birthday surprise

February 23, 2006

On my birthday, I was kicked out of my bed a little roughly; My friends told me to take off the bed sheets and the mosquito net so that everything could be washed. I took a quick shower and then I began to pull the covers from the blanket and the pillows. After a little while, Nokhutula’s maid came into the room and told me that I had to put the cover back on the blanket since there was no spare cover and the first one wouldn’t dry in time. I did as she told me and began to wonder what this whole thing was about.

When I was ready, the maid took the whole stack including the blanket and the mosquito net and disappeared. I started packing my stuff since we planned to spend the day at Nokhutula’s cousin Jackie’s to relax and hang around at her pool with some drinks. Saba told me to take my camera, but I asked her why, we would just lie around in Jackie’s garden. She shrugged her shoulders and said “Just take it.” I really didn’t see any reason to waste my films for such nonsense and left the camera behind.

When we sat in the car – the drinks were bought and everything was there for a nice barbecue at the pool – we drove in a completely wrong direction, away from Harare and deeper and deeper into nowhere on a small rural road. I asked them what this was about and I was told that we would just drive to some farm to get some maize for the barbecue. I was really wondering why we would go all the way to a farm for some lousy maize cobs when they just sold them on the roadside but I didn’t say anything. After almost two weeks in Nokhutula’s house with only short trips to downtown and Mbare, the trip into the countryside was a welcome break. I enjoyed the beauty of landscape rushing past the windows, dramatically enhanced by the clouds of an upcoming thunderstorm.

We were cheery, in party mood, fooled around and tried to make a hitchhiker whom we picked up believe that I’m a lunatic virgin priest who just came out of mental treatment and was now taken out into the green by three women for his 45th birthday – Of course the guy didn’t believe us a single word, but he joined in and bamboozled with us. Eventually we reached a gate and a young man approached the car and talked to Nokhutula in Shona. He opened the gate, we passed and he looked into the car, grinned and said in English that we should be cautious about the lions that strolled around the farm. What the hell was that supposed to mean now? I pointed towards Saba’s digital camera and asked if it was ok to take pictures. He grinned again and nodded simply. For some minutes we drove past a fence with a beautiful, natural scenery behind it. I gradually started to be suspicious now. We were on a farm and not a single field around?!? The girls in the back were grinning already and every now and then one of them would say in an exaggeratedly startled way that she saw something in the bushes. By now I was sure that we were not going to a farm.

We finally came to a halt at a parking lot, bordered by a wonderful, green garden. Somewhere in it was a house with a roof made of straw and a covered porch in front and some people were just on their way there. We got out of the car and went to the hut. On the pebbled way leading to it were several jeeps with zebra painting; in that moment I realised that it must be some kind of Safari park the girls were taking me to. I also realised, why Saba told me to take my camera and I was a little bit pissed that I didn’t listen to her. They asked me to wait outside, went to the reception, talked briefly to the guy behind the desk, received some piece of paper and came back out. “Happy birthday, Jakob” they said and handed me the paper. It was a map for a Safari Game park. I didn’t know what to say. This morning Saba said that she was so sorry that we were not in her country where she could have organised something beautiful for me. I was simply flabbergasted.

After some time a guy came and we went back to the car and got in. It was quite narrow – Nokhutula’s car has four seats only – and I wondered if that guy would stay in the car throughout the whole Safari. But soon we stopped again in front of a marvellous cottage. There was a plastered courtyard and on it a hut – open in the middle and with two rooms on each side – and a second hut right next to it with a kitchen and a bathroom. The man exited the car, started to unlock the doors and told us that this was our cottage. I didn’t quite understand. What, our cottage? What am I supposed to do in a cottage? I want to see the park! Only when Saba walked past me with our blanket and the mosquito net, I realised that this was an overnight trip. That also explained Saba’s show with the blanket this morning… I was so happy that I didn’t know what to say. I threw my arms around the three girls, thanked them vigorously and began running back and forth between the car and the cottage to unload our stuff.

Some time later we took towels and bathing suits, drove back to the parking lot and went through the garden to one of these colossal rock piles that are so typical for the Zimbabwean landscape. Stairs wound upwards and on the top, hewn into the stone, was a tremendous pool. A small wooden bridge lead over the pool to another rock screened from the sun by a wooden construction covered with straw and behind that was a third rock, surrounded by a fence, serving as sun terrace. From up here we had a wonderful view over the roof of leaves that covered the whole park. This complex was breathtakingly beautiful. We bathed for around an hour – me decadent sod of course with a bottle of beer in my hand – then dried up and went back to the reception. I was told that the best was yet to come.

We waited some minutes until one of the park’s staff came and loaded us upon a jeep. Safari… We drove off, through some gates that secluded the 1000 acres of Wildlife Park and into the savannah. After a few metres we saw the first Impala herd grazing, stopped and the guide told us something about the animals. Unfortunately they were very shy and so we couldn’t get closer than maybe a hundred metres. Not so with the Zebras. This time we left the jeep and approached the animals slowly until there were not more than five metres left between us. The Safari guide then asked me to come back because I got too close.

We saw a lot more animals other than these, but the Giraffes were the most impressing of all. A herd of them was hidden in a small forest so that I didn’t see them instantly. But then they started moving, startled by the car, and crossed the path we were standing on. Although I saw these animals on TV so frequently, it was an incredible experience to have them in front of me, just an arm length away. The Giraffes moved as smooth as elves, despite their towering size. It was one of the most fascinating experiences in my life and I wished I could once see these animals in their real environment, without some degrading fence around.

In the evening, after we came back from the Safari, we lit a fire in front of our cottage and made a barbecue. We roasted four huge T-Bone steaks, a whole chicken (we roasted it in one piece – rarely had such a delicious chicken…) and a pork steak, along with rice, Sadza, coleslaw and lots of beer and wine. After dinner we sat for hours under the African sky and partied.

Unfortunately we had to go back early the next day since the first meeting with the women’s group in Mbare was to take place. But the park is just a half-hour drive from Nokhutula’s house and we’ll surely spend the one or the other weekend there during the next three months – and then I’ll bring my camera…

Filed under: Zimbabwe

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3 Comments

  • 1. hempy  |  24. 2. 2006 at 14.43

    hi saba und jacki!
    muss schon sagen, da kommt man gleich in Urlaubsstimmung,die wo aber teilweise getrübt wird durch das eigentliche interesse dort. Muss schon sagen, durch deine ausführlichen Berichte brauch man danach wahrscheinlich keinen Reiseführer mehr 😉
    Also, setzt euch ein für das Land, damit die nächsten Generationen es besser haben. Da dies, traurigerweise der Rest der Welt , vor allem politisch weniger interesse zeigen. Da gibts halt wenig zu holen.Gott wirds euch danken.
    Liebe Grüsse

    hi saba and jaki!
    reading this gets me into holiday mood, which is, however, overshadowed by what your real interests are there. after reading your detailed reports I think I don’t need a guide book anymore 😉
    So, do what you can for the country that future generations have it better. The rest of the world sadly doesn’t show any interest in this issue. Nothing to earn there. God will reward it to you.
    greetings

  • 2. Andi  |  25. 2. 2006 at 10.41

    servus saba, servus jakob!

    des is ja mal a geniales geburtstagsgeschenk! leider hat der link den du mir gesmst hast nicht funktioniert, aber deine artikel beschreiben das wahrscheinlich besser und umfangreicher.
    unsere geburtstags-sms ist glaub ich nicht bei dir angekommen (sagt zumindest der sendebericht), also nochmals auf diesem weg:
    alles, alles gute zum geburtstag vom andi, marold, werner und venus!

    viel spass noch und schreib fleissig weiter damit wir aufm laufenden bleiben!!!

    hey saba, hey jakob!

    what a great birthday surprise! unfortunately the link you sent me by sms didn’t work, but your article probably describes it better and more detailed, anyways.
    i think you didn’t recieve our birthday sms (at least that’s what the delivery report says) so again this way:
    happy, happy birthday from andi, marold, werner and venus!

    have fun and keep writing for us to be up to date!!!

  • 3. Sarah Rubensdörffer  |  25. 2. 2006 at 23.45

    Hi Jakob!

    Ich habe leider erst in dieser Sekunde erfahren dass Du an einem Tag Geburtstag hast an dem ich ebenfalls das Licht der Welt erblickte. Johannes und Jakob das hat sogar biblischen Hintergrund…
    Nun ich möchte Dir aus dem kalten und nicht zum Baden einladenden München nachträglich das Allerbeste zu Deinem B-Day wünschen.

    Kleine Frage:
    Ich dachte Du wolltest in diesem Land arbeiten? Kommt der teil noch oder …?

    Die besten und allerliebsten grüsse und wahrscheinlich auch Bussis von Sarah die gerade neben mir steht.

    Pass auf dich und deine Freunde auf
    Johannes

    Hi Jakob !

    Unfortunately, I just came to know in this second, that you were born on a day when I saw the world the first time, too. Johannes and Jakob, that has even biblical background…
    Now I want to send the very best birthday wishes from cold Munich, where it’s really not bathing weather right now.

    Little Question:
    I thought you were in this country to work? Does that part still follow, or…?

    The best and warmest greetings and most probably also kisses from Sarah who is just standing right next to me.

    Take care of yourself and your friends
    Johannes


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