May 30th, 2017
I’m back from Zimbabwe…have been for three weeks now. If you can imagine the trip of a lifetime and then multiply the awesomeness by 4, that about sums it up. Like a reverse 80s haircut, it was a party at the front and business at the rear. It started with the reconnection to my long time friend, Karen, who I’ve known since kindergarten. I spent the first couple of weeks hanging out with her and her family and friends, travelling around Zim and experiencing everything that is to be offered by such a beautiful country. Victoria falls took my breath away and we zip lined back and forth along the gorge with some amazing guides. I met great people and I was able to get the feel of the culture…which, at its core, is love and kindness. I saw my favorite creature (aside from bees and hummingbirds) in the wild…Giraffes!! So weird. They don’t make any sense!??
The end of my visit was a week-long musical adventure. I performed three times at various stages at HIFA (Harare International Festival of Arts, once on the PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Procedure for Aids Relief) stage in downtown Harare, and once at an Orphanage on the outskirts of Harare where I watched beautiful young girl courageously get up and sing part of Adele’s “Someone Like You!” During this time, I met all kinds of artists and musicians. Some of them performed with me on the Global stage on my last day. I was sad to say good bye, but I know I have made friends for life.
Things I learned….
This was one of the first times I’d ever experienced the feeling of being a minority…and being unaccepted due to my colour. I’ve been to Zimbabwe three times, but the other two times I’d been accompanied by a friend or by Quentin. This time I travelled alone and spent time alone in downtown Harare. It allowed for more conversations as well as observations. In the moments when, for example, I couldn’t get served at the bar for a really long time, I’d search for politically correct ways to describe the reasons for the lack of service, my friend would say, “it’s racism….you’re allowed to say it you know.” I had a deep welling up of guilt for accusing people of being racist towards me. I know exactly why they feel this way, and I don’t blame them. But the question does come up as to how to hold myself while being a subject of such resentment. Here’s what not to do: shrink your shoulders and do everything apologetically, and oppositely, don’t say, “eff this” and be a calky, defensive jerk. The choice that makes sense to my friend…and now to me too, is to have patience and just keep giving love….and then watch as the amazing people come forward and renew your faith in mankind. The bartender who came from the back of the room and served me when no one else would, the teenage boy who walked with me to the theatre downtown when I’d gotten lost, the local musicians who spoke on my behalf during my second concert, and my friend who made me the most beautiful necklace ever…they are the ones who shine bright in my mind…their kindness took courage and was more precious than any other kindness I’ve ever received.
I’ve always been awed by the brave woman who fought for our rights in North America, but hadn’t considered how many men had to risked their lives and careers in order to help us. We needed the men to change the laws and although we were a powerful influence, it still took immense courage for them to go against tradition and to look foolish to the crowd. I guess I’m just tired of having one hero in every story and I see things a little differently now : )
My return home has been strange.
Here is an email exchange with my friend, Karen Strain, which, I think sums it up perfectly:
Me: “Well, it’s been 20 days since responding to this email! Sooooo freakin’ sorry about that! I’ve been struggling to find my feet again since arriving home from Zimbabwe. Much to my dismay, my old shoes no longer fit and I’ve been feeling like an alien in my own life. I’ve decided to surrender to this new absurdity and to stop resisting the new perspective that infiltrates my old world. It’s working. And I’m feeling much better today….”
Karen: “I am sure that perspectives would be different once returning from a trip to Zimbabwe. I am sure the things that we sometimes choose not see in the world is a form of self-preservation but once you have it right in your face, how do you not personalize it and try to incorporate it back into your world. Especially hard for emapth’s, like yourself. I am sure you will find a beautiful way to make it relevant and meaningful in your world and share with others as you do. Despite how we are impacted by trauma, trauma symptoms present in the same way to varying degrees. It is not a linear process for anyone. So you can understand their pain, and although you may not directly change their trauma, the work you do is changing people’s lives. Please do not lose sight of that as you are truly gifted and inspirational. Guilt serves not the process other than to make us feel bad. We either go through life with love or fear but you cannot sit on the fence or be both at the same time. Love the new perspective. Don’t fear it. Love is what makes things happen.”
There’s so much more to say about Africa and I’m sure it will all come out as the days pass.
As I sit typing these thoughts, I’ve been glancing out at the funny lake which has been experiencing heavy rain while being sunny at the same time…and I think how ironically fitting for how I feel these days.
With love and curiosity,