For breakfast I stroll to the mango tree in front of my house. With a stone I knock off a ripe mango off the tree. I don’t bother peeling the mango anymore, the locals taught me this. I think I will extend my stay in Zimbabwe to be able to enjoy the avocados and guavas as well!
The public transport in township Chitungwiza exists of numerous ‘kombi’s’: small busses that are designed to pack as many people as possible. It seems that the kombi’s are not only used for transport, but for spreading the gospel as well. Texts like ‘God knows’, ‘The devil is a liar’ and ‘King of Kings’ are written in fat letters on the cars.
A white in a kombi
Together with a friend I am waiting on the side of the road. A kombi stops in front of us and the owners invite us to step in. We refuse. The polite inviting becomes demanding. They shout ‘we want that lady!’, whilst pointing at me. I let my friend deal with the boys: I pretend the whole kombi isn’t there. The demanding turns into begging: ‘Please, give us that lady; you don’t even have to pay! All passengers will choose our kombi when we have a white inside!’
I get all kinds of creative requests of people I don’t even know. ‘Can you help me with the promotion of my basketball team?’, ‘I want to write a book with you!’ and ‘I want to be your close friend!’ How can I make them believe I am neither a marketer nor a writer?! I wish I was… but I am just a student with borrowed money.
Respect your aunties!
At IMBA we have a lot of fun: we are singing songs, we draw, paint and talk. It doesn’t matter how often I tell the younger children ‘handitauri chiShona’*; they keep asking me questions and starting conversations in which my part is only saying ‘eej?’ and ‘aiwàh?’*. I have been given the title ‘auntie Saskia’ and the children are corrected when they forget to say the ‘auntie’ part, because a plain ‘Saskia’ is not respectful.
While we are watching the third episode in a row of the Little House on the Prairie – we can’t stop – when the power suddenly turns off. We disappointedly stare at the black screen. Also the sadza on the electric cooking stove is not ready yet. The children immediately start building a fire, which isn’t that easy in this windy and rainy weather. But in the end we succeed and I have the honor to divide the food among the fourteen plates.
I am staying overnight with the IMBA-family. In the evening we watch soccer – Cameroon against Senegal – while eating two different kinds of mangos. Next morning 5 o’clock everybody starts doing their tasks. Lazy auntie stays in bed until half past 6… It’s Sunday, so we put on our nicest clothes and Mama Shelter checks the outfits of the younger children with a sharp eye. After the 4-hour church service, we enjoy ‘Little House’ again. The funny thing is that the episodes cannot be selected, for we have no remote control. So every time we want to watch a new episode, we need to watch all previous episodes first.
For my research project I’m conducting a lot of interviews with different stakeholders like parents, social workers and experts. For example, I have paid a visit to the well-maintained SOS Children’s Village Waterfalls and I have been listening to stories about escorting orphans and vulnerable children from IMBA to new homes. The escort told me that often these are journeys of hundreds of kilometers with destinations in remote rural areas. While I participate in the daily routines I observe many interesting interactions and habits. I feel like I am about to make a big puzzle; right now I am finding out what all 1000 pieces look like.
*I don’t speak Shona.
*eej = yes; aiwàh = no