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Sometimes it pays not to shave

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From the diary of Chris Magadza:

Chris Magadza, Zimbabwean poet and academic, shares his experiences during a research road trip with a group of students.

Leaving for Hwange with my Master’s class of four; an eight-hundred-kilometre drive. As the vehicle is not an off-road 4×4, I have to take the Bulawayo route, otherwise we could cut the trip by going via Binga, reducing the journey by some 300 km. Arrived 4:30 p.m., averaging 110 km per hour, including fuelling and toilet stops. Caught doing 135 km per hour!  Traffic officer demurred to my age and advised safe driving. Sometimes it pays not to shave.

Went on the Dopi Loop in the morning recording animals, temperature, humidity and coordinates; Nyamandhlovu viewing platform in the afternoon. First time students had seen any wild animals. A noticeable number of newly born and yearlings, elephant babies among the herds. Many pictures with my new GE camera; can take good pictures at more than 200m.

Student Z had generously urinated all over the toilet seat and on the floor. When I shouted at him, he just smiled. Went the Central road transect towards Robin Camp for 48km counting animals; more elephants seen than any other mammalian species; evidence of elephant damage on vegetation quite visible? One horned kudu at Guvalala Pumped Waterhole and magnificent sable bull. Visited Painted Dog Project Centre. Greg almost as short as me now after his air-crash operation! Had to wait an hour before evening shower since Student Z had emptied all the hot water to have a full bath.

The three male students slept until 11 a.m., in spite of an assignment given the evening before. So much for supposedly post-graduate ecology students; definitely the worst class I’ve had in my teaching career. No wonder everyone refers to University of Zimbabwe students now as ‘vana vechikoro’ . . .  schoolchildren.

Male students kicked out of bed by cleaning lady at 10:30 a.m. Left for Harare at 11:30 a.m. Home 8:30 p.m. Young police officer asks for my driving license at the Gwayi roadblock. ‘Do you think at my age (almost 73) I would be driving a university vehicle without a driver’s licence?’ He then demanded to see it. He walked round the vehicle and then ordered me to park off road and walked off with my licence. After a minute, I went to ask why he was detaining us. He signalled me to a young lady officer who was already writing something down.
“What are you writing?” I asked.
“A ticket” she said menacingly.
“What for?” I asked.
“Your left-side rear-view mirror is missing.”
“What does the law say about rear-view mirrors?”
“But you have a missing mirror.”
“How many mirrors must I have?”
“That is the law”
“The law says I must have a rear-view mirror. If you would like to check, there is a rear-view mirror mounted in the car.”
“But you must have all the mirrors the car was made with.”
“I drive a car Reg. AAM 9735 that was made with no left-hand side rear-view mirror. Is that an offence?”
“Just go, but someone will arrest you.”

Driving against opposing night traffic when most drivers don’t dim their headlights is quite nerve-wracking. It’s fine not being able to dim your headlights, or having no signals, or lights for that matter!

Dorothy rang: Borrowdale vleis fight; the greed and corruption of Zimbabwean politicians makes one feel you are perpetually swimming in urine; all for double storey, multi-multi-bedroomed mansions, as well as the biggest Mercedes in the world – possessions that in no way contribute to the economy of the land. Have to give talk at Harare Rotary but can’t remember venue.

Eventful start; nearly run over by own car, knocked down by door trying to stop it rolling back; stopped by smashing Irene’s potted plant, fortunately large enough to stop the car. Have to write to Vice Chancellor explaining why the Red Bishop and Masked Weaver need reeds to breed; he has been ordering the them cut down as well as a host of trees, some planted more than 50 years ago by founding professor of Botany Arthur Boughey, according the Bentham-Hooker systematics scheme. Also, must prepare annual report for WEZ for Saturday AGM.

Source: Poetry International

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