Letter from England: My response from Zimbabwe August 18th 1993 by Michelle Clarke

18 Cheshire Road, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe

14th November 1993

Dear Sue,

Many thanks for your letter of 18th August and sorry for this long delay in replying. There surely can be no excuses given the writer is a lady of leisure with nothing important to do other than be a boring expat wife here in Zimbabwe. Despite this my time just disappears and my best intentions are left to one side. You are being spared my awful writing as my famous Prudential-Bache word-processor survived the trip to Harare, Zimbabwe by Ship from the UK. Can you believe it? I sure can’t. It is marvelous to have it here as it makes administration of personal items so much easier.

You mention about visiting. Presently it is summer and the rainy season and given that I arrived this time last year and experienced the rainy season here I would not advocate traveling at this time of year. It is hot, humid, cloudy and generally quite unpleasant with massive electric lightening storms. Winter time is April to August and this is a joy. The days are warm and the evenings cool. It is sheer contrast so one feels the drop in temperature. Having said this, it is unlikely that you will notice the change coming from the English climate, it is only those of us who become softened to the Zimbabwean climate. In winter, the skies are bright blue and cloudless, the poinsettia trees are a beautiful display of red to contrast with the blue, and general the vegetation is lush. If you travel to Victoria Falls, there is an abundance of water after the rainy season and if you decide to visit Lake Kariba, one of the largest man made lakes in the world, the temperatures which are 40 degrees+ these days, are in the bearable 20’s in winter.

Shane (my brother) came in July, mid winter, but he loved it. It can be cold in Harare as it is 1600 m above sea level i.e. higher than any mountain range in the UK but once you travel down to the low veld which comprise the tourist sites then it is considerably warmer and pleasant for people coming from the UK.  We will be home at Christmas and plan to spend one week in the UK in January so we will show you the photos and try and entice you to visit.

……………………………………

Exercise you ask am I doing much? Well, you know my resistance to such pursuits but alas Africa dictates that I must become fit. I keep putting on weight despite efforts to lose it so I can only conclude that it is the more sedentary life I now lead which causes the weight gain. I have taken up horse riding twice a week and two weeks ago I started at the local gym, two mornings per week. Luckily the horse riding, which we took up in June,
had limbered me up somewhat in preparation for the gym.

……………………………….

Well what else have I been doing? The answer is quite a lot. As I am not permitted to work here, I have decided to do some charity work and have joined Sr. Noreen Nolan and Sr. Margaret McAllen at Mashambanzou and go there on Tuesday’s and Friday’s to assist them with their administrative needs. It is very interesting work and completely different to anything I have done in the past. The Norwegian Aid Agency, Norad, provided Mashambanzou with a brand new computer. What’s more, it has Wordperfect 6 as a
wordprocessing package, which will enable me to be up-to-date when I return
to the workplace next year, as it is the latest version.

Mashambanzou was established by Sr. Noreen and Sr. Margaret in 1989. The funds for the buildings were provided by Norad. Two vehicles were provided by other Aid Agencies and it was Mashambanzou that Princess Diana visited on her recent tour of Zimbabwe. As you know she is very involved in the Aids cause. Sr. Margaret takes care of the patients. Sr. Noreen is responsible for co-ordinating a team to educate people about safe sex etc. These are remarkable nuns, they deal with the reality and do not bow and scrape to Rome. They identify the needs at grass roots level and then act accordingly. At present Mashambanzou has five beds. The latest admission is a 17 year old girl who is dying. They have set up a co-operative and women with the virus are encouraged to come to work there. They presently have 35 women. They do piece work, nothing too hard and for this they are fed and receive small remuneration. They contribute out of their meagre wages to the burial fund which as you can imagine has numerous demands made on it. The week before last, one family lost one daughter on the Monday and another daughter on the Friday.  It is common for several people to die of the virus in the same family. The
statistics are horrendous. They are working on figures of 1 in 5 at presenting Zimbabwe and 1 in 3 in Ghana. The numbers are doubling every 10 months. Mashambanzou have a nursery school for 20 children, all of whom have the virus. These are the children of those working in the co-operative. The little one’s are so cute but their lot in life is so very sad.

Barbara Mercer and I have decided that we will give a party each month for the children so our task is to raise funds. We started last week and approached the President and Vice President of the Mashonaland Irish Association. The MIA were having their usual fancy dress Halloween party on Saturday so we persuaded them to allow us have a raffle. We made $720 which will go a long way in giving a party for these little children. It was great
to get the funds and the nuns are delighted with our plan. The next thing we must do is organize the party which we plan to do today.

So Sue, I hope this letter finds you well. It was great to hear you on the phone that morning we phoned. Give our love to Katharine and Matthew and
we look forward to seeing you all in January.

1031 words

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