Thembi

When summer staffer Charlotte Hastings left for Cape Town, South Africa to work for Grass Roots Soccer, we had no idea our Africa connection was only just beginning. But within days Sithemiso Muhlauri from Harare, Zimbabawe had joined us here at the farm.

Thembi’s husband Charles was the soccer coach for the Zimbabawe national team when he found himself on Mugabe’s list and in serious need of political asylum in the US. After Charles left, it took Thembi three years to get herself and their four young boys out of the country to join Charles. By then, Charles had found a home in our town where he runs the regional lightening soccer program and works at the same school where Ben Sheehan also works.

Thembi and Charles’ eldest son Charlton at 15 1/2 is now in school with William and lifting spirits with humor, charm and a beautiful singing voice. Kudakwashe at 13 is in Jim’s school and Jim tells me he has yet to see Kuda without a smile on his face. Thembi’s Tinashe is 6 and in kindergarten while the youngest Andile at 4 is in pre-school. I don’t know when I have met more adorable and well behaved kids. They arrived in America on the 4th of July. Each has been learning our country ways ever since, and for the youngest kids, learning English too.

And us? We are learning all about life in Harare. Thembi was born in Bheregwani hopsital in Johannesberg, South Africa. Her family’s tribe was the Ndebele tribe which is the zebra tribe. They moved to Harare because of her mom’s work and this is where Themib met Charles who is from a different tribe. Until her early death, Thembi’s mom ran a bus service from Harare to South Africa where her mom’s uncle ran the whole transport business. That this bus service came to be used by most people, Thembi included, to go get food in South Africa when there was little or no food to be found in Harare, makes the whole story a different one.

Thembi has an infectious sense of humor no matter the challenges she is describing. Her boys are settling in happily, and she entertains us each week with descriptions of her adventures as she gets used to living in the country. That seems to be the real culture shock- country life versus city life.

“What is with this need to scrape the icy windows of the car for fifteen minutes each morning?”

In late summer, Thembi would arrive for work dressed to the 9’s. The click of such high high heels had never been heard on our office floors. But soon, it was less than 70 degrees and Thembi started to arrive for work dressed as for arctic exploration. Perhaps the most often heard refrain in the office this fall has been, “Thembi, it’s NOT that cold yet. Save that gear for later .”

When we had snow flurries last week, we all thought of Thembi and her boys. None of them had seen snow before. She was with Andile picking up Tinashe from kindergarten when the first flakes fell, and apparently it was quite a moment for all of them. We can’t wait to see the boy’s delight and Thembi’s surprise when the snow gets serious. In the meantime, Thembi has taken over all restocking jobs from Sophie and is now in charge of keeping all the shipping stations ready to roll.

Right now there is a lot of teasing as Thembi often doesn’t remove her coat even inside because of “the cold.” But even in this, Thembi is teaching us country mice a bit about fashion. Well, at least on the days when it is not seriously cold. Here she is trying to restock with several dogs thinking it is actually their photo moment.

Thembi is wearing a drop dead gorgeous coat and her four foot long dreads are wrapped effortlessly in a stylish chignon. As she is chatting away with me while I try to get a photo, she is no doubt explaining to me the intricacies of iphones, text messages, instant messaging….something foreign to me but not to her.

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