Monday, November 28, 2005
The Rot in Zimbabwe
We moved to Zimbabwe when I was just a boy. When we arrived, and before my father had to begin his work, we saw Hwange National Park. My family stayed in rustic huts and drove during the day seeing the wildlife--hyen, lion, elephant, giraffe, and so much more--in the vast grassland and forest. Those sites, along with the majestic Victoria Falls, still count as some of the most beautiful things that I’ve been lucky enough to see.
If you were willing to travel to Arkansas and sit through the little family slide show, I’m sure that my parents could drag out hundreds of pictures of the wildlife. You’d have to sit through my dad’s favorite story about Zimbabwe, too--a dramatic story involving an underpowered Isuzu, an angry elephant, and a quick escape down a bumpy road.
It’s a pretty good story, but it’s his and I’ve never been able to do it justice.
Inside my head, I keep all of these memories of a Zimbabwe that has died--of the people that I met, of the parks that we lazed in on Sunday afternoons, of the jacaranda trees in bloom, and of a nation that I always thought I would meet again. Many of the people that my family knew have died or left, the cities and the parks are falling into disrepair, and though the jacaranda still bloom, Zimbabwe will never again be what it was.
Sadly, even the wildlife is paying the cost of the destitute country’s slide into corruption and apathy.
The stench of decay rises from the bush just outside of Main Camp, the dilapidated, near-deserted head-quarters at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Only a few months ago, the acacia groves, savanna grass and mopane scrub ran thick with wildlife. But now a visitor can drive for miles without seeing anything alive. There’s plenty of death, though. A few miles beyond headquarters, the corpses of two male elephants rot in the heat, not far from a watering hole that dried up in October.
I still love the idea of Zimbabwe and the country that it could have become. But every year, the memories and the land grow more distant. I still hope, but hope is such a small thing.