May 1 – And now for the final installment, I’ll close with a couple of smaller items…
Termites were very common and destructive in Africa, and at certain times of year millions of flying termites would emerge from their underground homes and fly in swarms, looking for mates and providing food for many birds, insects, toads, and even Africans. The soil from termite mounds is good for making bricks, and we have pictures of Chris and a friend and African students standing in a dug-out termite mound, packing soil into forms that were then emptied out and allowed to dry before the bricks were kiln-dried. A little mud was also thrown at unsuspecting human workers. Now, we all know that Chris would never be the one who threw that old termite soil at anybody, no, of course not!
African termite mounds can be very large and I remember one with a motor road actually cut through it, leaving a lot of mound on both sides. Termites come as king and queen, who live for many years, the flying male/female termites, the workers, and the soldiers. The soldiers have large, hard heads with sharp pincers which they use to protect the colony from enemies. Some Africans would use these soldier termites to stitch wound edges together, allowing the soldier to bite in appropriate places and then pinching off the head and leaving just the body to hold things together until healing had taken place.
A favorite food of the Africans was mealie-meal porridge, a thick porridge made of white corn meal, to which was usually added some vegetable sauce. Yellow corn was not in favor, and two meals a day was standard. Other favorite foods were monkey nuts, which we call peanuts over here, sour milk, various wild fruits in season, sugar cane, certain large caterpillars that are still available commercially canned, flying termites with their wings taken off, and large burrowing crickets. The milk was usually sour since there was no refrigeration to keep it fresh.During the time I was in Africa, it was the custom for Africans to have European first names and African surnames. The surnames were often animal names, such as Dube (zebra), Ndhlovu (elephant), Vundhla (rabbit), Impofu (eland) etc. I had a good friend named Reward Ndhlovu, one of a large family of “elephants”, others in the family were named Signs, Message, Cometh, Grace, Remnant, and the father Register. Reward named one of his sons Dale! Thanks to Zimbabwe’s current financial situation, Chris and I are one of the few “billionaires” living around here. When Zimbabwe became independent, the government issued its own currency. They ended up having bills valued at millions and even billions of Zimbabwe dollars, and eventually these had no value at all and could be bought very cheaply as curios, some of which we own. Then British pounds and South African rands and American dollars were used. One wonders how villagers were able to figure out what kind of change they would receive or give when breaking down a billion dollar bill.
Today Zimbabwe is a sad country, with over 90% unemployment and many of its inhabitants making meager livings by sitting along the roads with any foods or items they had to offer for sale. President Robert Mugabe has been ousted but the government that has replaced him is also corrupt and money hungry. The world wonders what is going to happen in the end, and can only wish for a happy ending some day.
And speaking of happy endings, Chris and I celebrate 63 years of married life today! – DALE