The Chief, the Counselor and the Chaos
We arose in the dark of 4 AM and headed toward the province where the Great Zimbabwe ruins stand.
We picked up a fourth passenger, which meant three of us were in the back of a small compact and two in front. The car was weighed down with DfG supplies generously made possible by supporters like the Soroptimist Club of Anacortes, WA and Lunapads. (Yea!!) So, we were quite low to the ground, but our driver Lucas handled the journey with ease and we arrived just before 11 AM.
The plan was to help Ambassadors teach 50 students, only we were instead routed to “Grandpa” who is a revered leader of the community. Linda had to squeeze onto the center bump between the front seats for Grandpa to join her in the seat and off we went to…
The Chief's place.
The red dirt road up to his compound of huts, one cinder block building and livestock (chickens and goats) was filled with beautiful natural mineral stones. In fact the region is rich with mineral deposits, which is probably why it has a very large open asbestos mine (yes, asbestos).
The Chief, his assistant and his wives greeted us and we were directed to be seated on grain bags (one of which read World Food Program) at his feet. He sat on a traditional wooden carved stool (it was interesting to see that what we see in shops is authentically used)and his assistant, Grandpa and our driver.
The Chief was attentive and congenial. He asked what our purpose was and then said that this project was good even late, as they could have used it “yesterday” ( we get this a lot). He then rose and went to go get his “official jacket” which turned out to be a suit jacket with a medal revealing his position which Linda explained later was given to him by Mugaba., their current President.
He declared his approval and said goodbye. We took photos. His wives then gathered in to see what we had brought and then asked why we had not come with some for them. We regretted not having more than we had said we would bring for the school and promised to return.
We walked back down the hill and climbed in the car, then drove awhile up a long dirt road (that required us to climb out and walk as the car would bottom out). 45 minutes later we were at a large school.
We thought we had arrived!
It turned out that they did not know we were coming. Then they explained that the Secondary School girls were away on a field trip but we should wait for the counselor. We were puzzled but we sat dutifully, answering questions. Soon we left with hugs and picture taking and declarations of how much they looked forward to our return.
Had we really driven all that way for nothing?
We walked back down the road in silence until Grandpa explained that the woman we waited for was the Province Counsel member (we were thinking High School Counselor) and her approval was very important. We walked the long road back and climbed into the car off and on. Now we were headed to the school.
They didn't know we were coming. And they were excited about what we brought. Okay, NOW we teach the 50.
Nope. There were 120!
We gave the reproductive health and empowerment talk and then asked what to o as we had only brought supplies for 50 and so the Head Teacher chose some to learn how to sew the kits with a plan to return tore turn in a week or so with supplies for the rest. It was heartbreaking to watch the girls sent away huddling around the doorway to watch after we had just told them that they were treasures that deserved to be safe and well.
Now the chaos began, we went from girl to girl as there were not enough of us (the car was small and we found that the plan Linda had enacted to form groups of ten to each trainer could not be enacted as we were busy setting up for a few more. Not our favorite moment, but did we ever learn a lot to apply elsewhere. By 4:30 PM we were exhausted and we had to start back in order to be well on our way before dark.
We waved good bye and set off down the road… And got a phone call. Where were we? There were 150 women waiting for us at the health clinic and they had been waiting all day long! Only, as in all else that had happened that day, we had not been informed.
Though we wanted to return, we had no choice, we had to press on and travel back to Linda's house to be ready for a full day of meetings in Bulawayo. That drive was in silence as we were all tired and disappointed by the course of the day, though important permissions had been granted for the Province efforts to continue. Argh! What a day! Thank goodness that every storm cloud has a silver lining. We learned a lot for days to come.
The next day was AWESOME!
Next: The Mayor, The Castle and the King's School