Whirlwind Panic Pandemic Trip to Africa Part 1, YYZ, ADD, HRE - March 2020

'A ticket is no guarantee of going home. They can be canceled with impunity. There is a significance to lift off. The plane seemed to be filled with turbulence as we flew through thick clouds. No yelps or hollers from the uninitiated. Everyone was resigned to the fact they were getting one step further away.' 
         Above is something I wrote as I was en-route home while evacuating from Africa. The decision to go was a risky one, leaving on March 10, 2020. Yes, I had heard the news. It was difficult to comprehend the magnitude of what was coming down the pipe. To be fair, two days later the Premiere of Ontario said to families to "have fun" and "go away" for March Break. No one was shaking me and telling me to stay home. There were jokes about this being the end of the age of hand shakes, pats on the back and hugs from your relatives. Only jokes, said without a trace of fear. A lot of question marks; but only yellow, not red flags... 
         I was pleased to find the trip from Toronto to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was only about one quarter full. Maybe others had a clue about what was to come. This meant that there was room to lie down. If you get off the plane without sleep you will be woozy and it takes a bit to hit your stride. A couple of the tiny bottles of red wine, a tray of airline chicken, one movie only and a lay down will do. 
         My regular travel partner is Charles Gould, a South-African born Canadian, and semi-retired film guy who specializes in cameras. Each time we drove through the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe he recounted a story filming here with Sharon Stone and Richard Chamberlain. There are scenes with trains and bi-planes and some unique shots. 
        Charles and I usually sat far apart knowing that we would have plenty of time together in the ensuing days. I often get people asking me how we put up with each other’s company during these trips. I expect that often, the same person will ask both of us to get each perspective.
        There have been some intense moments with Charles and I around owing to both internal and external conflicts but we both stick to old mantras. Whatever the circumstance we must Make a Plan (N boer maak ‘n plan, Afrikaans) and there is an overall feeling that on very short trips with a lot to be done we must PUSH (Endai, Shona). Both of these ideas suit us well since they match the perspectives of most of the people we deal with throughout southern Africa. There is no reason to make something take a week when you can do it in half a day. 
       The Addis Airport was unremarkable as always and we left quickly for Harare. 
       There were formalities to be taken care of, mainly to do with figuring out some currency issues and getting some food. We managed to have a couple meetings and buy a few things right away. 
       Zimbabwe is world famous for the quality of the Shona Sculptors who create masterworks from very colourful local stones. Time was not on our side but deals were already in the works. I have been working with a long time with the Canon Paterson Craft Society in Harare and made a turn to see the fellows. Luckily I had an expert camera man to snap a group photo (this is one of several takes including one which is a 20 second clip from another phone).
      We also made it to the famous Chitungwiza Art Centre, outside Harare and managed to buy fine things. When they will get to Canada is another question,  but it won't be the first time we build up a stockpile in Africa and wait for it to ship.A spectacular Shangaan Amethyst Scepter from Chibuku Mine, Zimbabwe On every trip to Africa I try to make it to a place I have never seen before. This time it was to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins near Masvingo. We used the day to explore culture and were able to do a photo shoot with some of the crystals we were picking up. We were the only ones there that day apart from a group of school children. We picked up the rubbish and trash left behind by the group, who, in truth, acted much like me and my peers would have been acting at a spectacular cultural wonder in 1986.
      The next stop was the Chibuku Mine, south of Masvingo. We first visited in 2019 and made a short video to share what we saw. This year we met Chief Gezani again and gave him a black shirt. The green suit was bought after receiving the message that the Chief loved Avocado Green. We did agree that this was not quite the right shade but it was well received nonetheless
      There was a big challenge for us as we spent time at the mine in idyllic conditions, far from the frantic network streaming news on to my handheld device. Being "in the bush" is always pleasant but a trend was developing day to day on this Zimbabwe trip. The news from home and the rest of the world was looking more and more dire.
      We were able to spend a good two days there. The miners on the ground are in continual contact with us. In speaking with the Chief again we affirmed our commitment to promoting the people as well as their crystals. We have plenty of Shangaan Amethyst listed on the site and are endeavouring to list more! 
      More to come in future, posts including our exit from the Zimbabwe to South Africa by land, 30 hours in South Africa, two days in Namibia and a swift evacuation. 

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