Crashes and bashes, the upside of Lock Down and an only in Zimbabwe story.

Lockdown sucks, even pretend ones like the one ongoing in Zimbabwe. But I have been able to discover an upside. Jenny is helping Cailyn with her on-line learning and I get to overhear some of the conversations. I was walking through the classroom a.k.a. the dining room last week and overheard the following-
Jenny – “Teacher is giving you your first spelling test tomorrow Cailyn?”
Cailyn- “What’s a spelling test?”
Jenny – “You’ve have to learn how to spell all these 10 words ”
Cailyn, in a flat-out panic- “What? All of them? But how I’m supposed to do that?”

Whilst Jenny and Cailyn were busy further debating the realms of possibility, they were interrupted by a text from Mrs S, Cailyn’s teacher. Jenny and Cailyn had missed the scheduled video call on the class chatgroup. Which wasn’t surprising, because this was the first Jenny was hearing that video chats were a WhatsApp option.

Cailyn and Jenny hot-footed to the chat group to see if they could catch the tail end of the video call and bumped into 2 of Cailyn’s classmates. Well, they bumped into their voices only, no faces.

Classmate 1- “Hey Cailyn, I can hear you, but I can’t see you.”
Classmate 2 -My mom said we’re supposed to see each other’s faces, but she also doesn’t know which button we’re supposed to press?”
At the bottom of Jenny’s screen there was a Video button central, and below that buttons for Cancel on the left and Submit on the right.
Cailyn to Jenny- “Maybe how about we trying pushing those buttons, Nana.”
Jenny and Cailyn proceeded to bumble their way through the various options and, hey presto, suddenly there was Cailyn’s face up on the screen.
Classmate 1, overjoyed – “Hey, Cailyn, I can see you now, I can see you!!”
Classmate 2 also overjoyed and suffering bad FOMO- “Me too. What did you do?”
Cailyn – “It’s easy guys. You just got to press the big button at the bottom first and then… Which other button did we press Nana?”
Jenny – “Girls, you need press the button on the bottom on the right of the screen.”
Classmate 1, panicked – “Which is my right? Mommy, which one is my right?”
Cailyn – “Press the button with the Sammy Snake, not the Clever Cat one.”

After school that day, Cailyn and I discussed career path options. She told me she was going to run an animal sanctuary, be a professional horse rider and also a hairdresser, all at the same time. But what about becoming a teacher, I asked. “No, teaching kids is too much hard work.”

Before moving on to my Only in Zimbabwe story, I’d like to pay tribute to Jenny and all other moms and Nanas out there in charge of home schooling, and to the teachers putting the lessons together. I’m thinking on-line is way tougher than the real deal.

Back to Only in Zimbabwe. Because a friend of mine, no names mentioned, is three weeks into her Ivermectin treatment, and because she read the small print on the box about how the stuff is supposed to kill the worms in cattle, sheep, goats, horses and pigs, there is always some slight trepidation every time she visits the loo for a Number Two. And slight trepidation leads to involuntary, perfunctory downward glances after flushing. On a fateful day last week, my friend was horrified to find the toilet bowl absolutely full of wriggling, writhing, disgusting things that could only have fallen out of her bottom. She was horrified like Sigourney Weaver in Alien at the thought of things living inside her. Panicked and using the longest of arms, she took a photo of the parasites inside the toilet bowl to show her husband so he could identify them. Her husband laughed, and laughed, and laughed. When eventually he finished laughing, he reassured she didn’t have worms, He took her to the toilet, lifted the wooden seat, and showed her the nest of termites nesting underneath. Only in Zimbabwe.

I think we will be on Ivermectin for the long haul. Government announced recently that because of budget constraints, they would bringing in Made in China coronavirus vaccines only enough for Cabinet ministers, senior government officials, Members of Parliament and the security forces. And also, frontline health workers still waiting for their PPE’s. That is like the Captain of the Titanic shouting Captains first, women and children last. Anywhere else in the world, there would be a huge uproar. But not in Zimbabwe, and especially not after a whole swathe of high ups and political elites popped their clogs in recent weeks, apparently after receiving their secret vaccinations, according to breaking news on social media. Unless of course the vaccinations were tainted, as alleged by other more cynical social media conspiracy theorists who maintain Zimbabwe is snap like Game of Thrones, just without the dragons and the ugly dwarf.

I’m happy to avoid Made in China vaccines for now and stick to Ivermectin. I am also happy to avoid all conspiracy theorists, especially the talking heads on CNN who continue to treat the January 6th Capitol Hill protest as breaking news. Don Lemon and Mark Cuomo especially need to move on because there is other stuff happening in the world. Like in Russia for instance where Alexey Navalny has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for not contacting his parole officer whilst in a coma after Putin poisoned him with Novichok. And in hard to spell Myanmar, even harder to spell Aung San Suu Kyi has also been jailed essentially for owning a set of walkie talkies. And here in Zimbabwe, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono has been arrested for the third time in 6 months, charged with tweeting. Alas.

In other breaking news, I got back on my bike yesterday for the first time since before Christmas. With the Old Legs Silverback Tour to Uganda now just 5 months away, I have to play some serious catch up, so I joined Adam Selby and daughter Jamie on a 35 km hill training ride in the Shawasha Hills. I survived the Ugly Sisters but only just. And on the way home I was able to show Jamie, who was riding behind me,
at the time that I still have what it takes by managing to fall off my bike on the most benign flat bit of road, apart from just the one small rock. Luckily, I fell on my head, smashing my helmet in the process. Adam, about 30 metres in front, heard my head hitting terra firma and rushed back and swore. Lying prone on the ground under my bike, I thought Adam had hit his thumb with a hammer. He told me to sit up. My head was still spinning, and I saw double. Unfortunately, I was looking at Adam at the time. Long story short, I was able to get back on my bike and limp the 5km back to the cars. Jamie chaperoned me from behind, rolling her eyes, wondering how the hell I’m going to ride 3000 km to Uganda. In closing, viva my helmet. I’m going new helmet shopping first thing this morning. If anyone out there reading this knows Winks Whaley, tell him no helmet, no ride!

In preparation for the Silverback Tour, Adam, Linda, Jenny and I went on a houseboat on Kariba this last weekend and trained hard at resting on rest days, and at rehydrating. Adam trained especially hard at resting and would set his alarm clock so hat he could wake up and practice falling asleep hard at resting. He would set the alarm on his phone in order to wake up so that he could practice falling asleep again. In between naps, he caught fish. Because I have the hand eye coordination of a cocker spaniel puppy, I didn’t catch. But I did put seven million worms on hooks, mostly for Jocelyn and Cailyn. To give the girls a badly needed deserved break from the monotony of no friends, on-line schooling and a never-ending lockdown, they came with us on houseboat. Cailyn was so excited and packed her suitcase days in advance, including 3 pairs of blue jeans, in case she went swimming. They had the best time ever, and still managed to do their homework. Kariba remains the most beautiful spot in the world. I am convinced that God adds on to your life any time spent there.

Our route to Uganda has been finalized. Laurie was the planner of the route through Zambia, and Alistair through Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Reviewing Alastair’s legs, Adam was horrified to see they included gradients of between 33 and 35 percent and lodged a formal complaint. Alastair took the complaint upstairs to Google Earth and like Donald Trump in Georgia, demanded a recount. Thankfully he was more successful than Donald and our climbs on that leg have been downgraded to 18 percent.

The Old Legs peloton for the Lockdown Tour was an all-male affair, rather smelly at times and sometimes crude, and with no soft bits, apart from me. The peloton for the Silverback Tour will be an entirely different thing with the fairer sex well represented.

Back for the second time and by popular demand is CarolJoy Church. Born in Mutare, CarolJoy has lived in Germany for the last 19 years. Growing up, her passion was for music, specifically te piano and the cello. After studying music therapy, CarolJoy started working at a hospital in a picturesque but hilly area in the Ruhr region, with an emphasis on hilly. For environmental reasons, CarolJoy decided against becoming a car owner, and bought a bicycle instead, looking to tick the transport, fitness and relaxation boxes all at the same time.

In 2015 and back in Zimbabwe on holiday, CarolJoy rode her first Blue Cross and loved it, silly girl. Another Blue Cross later in 2018, she signed up for the Kilimanjaro Tour. To track her training progress, she signed up for a women’s challenge on Strava for most kilometers and most meters climbed in a calendar month and placed 23000 and something in her first month. On the day we rode into Moshi at the base of Kilimanjaro, CarolJoy placed 10th on the same challenge. Incredibly, only 9 women in the whole wide Strava world had outperformed CarolJoy that month. And now onto Uganda and the Silverback Tour. I fully expect CarolJoy to get to Uganda before me.
Joining us for the first time on an Old Legs Tour is Fiona Semper nee Smidt. Harare born-and-bred, Fi grew up desperately wanting to be a jockey. Unfortunately, she grew up a bit too much, was deemed too tall to turn professional and pursued a career in Distribution and Logistics instead, working in the UK, Sa and Zimbabwe. Commerce’s gain, the Horse Racing industry’s loss.

Whilst in SA, Fi ran the Comrades six times and Two Oceans twice. She told me she plodded her marathons, but I do not believe a word of it. Since taking up mountain biking in 2011, Fiona has ridden the Argus, the Sani to Sea and six Blue Crosses. I also expect Fiona to reach Uganda before me.

Fiona’s heart has charity written all over it. She is committed to riding to Uganda to help Zimbabwe’s elderly. And she has a special passion for helping animals, because animals can’t speak for themselves.
Also joining the Silverback Tour is Jamie Selby Philp, coincidentally Adam Selby’s daughter.

Jamie writes ‘I am mother of Isabella and Gabriella (two beautiful young girls entering their teens) and wife of Liam (a hard-working farmer, exporter, all around good guy!) I am lucky enough to live on a farm, just out of Harare, where I spend my days assisting my kids in their online learning and helping where I can with various charity organizations. I am passionate about education and health & wellness.

2020 was a difficult year for most, but especially for vulnerable community members, like our old age pensioners. I have joined my dad on this epic adventure through Africa as a way to help raise money for old age pensioners in Zimbabwe. I’m absolutely terrified and daunted by this task, something I think our old folks must feel about their daily lives. Please join us on our adventure as we travel to Uganda raising money and awareness for our most vulnerable, aged Zimbabweans.’

Incredibly, Jamie has had to purpose buy a bicycle for the Silverback Tour. But because Jamie is her father’s daughter, I also expect her to get to Uganda before me.

Big thanks also to Alastair Watermeyer’s extended clan in Canada. Every year they conduct a ‘Dry January’ competition. Aunty Nin from Regina won the pot this year and donated all the proceeds to Old Legs 2021. If ever they stage a Dry Day in January’ competition, I might enter. Although I’ll most probably come second or worse.

More big thanks to Peter and Nellie Bischoff. Now living in Zambia, Peter and Nellie gifted the Old Legs the entire contents of their home in Harare, so that we can auction them off, with all the proceeds going to our Emergency Medical Fund. Thank you What an incredibly kind gesture. And also big thanks to ABC Auctions who collected the goods and will be conducting the auction as soon as Lockdown is behind us.

In closing, I am happy to report our Just Giving page back up and running, thanks to Ryan Moss. It is a thing of beauty. Please check it out on Big thanks to Mark and Johnson for being the first on the board.

Until my next blog, enjoy, stay safe and upright, especially if you are on your bike.

Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

Photos below – surfing Kariba with Cailyn, Adam practicing resting, Heaven on Earth especially during Lockdown, CarolJoy, Fiona and Jamie.

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