I just returned from Zimbabwe (Southern Africa)! And from what I can see so far, you should come visit me there! This beautiful country has elephants, zebras, horses and much beauty, drama and transformational opportunities. (Read below to see safari pictures, learn about the horses that live there and the adventures of awakening.)
When our now 21-year old son was only one-year old, my husband and I moved across the world and settled into diverse parts of Asia where we lived for six years: Nepal (6 months), Cambodia (18 months) and Bangladesh (5 years). I am now exploring the adventure of living in Africa! Just as it was difficult to learn about the different cultures of Asia where I lived, I look forward to understanding more about the southern African country of Zimbabwe. According to one source, the word Zimbabwe means “ruined city” or chiefs' houses.
It is interesting that the meanings are complete opposites. I believe this is significant even though it is not yet clear to me what this dichotomy of meanings signifies. But I intuitively feel that as I open to more experiences in the country, the true meaning of Zimbabwe will make itself known to me.
I wonder if the meaning of the name of the country will become clear as soon as the country itself decides which sense of self it will chose to be. Like many of us, we can take action in our life that is linked to a sense of self that represents the ruined city within our wounded self or we can chose a path of wholeness.
In Jungian psychology, our soul is often referred to symbolically in dreams as our house. So a chief’s house could symbolize the healed and abundant soul of Zimbabwe (Zim) that is or could more deeply emerge over the next decade.
As I look around my own house in Zimbabwe, I notice our beautiful swimming pool and garden. Yet just outside the gate that surrounds our house, I hear a hungry mother and child call out for my help. She is ringing our bell, asking for money so she can return to her village with her child.
(Our Pool In Highlands, a suburb of Harare)
“Oh yes!” As I write this, it helps me glimpse a deeper understanding of the meaning behind the word Zimbabwe. (Chiefs House/Ruined City.) There are so many obvious contrasts. I look forward to living the “reveal” of the deeper meaning behind living here. Yet I wonder if the country itself has yet to decide if the actions it takes will be based on the sense of self associated with being a Chief’s House or a Ruined City or, like many of us, a combination of the two.
(People walk long distances because public transformation is so expensive, caring large packages on their heads)
(A Friesian Dressage Horse in Zim.)
On my first day here, my husband took me to look at a horse boarding facility. He, not so subtly, is trying to appeal to my addictive love for horses as a means to convince me to move here.
It turned out there was a dressage show and I happened to arrive just in time to see the top-seated riders. It was a blast!
I met Trish at the show. She has a small boarding facility not too far away so she invited us over for tea. She showed us her two amazing horses. Both are formally from the racetrack. In fact, most of the horses in Zimbabwe that people ride are former thoroughbred racehorses.
Her facility was beautiful, calm and peaceful. Two big dogs enthusiastically greeted us. One is a female German Sheppard. The other is a native “attack” dog that slobbered kisses all over us and tried desperately to sit in our laps.
Trish is probably in her sixties, very thin and athletic looking. It is hard to tell the people’s ages here. They all look older than they seem. Trish’s face is wrinkled from the sun; she looks strong but with a tiredness I assume is born from hardship.
(Trish with her horse, Lucky’s brother. Read below to learn about Lucky.)
The history of Zimbabwe is somewhat similar to South Africa, its adjacent neighbor. Zimbabwe began as the British crown colony of Southern Rhodesia, created from land held by the British South Africa Company.
Short Recent History To Help Understand the Context of Current Situation
- 1888 Cecil Rhodes persuaded the government of the United Kingdom to grant a royal charter to his British South Africa Company (BSAC) then two years later in 1888 Rhodes used this document to justify sending a group of white settlers protected by well-armed British South Africa Police (BSAP) through Shona territory to establish a fort (now Harare, the largest city in Zimbabwe.)
- 1895: Rhodes promoted the colonization of the region's land, with British control over labor as well as precious metals and other mineral resources and adopted the name "Rhodesia" in honor of Rhodes.
- 1898: "Southern Rhodesia" became the official denotation for which later became Zimbabwe.
- Just as the settlers of the United States displaced the Native American Indians, native tribes and ethnic groups in Zim were dominated and controlled by white foreigners. According to Wikipedia, following the failed insurrections of 1896–97 the Ndebele and Shona groups became subject to Rhodes's administration thus precipitating European settlement en masse which led to land distribution disproportionately favoring Europeans, displacing the Shona, Ndebele, and other indigenous peoples.
- 1923: Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony.
As colonial rule was ending throughout the continent and as African-majority governments assumed control in neighboring countries, on November 1965, Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front (RF) issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom.
It was the first declaration of independence by a British colony since the American declaration of 1776, which was indeed claimed by the Rhodesian government to provide a precedent.The United Kingdom deemed the Rhodesian declaration an act of rebellion, but did not re-establish control by force.
Smith's declaration of a republic in 1970 was recognized only by South Africa and other countries issued sanctions against Rhodesia. (Smith ran an Apartheid-like structure.) Smith’s declaration effectively repudiated the British plan that the country become a multi-racial democracy! This launched the country into 14 long years of war between the black and the white groups. The war ended 33 years ago. I can’t help but wonder what Zimbabwe’s sense of self would be like today if the British plan of a democratic, multi-racial government had succeeded?
Most people don’t talk about the war directly. Yet it is hard to avoid. Over time, the stories slowly come out and I get a sense that there is still much recovery needed.
As I discuss the work I may do here, people tell me about alcoholism, and the need for trauma recovery. Yet it seems as if few people feel they personally need help. When I tell people I am a psychotherapist, most of them say, “So you work with children then.”
I wonder how deep anyone wants to explore who they are and who they want to be in this society that has such a deep scar caused by war/racial division and power struggles. Yet, unless people open to really delve into their own personal past, the role they play in society and the role they want to play, can they or the country really move forward?
For instance, in more recent history, Americans were forced to look at their own racist views and actions. It is refreshing to see that we must have made some progress as we have elected an African American president. And today, as the U.S. faces tough economic conditions, all of us citizens must look at the part we play in our country’s troubles.
Over time, I hope we all make personal choices so together we are able to shape our country into a more awakened and wiser world leader. As is true with personal growth, the only one that can create the change, is us.
No one else will save us. Yet, somehow, maybe too often, we can think someone else will do it for us. And after what I have seen in Zim, this is a dangerous assumption that can lead to further hardship and a loss of identity.
Being in Africa has made me see too closely the need for every country’s leaders to have honesty, integrity and a compassionate drive to help the less fortunate. And it is vital the citizens of the country demand this of their leaders. However, in Zim, taking such a strong stance could mean death.
After seeing the recent political arguments in Washington D.C., it has never been more clear to me that a thirst for power and greed is a cancer that can destroy even the most powerful democratic and abundant infrastructure.
So the question I find myself asking is, can individuals or can a country really move forward if they haven’t taken responsibility for the current and past roles they have played in creating the world we live in?
As Trish, my husband, and I sit down for tea, we find out that her husband died a few years ago from a car accident. I offer my condolences and recognize that some of the hardship I see in her face might also be a stark loneliness she hasn’t been able to escape.
Her answer to my expressed concern is, no problem. What we do here in Zim is to “make a plan.” She explained that during the war and during the time of out-of-control inflation and every challenge since, we just made a plan!
At one point, the inflation in Zim was so extensive that to pay for a loaf of bread, you would need a wheel barrel full of money. One reason for the inflation was that so many of the farms were taken away from the white Zimbabweans and given to inexperienced black Zimbabweans. As a result, the economy screeched to a halt. The black Zimbabweans just were not trained to make the farms productive.
Although the government is still taking farms and businesses away from the whites, it is my understanding that there has been some retraction on the government’s part. The Zim government seems to understand the economic problems caused by their past policies and at least some people in the current government want to restore the high production rates of the past.
Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of Africa because it supplied so much of the continent’s produce. Zim is slowly making a come back but only time will tell what will happen and how the new system will be organized.
Will the course corrections be enough to bring the country back on track for Zim and/or for the U.S.?
A well-know mathematician, David Hawkins, author of Power vs. Force, uses the example of a ship in the ocean that is only a few degrees off course. If someone doesn’t quickly correct the ship’s direction, it will soon find itself miles adrift. So are there too many countries too far off course and will we as individuals show up strongly and clearly enough to bring our countries back into alignment?
Hawkins goes on to talk about Critical point analysis. He explains that Critical point analysis is derived from the fact that in any highly complex system, “there is a specific, critical point at which the smallest input will result in the greatest change.”
However, finding that critical point and knowing exactly what form that smallest input is needed might be tricky. But every positive change begins with aligned positive intention and action to follow up. Or in Zim they might say, it begins with “making a plan”!
(Zeus, champion of the jumper show last weekend and his son. Star, the women who breads him often rescues horses displaced on farms caused by the turmoil in the country)
Trish made it sound as if making a plan can solve all problems. I was struck by this cultural take-charge mode. If only more of the disenfranchised people in the world could adopt the same view as they tackle their inner and outer life challenges.
Yet, I still think there is more to be learned about this saying. Yes, a plan is needed. But if our emotions are too close to the surface or stuck too deeply below, I wonder how effective the action toward implementing the plan will be? For instance, recently two students addressed difficult relational issues. They didn't anticipate the other person would be respectful and open in return, yet because they were so aligned and balanced, the potentially volatile discussions went smoothly.
During tea with another new horse-related friend who breeds warm bloods, we talked about the party they had the night before. Parties here start quite early—about 4:30- because in Harare it is much too dangerous to drive after dark because of the lack of functioning traffic lights, drunk drivers and poor roads.
Car accidents in Harare (the capital of Zim) are a too common occurrence. There are few automobile rules that are followed here and drinking and driving is a much too common occurrence.
The few streetlights that do work, you never know if they are working in both directions. You see, the robot (the name they use for traffic lights) could be green in your direction, and could also register green in all other directions at the same time creating quite the perfect storm for an accident.
And when the electricity is off ( which is about 75 percent of the time), no traffic lights work in any direction
So in Harare, simply just getting down the road to the market can be quite the journey and adventure. At this point, I feel only skilled enough to ride a borrowed bicycle through the back streets to the Trident, a workout gym I go to every morning.
In the states, my husband and I love going to work out on Saturday mornings with the Bosu and other balance/strength exercises. On my second day here, we resumed our tradition and went to the Trident Gym. We were happy to find a Bosu on a shelf and other common balance/strength equipment. I started to feel more settled and at home.
Although, many people looked at “our method” of exercise as peculiar, I ignored their stares and attributed their attention to the more interval, core strength methods that are common in Boulder, being too cutting edge for Zim.
So the next day when I go to the Gym alone, I am ready to exercise away the jet lag only to find the Ball and the Bosu missing. I ask someone where could they have gone? They smile and explain that you can only use those equipment pieces if you pay to work with a specific trainer. Apparently they frown upon people “doing their own workouts.” And it was true, the more traditional core training we do in the states is less common here in Zim. In fact, getting back to the contrast theme, much of what we consider mainstream here in Boulder, CO is considered radical for Zim. The good aspects of this equation, is that there is much I and others can contribute to helping the country progress.
I do have my own Bosu and equipment but I also wanted a place where I could connect with others and develop a neighborhood-type feel. The Gym has always been a central place where I meet people I can relate to and enjoy.
I am going to have to develop “a plan” so I can feel at home at this gym!
I just got back from visiting Lucky, a horse that I might want to lease if I end up moving here. Mandy is his owner. She grew up in Kenya and is selling her horse because she is too busy building a house with her Zimbabwean husband. They bought a 12-acre farm where they will be putting in dressage and jumping rings, stalls and a huge pasture.
She is basically building my dream house. Yet, as I watch the amount of work it takes to build the place, I am glad to be able to live vicariously through her.
(A stall similar to where Lucky lives. Most horses live in stalls at night and turn out during the day. Most of the horses in Zimbabwe are thoroughbreds that come from the local track. There are two or three stables that breed Warmbloods and Irish Sport horses (Percheron/Throughbred crosses. See story below.)
Mandy and her husband met while they both were working in the Congo. Mandy is a geologist and he, a water specialist. They now have two beautiful toe-haired young children.
Lucky is an ex-race horse, who I was told has great movement (gaits) but today he was lame. His left hind drags about 6 inches behind and it looks like his hips are out of alignment.
A groom saddles everyone’s horse. No need to tack up or cool down your own horse here. Everything is done for you! I remember dreaming how nice it would be to have a groom on the days my mare is covered with burs and caked mud patties making her mane look like a clay figure.
Lucky is about 10 years old. As the groom puts on Lucky’s bridle, he does so cautiously because Lucky is nervous and head shy. He also hasn’t had much attention lately. His once strong muscles are gone and left behind is a boney spine with hollows of skin and flesh. I imagine what he looked like in his prime and wondered how much work (and grain) it would take to return him to his former state.
I spent only about 15 minutes working on him through massage, energy work and manipulation. As a result, he becomes perfectly sound again. His gaits float as if he is moving on clouds despite the uneven grass and dirt beneath his feet.
Once more, the contrast is revealed before me. This strong giving horse goes from gamely unsoundness back to the solid talent he can be. I wonder if this too is not a metaphor for this amazing, yet struggling country.
I see the contrast everywhere and I find myself hoping, even praying the country moves in a positive forward direction. It reminds me of a beautiful diamond ring with only a few cuts that are glistening. The rest buried yet ready to be nurtured back to brilliance.
Maybe there are contrasts in my life in the states too but it is less pronounced and thus more difficult to notice. I find I have to work harder to notice the distortions in my life. This is good news, yet I know if I become complacent I too will need to be nurtured back to my own brilliance.
As I look to moving (at least part-time) to Zim, I will surely bump up against the same internal personality challenges I found as I built my school and private practice in the states.
I know that my internal imperfections will most definitely raise to the surface and that this is a gift. Hoping that this awareness will help me face my insecurities, cultural differences with grace and wisdom.
At least the Zimbabweans I have met seem to like a more direct approach to life. So far, they don’t seem to live and get lost in the current story of their life. However, I do notice some of them can get lost in the past….
As some of them come in to do therapy with me, I wish them grace and wisdom as they choose to dissect their collusion with the role they individually played in creating their own past. I hope they can rebuild from their regret, animosity or guilt.
It seems to me the stakes can be high for them. Some have lost everything. They have gone from extreme wealth, farms that covered 1000s of acres only to have everything violently taken from them. Some are now living in small apartments or worse, state run nursing homes.
Others have faired much better but still are living a very different and harder life than before.
It is interesting to talk to the white and the black Zimbabweans. Each seem to not really understand (or at least don’t articulate an understanding) of the others perspective. Although, I often hear both whites and blacks acknowledge that things ran more smoothly before the current ruler took charge and that the economic situation was much better before.
Even Desmond Tutu, a South African leader who won the Nobel Peace prize in said that it is worse now than during the white ruled apartheid time.
At this early stage it seems that the whites still don’t articulate, at least to me, their role in the destruction of the country. And maybe the war was unavoidable but I wonder if the whites had treated blacks as equals if the war would have happened.
During our safari trip, we saw an aging elephant that seemed to have lost its (fingers) on its trunk. His ribs shown through and he was clearly in distress. I asked if someone knew about it and could help him? The response was, this is the jungle. The Lion will eat the elephant. It is the natural order of things and it is perfect.
(You can tell if an elephant is left or right handed by which tusk is most worn down)
However, a day later when we saw a hurt Lion, they instead suggested that there was a game warden watching the hurt Lion and they may intervene. It was unclear if it was to protect the Lion or to keep the tourist and people safe because an injured Lion can be dangerous. Either way, the hurt Lioness too seemed symbolic to me. There is a time when survival of the fittest doesn’t make sense and others do need to intervene to protect those that can’t protect themselves.
I have been trying to find someone to work in the house to take care of my son and husband while I am back in the states. Selena, a beautiful, lively woman with 5 children, is interested in the job. Although she has little cooking experience, I decided to see if I can quickly teach her how to cook some basic favorite dishes of my husband.
I asked her if she had an AIDS test when she came to inquire about the job. At that time, she said at her last AIDS test, she was ok but she would need to come back.
What she didn’t tell me is that she had indeed tested positive for AIDS. After spending 4 days together cleaning and teaching her how to cook we became awfully close.
She is tall, about 5’8” and very thin. When I taught her baked pork steak with roasted potatoes and pineapple, she unscrewed the cap of the salt and poured the entire bottle into the Pyrex dish.
Small skills that seem obvious to us, such as grinding course salt in a shaker and not spilling it can seem difficult to someone who has never seen, let alone used a salt or pepper grinder.
I looked forward to having her work in our household. The only hold out was the AIDS test. She went to take it over the weekend and she was to bring the results first thing Monday morning. However, she was late coming to work and I paced the floor waiting for her return. One out of every 5 people in Zimbabwe have AIDS.
When she did arrive, she was dressed in her finest cloths. She was smiling and waiving “Hello” madam!
I was so glad to see her and start her day’s training in the kitchen. The night before I bought the ingredients to teach her banana bread (my son’s favorite) and all the fixings for spaghetti with tomato sauce and a big bag of potatoes to teach hash browns, mashed and breakfast sauté’ potatoes.
I had lined up everything on the counter and it looked like the ingredients themselves were waiting like anxious children ready to attend a party.
I waited to ask about the AIDS test and managed to say hello first. Then I launched into …”did you take the AIDS test?”
She said yes madam, the results were the same as last time but the doctor wants you to call her.
My anxiety level hit the roof. I already had one very sick person with AIDS in my household and I certainly didn’t want another. You see in Zimbabwe you must actually be sick with AIDS in order to receive treatment.
I have seen my gardener so sick he could barely walk and still they hesitated putting him on the medicine. His CD4 count is 110 and it has been verified twice. To be qualified to receive the medication you must be below 350.
Tomorrow he has another appointment at the clinic and we are hoping he has proven himself to be sufficiently ill to actually receive treatment.
Watching the local TV. Channel the other night I learned that before, the government required people to have a much higher CD4 count before treatment was granted but one person that was denied treatment at a much lesser count died because he wasn’t put on the anti-retral virals (ARVs) soon enough and legislation was passed to raise the CD4 to its current rate of today.
Nevertheless, it seems like a very challenging triage system where they ask people to get so sick they probably lose their job and then when they finally are sick enough, they don’t have the money to afford the medication they could have afforded if they let them have the ARVs before they got so sick.
So after calling the cell number listed on the Drs business card and getting a local bank instead, I called the main number for the clinic…5 times before Selena explained more details to me.
She helped me understand that she had tested positive for AIDs but her blood count was such that they wouldn’t allow her start the medication just yet.
So if I don’t hire her, and she doesn’t get another job and does get sick, am I signing her death warrant because she won’t have the money for the medicine?
What moral responsibility do I have to her?
The reason my husband took this job is to make more money so we could pay for our children’s college and to eliminate our debt. He also was tired of traveling every 3 weeks to a new continent. His stressed body was telling him it is time to slow down and not deal with the strain of 24-hour plane rides, hard travel and jet lag.
(Tonga, our gardener, his pregnant wife and daughter Maria)
I give Selena $10, most of the food in our refrigerator, and tell her to go home so I can sort everything out. I look at the dirty floors and pile of dishes waiting for me to clean and part of me wishes I had asked her to do some work before she left.
It is silly the thoughts that go through my head. I tell the gardener that Selena is sick and will not be working for us. He looks at me with disbelief and, I imagine, disgust.
He knows she is not yet really sick. What he doesn’t know is that on the way to her getting sick and working in our kitchen cooking our food she is going to become susceptible to many illnesses that are easily communicable to my husband, kids and I.
AIDS patients immune system becomes severely compromised and as a result they get many illnesses that most of us would naturally fight off without displaying any symptoms. Some of those diseases are deadly.
Tonga is a good example of this. His pregnant wife and two-year old daughter are constantly ill after each of his most recent bouts of sickness.
Did I want to bring that same dynamic into our household?
Crying, I call my husband at work. He was annoyed and very unsympathetic. He is here working because of the extensive AIDS problem in this country. His mission is to train, find funding and institutionalize a quazi-governmental organization that would develop a well oiled machine that can keep all the clinics and warehouses stocked with enough AIDS medicine for the high demand.
He calmly explains to me that exposing ourselves to TB and other similar illnesses is not something he is willing to do. So even though I only have a week to find a replacement, I concede and the search for another cook/maid resumes.
On our Way to Safari…
It is a six-hour drive from Harare to Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zim. When I was back in the states, I was getting a pedicure and I hear another American talk about the perils of her husband returning back to Zimbabwe to take care of his parents.
“I would never jog in Harare, let alone bike,” she explained. “And the only way we travel through the country is with other armed jeeps traveling with us”, she added. “And I hope you are taking malaria medications as well,” noting with a clear understanding that I was insane for considering moving here.
Before coming and while here I heard many stories of farmers being hacked, even their dogs and horses were attacked. One such horse that survived was rescued by a friend of mine and it is left with an open hole in her head from there the machete landed.
Even though time has gone by, the trauma the mare suffered resurfaces and as you enter her stall she rushes at you as if to proclaim the scares of what happened to her will never heal.
I get the same impression from the white Zimbabweans that live here. Whenever I tell someone I specialize in trauma work, I receive a strong response that there are plenty of traumas here for me to help with.
In trauma work, the hypothalamus of our brain can act as a time stamp for what happened to us. But in a traumatized brain, this function of the hypothalamus becomes dysfunctional and the trauma of the past feels like it is actually happening in the present.
This "biological consciousness container" can be difficult to reboot and is demonstrated never more clearly than when I talk to the older white Zimbabweans that feel as if they are still recovering from the past.
It is as if they can’t let go of how it was and how “it should be.” Everything that goes wrong seems to be blamed on the “Africans” (they leave the word "black" out of the sentence because it is always implied). Race is not blind in this country. Although, even in the states we have our issues. It is simply more pronounced here than in many parts of the states. Time and deeper consciousness raising is needed before there will be true partnerships created that don't harbor the anger beneath the surface.
I imagine I will foster exchanges using my schools techniques for non-violent communication and transformation to help promote understanding and healing. I so want to make a positive contribution, if people are ready for this next step. I have a guest house and hope to hold meditation and transformation retreats for foreigners to experience this blessed country. Maybe too some of Zimbabweans will join in and open to seeing themselves, the past and their country in a more balanced light. When I tell people I don't know how long I will be here, they all tell me that once you stay here and really experience the blessings of this country, you will never want to leave!
(Carry their babies in their back wrapped closely with lots of love!)
Hello...they looked so intently at us as if to give a message.
Elephants were within touching distance.
More than 250 water buffalo visited our watering hole. This one seemed to tell us that we could join the herd at anytime. We are welcome! When they came late at night, their combined energy in the late night fog was so deeply animal that I understood why the devil was depicted with horns. Although I could only see outlines of the buffalo, I could hear them stomping in the water. Their snorting was more like a grunt emerging from a raw animal instinctual place. One of the buffalo jumped over the wire fence to greet the cat that walked to the edge of the fence to investigate these curious animals. The water buffalo walked gingerly toward the cat and the cat reciprocated and took strong, calculated steps to greet its new friend. With a loving touch of the nose, cat to buffalo, buffalo to cat and the interaction was over...at least for the cat. She had meet her fear, faced it and moved on as if this tribal initiation had concluded. But the water buffalo stared at the cat as she moved on. It was clear the Water Buffalo wanted more contact and to play. It was an amazing event to watch. This event reminded me to keep finding the inner courage to move out of negative transference with my elected "enemy" and be brave and aligned enough to touch noses with love and clearly and see who they really are. Although the water buffalo hold that deep, even dark energy of first chakra power, they also embody the light. This is especially true when they are met by pure knowing, courage and wisdom that was so obviously embodied in the cat!
This amazing animal is known for its shyness and rarely lets people close to him. So I connected to him energetically holding the energy of trust, safety and compassion. He stayed right next to our jeep and before I knew it, his herd came close to us as well!
A pride of lionesses were chasing the water buffalo hoping to catch dinner. They woke us up with their roar, crying at their failure to make a kill. One of the lionesses was injured and limping badly. Where in your life have you felt like a Water Buffalo being chased by a lion? We all have times in our life where we feel we are the prey. Yet every prey has an inner lion that can defend us. Find your inner lion and move out of prey mode and back into wholeness.