Tribute and tribulation, two words so very similar in spelling and pronunciation but vastly different in meaning. The exact difference was brought home to me this past week when I experienced both in the space of twelve hours.
We paid tribute to a man who came into Mozambique at a time when the country was just emerging from a long and horrific civil war which had torn the country apart and brought it to the knees of poverty and deprivation. He came into the country from Zimbabwe, first on regular trips, trading foods and items from Zimbabwe, for prawns and seafood from the coast. The roads were practically nonexistent with the risk of mines or attacks from either of the warring parties along the way. He would tell stories for hours describing the trips and adventures and close shaves he, his family and his friends had in those early days.
The stories of setting up business in Mozambique at a time when legal administrative procedures were nonexistent and everything was done with bribery and corruption as par for the process were amazing. In Beira, at the time, there was no piped water or sanitation facilities, very rarely any electricity and no shops, fuel or basic living commodities. As he and his family were coming through to Beira so often and friends were starting to join them it was decided that a restaurant and camp ground should be built. This was started on a small-scale but its popularity became such that it expanded and grew into a sprawling, thatched roof venue renown for good food and the best view in Beira. That was twenty years ago, this man and his family certainly saw and experienced a lot of change in the slowly awakening country. When he passed away two weeks ago the restaurant was closed for the day in order to hold a memorial service for him. The Service was a tribute to his memory read out and spoken about by various longstanding members of the Beira community. Each of the members of the restaurant staff, some of whom had been with him from the beginning, took a handful of ashes from the box held by his son and threw them into the sea. A fitting tribute as he had loved the ocean.
Then came the tribulation. Half an hour after we locked up and went home we received a call to say the restaurant was on fire. His Restaurant. What an awful shock, what desolation, what bone crushing sadness. You can never prepare yourself for something like this and the ache inside my chest was so extreme at times I thought I would be ill.
Why did this happen? What was the reason? How did it happen? How are we going to survive?
A week later not many of the questions have been answered but I have theories. He loved the restaurant, it was his, maybe he wanted to take it with him. Maybe someone still living decided he should take it with him.
Whatever the reason, the tribulation of suddenly realising you have nothing left out of what was something huge pushed us to a level we did not realise we could reach. Out of adversity comes strength, strength you often do not realise you have. The Old Man built the restaurant through a lot of trial and tribulation on his part, maybe now it was our turn to rebuild and suffer a similar stress and tribulation in order to learn to appreciate what he went through.
In our tribute to him we had to experience the tribulation he had endured as he knew he had left that legacy of strength in his family and he knew they would get through and achieve what he had achieved and love it the same as he had.
My three wishes on 12-12-2012 at 12:12pm
For the Earth
I wish that all human kind realizes the damage they are doing and creating by their lifestyle and greed. I wish for an end to pollution, damage and desecration to all forests and lands and we all learn together to save what we have left.
For the Community
I wish for an understanding and communication. I wish for education and peace and love. We should all learn to work together for our futures and the futures of our children and their children
I wish for a life with more security, more happiness, a home, abundant love, friendliness, success in all my undertakings. Safety and care for all my family and all whom I love. I wish for this Company we have started to succeed and be all that we hope for.
I have my Ouma’s bed in my flat now and cannot remember a time in my when the bed wasn’t somewhere in my life.
As family history goes my grandparents were amongst the first pioneer column treks into Southern Rhodesia in the late 1800’s.They were young teenagers at that stage, my Oupa or grandfather being fifteen, which was already a man in those times.The eldest of seven children he was already used to working the fields and tending the animals and crops on the farm they had had. His father and he were now the only ones to look after the small herd of cattle plus look after and maintain the four ox-wagons the family were driving on the arduous journey from the Cape of Good Hope through the Southern African Republic and into the newly discovered country of Southern Rhodesia. He had four younger sisters and two younger brothers and the responsibility for their care rested heavily on him.
My Ouma or grandmother was in the same pioneer column as my Oupa but as there were over 100 wagons and thirty families it was many days and many miles before they first new of each other. My Ouma was twelve years old and travelling with her mother, her mother’s parents and an uncle and his family. My Ouma’s father had died a year previously so there was just herself, her mother, an older brother of thirteen and an older sister of fifteen. The whole family was moving to start a new and better life in the new country. They had all their worldly possessions packed into six ox-wagons, the one wagon was for Ouma and her small family and in the middle was the double bed. Well not quite the double bed, the base and mattress were on top of the ornately scrolled wooden head and base board and packed tightly all around were the rest of their possessions.
On the long journey, my Ouma spent many hours playing quietly or reading, snuggled deep into the downy softness of the voluptuous mattress.
They had apparently travelled for eight months before they reached the Great Limpopo River. Although there had been many obstacles on their trip, people being hurt or killed, families deciding they had reached the place they wanted to live and staying at newly built homesteads along the way, this was the biggest problem so far.
All along the journey many tales had been told of this great river crossing. They met numerous travelers turned back once they had seen the expanse of water, the leaders of their column had crossed the river before though so were confident they knew what to do.
Ouma told me the story of her first sight of the wide expanse of slow flowing green water. It was a hot, humid day and the flies had driven her to burrow deep under the covers on the bed when her mother called her urgently to come to the front of the wagon. They had stopped on an escarpment overlooking the huge river valley. Lined up for miles on either side of their wagon were other wagons and people were climbing out and walking down to the river’s edge. She cannot remember how many people but she said there must have been a hundred, there were a lot she said. Further back from where the wagons had stopped a small wagon town had built up of people who had come this far and did not know what to do next so had just camped out.
As my Ouma climbed down and followed her brother and sister down the steep slope she noticed a young man on a horse ahead of her. He seemed to be having a problem with the beast and it was snorting and jiggling against his rein. The young man was trying to quieten the animal which seemed almost too big for him to control and it was taking all the youth’s strength to hold the horse’s head in.
Suddenly, with a sharp neigh the horse bucked and the young man flew into the air. The horse started galloping madly down the slope and straight for the water. Everyone started shouting and people were either running at the horse waving their hats to try to stop it or, the wives and children ran to get out-of-the-way of the charging, red-eyed, frothing monster. Screams broke out as they noticed the young man, his leg still stuck in the stirrup was bouncing along the ground behind the horse!!!
My Ouma says it was like watching everything in slow motion but it all happened so fast. The horse leapt into the slow-moving river and started swimming, dragging the poor young man with it. Everyone watched in horror expecting to see his drowned body float to the surface of the muddy brown water. Next thing, as the horse was about a quarter of the way across they saw the young man surface next to the horse and slowly pull himself onto its back. The horse carried on swimming but although the man pulled at the reins and shouted and tried to force the horse to turn, it refused and continued heading for the other bank.
There was nothing anyone could do but watch and pray. The horse was a large and strong beast and seemed to be coping well with the swirling current of water and after the initial fighting the young man obviously realised he was to far into the river to turn back so it would be better to just carry on. He now bent over the horse’s head shouting encouragement and pleas. The crowd on the bank took up the cries and everybody was urging the horse on to the far bank. Then someone noticed what they, at first, thought was a log, floating steadily in the water aiming for the horse. He shouted to alert the people around him and then they noticed a couple of floating logs – crocodiles!!!.
The crocodiles were still closer to this side of the bank then the other and people started shouting and throwing rocks and stones at them and firing shots. This must have spurred the horse on because he was now nearing the other bank. Everyone went silent, my Ouma says even the birds seemed silent. A lot of people had realised if there were crocodiles on this side of the river, there must surely be crocodiles on the other side. The crowds of people were still and silent as with one silent voice they urged the horse and its young rider to safety.
They made it. The cheer that rang up as the large beast pulled his exhausted body up to the safety of the bank on the other side was heard for many miles. The young man still clung to the horses back but seemed unconscious at first, as he did not move as the horse clambered up the steep cliff. They reached the top and everyone could see the two joined in the silhouette of the setting sun.
Suddenly the horse started neighing and jumping up and down and bucking again. He must be mad, the heat must have gotten to his brain!! The young man had slid or fallen off and standing holding the horse’s head he calmed it down. By now people were shouting instructions across to the young man checking on him and Ouma could see who she realised were his parents and family standing in a huddle comforting each other. The young man replied he was ok and it was all decided he would have to make a camp as best he could and in the morning the operation would begin to cross the river to join him.
The young man, who Ouma had now found out his name was Stanley, started un-saddling his horse and drying it down with dry grass. As he pulled the saddle off he suddenly shouted in shock and dropping the saddle seemed to be jumping and stomping, very similar to how the horse had been acting!! Under the saddle had been three scorpions!! The poor beast had been tortured by their stings and that was why he had gone mad. That night Ouma slept in the bed with her mother and her sister as normal, with her brother under the wagon. Talk of the young man had circled the camp around and around and his bravery and courage were praised.
The following day people prepared and readied themselves as had been discussed with the column leaders at the onset of the journey. The wagons were unpacked and stripped of everything including their huge metal wheels. The flat wooden wagon beds were gently lowered into the river – they floated!! Their wooden poles and planks had been oiled and treated back in the Cape just for this purpose, so they could float across the river.
Six big men climbed onto one of the floating wagons and slowly they poled themselves across the river. What a miracle, what excitement, everyone was laughing and crying at the same time. Stanley on the other side had been calling encouragement to the floating men and when they landed that side they all hugged cheerfully. They had taken some ropes across the water with them and these they anchored to some large trees then they tethered the horse on a long rope to the side of their bed boat and slowly entered the water again, at first having to tug at the horse’s rope to get him to enter the river again.
All day there had been young people and children shouting and throwing things at any crocodiles they had seen and this seemed to have frightened them into hiding, so the journey was made back with no “floating logs” and no problems. Stanley, was lauded and applauded and hugged and kissed and you could see he was quite proud of himself. My Ouma says he did not even notice her watching him from the edge of the crowd around him, he says he did.
The next day early the first of the families and their wagon beds were loaded onto the water, any livestock they had, had been tethered to the ropes and people started across the river for the transfer which was to take three days before everything was safely on the other side, including a lot of new families and wagons who had been camped. Some animals were lost to drowning and crocodiles, my Ouma thinks she remembers two people falling off and drowning but otherwise they seemed to make it.
After a week of resting and putting everything together again they carried on their journey, some of the column started off again, but some stayed behind. There had been much discussion amongst all the leaders and they had all decided to go in different directions.
Almost a year and a half after setting out, my Ouma and her family and three other families including Stanley’s reached an area not far from their river crossing which they decided was where they wanted their future to be and they left the column there. By this time everyone was good friends and Ouma says Stanley and her older sister seemed to becoming good friends.
After a couple of months’, Ouma’s mother remarried a man whose wife had passed away on the journey and they had three children together over the next four years, all born in the wooden double bed which had pride of place in their bedroom.
Stanley never proposed to Ouma’s sister and Ouma and Stanley had become very friendly. he used to talk to her a lot and take her riding and exploring the land around their farms. He showed her a place on a small hill he told her that he was going to build a house there for her.
He did, and when my Ouma was about eighteen they got married and moved to their house on the hill. All the furniture was handmade and it was very basic. The bath was filled from buckets heated on an outside fire and the toilet was half way down the side of the hill, a small building on its own overlooking the bushveld.
As a wedding present they were given the wooden double bed with its carved bed posts and patterns.
My Ouma had six children in the bed, two died and then after my mother got married the bed was given to her.
She didn’t have any children in the bed, as there were hospitals by then, and she and my father actually didn’t sleep in it much and it was kept in the guest bedroom. My mother had never really liked the bed, probably because she had been born in it.
I was the oldest of four children and loved the bed. I used to cuddle down into the soft mattress and read and play with my dolls and dream of handsome men on horses. My Ouma came to live with us after Oupa died and she stayed in the room with the double bed and I used to sleep with her often and she told me the stories about it.
When I became a teenager I demanded the bed as mine and have had it since then. When I married it wasnt our marriage bed as my husband didn’t like it, and I never had any of my children in it, but now I have it in my flat. I love cuddling down in it and reading and I spend hours oiling and polishing the wooden scrolls and swirls on the head and base board and wondering what stories it could tell me.
I have lived in Africa all my life, specifically Southern Africa; Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa. I love walking and exploring and finding out about anywhere I am living or staying and I spend hours exploring new towns and cities. I find it very relaxing, as well as fulfilling and educational. It has certainly trained me to be more observant of all that is around me, for my safety as well as for the knowledge factor. My favourite time for my walks is the early mornings, although I go at any time of the day whenever I feel the urge or interest in something or when I have a problem which needs a lot of thought. But early mornings, starting just before the sun rises, are my best times. There is something so encouraging and exciting to watch the world wake up. A whole new beginning starting for every living thing. Be the first to hear the birds wake up, to see the owls going to bed, to make my footprints in the newly washed beach.
Something I have noticed in all my walks is the sweeping!! Is sweeping a cultural tradition to Africans? I certainly cannot remember reading about it anywhere, or learning about it in Culture and Geography in school. Where and why did it star? Now it seems a very set tradition, practised, seemingly, by a certain class level, either male or female, young or old.
Growing up on farms and ranches in Zimbabwe I used to watch the mothers and wives sweeping their little areas of ground surrounding their round, beehive huts. From my memory this wasn’t done first thing in the morning but it seems more like after the breakfast period, so I would say mid morning. It always seemed the wife or mother of the family group did the sweeping and cleaning, never do I remember a male or a child doing it. I used to watch their bent bodies, invariably with a baby tied on their backs, leaning close to the ground with a hand brush made of sticks or twigs and using only one arm rhythmically sweeping the ground in front of them. Step by step, from one end of their home space to the other. Then they would turn around and make their way back again. There was always a rhythm and pattern to the procedure, around obstacles, over mounds, until they reached something too large to go around, or the edge, then they would turn around.
At the end there would be a work of art with sweeping rows of arcs on the earth. They never stood up until the whole job was done, I could never bend over at that angle for that long!!! The wiser people sprinkled water before sweeping – if they had enough to spare – otherwise this was all carried out with billowing dust clouds. It fascinated me to be driving through the bushveld checking for cattle or animals and to suddenly come upon one of these clearings. The earth is swept to hard ground and most trees are chopped out so you find an area of bare, hard trodden earth with a hut or two and a fire circle and a table for pots etc then, the bare earth comes to an abrupt end and the surrounding bush, litter or crops continue again.
I have seen this all over in the rural areas in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In a way I understand the reason for this, protection as you can see approaching danger i.e. snakes, wild animals, cleanliness, tidiness. But now I see it in towns as well so I cannot understand what it is about. Why would someone sweep the small area of road outside their property wall up to the half way line and only to the borders of their property?
Now I see the same rhythmic method of sweeping everywhere. I know it annoys people who are trying to sleep to have the swishing noise start up outside their windows before the sun has even risen. I can turn into a road on one of my walks in the mornings and for as far as I can see down the road there will be the bent bodies of people sweeping, men or women or children. What has happened? They sweep and sweep with brooms made from sticks, twigs, palm leaves. They sweep right into the roots of trees growing on the side of the roads so they look like startled old ladies holding up their petticoats and trying to tiptoe to a more earth with their exposed roots. You see huge holes in the pavings and road edges as all the soil is swept away daily into piles which is carried away and dumped on a rubbish pile. If there is a broken area of road, wall or pavement, they sweep around each piece of crumbled concrete and tar, but don’t pick it up. It is left in exactly the same place. I have seen areas where the road edge has been swept away to such an extent it is now a hazard for vehicles to drive off the road. Some yards are swept so much they are now below the street level and you can see the foundations of the buildings.
Its no longer the wives or mothers who do this, it seems every household has a designated person to sweep in the morning. Are they a poor relation, a useless, unemployed member of the family or a destitute person who does it for a meal and bed?
They are sweeping the world away. Why do they have to do it, don’t they understand the sand and earth s there for a reason and if it is swept away grass and trees will not grow.