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Somebody Stole My House!

I had been living out of my backpack for over three months now, and during that time it was the closest thing to a home that I had. It was one of those blue backpacks with a small daypack attached to it, with a zipper, side pockets, straps and the like. Our relationship began back in 1994 when I left the United States to travel abroad for the very first time. We've been to many countries together since then, and the daypack even hung off of my shoulder nearly every day that I lived in San Francisco. Only recently, in Cuzco, I replaced its worn-out zipper with a shiny new one, a contrast to the dusty, washed-out look of the rest of the pack. I could've instantly recognized my pack among thousands. We knew each other well.

Click image for larger view
Now you (and I) see the backpack.
The last time I saw my backpack was when I watched the driver load it into the luggage compartment of the bus, just before leaving Johannesburg, South Africa. Seeing this assured me, as it has for all previous bus rides, that my pack would be safe and that we would be traveling together to our next destination. When we reached the Zimbabwean border, I was the only passenger that had to go through the extended process of obtaining a visa to enter the country. Although it was a painless process, it took considerable time. When I left the office, I went back to the bus and noticed that all of the luggage had been emptied out onto the street, and all of the rightful owners were standing beside their bags preparing for the customs check. I looked everywhere for my bag but could not find it among the others. I asked for the assistance of the driver, who remembered loading my bag and what it looked like -- but we were unable to locate it anywhere. The next morning, we arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital city, as the sun was rising, and all of the other passengers unloaded their bags from the bus until the luggage compartment was empty. Still, there was no sign of my bag.

Click image for larger view
And now we don't!
The driver apologized, and said he would speak to the company to see if they could do anything for me, but it's unlikely that they'll be willing to compensate me for all I've lost. My bag was filled with everything I needed for the two-year World Trek, including my sleeping bag, all of my clothes, my jacket, and other personal items. So my very first day here in Zimbabwe was spent walking around Harare shopping for a change of clothes and a toothbrush (after 2-1/2 days on a bus), carrying only a small backpack containing my computer, camera, a book, and a bottle of water. The people of northern Zimbabwe, who speak the Shona language (as opposed to Ndebele, spoken in the South), have an expression: "Kuipa Kwechimwe, Kunaka Kwechimwe." This means the bad side of something implies the good side of something else. Although not exactly comforting (applied to my situation it means that my loss has brought about the thief's gain), it nevertheless brings to mind the English expression, "Every cloud has a silver lining," which after several hours of being really mad, I was eventually able to apply to my own predicament. I'm now on my way to replacing the things I've lost, and I was able to come up with some good things about losing "my house" in the meantime:

  1. After being up in the Andes for several weeks, I had accumulated quite a bit of heavier winter clothing which I won't be needing throughout the rest of Africa. I no longer need to worry about shipping this extra clothing home or carrying around its heavy weight.

  2. I confess that I had been using the same toothbrush since I first left on the Trek, and I badly needed a change. Now I'm enjoying a brand new one, and I strongly recommend that you readers throw out your old brushes and change them for a new one, too (preferably every 1-2 months at least).

  3. I'm sure you're all tired of seeing me wear the same two or three T-shirts in every one of my photos, and I'm now proud to announce the debut of an entirely new wardrobe for the Odyssey website. Enjoy!


    Abeja - Immersion in Zulu Culture
    Abeja - Abeja Meets the Great King Shaka Zulu
    Abeja - Get Off My Turf
    Kevin - Harare: a Capital City that feels like a Village
    Monica - A Typical Day in the Life of a Trekker
    Kavitha - Soweto: Young Lives Lost in Battle

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