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Friday, July 13, 2012

Discovering your way along life's long and winding road

Today, I drove from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.  I rather seriously under-calculated the distance and driving time.  The trip that I thought would be about 2.5 hours, turned out to be about 6.  Not to complain -- but I'll need to retrace the route back tomorrow, so I'm certainly getting some intensive driving experiences in Africa.

Of course, driving in Zimbabwe isn't quite like driving at home.  First, the folks here drive on the British side of the road.  The service station attendant laughed as I almost tried to get into the passenger seat to drive away.  Gas is pricey, but not outrageous -- the somewhat battered Avis car I rented burned about $50 U.S. in the tank, not much different than we would pay at home for the same distance.

There are other differences.  Tolls ($2.00 US total), and police stops -- I counted about six of them along the way.  Each time, the officers either waved me through or asked an innocent question; no heavy-handedness, but it seems plenty of make-work for police officers in this country.  Lots of people walking on the side of the roads -- along with oxen and a few baboons.  

I chose Victoria Falls as my "landing" destination because this is a touristic trip, after all.  But it would be folly for me to travel half way around the world and not visit Bulawayo, if only briefly. This is where I discovered my religion 32 years ago.  Then, there were about 1,200 Jewish families in town, and a vibrant community.  Today, the entire Jewish population is 70.  The main synagogue burned down a few years ago but people here don't believe it related to any anti-Semitism and possibly was an accidental fire.  Now the much-reduced congregation meets at what had been a Reform synagogue, and I attended Friday night services.

I will only have a few hours here tomorrow before I need to return to Victoria Falls for my last night in Africa.  While I gathered a few photos here, I'll save these for later (and the scenic and amazing drive is something  I could not capture digitally -- without risking my life driving on the Zimbabwean highway.

I count my blessings.  Decisions made when I was 25 and 26 years old in this part of the world shaped and defined my life, and made possible this brief but wonderfully challenging African adventure.  Life is good when you are prepared to take creative and rational risks.  

(And not a word about construction marketing in today's posting, I realize. . . . seems kind of irrelevant when you are finding your way through Western Zimbabwe.)

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