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Showing posts from November, 2005

a home at the end of the world

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I swear, I could look at the sea all day. They say most accidents occur within a mile of home. Following that rule, the closest I came to smashing up my hire 1 car was within about 100 metres of AroundAboutCars, the company that foolishly gave me one. As I very gingerly tried to conduct a wrong-side-of-the-road stick-shift for the second time ever, and the first time in 2.5 years, through busy Cape Town traffic, I turned into a side street and found myself on a one-way street, with a minivan barreling towards me. It screeched to a stop maybe six inches away from my front bumper. I froze a moment, then looked up at the driver with apologetic, pleading eyes, sure that I was the one at fault. Then I looked more closely at the street signs and parked cars. He had been going the wrong way. I opened my mouth to shout something - I'm not sure what exactly, but it was going to begin with "Hey, asshole!" - but my near-collidant was already reversing away at high speed. He n

it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that spin

So there 1 I stood, clutching my bared Swiss Army knife 2 in my trembling fist 3 , alone 4 and otherwise unarmed, surrounded by a thousand 5 bloodthirsty 6 Zulus 7 . The witch doctor 8 fixed me with a baleful glare 9 . I knew there was no escape 10 . No word of it a lie! 1 The Warwick Triangle region of Durban, which my Rough Guide calls, not without reason, "an Africanized Blade Runner cityscape": a gargantuan agglomeration of mercantile humanity that clogs several massive warehouse-sized market buildings and taxi parks, connected by equally thronging covered walkways, and then spills out into the streets around it for several blocks in every directions, a riot of noise and colour and crowd and goods for sale that makes Las Vegas seem a bit like a sensory deprivation tank. 2 Bared to initiate the peeling of an orange I had just purchased. 3 I mean, not like "but I shoot with this hand" trembling, but my hands aren't rock-steady, so I imagine I twitch

last-day-in-the-country blues

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Tomorrow I'm scheduled to fly to Johannesburg, where apparently I'll be staying with my, um, second-cousins-once-removed?, at least for a couple of nights. Actually I'd rather stay at one of Jo'burg's very pleasant-sounding flashpacker lodges and just have dinner with my relatives, but they sounded offended by the notion. Friday I drove with my relatives here out to a game park about 100km from Harare. We passed more land that once were huge commercial farms and are now wasteland decorated with a few wooden shacks and rondavels. Can't be an easy row for the 'war vets' to hoe either. The government promised them schools, clinics, running water, etc., which never materialized, and now those few that remain - for many, after moving onto a farm, soon gave up and moved back to town - have to scrape an existence out of subsistence farming. We did pass two still-functional commercial farms; those have had black owners for decades, and are thus exempt from g

acquired immune deficiency syndrome

The rains have come, and the nation breathes a collective sigh of relief. Some years the rains don't come at all. Hopefully they will stay for months. In times not long past, when commercial farms had reliable power and elaborate irrigation systems, the rainy season didn't matter so much: but nowadays, drought means famine. Mind you, rain doesn't mean plenty. This is the planting season, but lack of forex and fuel means lack of tractor diesel, spare parts, seed, fertilizer, workforce, everything. On the minibus from Mutare to Harare yesterday, I passed field after field that were once commercial farms and are now mostly unkempt weeds, with a few small patches being sown with just enough food for the new farmers' family and friends. Zimbabwe will need food relief next year, too, count on it. And once upon a time it grew enough to feed itself and half of its neighbours. On Tuesday I got a ride in the diplomatic-plates Land Cruiser through a hammerblow storm - when I say

zimbabwe african national union - patriotic front

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"If you're willing to play the game," said D., "this place can be a fucking gold mine." We were in Harare's sole surviving backpacker lodge, which attracts an eclectic mix of travellers, traders, NGO workers, and university-educated, well-employed, been-overseas Zimbabweans - most of them black, like the lodge owner - who you would call yuppies in most places. Here, though, where everything and everyone is only downwardly mobile, they're just those descending more slowly than the rest. When D. says "gold mine," he means it, sometimes, literally. While many if not most of Zimbabwe's 14 million people are down to one meal a day, several hundred people are profiting extremely handsomely from the country's economic ruin. Forex arbitrage, mineral rights in exchange for offshore payments, outright smuggling of gold and fuel - ranking government/ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe is a classic fascist state where the party and the government are one and the

Gukurahundi Murambatsvina

Reading log this trip: Adam Hothschild King Leopold's Ghost . Ryszard Kapuscinski The Shadow Of The Sun . Giles Foden The Last King of Scotland . Philip Gourevitch We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed Along With Our Families . Andy McNabb Bravo Two Zero . Albert Camus L'√Čtranger . Dian Fossey Gorillas in the Mist . Armistead Maupin Tales of the City . Russell Hoban The Mouse And His Child . Michela Wrong In The Footsteps Of Mr. Kurtz . Graham Hancock Lords Of Poverty . JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix . Jon Ronson The Men Who Stare At Goats . Patricia Highsmith Edith's Diary . Doris Lessing Shikasta . Gerald Seymour Archangel . I might be forgetting a couple. On deck: JM Coetzee Disgrace and Sandra Brown Hello, Darkness . Salisbury no more Harare is a very pretty city. Much greener than Bulawayo. There are trees anywhere, and not just anonymous greenery; many streest are lined with long processions of tall trees, flamboyants and jac

The missionary explorer and the diamond tycoon

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This is a history lecture. I'll try to make it entertaining. The history of modern Zimbabwe begins with two dead white men. Extraordinarily famous dead white men: both are more than a century deceased, but you probably know their names. Conveniently, their stories dovetail nicely with where I've been over the last few days. Almost exactly one hundred and fifty years ago, on November 16, 1855, David Livingstone (as in, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"), who was in the midst of an expedition across Africa - primarily to carry the word of God to the heathen, but also to survey the continent and open trade routes - was led by his native guides to what, from a distance, looks exactly like a bushfire. Then, as you get closer, it sounds like thunder. Hence the African name Mosi-oa-Tunya , "the Smoke that Thunders." But Livingstone was a loyal royalist Brit: and so, once he picked his jaw from where it must have fallen - because this mile-wide, 100-metre-deep curt