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Rural Traditions and European Legacies

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The sun was just starting to melt away the around Mutare, Zimbabwe, as our Land Rover set out towards the border of Mozambique and into the Bvumba Mountains. The British called them the "Misty Mountains," we were blessed by today's sunny skies.

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Archer (left) and Raj look out towards Mozambique from the "Prince of Wales" lookout.
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Higher and higher we drove, until we reached the "Prince of Wales" Lookout, a place where Prince George and the Queen Mother of England came on their honeymoon in 1923. I jumped out, followed by Bernard, our trusty guide, and the rest of the group. "That is Mozambique," Bernard told us, pointing across the valley.

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Hoop-rolling is serious business for Theofile
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We turned down a rutted dirt road through the bush, and soon came upon a small square house and two round huts. A little barefoot boy about five years old came running up, rolling a hoop with a hooked wire. "Hello, Theofile!" Bernard smiled, as the boy came up to inspect the new visitors before running off again. We continued in to meet Theo's family, the husband had four wives--two here, and two in another area - and eighteen children.

Two women and several more children emerged from the huts to greet us. They shook our hands with the traditional Bantu handshake and invited us into one of the kitchen huts. They seemed genuinely happy to meet us and proud to show us their home.

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The women dipped the bananas in copper before exporting.
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In countries where few people own personal vehicles, everyone hitchhikes, including grandmas, and everyone who has a car gives rides. So after dropping a Grandma up the road, we wound our way down into the fertile valley. When the European settlers arrived in this area, they pushed the natives out of the fertile valleys and up into the hills. Still today, one European family with a huge banana plantation owns most of this valley. There were banana trees as far as the eye could see. Then, we came to different trees -- granadillas (also known as passion fruit ) -- then fields of pineapple, tobacco, and coffee.

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Tons of tobacco!
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The next stop was a special gift for me -- and for you! We went to visit Crakedale School, a rural elementary school. As the young headmaster took us around from crowded classroom to crowded classroom, we could tell that our visit was as much a special event for the students as it was for us. As we entered the room, all eyes were on us, wide with surprise. Suddenly, everyone stood up and said, in unison, "Good morning. How are you?"

"We are fine, thank you," replied the headmaster, clearly proud of his well- behaved students. "And how are you?"

"We are fine thank you!" They would say, and then wait to be given permission to sit back down.

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A Crakedale classroom.
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This happened as we entered every classroom. By the last classroom, Raj, Martin, and I were also responding in unison, "Fine, thank you! And how are you?" As the grade got higher, the classes got smaller. In the first grade class, there were at least 60 students. By the time we got to the seventh grade, there were only about twelve. The headmaster explained that some parents take their kids out of school to help at home, while other parents send their older kids to live with relatives in the cities so that they can attend schools with better resources.

Dancing for rain at the Crakedale School.
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"Now we are ready with a special show for you!" The headmaster said proudly. We were led to a bench outside, and a group of girls and boys, now in dance costumes and some with drums, performed some of their traditional Shona dances for us. It was amazing! "This dance," explained the headmaster, "is to bring rain." The pounding rhythm of the drums and the impassioned moves of the dance made me worry that I didn't bring my raincoat! No wonder Bvumba has "persistent drizzle," with dancers like that around!

Eventually, we had to say good-bye and let the children go back to their classes. They waved good-bye and made me promise to send them a copy of all the pictures I took. It will be a long time before these kids have electricity, much less access to the Internet, so I guess I'd better print them out on paper and send them snail mail!

Abeja
 

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