Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leaving Zim for now

Apologies for the long break since I last wrote, internet supply has been spotty at best but I am now in a hostel located in Blantyre, Malawi and about to head north to Monkey Bay for the teaching project.

The last few weeks were spent in Mkhosana, a small township outside of Vic Falls staying with some friends I made. The place was a lot more relaxing than town as the hassle factor was virtually nil. Most people who spoke to me wanted to simply strike up conversation and my greatest hardship was trying to remember everyone's names! I developed a taste for Masese locally known as Scud (the name for the containers it comes in. The stuff can be very mild but at times when you get an older one is pretty strong too, very filling though - almost a food as well as a drink!

Mathew was a local carpenter who helped me greatly by translating whenever I wasn't getting the Shona being spoken. Up until then I had been pretty happy with the limited vocabulary I picked up in Shona and Ndebele, but after a while there I began to hear the small differences between the way locals say things and the sound I was making when trying. An example would be with my click sounds: q (pulling tongue down from roof of palate), c (a tsk sound made by front of tongue on the teeth) and x (made by side of the tongue against the roof of the mouth): I was fine with those sounds alone but in language they are often combined with 'n' or 'ng' before making a subtly different noise that I find hard to reproduce.

I was introduced to Mofu by Mathew and Tito one day, a local Imbira player who took to me and came over a couple more times so we could all head out to the bush and he would play a little. The songs were traditional tribal ones and Mofu took effort to explain many of them to me, one that stuck in my mind was a tune meant to psyche up the men before going out hunting and also to celebrate a victorious return with meat :D. I ate sadza a fair few times while in Mkhosana but found it a little heavy so I would make rice whenever possible.

While in Hunters Bar in town one day I found myself talking to Aron Ndhlovu, a local teacher in Chinotimba Primary - a school of some 1800 children. We discussed my upcoming volunteer stint in Malawi and he invited me to visit the school one day and see the day to day work of teaching the kids. When I went over the head teacher was lovely and she invited me to go round the different age groups and sit in on some lessons. The experience was very useful as I had forgotten some of the techniques used to teach me when I was a child, especially at a very early stage of education when pictures and songs are incredibly useful. Books were in low supply as were materials for the children to be able to write themselves, but this place was in great condition compared to Monde Primary a few kilometres away where chalk and paper are nowhere to be seen at times. The main other issue as all over Zim was the one of pay. These teachers were obviously in love with their job as wages seem to be around $100-150 a month, which near Vic Falls barely pays for a place to stay.

Eventually visa time was up, and having five days before the Malawi volunteer program was to start, I headed off to Harare. There I visited the Mozambican embassy to enquire about visas as my guide book stated they were hard to get at the border. I was advised that it would set me back $110 which made me even consider flying to skip it. The advice was that no visas were being issued at the border which I found hard to believe as I just cannot see people being turned away from these frontiers unless there is a really big problem. Eventually I decided to just go without one and sort it at the border - even being turned back and having to use Zambia would still prove cheaper. After some more bus trips I was at Nyamapanda border post and filling out the forms for my visa. I had my passport photos at the ready and asked the official to hit me with the price. It turned out to be a lovely $27 which I handed over quickly and within 20 minutes I had my shiny 30 day visa for Mozambique (sadly I only used two of those days but I may be back).

From there on it was back to the small combi vans to get to Tete and then on to Zombue at the border with Malawi. The first one was packed pretty impressively with a grand total of twenty two people and their assorted bags but nothing could have prepared me for the one I piled into at Tete while trying to get to the border before nightfall! The conductor managed to get twenty eight people in here as they had fitted an extra 'bench' before the front row :D. Eventually we got there although the ride slowed down drastically near the end as people were jumping on and off every few kilometres. On the way it seemed that all of Mozambique was ablaze and I must have spotted at least 14 forest fires in the dark. It was too late to move any further so I decided to sleep before heading on to Blantyre in the morning. On to Malawi (no visa required - hurrah!) and my final and rather spacious combi ride to Blantyre. The landscape became much greener and before I knew it there were rainclouds in the distance. So here I am. . Fare well Zimbabwe, I will be back!


  1. Shona and Ndebele with clicking,tsking and xing sounds and the odd "n" and "ng" thrown in sounds like a nightmare. If you can master that I will bow down to you eternally!!