everyone's back at school. away from the wilds and neatly stacked into a classroom.
everyone's back from holidays.
i never went anywhere, technically speaking.
okokok. i rode horses in maasailand but that's just up the road.
i never went more than 50kms outside arusha. i am not sure this was an entirely clever thing.
i need to pinch myself.
still. it's fine. my car couldn't have made it all the way to the coast this time.
the winds have started again. from the mountains at night. they are still fairly gentle but i know how menacing they can become. screaming like a boiling kettle through the cracks. the windows are beginning to rattle and it's becoming dry again. very dry.
my horse has become tetchy.
back to school. it takes me back to those bus trips from lusaka to salisbury (harare now) in the 70's. when i was five and a half and still losing my milk teeth. i would press my face against the window and scream my head off. my mother would smile and wave bravely as if i was coming back tomorrow. it would be weeks before i saw her again. sometimes months. we would catch the school bus from lusaka....an entire day and half a night away, across the border which was only open to school buses. the zimbabwean war of liberation was picking up speed and nobody else traveled that road. only the school buses had right of way. and invisible soldiers from both sides.
i remember the zambian bus would reverse up to the rhodesian bus half way across the chirundu bridge which spanned the zambezi river. we would all pile out and leap into the little bit in the middle which was No Man's Land...this made us happy and we all pretended it was ours. we would dance into the middle gleefully shouting "no man's land no man's land!" staring down at the river below through the iron grids of the bridge. until one day the tired war torn stoned soldiers got cross with us and waved their AK 47's and shooed us back. after that we would wait until we were told to cross the little 10m piece of hot tarmac to The Other Side. in single file. quietly. where were the teachers? i can't remember any. there must have been someone.
i remember customs and immigration, the scary bit. and the health desk. they would check our little yellow health books for cholera and yellow fever then pretend they weren't up to date and that we would have to be injected. we would be sick with fear. they even went so far as taking rusty old needles out and cotton wool then laugh rambunctiously at our pale, pinched white faces. i remember the soldiers rifling through our suitcases which were filled with mostly clothes and the odd treasure of flour (for our mothers because you couldn't get it in zambia) or chinese checkers for christmas which would be immediately confiscated.
my mother taught us how to lie. she would give us pocket money to buy fizz pops at karoi, the first stop on the rhodesian is super side (sweets and chocolates were unavailable in zambia at the time). the customs man in zambia would bark, " have you any money to declare?" and we would squeak " yes. two rhodesian dollars," of which he would happily and speedily relieve us whilst mumbling something like "absolutely not allowed. illegal. blah blah." after that my mother sewed our sweet money into the inside pockets of our school blazers and taught us how to lie with poker faces. we became very adept at it.
it would take hours and hours to cross the border. hours and hours after baking hot hours and warm coca colas (on the rhodesian side). we would leave as the sun was edging near the western sky and the bus would wind it's way up the zambezi escarpment. winding along the empty road and through miles and miles of mopane forests dotted with baobab trees. game was plentiful. wild dogs. elephant. herds of buffalo. impala. zebra. giraffe. it was the only sign of life we would see along the way. there were no people to be seen. we would reach the outskirts of salisbury after dark late at night. i could tell we were in the highlands, near to school, because i could smell the "christmas trees", the pine trees. the air was cold and crisp. and the stars stark and bright and i would start to cry in the dark because then i knew i was very very very far from home. the matrons would meet us in the school car park with sandwiches and hot cocoa. they tried to be kind but you still felt little, desolate, scared and far away.
i can't believe our parents trusted the journey. i mean that no one would blow up the bus. it happened one year. not to my bus. but the other one. after that we flew to school. when the war became hot.
here, school is a ten minute trip; down the ngorobob hill, round the corner, past the effing factory and bingo. it's a dead cinch. dead cinch.
toodely toot, y'all. bisous X.X.X. earnest ones tinted with mountain winds x j