TRYING TO THROW YOUR ARMS AROUND THE WORLD
VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe The $30 visa sours my mood. Surely this money will pad the pockets of leader Robert Mugabe and his henchman: the same princely lot that meddled in the Congolese civil war and destroyed Zimbabwe's economy.
"The people are starving," explained my friend Marie Javins in New York last week. She's something of an African expert, having traveled the continent extensively and lived there many years (her book, Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik, debuts on the shelves in August).
"Then it's wrong to support the corrupt government," I fretted. "Should we even be going to these places?"
She nodded. "Absolutely. Take handfuls of hard currency dollars, pounds, rand, anything but the Zimbabwean dollar and spend them at the Victoria Falls craft village. That wooden carved giraffe puts food into their mouths."
I hate shopping. But it's for the power of good now, so I plunge into the market's maelstrom. Hands beseech, pluck at my shawl. Vendors banter, barter, outright beg. The hustle is fueled by survival, not greed: that much is painfully clear.
My wad of rand all that remains after the theft won't help much, I know. But I burn through it all anyway. What would I do with it back home anyway? More Thai lunches? Wrinkle-retarding, SPF-15 moisturizing lotion? Sacks of kitty grit?
I know, I know: fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, cats gotta crap on perfumed clay. But I don't have to feel good about it. Not today.