Hats Off, Zimbabwe

My midwestern friendliness betrays me sometimes. I’m sitting at dinner in Zim with my nomad family, watching a group of guys wearing beads & animal print cloths dance, when I’m pretty sure one of them (the falsetto) points directly at me. Uhh, I naturally smile in response (was he pointing at me?) but I do not get a smile in return- instead he walks over and crowns me with a Springbok headdress. What just happened? I’m not quite sure what to do, so I sit there awkwardly for what feels like forever (maybe 5 minutes), until someone tells me I’m supposed to get up and dance with him.

I spring up, slightly embarrassed that I’m late to respond, and join the 10 half clothed African dancers (and now one out of place white girl) in the middle of the fancy restaurant- awkward. The falsetto grabs my hand and spins me around (still wearing springbok on my head) while I try to follow the dancers movements. I stomp my feet, sway my arms, and move with them, no clue what I’m doing. I finally find an appropriate moment to give the animal hat back and run back to my seat completely flushed.

The next day I’m walking down a dirt road to town when a car passes me and someone inside says my name- small town. I pretend like I don’t hear- surely they weren’t talking to me, but the car stops and backs up to me. It’s the falsetto dancer from last night- great.

“Where are you going”

“To town”

“You can’t wear that hat” (I have my favorite camo hat on)

“What do you mean I can’t wear this hat?”

“You have to take it off”

“Seriously? I don’t understand why”

“You’ll get arrested”

“For wearing a hat? That’s crazy”

“You can’t wear military colors, you will get arrested”

“Really??”

I concede (somewhat defiantly) and get in the car to the delight of my gold- toothed falsetto. I’m immediately assaulted by the smell of stale strawberry air freshener and intense body odor. Back at my hotel I take my hat off, now prepared to venture into the public of Zimbabwe for the last time before crossing over to the bigger and busier (perhaps less corrupt) city of Livingstone, Zambia. My hat’s off to you, Zimbabwe. Pretty sure I won’t put my beloved cap back on until I return to Cape Town.

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