Of Coffee, Combis And Other Things

If you were having coffee with me, I would greet you by fist bumping you, it’s not a new secret greeting, its just that well, we have a nasty outbreak going on. Reminds me of what one conductor said that he just might get a wooden cooking stick to collect people’s fares with.

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you that the president made his first State Of The Nation Address at the official opening of the 9th Parliament.

Sonazw

justices

League of extraordinary justices

I have always wondered though, when they do these things, what is the purpose of inspecting the guard of honour? What’s with the horses, ribbons, the medals and whats up with the swords and the robes?.

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Can the reason we have problems with democracy be that we are simply playing pretend at things we have no idea how to handle, simply doing what others did, no rhyme no reason no explanations?

If you were having coffee I would ask you if you had a look see at my last post about the public transport system of minivan taxis in Africa and the funny stories that happen there. This one time a fellow commuter said he did not have enough fare for the trip and the conductor said he could pay what he had but he would have to seat paKadoma and face the nation which is the space behind the driver and front seat passengers before the first row passengers (named after Kadoma a town halfway between Harare and Gweru)

pakadoma

When the gentleman was seated or rather perched by the spot, he proceed to buy a packet of Lays potato chips from a vendor. The conductor was not amused, saying if he could afford to buy nice snacks like that, he most certainly could afford to pay the full fare and demanded a full payment and of course that did not stop him from dipping his hands into the passenger’s packet of lays chips saying “who doesn’t want nice things

It might have been a hilarious episode but looks like commuters might need to start negotiating to travel with insufficient fare. Commuter omnibus operators are hiking the standard fare from 50cents to 75cents another indicator of the rising cost of living, or rather the failing economy, as the fuel queues start getting longer and basic foodstuffs slowly disappearing from the food shelves.

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If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you how the government used the cholera outbreak to remove the vendors who had practically invaded the city streets. As I was walking in the CBD I was actually surprised that city could be this neat, walking on the pavements without danger of accidentally stepping on or knocking over someone’s wares.

harare

However simply forcing vendors of the street is not the solution, as its like the government telling them to Just Die and its no surprise that we now have a situation where vendors are now in running battles with the riot police. Walking in the CBD is now rather unsettling you never know what will begin where, wear sensible shoes, the weather forecast is tear gas with chance of running.

That’s  been my week crazy right, whats going on in your neck of the woods?

Here’s to an awesome week

~B

Day 21 of my blog everyday challenge themed Africa: Stories From Home

Photocredit Guard of Honour @globaltimesnews

Opening SONA OpenParlyZw

 

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Of Combie Diaries

Of Combie Diaries

kombi

Combi/Kombi is how we refer to “public taxis” in Zimbabwe. They are basically minivan commuter omnibuses seating 18 passengers (not including the driver and conductor) They are a privately owned even though they are recognized as part of the public transport system which is the mode of transport for most people to get to work, school, home, shops, move between suburbs and some even travel between cities.

kombi

The name comes from the official name of the iconic “hippie van” the Volkswagen  Microbus/Kombi, but has now come to refer to any minibus regardless of make and model.

microbus kombi hippie van

The Kombi name itself came from the German word Kombinationskraftwagen meaning combination vehicles. These are vehicles  such as station wagons and microbus/minivans which both carried passengers and transported cargo.

 

 

 

 

 

MinibusBack to the present day Zimbabwe, a combi sits 18 people, 4 packed to a seat with four rows of seats and two passengers next to driver at the front. When the kombi is fully loaded the conductor will be standing somewhere behind the front passenger leaning next to the door which is convenient since part of what he does is not only to collect the combi fare but to open and close the door for passengers to get in and out and also telling the driver the passenger’s stops.

inside kombi

kombi

Unlike buses which can only stop at designated bus stops, combis can pick and drop passengers almost anywhere (provided there aren’t any traffic police) When you are travelling in one you have to know where you want to drop off and destinations are normally announced either by landmarks or intersections such as The Green Gate, The Blue Roof, left turn, after you turn, after the traffic lights, the conductor notifies the driver.

Pay attention to people who sit on the front passenger’s side seat of a public taxi van, who upon reaching their destination they don’t disturb the driver, even though he is closer, they turn to the conductor and notify him of their up coming stop, those are the people who understand the natural hierarchy of why some things are the way things are..

You can tell by now this mode of transportation is not without its drama mix twenty possibly random people and pack them up all squashed together like erm…. peas in a pod and you can see how every trip is most likely to be interesting.

Image result for peas in a pod

The cutest incident which happened to me, was when a passenger with a toddler sat next to me  and she kept trying to reach out and touch my hair calling me daddy (Note it was the child not the mother, just to be clear) I guess I must’ve looked bewildered cause she explained, “…..no we’ve never met but the baby daddy has locks too.” Eventually the toddler climbed over her mum and settled on my lap and promptly fell asleep with the mum looking absolutely suitably horrified and I said its ok. When they were disembarking, as I was handing her back, the baby woke up and waved “bye bye daddy…

I waved back…..

~B

Day 19 Of the blog everyday challenge themed Africa: Stories from home

Photo credits Commuter Omnibus

1992 Volkswagen Kombi

FUN Map of Public Transport In Africa  @Funmioyatogun

Of Coffee in a time of Cholera

Of Coffee Outbreaks

If you were having coffee with me I would greet you by bumping your fist instead of shaking your hand. “Big Up” I will say and its not a rasta thing even though I will shake my locks and do a little dance.

fist bump

Big Up

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We have a cholera outbreak you see, there’s some hand sanitizer by the door for your convenience.

If you were having coffee with me, I would ask you that, when the label on the sanitizer says kills 99.9% of bacteria what do they mean and shouldn’t we walk around being worried about the 0.1% This hardcore die hard germ that is hard to kill like the main actor in an action movie of old but instead of being the good guy it’s the One  bacteria rule us all, one bacteria to find us, One bacteria to bring them all and in the darkness bind us all…….

hand sanitizer

Now that you have finished disinfecting your hands, try not to worry about the One Bacteria that would survive mordor If you were having coffee with me I would offer you some French toast, its basically toast that went to a French I made it myself its surprisingly easy to make I actually wonder why I don’t have it more often.

bakers inn bread

Too bad the leading supplier of bread, Innscor Africa Bread Company, Bakers Inn has increased their price for the standard loaf by 10% to $1.10. Trying not to be alarmist about it but is this another symptom of our ailing country alongside the shortages of fuel and other things?

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you that we have a cholera outbreak which has been declared a state of emergency by the government. A lot of finger pointing is going on, as the responsible authorities toss the blame around each other, as if it’s a hot potato which no one wants to hold.  A cholera outbreak is a symptom of bigger issues; from lack of access to clean municipal water, to a broken sewer system contaminating wells and boreholes. People have been complaining that the government spent a lot of money doing “other things” and now require crowdfunding to help deal with the cholera outbreak showing their gross mismanagement.

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cholera outbreak

Harare City council blames vendors invading the city center to sell their wares at undesignated areas and have started a campaign to clean out vendors from the streets of Harare CBD. But in a country with 90% unemployment this is the only way some people can make a living and simply forcing them off the street is going to be an ugly mess after the city council had seemingly let them overrun the city streets, again another symptom of bigger problems with country.

harare vendors

vendors harare cbd

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council raid  harare cbdclearing vendors harare cbd

police raid vendors

If you were  having coffee with me I would tell you that the conductor in the public taxi I used today dramatically put on a pair of surgical gloves before handling the taxi fare people were handing him. He made a joke about how you never knew where the money you got came from and he did not want to catch cholera. People were even reluctant to pass the fares of the other passengers as they normally do; those at the back pass to those in front, till it gets to the the conductor. This time he had to stretch out and reach, people individually, I tell you, you cannot make this up.

How has your week been? Whats good whats really really good?

~B

Day 13 of my blog every day challenge Africa: Stories From Home

Photo credit: bakers Inn bread: OfZimba 16 interesting facts about bakers inn

Photo Credit Brezhmalaba

  Zppinfo visetinfo

Of The Chicken Diaries

The Chicken Diaries

I am ready to go now.” you announce. Your bag is packed, to be honest there wasn’t much to pack anyway, you simply gathered your change of clothes and toiletries then stuffed them into your backpack satchel. You pride yourself in being an extremely light traveller.

Back Pack

Already? Dinner is almost ready you cant leave without eating, we even killed a chicken” Aunt insists that you stay and eat. Chickens are a prized currency and one needs a good excuse to have one for dinner especially the limited edition batch of chickens with the bald heads, those are only killed when you have special visitors; feeling guilty at the honour bestowed and not wanting to be the one who deny them their reason to dine on fine poultry cuisine, you acquiesce.

Don’t worry dinner will be served soon” aunty  reassures you after she notices you sneak a glance towards your watch. “Let me just go and check on the progress in the kitchen. Please sit. I’ll ask your cousin to bring you a soft drink while you wait.”

You can hear her speaking in hushed tones, telling her children to stop being lazy, that the cooking fire has not yet been lit, can someone gather sticks of firewood kindling.

 A wild chase

Meanwhile the chicken is busy trying to escape its fate, apparently they can sense these things, it does not wish for the honour of being an invited guest to the dinner table, being the main meal……

Eventually dinner is served. A scrumptious meal that more than makes up for the lateness of the time and also grateful for the darkness, in the candle light no one looks at the obscenely huge piece of chicken that was dished for you. You tried to get something smaller but you were out-voted besides you are the guest. They insist they eat chicken all the time, they might as well have feathers growing out. You know it’s a lie, no matter how many chickens you eat you wont grow chicken feathers and of course they don’t eat chicken as frequently as they claim but you are a considerate guest you let them convince you.

By the time dinner pleasantries are done its quite late and dark outside, any chances of travelling have set with the sun. You tried to argue that you really had to go, and they in turn brought out the big guns, telling you the horror stories that have befallen night travellers, from the mysterious ghostly flames that erupt for no reason without explanation, to the recent spat of muggings and robberies capped with the headless corpse that was discovered just a few weeks back…….

Better safe than sorry.” Aunty declares putting an end to any of the feeble resistance you were offering of why you must leave tonight “Its not like anyone is chasing you away, you can go tomorrow, I’ll wake you up at the crack of dawn, and you can catch the first bus back to the city.” And that settles everything.

KUKURIGORIGO that’s what it sounds like when a rooster does its morning crow.

kukurigorigo

kukurigorigo

The crack of dawn begins at 3.15 in the morning. That’s when the rooster first crows, every morning at 3.15 then at 4.15 and finally at 5.15 it’s like clockwork you don’t even need to set an alarm.

Once more, you are up again and ready to go right now, all you need is the green light. Bags already packed or rather you never unpacked,  perks of being a light traveller. Everyone else eventually wakes surprised to see that you are all set to leave. First thing first though you cant leave on an empty stomach, so you have to endure breakfast. Fortunately they don’t have to cook the chicken, simply reheating pieces left over from last night coupled with a portion of scrambled eggs and a flame boiled cup of tea with its unmissable smoky flavor.

hot kettle

Finally you say your goodbyes and stand up to leave.

“Wait” aunt stops you “We have present for you, since you loved the chicken so much we decided to give you a live one to take with you to the big city

You try to politely decline, she adamantly insists and her will is stronger; soon everyone is outside chasing the chicken that has the dubious honour of being my travel companion.

How will I even carry it seeing as it wont fit in my tiny backpack” You ask beginning to regret your light travelling policy which has just flown the coup.

Fortunately an old box is found and the chicken is placed in there, holes are poked along the sides so it can breathe, and the box is secured with tree bark thread and you handed a few grains of wheat and seed to feed the chicken, so it shan’t starve.

how to transport chicken

Quickly the bus is almost here” you are warned, as you are marched brisklyto the bus stop. You can hear the engine growling from just around the bend and barely manage to make it to the roadside bus stop just as the bus coasts by comes to stop, in a plume of diesel smoke and dust from the road shoulder gravel.

Eight people escorted you to the bus and only one person gets in, you. The bus conductor eyes you somewhat disappointedly, probably he was expecting way more passengers.  A few steps into the bus aisle the conductor yells at you that you are forgetting something and hands you the box with squawking chicken, you had hoped you could somehow leave it behind, now you are the guy with chicken on the bus, that’s why they call them chicken buses because sometimes fellow travelers are chickens.

Chicken bus

Chicken Bus

Fortunately the bus is on the empty side and you find a seat to yourself somewhere near the back, you are the person you would not want to sit next to, the one with squawking chicken in the box. Someone at the front cranes their neck to face your way and tell you tell your chicken to shut up.

Would if I could, but I don’t speak chicken” you reply calmly but deep down you wish you could strangle the chicken and put it out of its misery. It quietens down somewhat after you toss a few seeds of grain for it to snack on and the rest of the journey is mostly such a non-event, you even manage to fall asleep.

When you finally get home, the box is unusually quiet, maybe the chicken is dead. As soon as you open the box, out pops the chicken and the chasing games begin. Do chickens get mad chicken disease you wonder cause this one seems to act rather unchickenly chasing you instead of the way around, could it bite you and begin the zombie chicken apocalypse?

You almost want to give it a name, but naming it makes it your responsibility, you have to care for it feed it, and clean it; naming it, makes it a pet, and you can’t eat a pet; and this one for all its drama will be joining me for supper as the main course of these fine days………….

~B

Of Voting Wisely: The ZimElections 2018

 

zim decides

In a few hours Zimbabwe will be having its historic harmonized presidential elections. Historic because they are elections without Robert Mugabe at the helm, historic at the level of peace and tolerance (not counting the bomb incident) for divergent views considering the history from past elections where citizens where openly intimidated and when talking anything remotely political was practically taboo, if a random speaker asked for your opinion you just shrugged it off non-commitally because having an opinion was hazardous to your well-being.

On my evening commute from the city in a public taxi, after everyone had paid for their fares, the conductor surprised the passengers by donning a graduation cap and declaring that he was University Graduate and yet here he was working as a Sliding Door Operator, opening and closing doors for passengers just like us, who just like him have dreams too, but working as a “hwindi” (the colloquial name for the minibus conductors and touts who try to get passengers to board their taxis; said to be derived from the sound the minivan door makes as it rolls on its railings and slides shut….. hwiiiiiiiii Ndiii) was never his dream, nor a job opportunity he would never pursue willingly.

He chronicled how he left for work at four in the morning and the earliest he got home was half-past ten in the evening; how he wasn’t even sure if his wife was beautiful or not since he only saw her at night. He is a stranger to his children, they cry when he tries to play with them; never play with strangers they were taught well; he leaves home before they wake up and returns long after they have gone to bed.

Even on the few off days he does get, they just stare at each awkwardly and his wife will be away, working. She is a qualified teacher but runs a tiny flea market right next to the cash dealers, the ones who hold thick wads of cash and sell money at a premium,

and sometimes she comes home with groceries and crisp new notes in a country where cash is a scares commodity, he worries that maybe she sells more than just pirated DVDs and secondhand clothes but he never asks, she isn’t really his wife, he cant afford a wedding, she is just someone with whom shares living expenses with and oh yeah they have children together.

At some point he asked the passengers to show by show of hands if they had family who had left for distant lands in the diaspora whom when they said goodbye at the airport  said that they would be gone only for a little while, its been years and now you wonder the only time they are coming home is in a coffin (that is if you can pay for the international body repatriation fees) Everyone raised a hand, me included, the family structure has gaping holes left by those who sought economic asylum in the better world and sometimes as I rub the dust of my passport the only thing that keeps me here is that I can’t a plane ticket to greener pastures and not out of love for country…..

You could tell as he spoke this colourful account of his life that he was somewhat intoxicated, even he admitted that he had imbibed some cheap strong spirit alcohol known as “Musombodhiya” the only kind he can afford to drown his woes but the fact that he was drunk should not diminish the gospel he was preaching all he was saying was “Please Vote Wisely on Monday

Someone asked the conductor whom he meant when we should vote for when he said vote wisely he laughed and replied “Isnt it obvious? The are three schools of voters those for whom the current regime has been good to, puppets of the regime those who cant think for themselves and those who want change, if you are in this taxi and not in a car of your own you need  change in your life…Vote Wisely

Vote Wisely wise ……. Who am I voting for? Ha! Isn’t that obvious, my preferred candidate talks a good talk but even though he talks such a good talk not enough people are listening, and this is all a numbers game, and out of 23 candidates.

I would vote for anyone who is willing to give him a chance in their next government because man mad great points well the the future is about to begin, dare we relive history…..

As I got to my stop and was getting off, the conductor concluded by asking if anyone had seen the eclipse, it was an omen, the end of an era, “ane nzeve anzwa tosangana paVotelet him ears listen: Vote Wisely

~B