes definitely more colorful, more vivid and more loud. Not to forget that litter and dust are everywhere. 

Features that don't change throughout the trip is the flatness. Houses are usually one story tall, there are no high landmarks and over the fields you have a wide horizon in front of you. Another one are the clouds and the sky. As Harare lies rather high you feel like the clouds and also the stars are far closer to you. 

Thursday 13 November 2014

The Forestry Project

I can't believe I haven't written about this until now. It has been on the back of my mind, but I didn't really have the time. So the forestry is the enviromental part of Dzikwa Trusts program. It is a piece of land they have leased from the City Council to plant trees that then can be sold after full grown while planting new ones. The idea is necessary in Zimbabwe, where deforestation is a big problem and people get illegally woods to heat their stoves. Besides wanting to provide the community with a sustainable land of woods for use and also for relaxing and teaching them and especially our children about environmental awareness, there is also the Agroforestry Project: It is based on the idea that we need trees, but the farmers also need fields for crops. That is why in Finland and also in Zimbabwe Agroforestry has developed. It pretty much means that we plant nitrogen-fixing trees(they gather nitrogen from the air and when their leaves fall they transfer it into the ground to improve the growth of other crops such as maize. The naturally growing tree in Zimbabwe is faidherbia also called the Evergreen tree. Not only is it a nitrogen-fixing plant, but its woods are very useful, one can eats it fruits and some natural healers swear on their power of healing. Wonder tree. All this theory amounts up to the fact that On the Forestry site there is a nursery, where seedlings are planted to grow into big trees of eucalyptus for wood as these trees seriously are very fast-growing(20m in three years) and among others evergreen tree, which are then planted on fields also on this land. To actually create awareness for the benefits of a agroforestry Dzikwa has provided 20 farmers with prepared and plowed land to plant their crops as long as they leave the planted trees grow peacefully and follow the instructions of our agroforestry experts Michek and Duncan. As workforce we have at the moment five students on attachment from Bindura University all tasked with looking after different areas of the Forestry and Mr. Makeakora, a self-taught environmentalist and the overseer of work on sight. When it comes to bigger actions, such as repoting 2000 plants Dzikwa children are of course expected to participate and 50 of them actually managed this job last Saturday. The big Clean up was also done on the Forestry side.

I have not been so involved in the Forestry as Simon, who has been cutting trees, which were planted on a sewage line, since many of my tasks have to be done at Dzikwa Center, yet on some of my Friday's I have come and participated with measuring parcels of land - that was rather fun and a good way to apply maths in real life - or filling little plastic bags with soil. I felt good to also contribute in this area of Dzikwa, since the project has totally convinced me and I believe it will also help with one of the most important tasks we have, create environmental awareness in the children, for example after the Litter Campaign I am hoping they will consider it more carefully before they leave more litter on the ground.

Fairytale Waterfalls 2

After a really comfortable night that was also good, because I had the chance to talk with my father properly about all and nothing, and a surprisingly good breakfast, Lorrie was actually so kind to gift us with two beautiful batik cloths - the perfect present for my mummy, who didn't want us to buy a souvenir for her, but actually enjoys textures and more unique patterns. :D

Then we relaxed at the pool or I did -> my father was working :S and played with Jojo, one of the four dogs, who loves to play fetch so much that to stop the game you have to throw his toy "accidentally" in the pool. At 10 we then went with Simon to the more adrenalin type activities in Victoria Falls, yet due to my mistake, which turned out to be a rather good choice, we didn't do a one single slide over the canyon, but actually a longer sliding parcours over a side arm of the canyon - the Canopy Tour - similar to the slides in the Kletterwald in Seulberg. It may not have had so much adrenalin, but one can truly enjoy the view, for which again words or pictures are absolutely not adequate. Guys, you just have to come here yourself!

All I can tell is that we really enjoyed it, encountered baboons and beautiful flowers and trees. And the view of the Canyon is so breath taking that you are so hypnotized by it that you usually just a few meters before the platform remember to slow down ;)

We had two companions to hook and unhook us onto the slides, but as you properly have realized I absolutely wanted also do it myself... And their own not always safe maneuvers of course made me remind them like an overprotective mother to secure themselves XD

The tour providers were all young locals, who really seemed to have a clue of their business as they made it professional while keeping it a fun experience. Afterwards they even drove us to the Safari Lodge, where we enjoyed the great view from their platform to the waterhole and nature park below it. We saw a cute elephant family and warthogs. As this was such an amazing place we also enjoyed a great lunch over there, which was only interrupted by the lunch of the vultures, which Lorrie had recommended us to witness. Their lunch was brutal, blurry and breathtaking. Suddenly the sky was full of hundreds of vultures, who were diving down to get their share of raw meat and on the ground pushing and shocking, threatening and pecking at each other in a tight packed crowd, which would shame a Madonna concert. The strongest fought for the food and then flew with their quarry to a nearby tree to munch their lunch. In the meanwhile the less strong waited for the big ones to leave and then picked up every single left over piece, even if one couldn't recognize them anymore with the bare eye.

After witnessing this meal of nature we walked a bit through the park, but it was so hot that after seeing a lizard and a wild warthog we turned around and left walking towards Lorrie's B&B from where we then had to go to the airport and leave this magical place. However, on our way we still quickly stopped at the Victoria Falls Hotel, probably the most exclusive and expensive one you can find. From its terrace you have an amazing view of the Victoria Falls Bridge and the Canyon, but otherwise it was rather ridiculous: real animal heads on the wall, flayed zebra skins, constantly watered grass in a country where water is scarce and sculptures ranging from 1000 to 100000 Dollars. A simple duck sculpture of $1600 could keep a typical family in Africa going for more than a year. Africa teaches u,s how we can waste away great sums of money, which are very much needed, for so-called beauties which actually are only trophies made to show off, while nature itself provides us with the most magnificent beauty for free.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Fairytale waterfalls

This will mostly be a photo show with less text, but as these photos are so large I will actually separate it into two blogs posts.
The first thing we did was find our sleeping place at Lorrie's Bed and Breakfast which is a bit out of town, but otherwise just great and run by the amazing Lorrie, who has the best advises, tries always to help and makes you feel really welcome. Of course it didn't hurt that there were four dogs at the B&B ;)

After that we left for the town, got something to drink and immediately walked to the Victoria Falls. They are simply stunning. You stand there and see this water falling down an edge, rushing to the ground and then joining the lake in a great haze. And then multiply that by fifty or so and you have still only a bare glimpse of the magnificence of this wonder of nature. The sound of the falling water, the refreshing haze in the air, the vivid and lush green of the vegetation, the sound of birds, flapping butterflies and shouting monkeys in the air; not to forget the rather frightening distance to the ground of the falls. But the best thing are the waterfalls themselves. Strong, unproportionaly gigantique and just hypnotizing. In the end I was just sitting there following one water stream after the other and experiencing the feeling of flying down. 

We also encountered some baboons on our way, including some little fighters, some snatchers of fruit and the cutest baby monkey you could imagine. As Victoria Falls lie in the heart of several national game parks, it easliy happens that the animals come into town. Apparently it has happened that elephants walk at night on the streets.
Back to the water falls. I just can't describe them, but I can only still mention that the rainbows and the colour hues of the rocks themselves are just so worth a sight.

Here you can see the water moving with the wind.

The most magical place on Earth

In the evening, after taking in so much beauty, we then enjoyed a Sunset Cruise with Pamusha, which means "At home". We were so lucky, because Lorrie decided to book for us a cheaper tour, which ended up on us being the only three people on a smaller boat with a very knowledgable captain on all the wildlife and especially the birdlife for Simon and another helper, who was serving us as much as we can drink. And even though we explicitly booked a no dinner cruise, we were offered free fingerfood, which pretty much was enough to make a good and tasty dinner. And we enjoyed live and traditional music, when we were boarding and leaving. Seriously, I can't think of a way, how this tour could have been better.

We saw several animals, including a wild elephant which had swam to an island in the middle of the river  as their teeth he would find softer food. The benefit of softer stalks is for an elephant enormous: Their teeth will become more quickly worn off, if they eat hard stalks, so they won't last as long. And the life span of an elephant is pretty much determined by the life span of this teeth.  They lose them four to six times in their life and after that no new teeth will grow and the elephant dies painful of starvation. Anyway that meant that we were lucky enough to observe his meal. Personally, I could have watched the elephant eat for ages, the trunk and how it bends and unbends, the large ears,..., but we had to go on to new adventures and new animals, which in this case where a baby crocodile, of which I don't have a picture and some hippos. By the way I should warn you, hippos are very dangerous animals, even though they don't eat meat and look so harmless. However, they are extremely protective of their territory and when they open their mouths that is not to amuse us but a sign of aggression. More information are that hippopotamuses are the second heaviest animal on ground, after the elephant and they usually are found in water because they have very sensitive skin, which they can protect this way from the African sun, apparently they don't get sunburns in water like certain other people. Now back to the concept of a 2 or 3 ton hippo swimming in the river, not very likely. Instead we were explained the hippos cross the river as the only animal species by walking on the ground as they can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes, then they manage to push themselves up to the surface, breathe and dive again. That march would be something to witness.

It just was a lovely sunset with a lovely sunset cruise. Perfect happiness can describe it.