Monday, November 30, 2009

Postings from Pretoria #26

30 November 2009

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:

“Amalinda” – “Bulawayo”

Our visit to Zimbabwe continues:

Day 3 – Breakfast

[Digression: If you ever decide to visit Zimbabwe - or anywhere in southern Africa, for that matter - you will surely encounter the “Full English Breakfast.” For the uninitiated, this consists of a choice of juices, cereals, yoghurt, fruit, cheeses, and cold meats followed by eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, stewed tomatoes, and toast with butter and jam. And coffee or tea, thank you very much indeed.]

Thus impossibly fortified, it was off to the National Art Gallery and an art contest for local schoolchildren sponsored by the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Office based in Harare, the subject being “Climate Change.” Many of the submissions were quite artistic, if a tad on the apocalyptic side. Winners were announced, awards presented, and refreshments served. Afterward, I had a fine time touring the galleries and workshops, and managed not to part with all of my cash, seeing as how we had big plans that evening.

That would be dinner with our DOS chums at The Cattleman (Motto: “Our Reputation Is At Steak.”). Old West theme, Calgary Stampede and American beer/jeans posters, cowgirl cheesecake in the men’s room… in short, a classic. The waiters have worked there for years and are entertaining as well as efficient. The owner made the rounds extolling the virtues of his homemade chili sauce, a concoction that demanded maximum respect. And the steaks - I enjoyed a medium-rare 12 oz (340 g) sirloin – were perfectly grilled and simply splendid. Those cows did not die in vain.

Day Next – Anne had one last official duty to attend to, and then we had a rather long, but uneventful travel day, making our way back home in good form. I enthusiastically encourage anyone who is interested in visiting Africa to consider Zimbabwe as a destination. It is a physically beautiful place and Zimbabweans are very nice people who, despite all their problems, remain cautiously optimistic about the future. After all, nothing lasts forever. Not even Robert Mugabe.

Bonus Exposition – I feel compelled to acknowledge the many interesting men, Black and White, with whom I shared handshakes and brief, but surprisingly substantial conversations. Listed chronologically, for what it’s worth:

Ivan – Firefighter from Vancouver who was making his way solo from Kilimanjaro to Cape Town. A real sport and worthy traveling companion.

Billy – Our excellent host/guide at Camp Amalinda. He was off to JoBurg to collect his wife (Priscilla) and their newborn (?) and return to the bush.

Phil – Hotelier and owner (with wife Sharon) of Camp Amalinda and The Bulawayo Club.

Innocent – A fine gentleman, and a most solicitous and expert guide for my walking tour of Bulawayo.

Nelson – Assistant Yardmaster with the NRZ who took us on a mini-tour of the railroad freight yards.

Tim – Public Affairs Officer (PAO) in Harare. A very sharp and empathetic guy; definitely ambassador material.

Pete – Billy’s Father-in-Law and a farmer who has lost 75% of his land since Mugabe’s politically motivated and economically disastrous “land reform” in 2000.

Oscar – Independent journalist being harassed for investigating links between government officials and the systematic poaching of wildlife.

J.J. – Embassy motorpool driver.

Our next major African expedition looks to be Namibia in March 2010, but count on my checking in between now and then. As always, thanks for your patience and kind attention.



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