Surviving a real-life
Novel reveals human impact of Zimbabwe’s societal
collapse when billion-dollar banknotes were not
enough to buy food
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DOUBLE RAINBOW AT FULL MOON
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, PROLOGUE AND EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER 1
This book would not have come about without the deep friendships in Zimbabwe that only grew stronger concurrently with the deepening political crisis. Special thanks to the Sisters of the Convent and to the Fathers and Brothersof the Dominican and the Franciscan Order for their everlasting support.
I am also grateful to the persons who went through my fi rst tentative literary steps and encouraged me to continue. First of all, to my sister Sonja in Denmark, who knew Zimbabwe from her own life there for three years, and to Lina Kantor, who wisely advised me to first write the story in my mother tongue.
To the people of Zimbabwe who suffered so much, never lost hope and always believed in change and kept their dignity. They taught me a basic lesson in life: that good manners have nothing to do with degrees and wealth, but are the connection to your ancestors and your past; and that is what you must value in life. Also they taught me forgiveness. Thank you to Chris Chetsanga, Professor Emeritus in Biochemistry, and his wife Carolyn for explaining certain phrases in the Shona language.
It took me four years to write this book. I fi rst wrote it in Danish. I spent another year translating it into English. In this regard I am deeply indebted to my nephew Esben and his wife Vibeke for sending me the two huge dictionaries by Hermann Vinterberg and C.A. Bodelsen.
When I fi rst came to Canada I had no computer, but Dr. Zig Hancyk without hesitation gave me his old one, and that gesture certainly speeded up the process. Through it all, our faithful black poodle, Simba, always lying next to me in my office when I wrote, developed from being a small puppy into a full-grown dog.
Margaret Spark did the preliminary proofreading, and gave me encouragement to get the book published. Just when I thought everything was perfect, Suzanne Baker James discovered that I had far too many commas, as I was using the Danish grammar rules.
A fi nal vote of thanks to Bruce Batchelor for doing thorough editing and advising to write a prologue and an epilogue. Marsha Batchelor designed a lovely cover, capturing exactly the image I’d seen in my dreams.
There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for
planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.
A time for tears, a time for laughter, a time for mourning, a time for dancing.
A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering
them up; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.
A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for
keeping, a time for throwing away.
A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for keeping
silent, a time for speaking.
A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a
time for peace.
She had walked for miles on the winding path from the village, hips swinging and pivoting in a regular rhythm like a pendulum. A barefooted pickanin followed in her footsteps, sometimes playfully in front and sometimes lagging behind. The woman had a worn pair of running shoes on her wide feet and moved with the smoothness of a gazelle strutting steadily along. Every move was programmed from her strong thigh muscles. On top of her short curly hair she balanced a suitcase keeping her head steady as a rock. She was full of grace and beauty despite her strong bones and muscular body frame.
With no wind blowing one could only hear the sound of the grasshoppers and the cicadas singing in concert. As she approached the intersection with the asphalted road, she noticed a shiny blue car pulling over with two white people in it. She stopped in awe and soon became aware that something had changed. The silence had been broken by screeching tires on the hot asphalt. The noise of sirens and ululation of police cars, building rapidly in intensity, had drowned out the singing of the insects. Abruptly, six outriders thundered up at very high speed and the rider on the front motorcycle braked to a skidding, swerving halt, positioning himself to prevent any cross traffic passing through the intersection.
That same routine would be repeated; come to a halt and then catch up later. Like a pride of lions they rode on their thunderous bikes creating a deafening noise in the quiet setting. A high-speed black car appeared after the bikers carrying men in grey who disguised themselves behind dark sunglasses. They were all trained bodyguards and part of the security team. They paved the way for the bulletproof and armourplated vehicle designed to protect the dignitaries that followed close behind them. A military truck followed, with soldiers in the back holding their machine guns at ready; finger on the trigger, aiming at a few bystanders near the intersection. At the tail of the procession was ii B.A.K. SIM an ambulance fully equipped in case of emergency should a fatality occur or even an assassination attempt.
The woman who came in from the bush did not wait to see the whole procession. Her heart had started pumping out extra blood to give her muscles more oxygen when her glance locked with one of the soldiers. The reaction was instant and she could not break away; she became as mesmerized as if she was staring into the eyes of a lion. With an enormous determination she managed to unfix her gaze and then break free. She grabbed the pickanin by the hand so violently that the child came right off the ground and then disappeared into the same direction they had come from without ever dropping the suitcase from her head. Soon the tall elephant grass camouflaged her colourful clothing as her sweat ran cold and merged with the smell of burnt wood and the dry yellow vegetation in the bush around her. She paid no heed to the concert of the grasshoppers and the cicadas. Little did she understand that this rapid display of brute power was a common day occurrence; the regular motorcade of President Mugabe executing his duties.
HOME, SWEET HOME
I am back in Africa and full of ecstasy. This is my home. I breathe
in deeply and slowly and it tickles my nostrils, as the air enters
the secret places deep down in the lungs and the stomach. Finally I
breathe it all out again. The desire to preserve this moment in time
is so strong that first everything is deleted. To make sense of it all in
its precursory state is what has left me in this chaos. It is like time
and space are at a standstill, and only at a slow pace are the voices of
nature allowed to fi ll the air with all its fragrances. This moment of
solitude is so precious. Like the slow journey, where the soul is not
left behind. The African winter is almost over; it is late August of
2007 and we are approaching spring and the rainy season. The air is
bone-dry from the winter drought that has left us with parched land.
Inside the house, the tiled floors are icy cold. Although we are living
at an altitude of 1500 metres, you hardly notice it, as our capital
Harare is placed on a big plateau and the strong sun is always shining
from a cloudless sky. The coolness of the air is only felt a few
hours after sunset, when darkness falls. Our days are short during the
dry season, but now they begin to get longer, but only by about one
hour. The light northern nights of my native Denmark are unknown
here; darkness comes suddenly and without warning. The evenings
and the nights are pitch-dark, but numerous stars are scattered across
and light up the heavens, which seem closer to us.
The Jacaranda trees are longing to burst, but are waiting for a little
more humidity in the air. The fine fernlike leaves are still mostly
green, but high up in the treetops there are clusters of fl ower buds and
soon its headgear will look like a huge purple umbrella. The lawn
looks dry and the big flowerpots in the courtyard with petunia and
vivid purplish-red geraniums are thirsty for water. As I no longer have
permanent staff I grab the hosepipe myself and immediately feel rewarded
to be the plants’ saviour. The pots are placed in groups, after
Rolanda told me that it is out with lonely soldiers in a row in South
2 B.A.K. SIM
Africa, and we do try to follow up on the trends from there. In one
corner of the garden, under the golden evergreen called Joburg Gold,
I see thick clusters of clivia along the edge of the grass. The elephant
ears have crestfallen huge leaves the size of rhubarb, but the minute
they get water, they straighten up right away and turn their palm-like
leaves towards the sky. The poinsettia bush, where a little grey songbird
sits on one of its branches swinging back and forth, definitely
needs pruning. The bird is not grey all over, but has a black head with
a crown. I decide not to disturb it, but to postpone the pruning. Jetlag
and melancholy disappear as the duties call.
Back inside, I begin to sort out the washing and feel quite relieved
there is no power cut. It’s a simple task to wash in the automatic
Speed Queen and dry the clothes in the dryer. Clyde’s shirts take only
20 minutes, as they don’t need ironing if they are only semi-dry. Far
worse when you have power cuts and do the whole wash in the bathtub
and hang it out to dry in the sun, then you have to iron everything
because of the putze fl ies. When you have servants, they iron every
item with knife-edge creases.
Clyde and I moved to this romantic little townhouse in Belgravia
a few months before our odyssey to America and Canada. As it is
in close proximity to the Parirenyatwa Hospital and the Trauma
Centre, we hardly have any power cuts. The neighbourhood consists
of weathered old manor houses, which have had several facelifts in
the latter years, as many of them are now used as offi ces by embassies
and other international organizations. Their uniformed guards stand
outside the big pillars of stately entry gates, saluting every time the
big SUVs and Pajeros drive in and out. The new African farmers have
also acquired these Pajeros, to such an extent that they are now called
Washing dishes is no work at all in the new shiny metallic dishwasher,
Defy’s Dishmaid, which I have named Mercy after Clyde’s
fi rst maid on Montgomery Road, where he was living when we met
16 years ago. Mercy is so super-silent that I sometimes have to double
check if she is working, and already she is an endangered species,
no longer found on the market. Surely we bought the last automatic
dishwasher in Zimbabwe. The old Whirlpool that I inherited when
3 B.A.K. SIM
my sister left Africa broke down after many years of hard labour,
when we were packing our suitcases for Manhattan’s snowy winter.
Being totally addicted to this mechanical wonder Clyde and I immediately
went to Makro to replace it. They had everything from fridges
to stoves to microwaves, but we failed to see any dishwashers.
There was this Makro-guy sitting high up in his crane offloading
supplies to the various shelves. Clyde asked him, “Where do I find
“Row No. 7,” answered the crane driver competently and we
moved on and found the right section, but there were no dishwashers.
All the shelves were small and full of textiles. Finally the crane
driver came out of his crane and pointed his index finger like a missile
towards a stack of dish cloths and hanging table wipers.
Clyde held both hands together like a loudspeaker repeating, “I
want a machine to wash dishes, like a machine for washing clothes!”
“Ah,” sniffed the Makro stock worker, officious in his impeccable
green uniform. “There is no such machine.” And whilst he shook his
head and his short-trimmed Afro hair, you could almost read his denigrating
thoughts about aliens who can’t even wash plates with a cloth.
Wasting no more time, Clyde drove full speed in the blue
Mercedes, fl ying over potholes and uneven asphalt. He went behind
Mukuvisi Woodlands to take a shortcut to Jaggers Wholesale
along Chishawasha Road, making an almost hazardous parking, and
running with Olympic speed ahead of me into the department with
kitchen appliances. And there she was: Mercy, between the automatic
washing machines, even advertised as one. Inside on the racks she
had complete instruction manuals, but as far as I could see in these
surroundings she might as well have had her C.V. in Chinese. She was
in the wrong place at the wrong time and not in demand. Therefore
she still carried the old price tag. Clyde quickly realized this wonderwoman
was priceless and half of what we would have paid in South
Africa, so he paid up front and made sure he got a receipt. The next
day she was collected in the blue bakkie, safely tied with blankets and
Amidst these myriad thoughts I hear Anisha’s voice over the noisy
intercom. She is passing by with some frozen homemade samosas.
4 B.A.K. SIM
Her husband Mohamed has given her a new shiny Swedish Volvo as
a birthday present. She is wearing a modern Punjab with sari borderlines
and as she gets out the car, her bangles jingle. She wrinkles
her sweet little nose pierced with a diamond and kisses me on both
cheeks. Like many Indian women her bum is beginning to get wider
and her upper arms are too tight inside the sleeves. Although she
looks like one of them, Anisha is not a real Muslim Indian, not at all
born like that. She is wife No. 2 to Mohamed and her real name was
Joan, but with Mohamed’s mother still in charge of her son’s house,
this infidel daughter-in-law has, in the strictest manner, been trained
from scratch with an exotic result.
“You must have been shocked when you came back?” Although
formed as a question, she says it as a statement.
“Perhaps not really shocked,” I explain to Anisha, and then I go on
to thank her a million times for the samosas, and return to the subject
of the political instability. “You see, the economy has gone that direction
since the down slope in 2000 when we had the fi rst petrol crisis.
When they removed the three zeroes from the money a year ago, we
knew that we would soon be back to where we started. It never became
Anisha nods agreeingly, “Now you cannot live for less than 150
million a month, so all the time we are forced to make more money.”
As I am preparing to brew the tea, we are interrupted by the intercom
system. It is Hilton, who runs our plastic factory. As he drives
in I am pleased to see that he has still got the silver-grey Mitsubishi
Colt that we bought for him when his metal-blue Holden Trooper was
stolen. It was an inside job, as they say here when our own servants
and watchman are involved. They had sawn through the gear safety
lock and the iron chains on the Trooper, so his new Mitsubishi has a
South African anti-hijack system to stop the thieves from driving very
far before the car stops by itself.
“Must have been a shock for you to come back,” says Hilton. “We
cannot even get meat anymore. It is like the petrol, everything you
have to buy on the black market. Baby food for Josh, we go down
south to buy it and nappies and all the other stuff.” His low fl at dialect
has a distinct South African pronunciation from the Boers with the
strong emphasis on the E’s, so when he says left, it sounds as if he
says lift. His appearance and his face is as square as his pronunciation,
a bit like a Russian.
© 2013, B.A.K. Sim. All rights reserved.
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Double Rainbow at Full Moon
ISBN 978-1-897435-90-8 (trade paperback)
ISBN 978-1-897435-91-8 (ebook)
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