Our second night in the Zimbabwe, we (my team of 5) split up and spent the night in Ngundu village.
Ngundu looks exactly like you might picture. We were there in the dry season, the anticipated rains just a few weeks away, so the brown dirt stretched in every direction. Huts, mud walls with thatch roofs, dotted the landscape in clusters of two or three. One for the family, another for storage or the "kitchen" and maybe another for Grandma. The trees were tall and full, similar to those found in The Lion King (it's a classic for a reason people).
Our huts for the night belonged to Suza, her son, her two nephews, her mother and her brother. Her sister and brother-in-law had both died, as had her husband. Death is all too common here.
She welcomed us with a friendly smile and gestured for us to sit on the mat and water jugs she had placed in the open space between the huts. They had 3 huts and a tiny tiny shed (I hesitate to even call it that) which I learned the next morning housed more goats than seemed possible (picture a clown car full of goats).
As we sat, my boss Matt and I couldn't help but turn our heads up to the heavens and soak in the stars. I'll admit, in Colorado when one ventures into the great outdoors they get a pretty good glimpse of the stars, undisturbed by city bustle. But, these stars! Over and over again I just kept repeating how beautiful they were.
The Shack describes these stars well, "Of all the places he sensed the presence of God, out here surrounded by nature and under the stars was one of the most tangible. He could almost hear the song of worship they sang to their Creator, and in his reluctant heart he joined in as best he could."
Of course Suza and the kids just kept laughing. This was their backyard. Can you imagine? Every night they cook and clean under this mural. How funny were we to be taken aback by the normal?
When we were alone she offered to cook sadza for me. I tried to politely decline, but if you've ever been to Africa you know you really can't decline their sweet generosity. She and her mother laughed because I'd never eaten sadza; laughter came so easily in their household. The entire time I watched Suza cook, her mother stood quietly outside her hut repeating "sadza" and laughing to herself.
Methodically Suza fanned the fire and placed a worn black pot full of water from a nearby jug on top of the flame, shedding a quick stream of light on her face. Sadza is cooked cornmeal that's white and looks a bit like mashed potatoes, but has the consistency and taste of bland play dough. She served it to Matt and I along with the most salty, stringy, unidentified vegetable I've ever had.
After eating as much as we could, we handed our plates to the three boys, who jumped at the chance to eat some more. But, after only a few bites they surrendered their plates to Suza to save for their breakfast the next morning.
The four sang, raw and beautiful, their prayers before bed. Then all six of us sleepily drifted to one hut to snag as much sleep as possible on the concrete floor before the sun called us to the next day's chores.
Hmm, there's so much to cover...I'll save the next day's events for another blog post :)