DIARY FROM ZIMBABWE —
March 2016 Frances Sibert writes
(This article first appeared in the March dition of BE Aive without photos)
Well, my first task was to get to the airport without forgetting anything. Mission almost accomplished. Baggage allowance 40kg, weight 44kg. Some rearranging into the laptop bag.....and minus 48 chocolate bars all is well. Spoke to Fr.Ronnie who wished me luck and gave me Fr Gideon’s mobile number. Thanks to friends, I checked in three hours before the flight. Off to pure luxury thanks to Emirates’ invitation to their welcome lounge with all it had to offer. Great flight to Dubai and after the train and bus at Dubai airport (yes it really is huge) I was in the right place for my connection. One little announcement was to spoil my happy state. ‘All passengers travelling economy class will only be allowed one piece of hand luggage or a laptop.
All passengers will be checked before boarding’. Oops. (Don’t panic).
Two parallel lines checking in for different flights! I don’t know how it happen ed. .but I was in the wrong line... So at the front I said ‘I might bein the wrong place’. Not a problem, checked in and directed to the gate.Smaller plane, c arefully placed the laptop and hand luggage in the locker and settled down for a comfortable journey.
Warm welcome from Fr.Gideon (1 of the 4 ordained priests last year). Lots of catch up on the way to where I was staying. I don’t know what happened to Wednesday but it disappeared - (I think it was the stress of the laptop). Br. Benjamin was away in Nairobi so it would be Monday before I would be at the Mavambo learning centre.
On Saturday, the Dominicans in Zimbabwe were celebrating 800 years of the order. It was a very grand affair. Fr. Raymond arrived from Nairobi to be the main celebrant. The mass took three hours with lots of singing and dancing, with well-organised refreshment for the hundreds of invited guests. Monday 6 am, morning prayer followed by Mass then drive to learning centre for 7.40. January is the start of the academic year, looking at the children who started 2 weeks ago. They looked so lost. Off to the director who explained in detail what he wanted me to do. For a brief moment I did wonder when the next plane home was. I would be given a slot in February to give a presentation to the trust on my findings/development and vision (ok so no pressure...).
First three days I was to observe the teaching etc. So off to lessons. One child near me sits down and falls backwards. I just catch her in time. No back to the chair so we change the chair. After a while I am distracted and notice a kettle with no plug, the two wires are just pushed into the socket. The day continues.
Wednesday, just about to go into Maths but no Shona teacher arrived. The English teacher gave me their name tags and asked me to keep a eye on the class. So 16 children sit looking at me, the lesson is 90 minutes, fine........ I don’t know a word of Shona, the children can hardly speak a word of English. So off we go, eventually names are sorted, most are ok, some I can’t pronounce let alone learn. I have my tablet with me, with children’s songs on it. I am saved or am I? How about ‘head shoulders knees and toes’ good movement song? This will be fine only this is week three, they don’t do the body till week five! So the children slowly learn the words and the link with lots of laughter, then onto the song. We moved on to other songs, all following a similar pattern. It was rather like a Joyce Grenfell classroom comedy.
When I first arrived I thought the driving was really bad with cars driven all over the road and never straight. Now, behind the wheel, I do the same, avoiding huge pot holes. Late on Wednesday evening going back to where I am staying I was aware of a slight movement next to me. I was being escorted home by one of the guard dogs. I was so relieved when I closed my door.
Sadly, on the Thursday morning Fr Victor Bushu’s father died. In the evening all the Redemptorists joined him in mass. The next day I went with the brothers to Fr Victor’s family home for mass where we were joined by many parishioners and priests. After the Mass Fr Victor took his father back to his roots to be buried Saturday, I needed petrol so off I went with one of the students, Basil, just down the road. Forty minutes later and we got to the petrol station. O.K., back to drop Basil off and then off to explore. Oh no, it was not to be. A police road check - very, very common especially at the end of the week. I will not bore you with the details but I had no money and Basil argued the case and we eventually arrived back home. Off for my little trip past the road block twice and the possibly even more road blocks; I don’t think so. Early Sunday morning, I looked out of the window and saw my Wednesday evening escort; only it stood on its hind legs and ran up the tree. This was a very large monkey and there was a baby. The students said they were good monkeys. Oh yes! My windows would be closed from now on when I am out.
Last time I was here I was aware that many children would start walking to school in the dark. I had a torch for each child with their names on. The children were so delighted but waited to be told they could open the box. They had a little play then they carefully put them back in the box. I gave the rest of the school equipment I had to the teachers.
Later a local farmer came to ask the teachers if they wanted a chicken. One said yes and with that he put his hand in the bag and took out a squawking chicken with its feet tied together. I didn’t ask any questions but this was a new take on fresh chicken.
Last Sunday I went to Mass at Borrowdale and was intrigued by the offertory. Pots, pans, mugs and food for the community were also brought up. When I mentioned this to Br Benjamin he said that on special occasions they also get a goat. At Br Brian’s ordination to the deaconate, the Bishop got the goat.
During the evening meal Fr Joseph told me about the Way of the Cross he was having at the parish at 5.00 each day and invited me to come along. I agreed and just as he left he said he would see me at 4.40 in the morning. .... (O.K., I forgot there are two 5 o’clocks in a day).
When we arrived there were well over 200 people a real cross-section of the parish. I only calculated this at the end when it was light. The service was truly amazing. It was held outside and led by parishioners, though it was started and finished by Fr . The altar servers, yes five of them, guided the way as people walked behind. The stations had been taken off the walls in church and each was held up in turn with a torch shone on it. Fr Tim, don’t get any ideas, stations like this would not work in Bishop Eton or St Mary’s, we would not get the stations off the wall.....
Please remember Fr Victor and his family in your prayers.
Best Wishes from Zimbabwe