Sunday, August 19, 2007

POSTCARDS FROM AFRICA - #1 of Michealene Risley's live-blogs from Zimbabwe

Ed. Note: Sincere apologies for the delay in posting this. These blogs were written during the production/filming of TAPESTRIES OF HOPE in Zimbabwe. Between sporadic electricity in Africa and getting to blogs back in California, we lost a couple of days. Afterwards, the crew was arrested and interrogated by the Zimbabwe Police, and the blogs were temporarily taken down out of concern for their safety.

On Saturday, my family and I drove through Northern California amidst rolling hills and redwood trees. Along the way, we stopped for breakfast. As we ate, my husband gently reprimanded our youngest son for leaving his food untouched. He was concentrating on the whip cream in his hot chocolate. My husband said, “Do you know how many starving kids there are in Africa?”

I was in mid-swig of some warm questionable substance and almost spewed it out across the table. It was not because the statement wasn’t true, but because my mother use to say those exact same words to me! Not only do we become our parents (herein lies the stunning thought) but we still have the same issues: one being STARVING CHILDREN.

We seem to find the money to fight nations over oil and to go after terrorists and yet world hunger continues. Perhaps if we created a world that better protected children and supplied them with their basic necessities, they might grow up to be better human beings and wars would not occur. But, this is wishful thinking.

As I write, we fly to New York, then on to Johannesburg, South Africa. I can’t believe we have made it thus far! Preparing for the trip physically is much easier than the mental preparation. Every day there is a new story out of Zimbabwe about President Mugabe. The political situation, how inflation is over 4000%; the country is in crisis, that much is clear. The Western newspapers report that electricity is sporadic and the grocery stores are empty. Zimbabweans are fleeing the country to other regions of the continent.

A good friend of mine’s husband asked the question, “If life in Zimbabwe is so tough, how are people surviving day to day?” It is a good question- one that I cannot answer until I get there and see the situation with my own eyes. I am most anxious to see.

I am less anxious to see children suffer from the ravages of hunger and disease. To see children struggle from a chaos not of their own creation or their premature push into adulthood because there are no adults left standing.

Yesterday I asked my three young sons, “What one thing would you wish for if you could have anything you want?” The older two shouted over each other, “Playstation! WII!”. The younger one, our 4 year old, waited and repeated what the older boys has said, taking their lead. I reached down into a bag from Target and said, “I asked the girls in Africa the same question, do you know what they said?” All three boys shook their heads questionably. I pulled out a pair of underwear. “This was their greatest wish”.

At first my kids did not get it. Then I saw the light hit their eyes and the astonishment that these girls in Africa had so little!

So my hope for today is twofold. One, that we get through customs in Johannesburg and they let us keep the underwear to give out to the girls. Two, that when my children grow up and their children are wasting food at the table, the closest thing they could say is “Years ago, people starved in some parts of the world but that’s not so anymore. Since I don’t like you to waste food though, next time no whip cream!”

Michealene Risley


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