Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Wish I Had Time to Tell You

A very smart person I know once told me that one of people’s biggest problems was that they didn’t do math properly; it’s impossible to keep adding things to one’s life without taking something else away.  As I look at my slivers of free time, torn between wanting to spend every second with my child and husband, just getting in a little more sleep, investing in future projects, and the two hundred other things on my list, it has become apparent.  Maybe it should have been apparent when I had a housekeeper and a gardener and still wasn’t always finding time to brush my teeth before noon.  Maybe it should have been apparent when I had no job and still couldn’t find the time in my calendar to go to the doctor when I needed it.  Maybe it should have been apparent when I had a kid in school for half days and still couldn’t manage to do that exercise regimen I always told myself I’d adopt if only I had a few hours to myself each day.

I never have enough time. And it’s because I have been terrible at doing my math.

Almost every white local I knew in Zim made their opinions of my family clear often; I really should be having more “white babies” if I could at all help it.  What a terrible shame that my son had no siblings.  In a land of large families, something was terribly wrong with my family according to Zim standards.  My response was always a long and complicated one, but needless to say, it always involved wanting to be able to provide my best for my existing child, who I didn’t know how to care for with the same level of competent care if I carried on with more children. 

“Oh, that’s simple,” I was responded to during the last time I discussed the matter in Zim. “You don’t take anything away from the first. Your love, your patience, etc, stay the same. It’s just time that you lose.  You just have to share your time more.  Easy.”  As if time was not already one of the most valuable, rare things in my life. 

It was, however, an easy thing for a Zimbabwean to say. This Zimbabwean’s math was influenced by the fact that she sent her children away to boarding school at five. Oh, and also she had never had any of her five children without also having three housekeepers on hand to help with nannying.  Sharing my time more, it is clear now that from my Spanish surroundings I have work, a child at home full time, and no staff, is tougher than ever before.  It’s no longer possible to share any more of my time without losing the quality of my ability to be a mother.  Or a human being. 

Time is a more precious commodity than I can express.  But lately I haven’t been acting like it.  And though I’ve said and thought over and over about how much I value it, the truth is that recently I’ve been adding a lot and taking away nothing… except quality.  And presence.  And energy.  It’s time to start doing my math again.

I should clarify that I am desperate to keep this blog.  It’s one of my last connections to Zim.  And I still have oodles to say.  And thousands of pictures to show.  I still serves its purpose in sharing the continent with those who have not experienced it themselves.  And it allows a number of Africans to commiserate on what they love or miss or want to change about their homeland.  It’s been wildly more successful than I ever imagined and now I feel a certain amount of obligation to keep it going.

But I need to start doing my math.

Here is what I wish I still had time to write about: the malaria thing, the recent farm take-overs in the Save Conservancy, Clean Water vs Harare’s City water, the never ending bloom of Zimbabwean cassia trees, the spread of the magical acacia tree canopy, and the craziness that is the giant millipede called the chongololo. 

I wish I had time to discuss with you the complexities of a Zimbabwean white minority that is more economically powerful than the black majority but has no political power, a fascinating anthropological study in the making. 

I wish I had time to discuss our experiences with the 2014 elections, the burning orange flowers of the flame tree, all the different uses of thatching, the craziness of police stops where window-smashing often occurs, the rules of the road around the pres. mansion, the fragility of the Zimbabwean electrical grid, the how-tos of surviving being passed by the pres. motorcade, the rows of toilets that line the countryside next to rural schools, the oodles of hospitable places we’ve stayed, how gardeners and laymen often grow and paint one long fingernail to be used as a tool, and the giant rat (it’s a real thing, which we actually had in our yard- look it up!). 

I wish I had time to tell you about “The Big Five” and “The Little Five,” the miniature size of parking spaces and how there are only a handful of car brands that make it into the country, what the Harare Airport is like and how it used to be before Zimbabwe made itself into a political pariah, what The Great Dyke is, and how children’s names and ages are often changed in orphanages to make paper-work easier.

I want you to know about Chiboku (the homemade street beer that often includes fermenting the likes of pieced apart animals, weeds, and car batteries, and is said to age a person five times faster than regular beer). 

I want to tell you about the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the out of control rumor mill that runs the country when the papers do not report truths, the loveliness that is The Farmhouse in Chimanimani, the endangered wild dogs of Zim, the awkward transition of renaming things back to Shona after having colonial names for a hundred years, the Shona totem (an inherited personal symbolic animal indicating familial lineage), the endangered rhino, a crazy assortment of encountered bugs, the taste of an African cucumber, and the future of a people who cannot seem to let go of the past. 

If you want to know more about Zimbabwe beyond this blog, these are great but tiny places to start.

Stay tuned for one more, last post on some of the things I have learned from Mother Africa.  And in the meantime, know that I am grateful to those of you who followed our journey through these last few years as we awkwardly but enthusiastically embraced this amazing continent we will always consider a piece of home.  It's been humbling to have readers follow our thoughts and adventures, and it is truly with sadness that we finish before the story feels entirely told.  The late and great Maya Angelou once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Have us over for a cup of Rooibos sometime; we'll tell you anything more you want to know.

sunset photos by friend Lucy Fisher

For questions, comments, that cup of tea, or better yet a personal tour around southern Africa, contact us at: cherijohnsondesign@gmail.com