Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Zimbabwe Protests

Zimbabwe normally doesn't garner a lot of worldwide media coverage, but lately that's changing with some of the largest anti-government protests in Zimbabwe in decades.

Last week, demonstrators marched twice through downtown Harare, resulting in violent clashes between protestors and police, as well as numerous arrests.

I'm not sure how the incidents are being portrayed in the West; however, I can assure everyone that I'm far removed from the unfolding events. I work in the northern suburbs, while the demonstrations have been occurring a few miles away in the capital's central business district.

My embassy, as well as my employer, provide frequent updates on the political situation in Zimbabwe. Over the years, I've gained a bit of wisdom traveling abroad. If the climate deteriorates precipitously, I promise that I will chose a prudent course of action.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Locked Away in Zimbabwe

My passion is traveling the planet attempting to engage in common, everyday life , but now I find myself hidden behind walls, walls topped by razor wire and electrodes.

Walls are erected to keep out perceived evils. So far, I've found none. What I have found each day as I leave my world of isolation and walk to school are smiling children, friendly domestic workers sharing a cheerful mangwanani (Good morning), bicyclists waving to me.

The passersby don't appear to be a threat. They don't seem to want to do me harm.

Yes, crime has risen in recent years in Zimbabwe due to a lack of employment and decades of hopelessness brought on by global structures that oppress many to benefit few. Are the unemployed my enemy? Are they the reason I need to live behind concrete and steel?

My colleagues and I have been placed in multi-bedroom fortresses, which devour natural resources. Walls don't build relationships. Walls are a physical and symbolic impediment telling the community to stay away. A wall says I want to protect my status, to maintain a lifestyle reminiscent of Zimbabwe's colonial past.

Each night I walk back from work – again receiving the well-wishes of pedestrians – step through my gate, and return to my world of isolation, shut away from the very culture I moved here to experience.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Beware of Wet Laundry in Zimbabwe

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Author: Michael Gabler

In Africa, there are plenty of things that can get you – crocodiles, hippos, snakes, although you won't find then roaming the streets in Zimbabwe's capital of Harare, a city of 1.4 million.

But you will find an insect that seems like something out of a horror movie.

Laundry drying on a line.  The idyllic imagine evokes memories of a simpler, more relaxed time. Who could be intimidated by wet sheets blowing in the wind on a sunshine-filled day, unless you venture to East and Central Africa, home to the putzi fly, a.k.a., the skin maggot fly.

It's as bad as it sounds.

The female putzi shares an affinity for wet laundry, as well. The fly lays its eggs on the clothing. When the fabrics come into contact with humans, the eggs penetrate beneath the skin. After a couple of days, the larvae hatch.

The larvae need air to breathe, so they begin eating their way through the flesh. This leads to itchy, painful boils as the maggots grow. If left alone, the maggots will eventually tunnel back out through the skin, leaving gaping wounds.

To get rid of the unwelcome intruders, victims often cover the air holes with Vaseline to prevent the maggots from being able to breathe. They then surface and can be plucked out with tweezers.

The good news is there's a simple way to avoid becoming an incubator for the vile creatures. All laundry, including underwear, must be ironed to kill the eggs, or clothes must be dried indoors. If you've ever been on a safari in East Africa, that's why even your socks were ironed.

So far, I've got nothing but good things to say about my decision to teach in Zimbabwe, but there are daily reminders that I'm not in Kansas anymore.

NOTE: The news is full of stories about the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe – some of which are exaggerated or even untrue. I'm living in a quite affluent suburb of Harare and can assure everyone that I'm safe and sound.

The purpose of this blog has always been to share my reflections on the places where I've visited and lived; however, as I'm sure you can imagine, I've decided to avoid any mention of politics both because my role here is as a teacher and because I feel unqualified to comment on such matters.