Weekend Roadtrip Reflections

This weekend my mom’s best friend’s son got married! Yaay marriage! Woop woop. Everything was so beautiful and sparkly and the bride was tiny! And stunningly beautiful. The groom is also quite slight. Odd considering both his parents are pretty tall. Nevertheless, It was a lovely day. Even old groucho-me was affected. They are just such a cute little couple! And I have the greatest respect for people who find each other and decide that they will be together forever. For so long as they can be together. Something that beautiful deserves a celebration.

I also discovered a cousin! Beautiful girl called Vee! She’s older than I am but we really clicked. She was so warm and bubbly and just pure amazingness. I wish I had met her sooner! That is the great thing about family. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

My mom and her friend Haru have been friends since their college days. They met halfway across the country only to discover that they were from the same small town! Fate! When someone is meant to be in your life, they will be, one way or another. They have been friends for over 25 years! Ridiculous. My mom got married and moved to the capital; Haru got married and stayed in the small city-town, four hours or so away. And they kept in touch. I have ‘friendships’  I know will not make it to the end of the year, and some which have been going for a decade which I know will be going strong twenty odd years from now. And that warms my heart. The right friends will keep you going, through the good times, but most importantly, through the dark and lonely and terrifyingly bleak nights when living seems almost unbearable.

Because I am on vac and didn’t really have anything better to do than be showed off to family and friends, I tagged along to the wedding with my mom, dad and younger sister. Roadtrip! Yeeah! I really try spend time with my family when I am home because I miss them so desperately when I have to go back to my lonely corner of the world.

Roastrip! Sounds great in theory right? What it actually entailed was my dad proclaiming that we would have to leave at 5 am to make it on time. What actually ended up happening was that I got up at 4 am only to realise that we would leave at 6.30 and drive at twice the speed initially planned, to make sure we got there on time. I would have been so grateful if someone had told me I didn’t have to get up at 4, given that I had only made it to bed at 1.30! The wedding started late. So we could have left even later and still made it on time. So much annoyance for someone as time conscious as I am. Asi es la vida en Africa!

The drive was great. I forgot my shades though, which was really annoying when the sun started to come up. We had music, grape juice, food, cameras and most importantly, the cellphone and network service and earphones- a standard requirement for trips with parents! As any young person will testify to.

I haven’t really been home much in the past couple of years and the trips taken have mostly been to see the grandmothers and to the mall and friends’ houses. So I hadn’t travelled along Bulawayo road in years. Literally. We passed four towns on the way: Norton, Kadoma, Chegutu, Kwekwe. I lost count of the number of roadblocks we passed. Cops hustling to make that money. Zimbabwe’s coppers are apparently the most corrupt in Southern Africa. Shocker.

I had forgotten how beautiful Zimbabwe’s countryside is. The basic layout is that there is a city or a town, then a stretch of open space and land with farms and little dwellings and country stores, and intermittent cellphone service, then another town and more land. Lots of greenery, red soil, huts, thick black soil, derelict farms and abandoned farmhouses and bridges and little streams and rivers. It is altogether fairly poetically picturesque. I had fun snapping pictures, intermittently using my camera, phone and my dad’s far superior iPhone. I concluded that an Apple product was needed in my life and very soon. iPad mini anyone? Birthday in two months. Thank you!

As pretty as the country is, the state of the towns underlies the fundamental problem facing Zimbabwe. The towns are dead. They felt like ghost-towns! They are undeveloped, dirty, derelict and only appealing to an artistic eye. The ordinary man sees broken down traffic lights, graffiti scrawled on the walls, mounds of uncollected refuse, disused buildings.

I remember as  children, we would be piled into the car and taken to visit my grandmother in the town we were visiting this weekend. The towns were still small, but were clean, had decent public facilities, the lights worked and looked adorable to my little mind. Now all I see is a country in disrepair. The trains don’t run, weeds overrun the tracks, the factories are all closed up or working at minimum capacity. There are still towns with only one traffic light. How can a country develop and experience economic growth when the factories are all shut? No wonder nothing is happening. It depressed me fundamentally and showed how far we have come and how far we still need to go as a country.

The trip was fun and the wedding great, but it opened my eyes to the state of my country. As much as progress has been made and recovery has taken place after the economic disaster of the last decade, there is still so much that needs to be done. There is a certain heaviness and despondency hanging off the shoulders of the people who live in some of these small towns, which is fundamentally depressing. It is the realisation that there is nothing happening and nothing which will happen for many years to come. I would probably lose my mind living in a small town. There is nothing to do! No mall, no decent shops, no swimming pools, no books in the libraries and no movie theatres. One even struggles to find a decent place to eat. That is no way to live.

When one reads the daily papers, one always encounters politicians making a hell of a lot of noise about the economic growth and progress made and being made. Maybe in the capital. Take a drive out of H and be struck by the marked stagnancy of the country. It is actually a little frightening. It felt like a time warp. As much as I want to believe in my country and its future and make plans to return one day and settle here permanently, I cannot commit to a pipe dream, which is the dilemma facing so many young people.

Do I return and make a difference? Will it make a discernible difference? So long as the culture of corruption and impunity and selfishness prevails, there is no need for me to return and try change things. How can I? I will have to let that thought marinate a little longer. I so badly want to believe in my country again, but there is so much so wrong and discouraging! I still love it though. But do I come back? Do I stay away. So confusing and depressing.

Here’s to weddings, road trips and family.

All in all, it was a pretty great weekend and certainly gave me a lot to think about and appreciate. All sorts of fancy thoughts running through my mind. I love travelling, even if it is just a roadtrip in my parent’s SUV to a wedding on a relaxed December weekend.

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