Sunday May 13- Scud Day on Mother's Day

Sunday's are volunteers' day off, and on this particular day, some of the volunteers had the option of going on a little field trip.  This field trip was to a local village, just outside of the perimeter of the park and was home to a couple of the women (mother and daughter) who worked at Antelope Park, and was called Scud day.  Scud, is 'apparently' a type of local beer made by Zimbabweans.  To this day, I am still not convinced that scud is actually supposed to be a beer and instead was used as a type of initiation.

Prior to our departure, we had been informed by other volunteers who had already experienced this event, that we needed to dress conservatively, be prepared to do some unconventional things and dance, and to bring a camera.  Also stressed to us was our timing.  The day was supposed to last for about 5 hours (from about 10am until 3pm) but we were advised that if we wanted to avoid a mudfight, we should DEMAND to be picked up by 2:30 to accomodate for 'Africa time'.  Jealous, my beloved Jealous, legend at Antelope Park, was filling in for Dan at the time and was the big man in charge.  We (being about 15 young women) really did not want to be caked in mud and stressed to Jealous that if there is one day that he needed to be on time, that this was the day.
The thatched mats
We piled into the pickup truck chariot and took off to the opposite side of the park, where we crossed the road and arrived at our destination.  Our destination was made up of about 5 circular huts and one rectangular building, a couple of chicken coops made of sticks and a large tree in the middle which provide some shade (keep in mind, it is winter, so the tree had only a few leaves).  Under the tree were benches and thatched mats and there were children running around everywhere.
The two ladies who work at Antelope Park greeted us with open arms and showed us to our places, the thatched mats.  It was explained to us that women sat on the mats and that the men (who would be arriving shortly, once church was over) sat on the benches.  We sat in the shade while all the children came to greet us by shaking each of our hands.  We then were claimed by different children (I scooped up 3 month old Givmo) and led through the village for our tour.  On our tour, we start at the rectangular building which was made of 3 rooms in a row.  The rooms on either end of the building we the wives' rooms (the husband/dad/leader had 2 wives, one of whom worked at Antelope Park) and the center room doubled as a dining area (they would sit on the floor to eat) and sleeping quarters for the children.  They then showed us to 3 of the circular huts, which all served as bedrooms for either the sons or daughters of the wives and were also rooms for the grandchildren.  The 2 remaining circular huts were both kitchens, one which was not being used and one which was.  In the one that was being used for our visit, there was a fire lit in the middle and along the inside perimeter of the room was a ledge which we could sit on.  It did not take long for us to struggle for a full breath of air as smoke filled the room and for the room to become extremely hot.  We quickly took our leave and moved back to the mats where some of the children had made skirts and were going to dance for us.  The two women who worked at Antelope Park played drums and sang along with the children and they went about running, jumping and dancing.  

After our entertainment, some of the volunteers were selected to go and help prepare the dishes for lunch, which required washing and drying.  In their absence, some of the men started to arrive and they too would come and shake each of our hands before going and taking their seat on the benches.  Once the volunteers came back from their cleaning, we were served tea and a homemade biscuit, while being entertained again by more song and dance.

After having our dishes collected, we were directed back towards the cooking hut, to an outside cooking fire.  On the fire was a large pot and in the pot was boiling water which the women were going to use to prepare sadza for the main meal.

Making sadza
Sadza, the staple food in Zimbabwe, is not my personal favourite.  It is a mixture of boiling water and cornmeal which is cooked to a mashed potato consistency, or thicker, depending on personal preference.   To make sadza, it requires mixing the cornmeal into the water in several additions to get the right consistency and to work out the clumps.  We were each given a chance to whisk the mixture when it was thin but we had to pretend to be our own electric mixer and spin the whisk between two hands.  Once the mixture started to thicken up with the heat, the whisk was swapped in favor for a paddle.  Literally a row-yourself-up-the-river-in-a-canoe paddle. Well, almost that extreme but the point is, it could deliver a good spank if it was used for that.

After watching various women from the village mix, smoosh, swirl, scrape and stir the sadza, it was complete.  We helped the women move the pot back into the cooking hut where the rest of the meal including cooked cabbage, potatoes, and meat, was waiting.  Several extremely large portions of sadza were placed on plates alongside the other meal components and handed to each of the volunteers, two at a time.  We each began to panic because we had already tasted and experienced sadza and it was definitely not our favourite pick back at camp where meals were always gourmet.  To our relief, we were told that these were for the men and then we had to go and 'serve' them.   

When someone says 'serve' to you anywhere in North America, it implies placing something in front of someone else, and usually putting it onto a table.  When I heard serve, I was under the impression that I was to walk up to one of the numerous men waiting on the benches and hand him his meal, which he would proceed to take from me and place on his lap and eat from it.  So, I approached the benches with my plates of food to serve the men,  and I was immediately told I had to kneel.  Clearly, I had a bewildered expression on my face because I was then told "you must get onto your knees to serve me".  Ooooooooh!  That's what kneel means!  I thought you were kidding... and, you weren't.

My meal- much smaller than the men's
So after getting on my knees and serving the men, I went back to the cooking hut to collect my own meal.  Alex and I collected our dishes and walked to the mats where we remembered that eating usually requires forks and knives and sometimes a spoon.  And there were none to be found. The sadza we discovered, was food but also a tool and was used to pick up the other components of the meal.  Alex and I shared a loaded look with each other as we remember the dozens of hands we had shaken earlier in the day and the lack of running water in the village. 

Obviously, what does not kill you, makes you stronger.

After unsuccessfulling using the sadza to eat my meal, myself and several other volunteers were collected to help clean dishes.  Simple?  No.  Here is why: by this point in the day, there were approximately 15 men, 5 women, 20 children and 15 volunteers each with their own mug (used for tea) and plates with varying degrees of the meal left on it.  There was also all the plates from the biscuits earlier, and all of the tools used to prepare the meal.  But what do you use to clean all of these dishes with no running water?  You use 2 shallow buckets with water that was poured from a reserve, an unidentifiable scrubber and a bar of soap.  

Challenge accepted!

It wasn't pretty, and I would have rather taken all the dishes back home and loaded them into my electric dishwasher, but we accomplished the task and had yet another African experience.

Note to self- never take household appliances for granted.  Actually, don't take anything for granted.

We then went back to our places on our mats where we about to be given a 'treat'.  This treat, I learned, was scud.  As mentioned before, this is a local beer, made from god-knows-what.  The scud, which was in a large ceramic bowl was handed down our line for each volunteer to take a sip.  And you didn't dare pass it up because the men were watching and were ready to taunt and tease if you did not try it and we still had a couple of hours left at the village for them to remind you that you did not try the scud.  So, I took a sip.  And, it wasn't terrible, but it was good either.  It tasted like a mixture of yeast and water with some lemon juice and some other goodies that got to have a party in a ceramic bowl and together, they created this beige coloured, somewhat thick, interesting looking beverage.  
*I will attach a video following this post

After experiencing scud, all the volunteers contributed some money to pay for treats to give to the children.  It is truly interesting to play witness to children lighting up at the sight of sweets, and so Katherine (good ol' roomie) and I, got to hand out chips and freezies to all the kids and adults.  

After the children finished eating their goodies (which did not take long), the volunteers had the opportunity to carry a child on their back like the women in Zimbabwe do.  Givmo, my little darling, was nestled between my shoulder blades while I leaned forward.  2 blankets and towels were draped and tucked around me to secure him in place.  Once we had the babies all snuggled into spot, everyone got together for a little dance off.   Since it was Mother's Day in Canada, it only seemed fitting that I got to dance with a bunch of children with a baby on my back.  

After dancing, jiving, and 'shaking what my mama gave me', Jealous showed up with the chariot.  We were encouraged to give a token of our appreciation (money) to the leader of the village, and again we had to kneel to present him with the money.  After that, we all rushed to the truck and climbed in and encouraged Jealous, as discretely as possible, to hurry because we did not want to participate in the mud fight. 

We finally took off, and to this day, I am still not entirely sure if a mud fight was actually on the agenda or if it was only proposed to the volunteers who participated in the Scud day before us.  Either way, I thank my lucky stars that I did not have to wash off mud in a potentially cold shower.

Final thoughts on the whole Scud day event:  it was great.  It was definitely an experience I am glad I had, regardless of whether it was 100% authentic or not.  This day just reaffirmed how welcoming everyone in Zimbabwe was, and how you just have to let go sometimes and dance until you are weak in the knees.  Also, Givmo was pretty cute- I would have brought him back to Calgary in a heart beat if I could have!

No comments:

Post a Comment