Written 1996

Natasa and Katherine in Zimbabwe


Arriving at ORAP

      We woke up to the sounds of engines slowing down. We knew that we were minutes away from Bulawayo, our home for the next six weeks and the place that we had heard, read and thought about for the last six months. The train crawled its way throughout what looked like a suburb of the city. Although it was just a bit before 7:00 a.m., we could see school kids walking hand in hand, women carrying large baskets of vegetables, and many men beginning what looked like a long walk to work. We were surprised to see several large industrial plants already awake and sending clouds of dark smoke into the young sky.
ORAP's main building

ORAP's main building
We would later learn that Bulawayo is the industrial region of Zimbabwe. As the train stopped, we realized that we better grab our bags and join the crowded platform which was fed with women in colorful clothing, each with a baby on their back, balancing a bag on their head and doing so with incredible ease. Before we knew it, we were in a tiny taxi with a friendly driver ready for conversation. After a small tour of town he delivered us to the ORAP compound. I do not think that we realized where we were until our new friend had driven away. Looking back on it, we probably looked very funny, standing close together encircled with large backpacks and large sleeping bags, feeling, and I am sure looking, half asleep.
     Shortly thereafter somebody came to us quickly recognizing that we were new comers to the community. The first question was, "are you Katherine and Natasa?" From the second that we answered "yes" we were new comers no more.

ORAP's welcoming Staff.
Click hereto see a close up.

     Our first day at ORAP was very full. We were given a room in a busy dorm, we were shown around the five- or six-building compound and we were introduced to over forty welcoming people. We were faced with our first challenge, remembering their names. We did not begin our work this day, rather, we took in our new surroundings and asked and answered many questions.

Settling In

     With the end of the work week being the day that we arrived, we found ourselves almost alone for the weekend. This gave us an opportunity to begin our multiple-day laundry adventure, sleep the hours we had lost while traveling, get to know Bulawayo, and most importantly, begin what would soon become special friendships with some of the young people who looked after the compound day in and day out.

Dudu and No Meet Patience

     Today was our first work day. We learned the schedule: Start work at 8:30 a.m., tea at 10:00 a.m., lunch at 1:00 p.m., day ends at 4:30 p.m. We were given an office which would be very fluid, as space is a highly valued commodity here. We began collaborating immediately with a young woman named Patience who was obviously given the adventurous task of putting up with us. We asked her right away if she was named Patience because she had patience or because she needed patience? She laughed and answered that she has been wondering that her whole life. We were given a tour of the compound and were amazed to learn that there was a health clinic and a day care center. We spent this first day designing our agenda for the project.

Ms. Moyo and Rhozina
The best cooks in Africa!

We worked closely with Patience, who was very patient, exchanging ideas about ORAP's and our vision of the Web page. We agreed that only through working together would we be able to learn through each others experience and present ORAP in the best light.
     That evening we sat in the kitchen, which immediately became our favorite place to be. The kitchen at ORAP is enormous and is as busy as Grand Central Station. The day begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m. Eight women run the show, making great food, always smiling and willing to answer all of our questions about their lives. They are the very women who make sure that we remember our Ndebele names, given by Patience. I, Katherine, was given the name Dudusila (better known as Dudu) which means "comforting." Natasa got the name Noktula (better known as No) which means "the quiet one."


     Today was a full day. We began writing our piece describing ORAP and its multitude of projects. We both were and continue to be amazed to learn the extent

Natasa cooking with Rhozina.
to which this organization helps various communities at so many levels. In addition, we designed our interview questions for different staff members. Patience made a great schedule for interviews throughout the week. Today for lunch we had isitshwala, staple food of Zimbabwe served at every meal, every day. It is similar to grits, maize flour mixed with water and cooked until it is very thick and almost chewy. Isitshwala is always eaten with some type of meat (good luck vegetarians) vegetables and beans. Since we are the lucky ones, vegetarians, we eat a lot of isitshwala with vegetables. We know that the cooks worry about us so we really do eat a lot of isitshwala. Lunch, as tea time, is a special time at ORAP. Everybody gathers in a large, sunny dining room filled with traditional hand-made baskets on the walls along with photographs depicting moments in time of ORAP's history. This is a time for socializing, exchanging ideas, relaxing and, of course, eating.
     After work today, Katherine and I went into Bulawayo. The city is very organized due to the well-planned grid system. Though not as built up as its sister city to the north, Harare, it is still quite clean and well organized. We were faced with the challenge of making our promised weekly calls home. Little did we know that this arduous task would take over two hours. We did not mind the whole process too much, but we are sure that those behind us in line were glad to see us go. With only little sun light left we squeezed into a market and got a quick education on Zimbabwean fare. The produce section is quite small as most of the produce is sold on the street by rural women. However, there are plenty of brightly colored drinks, cookies, rice, sugar, meat and, of course, bags of isitshwala. There is not much that one would wish for except maybe Haagen-Daz!


      Today Natasa and I began our morning at 6:30 a.m. with a sprint to the showers for hot water. It is there, but it can sure disappear fast. After our “showers” we did some laundry as we have learned to get our clothes on the line as early in the day as possible.
     This day was filled with interviews of various staff members. We spoke to a woman who heads up the small business unit, Mrs. Mafeking. She discussed with us many things, including how ORAP empowers communities through development education, ORAP's unique participatory approach.
Talented Kitchen Staff

Mrs. Mafeking
She explained that loan repayment rate has increased from 40 to 80 percent due to ORAP's improved management of the loan process, and how important she thinks it is that the international community not only provides financial assistance but also begin to understand the process of development. After lunch, we filmed the compound and the people working in their offices. Some people were shy around the camera while others would be naturals in Hollywood.
     Later in the day, Patience gave us our site-visit schedule which will allow us to see first hand the actual implementation of ORAP's support. We were happy to see that the projects we wanted to see were willing and able to invite us. Our first visit will be next week to a rural women's project near the Botswana border. The following week we will visit a project called Give-A-Dam in Filabusi, and our last visit will be in the suburbs of Bulawayo at an orphanage for children with AIDS.
     Tonight, after eating dinner we played cards with some young men from Harare. They are staying at ORAP for the week participating in a training program for small business development. We learned that they are Shona, which is the largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe (about 70 percent). The language Shona differs from Ndebele in that it is more similar to Swahili, whereas Ndebele is spoken in the southern part of Zimbabwe and is closer to Zulu. We exchanged many thoughts on various topics from development to capitalism, to American television versus reality (we are not all from Beverly hills), to the use of condoms and the risks of AIDS.

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Written 1996