One day was spent visiting a village and the Jabulani Primary School outside of Victoria Falls where we had the chance to interact with the students who though on school break had come in to perform some of their folk dances before leading us on a tour of their school.
I was led by a young man named Learnmore Tawanda. He proudly showed me the classrooms, playground, office, a slaughtered goat hanging in a tree, the water pump, the new high school building and a flower garden, wanting his photo taken in each place and I was happy to oblige. I will send photos to the headmistress and she said she would distribute them to the children. Learnmore wants to be a teacher when he grows up as did most of the children. A few of the boys wanted to be pilots no doubt influenced by the proximity of the Vic Falls Airport and one girl wanted to be a fashion designer. I can only hope they realize their dreams.
The children walk 1-3 km from nearby villages, through the bush each day. Because of the dangers lurking in the bush young children without older siblings may not start school until the age of 8-10 when they are big enough to walk safely by themselves. There is an effort to build more schools so no one has to walk more than a couple of kilometers but that takes time, money and teachers so some children are left behind. This school complex includes primary and secondary classrooms, they classrooms are bare bones but the buildings are in fairly good condition. Education is “free” but as in many countries the burden of providing uniforms and books rest with the parents and many simply cannot afford the expense.
From the school we went to the neighboring village and were greeted by the head man of the village and by some of the women who wrapped us in colorful pieces of cloth they traditionally wear. The women thought it strange we wear pants and an explanation about comfort didn’t seem to make sense to them. The head man talked about his village structure and daily life for the residents and explained that most of the men were away working in town or one of the mines. The women were eager to show us how they prepare their meals so after a tour of the head man’s small two-room home, we joined the women in the outdoor kitchen where meals are prepared. A small fire was burning in the center and there was a work table for chopping. We were given the opportunity to help but had a hard time dealing with smoke from the fire.
For lunch the women made a starchy white “pap” that tastes like polenta and is used as a vehicle for the other foods. Utensils are not used, the pap is rolled into a ball and used to pick up the other foods. Lunch also include cooked greens in a peanut sauce, very good, chicken, also good, tiny whole dried anchovy-like fish used as a salty accompaniment. The only thing that I couldn’t eat were the dried caterpillars. They were big and plump and I really didn’t know how I could get them down so passed. Others partook and were instructed not to chew them rather just swallow. I couldn’t do it even though they said there really wasn’t much flavor, just a protein source.
When the meal was ready to be served we were seated, women usually sit on mats but some of us were given hand carved stools on which to sit. One of the women offered everyone water for hand washing, always starting with the headman, then the head man was served lunch followed by the rest of the men, served by their wives then the female guests and last the women of the village who sit together on the reed mats and eat communally from one plate after everyone else has been served.
It was an interesting visit, the women in this part of the world work very hard, pretty much taking care of everything in the village while the men working off site. The men or children tend the cattle and they do work the fields together, it is a hard life. A plow sat idle under a tree and we learned recently a lion had come into the compound and over the course of a week killed both oxen. Until the head man can afford to purchase new oxen he will have to borrow or rent oxen from a neighbor in order to plow his field.
As we thanked our host and said our goodbyes some of us removed the cloth skirts and to the delight of the women offered them as tokens of thanks to the women.