Monday, January 16, 2012

Just a Housewife

We said a sad goodbye to Ken and Jess on the morning we left Zambia. We gave them the money we had left as a tip, reserving just enough for the visas that we would need to cross into Zimbabwe. That's where our long journey home would begin. We'd fly Zimbabwe to Johannesburg, Johannesburg up to Paris and then after a long layover there on home to Morocco. But we still had to cross the border into Zimbabwe. Crazy, screwed up, currency-less Zimbabwe where 90% of its people are literate, which is unheard of in Africa. But, oh, equally unheard of, 95% of its people are underemployed. Which I can all say freely. I'll explain later.



So we get on the bus and head for the border. Passing the wild monkeys and ladies balancing baskets, duffel bags and their extended families on their heads. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but I'm sure these hard working women could do it. We fill out the immigration card on the bus. There's one question that always confounds me on such documents. Occupation. What do I do anyway? And this is when I start to over think things. Who am I? I haven't yet called myself a writer because I've never earned any money for my writing. So after a mini-identity crisis, I settle on mother.

We file out of the bus and into the immigration office to get our visas and our foreignness bumps us to the front of the line. The officer processes our kids first. Which throughout Africa involves a lot of very loud stamping of passports, visas and miscellaneous papers. Then he gets to my passport and immigration form. And he mumbles, laughs, scratches out MOTHER and inserts HOUSEWIFE. Instantaneously I was both demeaned and approved for entry. Housewife? I am not, nor have I ever been married to my house.

Our friends the Greens, are in line immediately following us. Now, Faith is the editor of the Embassy newsletter. Turns out that anything related to journalism in that box gets you another form to fill out. One that says that you will not take pictures or write anything about Zimbabwe. Which she signed in trade for her visa.

But I'm just a housewife.

The last of our cash was used up on the visas. We're headed to the airport, but we want to make one stop. So we ask the driver if we have enough time to stop at the market and still make it to the airport in time. He says we have about 20 minutes to spare. But of course we're broke. And they don't take credit cards in these markets. But what we do have are 6 unwashed bath towels we've used for showering and at the pools for the last 2 weeks. Now I brought our old thread barren towels with us on safari and at this point funky does not even begin to describe their stench. So I bundle all our towels in my arms and we head into the market.

Now I am a terrible bargainer. I like set prices where I can simply decide if I want something for that price or not. But since all I have is towels this makes the process so much easier. And you're like who the hell is gonna want those towels? Except everyone does. In fact, all the vendors are salivating over my towels and trying to get me to trade my towels with them. And they'll do almost anything for them. But I'm looking for one thing. Remember that zebra I didn't get in Zambia? I have less than 20 minutes to find it and more than 40 vendors to bargain with. Can it be done? And as it turns out? I'm the freaking queen of skanky towel husseling. Seriously. Next time when I get a visa form and they ask for occupation I'm going to write SKANKY TOWEL HUSSLER.

Check out what I scored in trade for 6 grungy towels.



Not one, but TWO zebras. And not pictured is a bracelet Ember got and a necklace for Sky and some small trinket for River which I can't recall. (And no, not the carpet.)

And you know what? If I was a writer I couldn't have told you this story at all. So I just got a new appreciation for being a housewife. And I'm startin' to think this is a pretty sweet gig. After all, my house doesn't care how much time I spend in it. It doesn't care if I roller skate through it. Or if I don't clean it. Or appreciate it. And most of all? Most of all I can write anything, anytime, anywhere and I don't have to answer to anyone. So, yup, I guess I kinda like being just a housewife!

19 comments:

Corinne Rodrigues said...

I've been sneaky and have been reading your posts on the quiet! This one brought me out of the woodwork! ;)

The Loerzels said...

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment to let me know you were here!

Cerebrations.biz said...

Proof that one man's (OK- housewife's) trash is another man's (or many men's) treasure!!!!!!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I love the point you make, that if you were a "real writer" you wouldn't be able to tell your stories. And you are way more than "just a housewife." But I like to think that nobody is "just a housewife."

Anna and Kim said...

Nicely done (the bargaining and the post). And are those zebras the same size as the one you saw before?

The Loerzels said...

@ BOG-Exactly my point!
@ Anna-No these zebras were considerably smaller, but I got TWO....which would make them the size of the ONE I really wanted if you put them together. And I paid 6 dirty towels instead of $40.

Barbara said...

You are a shameless bargainer! And all in 20 minutes! I once bargained and the only tender I had was a used lighter, I got a lovely piece of amber for it and will cherish it forever!

Lalia said...

Oh! I love the stuff you scored for your towels!! I actually have similar items myself. Maybe someday I'll do a post going through a tour of my house. You may never look at zebra the same way again! lol

Sine said...

Awesome post, love the story! I've heard of people basically undressing to trade for stuff, and I myself have been asked in Zimbabwe if I might part with my shirt. In hindsight I shoulda done it, makes for a much better story than saying "no way." Can't believe you got rid of dirty stuff to lug back in the process.

Stuart Nager said...

I have a large pile of laundry that can be bartered...next time you go, let me know!! ;)

fun post, as always

A Brilliant Life said...

That's awesome! And how was the rest of the trip home? Do we get anymore?

Beelzebug said...

Interesting read thanks. My wife is from Zim so she understood what you went through

Samantha Bangayan said...

Haha! =) You know, when I was younger, I always dreamed of being a "housewife" when I grew up. But this is a totally new way of seeing the title's benefits! =) Loved your tale, Marie!

cath said...

Good trade! I love bartering and have often bartered my artwork for some really cool things. :)

sweepyjean said...

Wow, you made a wonderful barter, which begs the question of the wonderful use the vendors saw for your towels. Everything is relative. You are experiencing so much than your average "housewife!"

MuMuGB said...

What a bargain! Who would have thought that towels could get you this far? Anyway, I am amazed that you went to Zimbabwe. Your family trips seem very, let's say, unusual. Maybe next time you should write: adventurous housewife?

Joy Page Manuel said...

This post is AWESOME!!!..on so many levels! I loved the visa-stamping angst and can COMPLETELY understand how demeaned you must've felt. I, too, have struggled with 'status/occupation' for the longest time. Between 'housewife' and 'homemaker' though, I'd choose the latter. But I still wish there were other more suitable, all-encompassing label...Oh well.

And those items you got! How beautiful!!

Amazing post Marie! Thank God you're not charging us for these essays :-)))

Norma R.Perkins said...

Wonderful site. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to a few pals ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you to your effort!
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Nena P.Diaz said...

You are a very capable person!
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