FROG HOSPITAL -- July 15, 2020
By Fred Owens
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Grace Sibanda is the cousin of Precious Mataka. She lives in Bulawayo in a modest neighborhood named Nketa Nine. In 1997, when we lived in Bulawayo, we often took the 20-minute walk to Grace's house. Smiley Sibanda was her father. Smiley was uncle to Precious. To me, he was "baba-zala" or uncle by marriage. I liked him. We had many reasonable discussions while drinking tea in his cozy living room. I once helped Smiley plant a fig tree and an orange tree in his yard, Grace tells me the trees are still living and producing great amounts of fruit 23 years later. I asked Grace to describe her taste in music. People younger than me will recognize many of the names.
Grace's Music. I love reggae, Rnb, a bit of south african hip hop, and gospel music. My all time favourite artists are luther vandross, joe thomas, westlife, ron kenoly, adele, brandy, mariah carey, christopher martin, ub40, bob marley, lucky dube, the gentleman, hillsongs, don moen, don mcclurkin, kirk franklin, black diamond. Local musicians of my country are legendary... Oliver mtukudzi, JAH prayzer, ammara brown.
Rugby. Watching a 2017 Rugby match between New Zealand and South Africa. Rugby is like playing football without any rules and no helmets. It is very popular in South Africa. Cricket is also important. I watched a cricket match once. It is a very silly game I thought. It has that British silly quality that this mother nation spread to all her colonies. The British also built good roads and train tracks. But it became time for them to move on, so the people took over the governance of Zimbabwe in 1980. They are not doing too well at independence in my opinion. But, being independent, they never asked for my opinion. Good on that. I only write about what I see, and very little about what it should be.
God Bless Africa. God Bless Africa is the South African National Anthem. Nkosi sikelele Africa goes the lyrics. Such a lovely stirring song.
Back in the USA. The African story, as told in Frog Hospital, was interrupted last month by personal business. That is, I had back surgery on June 15 to relieve the chronic pain of sciatica, followed by three weeks of intense physical therapy. This procedure worked. I am now pain free although the surgeon carefully advised me that nothing lasts forever.
Three weeks in rehabilitation at the hospital. No visitors. No wandering the hall, no communal dining. I was isolated except for the nursing aides who quickly became my new bosom companions. We talked in Spanish. I called Laurie on the phone and several times she came to the window of my room and we talked across this barrier. It was hard at times. I read a lot of books. I watched Good Morning America for national news. The aides made wonderful friends but the food was terrible. How could you ruin macaroni salad?
All this put Africa way in the background, but one or several determined readers reminded me that
I had not yet finished the story and they were patiently waiting for the next installment. That is why we have my picture this week with my lush Covid hair and beard. Next week the photo will be of African life.
I also remind everybody that this story serves as a pleasant diversion from the current double disaster of Pandemic and Trump.
So without further ado, let us return to Zimbobwe where a warm September evening at our rented house might find us lounging on the couch while watching re-runs of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It is 1997. The newly weds are getting ready to go to Malawi.
"We can bring Mataka. He is the grandfather of all to us, and Chembe village in Malawi is where he was born," I told this to Precious."We can buy a train ticket for first-class treatment. We will have our own suite for the journey. Mataka will like that, to have his own bed." Precious agreed, but she added, "What about Aunt Marji and Aunt Winnie?"
"Marji and Winnie can come. I will buy them a second-class ticket. They can sleep in their seats. They are used to that." I said.
to be continued