The Doma People
For the last year I have heard about a group of people that lived across the river in Zimbabwe at the foot of the mountains totally separated from the rest of the world. I have heard rumor after rumor and have been trying to make my way over there to visit them. Every time I have tried I have met complication after complication. Last month I made plans again to make the journey and on Monday morning I started off once again. As always, I start the journey off with high hopes. I took one of the Bible school students, Jacob, with me. We reached the river at 0730 with our bikes and packs. While we waited on the boats to arrive from Zim Jacob went to get some talk time. On his way back his chain broke. Then my contact from Zimbabwe, Bindura, called to say he had arranged transport for us and that we didn’t need our bikes. Reluctant to do so, I took the bikes home and made it back to the river just in time to cross.
The main man in charge of immigration was there. This is the man who doesn’t allow me entry. It was the same this time as well. He is extremely difficult and exactly what you would envision at a border post in the middle of nowhere in Africa. He is even this difficult with his own countrymen. Blessedly, I went to the consulate last year and spoke with the right people about this situation and the person with whom I spoke happened to have been to our neck of the woods. In fact he and I had previously met and struck up a quick friendship. I made some calls to a colleague who made some calls and together we managed to reach this same guy. We spoke, then I handed the phone over to Mr. Difficult and noon I had a 1 time entry visa and was on my way. It was extremely difficult and painful but in the end cooler heads prevailed and we were back on track with our originally scheduled program. I wondered if Paul had as much trouble at the borders when we went on his journeys. By 1300 we were at Bindura’s house eating the best nshima I have ever put in my mouth. Bindura is someone God placed in my path last year during one of our survey trips to that side. He is a true man of peace and the key to working in that area of Zimbabwe. He is a blessing from God and a very good friend to me and my family.
By 1500 we had eaten and were rested enough to press on. The journey to Mariga was to take us between 1 1/2 to 2 hours on foot. My pack reached from above my head to below my waist and weighed, what seemed like, 100 pounds. Truthfully though, it was realistically more like 95 lbs. It is true, we Americans do like to take a lot of “stuff” with us. Jacob took a small backpack that had way too much empty space in it. I do get ribbed for taking such a big pack but then as soon as we arrive, those who go with me always say the same thing. As we set up camp they always say, “hey, can I borrow this or that and I tell them you should have packed one.” In the end I let them borrow what they asked for and they will do the same thing on the next trip we go on. I am thankful that God has given me the strength of a pack mule to be able to take all that is needed. In fairness though, I am also packing things like camera’s and Bibles and water pumps and food items. These are all things they don’t need. I could go without them but then I wouldn’t have pix to share with everyone and I would have to take as much in medicine so that I didn’t get sick from the water.
Our purpose for making this trip was not scientific in nature but purely social. This blog is merely notes from my observation of the people and place of Mariga, Zimbabwe. When you cross the river from Zambia, you can instantly tell a difference in the people, the infrastructure, the culture and their way of life. After having lived under Mugabe’s regime for so long, the people are gripped with severe skepticism of outsiders, especially those with my color. The people are not near as open or friendly as they are here in Zambia. The houses in the village are spread out, unlike in Zambia where the houses are right next to each other. They do use bricks and the housing set up is quite similar. One striking difference is the round structures here in Zim.
We don’t use that style here in Zambia. People in Zim raise cows, goats and chickens as well as maintaining a garden of sorts. There are churches, schools, shops, lights, music, activity, drunkenness and the occasional passerby. Then you travel 6.75 kilometers out of town toward the foot of the mountains and leave it all behind. In Mariga, there are no *churches, schools, shops, lights, music, activity, drunkenness or the occasional passerby. There were 3 of us on this journey, Bindura, Jacob and myself. We put the pedal to the metal and reached our destination in 1 15 mins.
Upon arriving in Mariga it didn’t even feel like a village. We had simply walked down a foot path for an hour into the middle of the woods surrounded by a bunch of poor looking fields. We arrived at the headman’s house just before dark. His place looked just like the shelters we have in the fields in Zambia. During the growing season in Zambia, the people build shelters in their fields usually reside there to fend off the animals during the growing season. So, when Bindura said this was his house, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it yet without having seen the rest of the village. They are a semi-nomadic people who are extremely shy and have been taken in the past by scammer’s looking for a fast dollar and will run from outsiders. Mr. Bindura went before us the previous week to meet with the headman to let him know we would be coming so that they wouldn’t run away. God really paved the way for us before we ever arrived. When arriving at the headman’s place we found his whole family there minus he and his eldest son.
There was no announcing our arrival and they didn’t so much as blink when we rolled up. The action didn’t stop and I felt like we were an unseen apparition. I was informed that it is the duty of the passerby to initiate the greeting and if we don’t then they will continue to carry on their business until we did so.
At first, eye contact is ZERO! It was haunting. Everyone would look down or away. Some of the children would stare at you from afar but no one came running up to touch you or look at you or laugh at you. It was silent. The headman has 5 children. They were all busy preparing the meal for that night when we arrived, so after greetings, we set up our tent and walked around for a while before sunset to try and get a feel for the village.
The Seventh Day Adventists came last year and put a bore hole in. They are currently building a church and I suspect many people will go because of the bore hole but they don’t come weekly for Bible study or have any interaction with the people. The pastor is from another village far away. All of the people are involved in African Traditional Religion (ATR) and the idea of church is still new and foreign to them.
We made it back by sundown and sat around the fire with the family to share a meal. I was humbled to eat with them as they barely had enough to feed their own family. Usually this isn’t a problem for me since I bring food and don’t care too much for what they eat to eat as much as I normally do. However! she cooked nsima from freshly pounded corn and had some kind of bean mash that was really yummy. I was putting that stuff away before I realized this wasn’t Golden Corral. So, I grabbed my food and shared it with everyone. It was a delight to share my wife’s banana bread. The main crops grown are corn, greens, bananas, tobacco, cotton and wild okra. Their main source of protein comes from field mice.
The sun was down by 1800 and by 1900 we were done eating. The kids were crawling into bed and I asked Bindura what they normally did each night after they ate. He said they go to sleep because they have to get up and work the fields again. I said to him to tell them thank you for dinner and that we would let them go to bed. They speak a mix of Chikunda and Shona here with the occasional Nyanja. They said it was ok to stay and chat because we were the visitors. I was glad to hear that for several reasons one of which was the time. It was only 1930 and I usually do go to bed until midnight. Almost everyone sleeps on an elevated structure because of all the wildlife in the area. While we sat around the fire, which was at the entrance to their bedroom, the children had crawled up into bed and were peering down over the fire. No one bathed before bed and they crawled into bed in the same clothes they worked in all day. Their clothes are tattered and torn and most don’t have shoes. It was cold this night but no one had a blanket to use. While sitting around the fire, I thought I had a stroke of genius. I pulled out the ipod and was going to show them pix of my family. No one can resist pix and videos. I thought for sure they would be jumping to see what was playing. I showed the headman and to my surprise, no one moved. The kids didn’t even budge. It was strange to me. I ended up showing everyone but there was almost no interest at all in what I had to show them.
We turned in around 2000. It sure is quiet out there. The text had no rain cover so you could see all the stars, and I do mean all of them. Around 0200 I was aroused by the low rumbling bellow’s of a lion. Thankfully the elephants aren’t around this time of year. This is one of those places you need to be careful when go to the bathroom at night. The sun started its ascent at 0545 and by 0600 everyone was rolling out of bed to get started. We broke camp, packed our bags and walked around again to see the place in better light. I brought all my recording devices to try and get something. It was difficult since they were so shy. I didn’t want to be rude or ruin any chances of return so I was super discrete. There was an occasion where they allowed me to pull out the camera and take some pix of the kids. I found 1 instance of ectrodactyly, someone born with only 2 toes. I heard that there were some other people with it but they were in the fields. The Doma people reside in 2 villages, Mariga and Chiramba. They are about 2 hours in distance from each other and Chiramba is further out and away from people than Mariga. I was told there are more people with ectrodactyly there than at Mariga. We were privy to meet several families and enjoyed the morning with people. On occasion you could catch a grin from someone. It was such a joy to see that small little grin.
We made our way back to the headman’s place by 0900 for some breakfast. He had a radio playing and you will NEVER believe what was coming out of it. Keep in mind, they don’t speak or understand English. Dr. David Jeremiah was coming out of that small boom box. It was full of static and we guessed it was Radio Christian Voice out of Lusaka. They just like the noise. But what a beautiful noise it was to hear Dr. Jeremiah talk about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem over breakfast. He has a small battery and one of his friends has a solar panel and every so often he gets it charged up. I asked Bindura if everyone had this set up and he said, “No, headman privileges.” After breakfast I gave them the rest of the Tylenol and Coartem (Maleria Meds) I had left along with the Tupperware containers I had and some can’s of fruit. By 1000 we were all packed up and saying our good-bye’s. 4 hours and 17.71 kilometers later we reached the river. My tank was on E! My battery was almost dead.
We called for a boat, got stamped out of Zimbabwe and made it home by 1600. My body was not happy with me but I would do it all over again to have a chance to visit with those people. I cannot wait to return from vacation so that we can return for another visit. Please pray for the Doma people. Pray that God will begin to work in their lives and that even now He will begin to call people unto himself in this dark corner of Zimbabwe. I thank God for Mr. Bindura Kachaso for his willingness to go and help us on this journey and for Jacob Lungu for his willingness to accompany me and assist me in our journey to meet the Doma people.