Making Bread in Zimbabwe

Just as the case was in the beginning of our backpacking trip, I have been having trouble with my notes getting deleted. I wrote my entry for yesterday less that 5 minutes ago and it has already been deleted from my phone. When you spend so much time and effort writing down your thoughts, having them deleted is one of the most frustrating things that can happen…
Dean and Rachel came into our room this morning with a surprise, tonight we were going to go out at night and deliver packages to the homeless. This is something I have always wanted to do, so I am very excited.

The day was filled with markets, the big city, and Zimbabwean baking. Early in the morning, after the boys were dropped off at school, Dean took Andrew and I to visit the largest market in Harare. We have seen hundreds of Markets in Africa but we still seem to get excited every time we visit one. The markets show just how many people are struggling to survive by picking up work in the informal sector. Over 98% of the Zimbabwean population is unemployed, so people will do anything to make a dollar or two. This is very evident by the swarm of people that gather around you when you walk through the market.

After the market Dean dropped us off in a different part of town so that we could walk around and get a feel for another part of Harare. First we visited the history museum an library, which were quick visits. We find that we prefer to spend our time walking the streets with the people. As we walked down the Main Street in down town, I decided that Harare is very much like Los Angeles. Lots of people, dirty, mid-rise buildings, and plenty of street venders. The only difference is that Los Angeles has many more cars than Harare.

During our walk we visited the Meircles Hotel, the grandest hotel in Africa. Inside the hotel are photos of Harare in the colonial days, which were very fascinating to see. We visited the flower market, bus station, Harare Park, and the National Gallery of Art over the next several hours and enjoyed every minute of it.

We are lucky because Dean loads us up with fruit and bread from his bakery each day we go out so we can have snacks to carry us through the day. When Dean came to pick us up most of the morning had passed, so we went straight to pick the boys up from school.

They both attend a Greek school in Harare, one of the best primary schools in the city. I never realized how strong the connection between Greece and Zimbabwe was, but I have come to find out that that their are many Greeks here. Greece is a place that I have always wanted to visit so it had been fun to watch the boys do their Greek homework and talk with Dean about his Greek heritage. Last evening Dean made a delicious Greek salad for dinner with mixed lettuce, sprouts, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumbers, and kalamata olives. I took note of the recipe and will definitely be recreating it again. Rachel and Dean are both very good chefs and bakers so it had been fun to be in their kitchen with them. Last night Rachel made a delicious lemon-garlic fish stew with sweet tomatoes to pair with the salad and it was absolutely delicious.

In Africa the cuisine is influenced by the presence of so many different nationalities living in the same place. In Dean and Rachel’s home the cuisine is a fusion of Zimbabwean, Greek, Dutch, and Norwegian (they spent nearly three years about they were married living an working in Europe). Andrew and I have been lucky to be able to learn so much from them.

We returned home around 2:00pm to relax for a few minutes and help Rachel prepare her food list and budget for her upcoming medical trips in the bush as well as for the Strength for Youth conference they hold every year in Harare for the youth of the Church. This year they have over 600 youth already signed up to attend. Rachel is quite the organizer when it comes to events like these. As the single operator of Eyes for Zimbabwe at the moment, she coordinates everything from transport logistics of overseas volunteers and professionals to baking banana bread to pack in the bush. Andrew and I were very grateful that we were able to her with her planning for the next month. She leaves for her next trip into the bush on Wednesday with a group of professionals from Idaho (including the Duncan family who owns the majority share in Idaho potatoes). They invited us to come along with them in the bush and I was so close to just ditching the rest of our trip and take her up on the offer. Andrew had to pull me aside and make it clear that we would not be able to go into the bush because of our timeline. The possibility of not coming out for 8 -10 days is very likely (depending on the needs of the people in the bush) and that would dramatically push our timeline back.

Dean was back to grab us from the house around 3:00pm and take us on a little excursion to his ciabatta bread factory (after we made a quick detour to pick up our visas and check on some machinery he is having made for his factory). Joseph, the head baker at the factory, took us aside and took us through all the steps to make the perfect Italian Ciabatta. The recipe consisted of 1500 grams flour, even amounts of salt, sugar, and oil, some fresh yeast, and 60% hydration. Joseph actually learned how to back from John Diesel, one of the most famous bakers from Holland. I left the bakery amazed that I just learned how to make delicious Italian Ciabatta bread in Zimbabwe.

Rachel was still out in the city working on her projects when we arrived home so Andrew and I volunteered to make Indian curry for dinner. Although we had to be creative with the ingredients, we were able to create something that was actually quite good.  

We sat down at the table, tonight with just Dean and the boys, and enjoy a delicious dinner with great conversation. I wish I could recollect everything we spoke about but the topics were so varied that it would be hard to give an adequate summary.  

I did discover that Dean’s heritage traces back to one of the five Dutch royal families who left Holland to settle the cape of South Africa nearly 300 years ago. His grandfather was one of the pioneers who traveled via of and wagon into what is modern-day Zimbabwe. He started a large farm, that was latter taken from him during the overthrown of white rule in the mid 1900s. Today Dean has family in many government positions in Zimbabwe and had many strong connections to officials in South Africa. When all the farms and businesses were seized from the whites in the early 2000s, Dean and his family were actually able to keep a small portion of their holdings (all thanks to those connections). Kathy in Zambia and Cornelia in Botswana, two families we stayed with during our travels, were both thrown out of the country when they lost their farms in the early 2000s.

We talked about much more from hippo attacks to Norwegian cuisine and the economics of starting a business in Africa. Those stories will have to come later. Rachel did not return until after 11:00pm so we were unable to visit the homeless on the streets, but I was glad that we were able to be a part of the preparation for some very important medical trips to the bush and “Zimbabwean EFY” that are coming up soon.


        (Below: Andrew’s post)

The morning seemed filled with its usual commotion as Elijah and Samuel got ready for school. As everyone grabbed a quick something to eat, Kylie and I also readied ourselves for the day packing fruit, water, and our other necessities. 

The Geranios are an incredible family and despite the rushed feeling of the morning, Dean came to Kylie and I and told us that as a treat we’d be giving out items for the homeless that night. It just goes to show what kind of people they are! That they would take their own time and resources to help lift others in need. Incredible people.

We soon set off with Dean who wanted to show us the local markets of Harare. As he drove he gave us a narrative of the city explaining how certain groups came into power, showing us all the historical regions of the city before we finally reached the markets.

The clothing markets were very similar to other areas of the country except they were vastly larger than the ones we’d seen before. Each year millions of shirts, dresses, skirts, shorts, jackets, etc. are donated free of charge to African nations. When those clothes arrive in country, often they never reach their intended beneficiaries. They end up being sold at port (in Beira typically for Zim), and then they ended up in markets like Mbare where they’re sold to the public. I wouldn’t be surprised if several hundred thousand dollars are made off these donated and ‘free’ goods. Either way, someone is making money off of someone’s generosity.

We then pulled into the main section of Mbare market which was crowded and lively. Dean told us that so many of the people there can live on 50 cents a day. Just as long as they can grow their own maize and vegetables, at least they’ll have something to eat every day of the year. The streets were the typical rusty red color and the shacks were shanty structures of tin, wood, and nails. As we looked at the people selling, or mostly waiting to sell goods Dean told us that during 2002 when the white farms were being taken over you could come to these markets and buy tractors for nothing. And, he casually mentioned that if we stepped out of the car we’d be swarmed by several people trying to sell goods. In Africa where there isn’t much product diversity it’s all about who hustles the most.

We left Dean at the city museum and decided to walk downtown. The streets were busy with people going about their own days and in all honesty it felt like LA city streets. 

Kylie and I visited Miekels, the oldest historic hotel in Zim before heading to the bus station to figure out the next leg of our journey. It looks like this next part will be a by tricky. We’ll be in smaller buses after we cross the border into Mozambique which will take ages! 

After sorting out a rough plan based on bus times, Kylie and I swung back with Dean to watch his kids briefly so he could run an errand. While Elijah and Samuel are nearly both 12, they have a lot of energy! And Samuel loves to eat sugary snacks… Which makes for a bad combination. Eventually the two settled down as we played kinect four and blocks. 

We dashed back out with Dean to grab our visas from the Mozambique embassy (they gave us multiple entry visas without any request for them to do so!) and chatted with Dean as we ran some errands. 

Since coming to Africa I haven’t had many opportunities to open Kylie’s door because we’ve been in buses and vans and we’ve been moving quickly. During our time with Dean I’ve been able to open her door since we’ve actually been in a car and that’s been nice to refresh that activity. It’s important to look for ways to treat, serve, and love your wife even with a backpacking lifestyle. Kylie and I had a good discussion in the afternoon with Dean about marriage and its ups and downs and the lessons he’s learned in 13 years of marriage. The thing that stood out to me the most is the reverence and respect which he spoke about his wife Rachel. In the years of his marriage, Dean had such tender words for his wife I felt touched by his words. I promised myself to develop that type of reverence and admiration for Kylie that only comes after time. 

On our way home we made a quick stop off at the bakery… Why? To learn how to make bread from a real baker! Joseph, Dean’s head baker, had stayed behind to show Kylie and I how to make ciabatta bread from scratch. It was honestly a ton of fun! We learned the right ratios, mixing proportions, and how to mold the bread properly. Who knew bread making was so tough! Dean explained that anyone can make a tart, cake, or loaf, but it takes real passion and dedication to make a superior type of bread. I’ll just add – Kylie was much better than I was 🙂

When we returned home Rachel was still out working so Kylie and I took over the kitchen and cooked for the family. We made our specialty, Indian curry and rice and Dean whipped up a Greek salad (I know, a very obvious pairing), but it was delicious! 

After dinner the three of us baked the ciabatta and chatted as we munched on the crunchy exterior, soft interior of nicely formed ciabatta. What a day!

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