Friday, 12 December 2008

Final countdown

A little more than a week to go before we head north out of Harare, on the road to Cairo. I'm sure that I shouldn't be feeling so sanguine about that prospect. Every day for the past three months I have filled a page of my notebook page with a list of "things to do" which have accumulated, shifted, queued, and moved on. Today, for the first time in weeks, I have not filled an entire page before breakfast.

It's a little after 7, on an overcast morning in Harare. I'm sitting on our balcony, looking down over a valley full of msasa trees and birds. It's hard to imagine that just a few kilometers away, beyond the hills on the other side of the valley, the vast majority of the population of this country are living in stress and penury.

It can be hard for people who live in the more egalitarian north-west corner of the planet, in Europe and North America, to grasp the inequalities in most of the rest of the world. There's always a "bubble existence", even in the very worst places (Kabul, Goma, Baghdad), where those with the resources and the opportunities live comfortably while the majority struggle from day to day. I think the morally important thing is not to allow the bubble to become armoured. There's a very fine line between living well and living parasitically.

I suppose I am acutely conscious that as our adopted homeland sinks into the mire, with hunger and cholera and inexcusable selfishness by our political leaders, we are about to embark on what must, to some, seem like an absurd extravagance. I have been quietly haunted, the past few months, by the contradiction between Zimbabwe's decline and our expedition.

Anyway, enough of this: we are off in ten days; and in truth, there is little happening here in Zimbabwe that isn't happening everywhere else in Africa, if not today, then in the past decade and probably in the decade to come. I'm sure there'll be more musings on this theme over the coming months.

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