I've decided the electricity in the rural areas is only on from about 10 pm to 2 am each day. Praise God for generators. Because the email doesn't always go through promptly, I'll try to be clear about what day it is. This time I'm writing on Monday night.
Today has been a very full and heart-lifting day. We began at the Mukondwa Secondary School where Adrian, and then Brian, spoke briefly to the students. I asked the deputy headmaster first of all if he would invite his students to write to mine, and then if we might mingle with the young people for a while before they headed back to their classes. As always, the children loved to have their pictures taken and would laugh and cheer when we shook their hands. Someone interpreted for me as I invited questions from the boys about schools in America. Naturally, their greatest curiosity revolved around sports. When I told them Brian was a very good soccer player and that they should ask him to play with them, they reported they had no soccer ball. As it turned out, Jerry and Adrian had brought one for their school, so it was a delight to see that given to them.
We crossed the road to the primary school where Alvaro Dos Santos has just initiated a new feeding center only two weeks ago. We met some fifty orphans being fed there three days a week and were privileged to speak with them for several minutes. The school--glass missing or in jagged pieces in the windows, no desks, mottled blackboards barely readable--sits amid the vivid purple jacaranda trees on a hill above a valley, hazy blue mountains rising in the distance.
Next we drove to meet with a church in Maruta. After driving down an oxcart path, we parked and hiked about half a kilometer down a footpath through tall, brown grasses, past cows munching on the dry vegetation, through a gate in a bramble fence to a small grouping of huts. We were invited into the round hut which traditionally serves as the kitchen. It was neat and tidy, save the roaches skuttling up and down the walls and across the dung floor. The same painted material formed benches around the perimeter of the interior as well as a set of shelves on one section of the wall. Chipped and dented, but brightly colored plates and bowls lined the cabinet of sorts, and cooking utensils hung on nails nearby. Gourds and a homemade whisk broom were tucked into the smoke-blackened thatch roof. An old tarp, a woven reed mat, and a fraying crocheted blanket covered the floor surrounding the fire pit which was cold and clean-swept. There had been a communication problem about the time of our meeting, so we were two hours early, though word quickly spread that we'd arrived. People began to join us and the family that had provided the meeting place. They sang in Shona and Jerry spoke briefly, but we had other business to tend to, so we made arrangements to return tomorrow afternoon.
Later this afternoon we returned to Imire for appetizers at a viewing station and then a braai, with is an Afrikaans word for barbeque. Edmore piled us into the back of a pickup fitted with viewing seats and drove us out to see the newest member of the family: a baby black rhino born Sep. 20th (also Adrian's birthday, it turns out). Imire has run a black rhino breeding project for several years. Baby Tatendai (which means, "we are grateful") and his mother, DJ, were penned. On the way we saw eland and giraffes. Then we headed to the viewing platform near a lake where we saw hippos last year. There were no hippos this evening as the sun went down in a blaze of glory, but we did see several nyala and kudu as well as warthogs. We returned the lodge for a visit with Kennedy who has come to see us. The manager barbequed for us, and I must say wildebeast fillets are quite tender and tasty.
It's nearly ten pm now. Jerry, Brian, Adrian, and I will leave with Edmore at 5:30 am for a game ride where we hope to see many more of the park's animals as well as its famous elephant, Zoe, before we head back to Godwin's at 8:30. Goodnight loved ones! We miss you even as our hearts are full of pain for these hurting ones, joy at God's goodness, and awe at the amazing handiwork of our beloved Creator.