Today was a day of running around. This morning we went to the immigration office to try to get our applications approved for work permits. Without them they’ll eventually kick us out (if they ever get around to it). The immigration office is an interesting place. We spent about 20 minutes arguing with the lady behind the desk only to be turned away, told that we needed to have our diplomas translated into English (they’re in Latin) and then notarized. We told her there was absolutely no way to make this happen since we’re already here, and she shrugged so we left in frustration. As we were heading to our car, a truck pulled in the parking lot and Shep, our friend from GRS, started yelling at the driver. Turns out it was his friend, another (higher-up) immigration officer. His friend took us back into the building, marched us straight past the lady who had just turned us away, and approved all our documents. Only problem was that we needed three copies of everything, not two, and we needed one additional letter. So we headed back to the GRS office, mildly discouraged, but willing to try again the next day. Welcome to Zim.
The rest of the day went quickly as we worked on setting up our quarterly plan for the Health and Local Relations department, and we had training ahead of our match in Hwange this weekend. The real adventures started as soon as we got back to the lodge. Esneth, the lady who keeps house at the lodge we’ve been staying at, has been cooking delicious Zimbabwean meals for us with beef, covo, soya, and sadza. It seems that today she had wandered over to the GRS offices on other business but got to talking to our GRS administrator, Rose, who is about our age and sits at the front desk. Esneth told Rose that Ale and I were great eaters and very adventurous about food. Well, Rose decided it would be funny to suggest that Esneth cook us macimbi. I won’t tell you what macibmi is (are) yet. All of this planning earlier in the day was unbeknownst to Ale and I, who had now just returned from practice, sweaty and hungry. We met Esneth at the gate on the way in and she said, “oh I’ve cooked you my macimbi and you’re going to love it.” We said great, we couldn’t wait to try, and went upstairs hoping there would be running water so we could shower. I came down to dinner after Ale because I was making a phone call and when I sat down at the table he was giving me a funny look. I saw a small plate of about 20 crispy, blackened, oblong objects and I said oh, what’s that, leaning closer and frowning. Ale saw my expression and said, “They’re exactly what you think they are.”
And thus we were introduced to our first Zimbabwean delicacy of what will probably be many more: the larvae of an endemic leaf-eating tree slug. Not only did they taste terrible, they looked the part – bug eyes, segmented bodies and all. Each larva was about an inch long and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Ale and I bucked up and tried to stomach them. We traded larvae one for one (although Ale later pointed out that he’d had to politely eat two before I arrived) until we hit five each and decided we’d done our duty. I drew the line when my last one exploded in my mouth (most weren’t this juicy). The taste is hard to describe. It’s faintly meaty but a bit moldy and salty too and the texture is by far the worst part. Esneth and our security guard Mattias, who eat with us every night, were laughing throughout the entire dinner and snacking happily on their own plate of macimbi. By the way, the “c” in macimbi is pronounced with a click of the tongue so it’s very hard to say – kind of like making a tsk sound where the c should be.
After dinner the night was still young so there was plenty of time left for more insect adventures. During dinner Mattias told us he had found a bee hive behind the fence out back and that tonight we were going to raid it for honey. So while Esneth did the dishes, Mattias put on his hooded sweatshirt and pulled the hood tight around his face, tucked his pants into the top of his boots, and gathered supplies for a fire. He jumped the wall topped with barbed wire and headed over to the hive, which was, surprisingly, in a hole in the ground. Mattias started a fire a foot from where he knew the first layer of honeycomb lay under a piece of concrete (Ale and I could see nothing at this point and were dubious that a hive existed at all). He built the fire not with wood but with plastic bottles and brush. Once the fire was lively, he used a stick to sweep it progressively closer to the hive before overturning the concrete. Bees began pouring out of the hole. Ale and I were perched on top of a barrel so we could see over the wall. We both had our cameras out and were attempting to take videos in the twilight, which wasn’t working very well. The bees got more and more furious and the buzzing was really loud at this point. Mattias calmly stayed near the hole and brushed the fire closer and closer to smoke the bees out. I had both arms draped over the barbed wire attempting to film with one hand and hold a flashlight for Mattias with the other. A few bees then decided to kamaikazi my face and I got stung right above the left eye. Only problem was that I flailed so badly as another bee flew into my hood and got stuck there that I fell off the barrel I was standing on and dropped the flashlight, breaking it. Ale, Mattias, and Esneth, who had now come to watch but was staying a good 20 yards from the wall, all laughed. When I had regained my composure but not my dignity, I clambered atop the barrel again and watched the rest of the proceedings. Mattias was now reaching into the hive with nothing more than a plastic bread bag on his hand and pulling out dripping chunks of honeycomb. He is a champion and thanks to him we enjoyed fresh honey for a delicious dessert.
We’re heading to Hwange this weekend for a match against Mpumalanga and Ale and I are hoping to stay an extra night to check out a game preserve nearby. I’m hoping to post some pictures soon once we sort out our wireless problems. Internet and other utility woes have continued. Nothing is consistent –it’s an utter failure of infrastructure and government. I will post more after the weekend. Thank you for the support!