A Missive from Zimbabwe
My friend, Christine Brautigam, looking for meaningful work in this world, retired early from a corporate career and her own consulting firm. As part of the class of 2021, Christine attained an elementary school teaching license. Her latest venture is participating as a visiting teacher at the Kufunda Learning Village and Waldorf-inspired School 40 minutes outside of Harare, Zimbabwe. Christine is there to experience a more mindful, less energy-intensive, future-possibilities life.
There are an infinite number of ways to act as a crew member on Spaceship Earth. Climate touches everything everywhere. Whatever your skills, experiences, education or interests, there is something you can do. We are learning that social justice and income inequality are byproducts of the same root causes that fuel our climate crisis. And we know that educating girls is the best way to reduce the number of children born (the population explosion is one cause of growing emissions). Christine is addressing those issues in a direct, hands-on way.
Below she shares a vignette… a day in her life at Kufunda. Please read it and view the many photos. Christine is as charming in person as she is in this letter.
NOTE: Christine’s original email included the names of the people in her vignette. She asked me to remove them to protect their privacy.
Hello Dear Friends and Family!
Due to your curiosity about how I’m doing and what I’m doing, I will go ahead and share daily life first and then get back to the kids and nature…
I get to stay in my very own Guest Hut #2. See photo with closed front door of single hut.
I am learning to live with no electricity or inside running water. We are fortunate to have water stations all around the village. Very similar to many campgrounds in the USA.
Even though things are so very very different here, humans are humans and we all sleep, eat, and use the bathroom!
Here is where I sleep. See photo of inside the hut with four twin beds.
Here is my makeshift bathroom sink in my hut:
I learned the hard way it’s better to have a clean bucket and dirty bucket… That coffee mug sure helps a lot for dipping into the clean bucket! 😊
I should’ve packed towels because I had to go buy myself towels. I am surprised at the prices in the shops. There are two different economies going on. One is among villagers to each other and the other is for the middle class in the shops. The US dollar is widely accepted here and if I use cash I get a better exchange rate. The most expensive is using a credit card. Of course I am learning a lot of this the hard way, as is what happens when one is a traveler!
I am so happy they supplied me with a cozy bed all made up with sheets & blankets and a mosquito netting. I am also slowly improving things in my hut. See additional photo with beds rearranged and cloth covers. I borrowed some sheets and pieces of cloth from Kufunda’s founder that made the beds more suitable for this warm weather.
Her husband gave me a couple big candles, for which I am forever grateful.
I live next to the teacher of 4th & 5th, and his wife. She saw me doing my laundry and said she would do it for me! I am so happy for that! I gave her my hand wash soap and clothes pins (pegs) that I had purchased! I think that’s super sweet of her!
Photo with bright buckets illustrating the laundry equipment.
I will send a picture of my neighbors next time. Here are our two huts. It is customary practice to sweep the ground all around one’s hut… But I don’t have the bundle of sticks tied into a little whisk broom to sweep around mine.
The agriculture and horseback riding teacher told me the sweeping is not good practice since it creates water runoff when the rain is strong, and leaf covered earth is absorbing.
See photo of him showing me “the sunrise rocks.”
Food: I do all of my meals on my own. I use the main kitchen that is typically used when they host large groups for workshops. Kufunda Village hosts workshops to teach roof thatching, handwork (knitting & crocheting 🧶), agriculture, business, herb-ology etc. to the neighboring residents to increase skill sets and potential livelihoods.
I share the kitchen with their Waldorf Mentor coming from Switzerland. He is a very good cook and makes delicious vegetarian meals for himself.
I have been learning a lot more about Rudolf Steiner and observing how it’s a worldwide connection of Waldorf-dedicated people, who call themselves anthroposophists (or something like that).
Here is the outside of the kitchen (see photo with distant hut with white chair out front).
We get to use the inside of that building. Those two circles in the foreground are a Zimbabwe outdoor cooking stove that uses sticks for fire. There is also a barbecue grill right next to a chicken coop. Many residents have their own chickens, rabbits, and ducks for eating meat. Pets are dogs and there are many in the village.
Shall we go inside the kitchen?
I must always remember my key! It is very interesting that we lock up all the stuff, but then sleep at night with our windows wide open and doors unlocked. I have a padlock for my hut door (the story of the padlock will come in a future email). Apparently stuff is more valuable than bodies here in Zimbabwe. People in Kufunda don’t typically steal from each other but neighboring villagers sweep through and take whatever they can. That includes toilet paper…
We have no refrigeration, so I have to get things that are shelf stable. The great news is that there is an organic garden where I purchased a month’s worth of vegetables from her. I am happily eating Swiss chard, onion, cucumbers, carrots, beets, eggplant, and even little peppers. If you have any good recipes I should make, please email them to me! We have a very limited number of pots and pans.
Here is our sink and our set of dishes. The water in the sink only runs some of the time… It feels luxurious when it is running. The electricity is also a bit touchy. It has been off most of the time I have been here due to it being summer, which is the rainy season with big lightning strikes and downpours.
I am quite proud of myself for this little greenskeeper I created. Of course lettuce is a living thing until we cut it and stick it in the fridge. I found out laying it on the shelf is not a good way to have fresh lettuce. So, why not treat lettuce like flowers, cutting off the bottoms and keeping them in fresh water?
Here is the food that I bought at the grocery store. I thought the soy milk was a good idea but then realized that I have to drink it pretty quickly after I open it. Bananas & peanuts are also local & abundant.
The interesting thing about eggs is if you do not wash them, they can stay on the counter. So I also have eggs! Yes many of my meals look like onions, garlic, Swiss chard, carrots, and eggs! I got myself a grater and will grate carrots and beets and make a soup today! The grater has been a welcome addition to the kitchen.
Hey look, there’s the chef!
Apparently he was a chef in the military, so is very good in the kitchen. He zooms in quickly, makes himself delicious meals, and cleans up quickly. I am, on the other hand, a different story…
Here is the composting toilet that I use. It is close to my hut and since I am getting on in years I get to enjoy the night sky… yes, I find some relief after waking up.
You put a scoop of leaves and ash after making a deposit. The composting seems to work great.
Showering? Yes! Yeah our bath house is around where the running water 🚿 is. The water is heated with solar! What a luxurious thing a shower is! Here is the shower house that I use:
OK I will conclude with a nice warm shower. As you can tell it’s a lot like glamping, African style.
This is an amazing place that is doing a lot of good in the area. I feel very lucky to be here and well loved and supported by each of you.
Here is the verse that we say every day:
May wisdom shine through me.
May love glow within me.
May strength penetrate me
that in me may arise
A helper of humankind,
A servant of sacred things
Selfless and true.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, with love,