The human experience should have told us all a long time ago that harmony, peace and prosperity are the exception rather than the norm in life. When something comes along that does meet our higher expectations we should be surprised and hopefully have a small window of opportunity to revel in the experience. I had a slight stroke on Christmas day last week. A blood vessel in my head was blocked for several hours. I blacked out and came around in an emergency ward at a local clinic almost as if suddenly the lights had been turned on again! It was quite an experience - no pain and no warning, I even sliced the Christmas dinner before taking myself off to bed and then departing to other realms and waking up at 6 pm.

What surprised me was the quality of medical care I got. My specialist was a doctor refugee from the Sudan (Juba) and he could not have been more professional and kind. The hospital staff was just great and the food tasty and well prepared. All the required equipment needed worked and was available with trained and experienced staff - the wonders of private enterprise! Nothing like this was available in the public sector.

I am now on medication and recovering, the doctor says my brain will compensate for the tissue lost and I should get all my faculties back shortly. I am grateful - and more determined than ever to ensure that such services are available to all once we get into government. Its not difficult, we can afford it and all it needs is a decent government and the right systems and values.

I was also surprised by the first primaries in the US elections - a favorite of mine for some time, in fact since I first heard him speak at a major conference in the States, Obama, has won the first primary and now looks as if he will win the next. It is not that I do not respect Hilary Clinton and would not like to see a woman in the White House for the first time, but Obama has such an extraordinary story and is so intelligent and attractive that I think he would not only make an excellent US President, but be the first African/American to enter the race and take the main seat of power in the USA.

The US has that capacity to surprise us, in the 60's I can remember how the US, staggering after the Vietnam debacle, picked itself up and reinvented itself. It was a prime example of a whole country remaking itself from within and without the help of others or any major calamity at home. Now out of the blue comes this man, son of a Kenyan peasant farmer and an American mother, good looking, intelligent and black! He steps up to the plate, becomes a Senator and then has a go at the Presidency - the story of fairy tales and its in real life.

Then the story of Kenya - a President who, faced with an electoral defeat, falsifies the results of the election to give himself a slight majority, has himself sworn in by Supreme Court Judges appointed just hours before and then assumes power and behaves as if all is normal. The Kenyans were just not going to take it - not any more and I heard today that with 500 deaths and rioting on the streets for days on end, he has finally given in and accepted that talks should take place to resolve the crisis in leadership. He did not get away with it - no matter what people say, the fraud was exposed and although messy, the outcome is being dealt with. Africa is growing up!

Two months ago our City was dying - we were down to one supply dam and about 20 per cent of our full requirements for water. Last year we had less than 450 mm of rain and our dams were drying up. 700 000 people had to find water by hand from local boreholes and bowsers. Now we are in January and 450 mm of rain has fallen in three moths - December has been one of the wettest months on record and our dams are filling again. The bush is spectacular - thick and luxurious and grass is growing even where we have not seen grass for years.

Global warming, the threat of declining rainfall and expanding deserts and here we are - surprised and ambushed by the wet season. We are now short of chemicals to treat the water - but we have water!

I am also constantly surprised by how people survive under the most horrendous of circumstances. My personal inflation index is now sitting at 56 000 percent. Our money is worthless - the highest denomination - 750 000 dollars just introduced is worth 20 US cents. In a situation where the minimum wags is less than Z$35 million, milk is now Z$2,5 million a litre, meat about Z$5 million a kilo and fuel is Z$4 million a litre or more. More critical are the physical shortages - you cannot buy the basic staples for love or money. Queuing is every day for everything. Yet people survive and even more - have fun doing it. Surprised! Yes - so am I! I know people who have everything that life can throw at you - money, a good job, great house, security and more. Yet they are miserable and unfulfilled.

For us life is tough and unrelenting but we are being constantly surprised by the achievement of the most ordinary of things. A glorious morning after a night of rain, water coming out of the taps, electricity on demand - occasionally. The pleasure of simple relationships and care for each other, the unity of the suffering and oppressed. A shared moment in a queue - and the achievement of the purchase of essential needs.

The right to vote and speak our minds, do we know what these simple rights mean? Only if you do not have them, when you do, they are as sweet as honey. One day we will be able to march down the street with a banner that says 'go and find yourself' and not be arrested or beaten. One day, perhaps soon, we will change our world by simply exercising our rights as a people to choose the leadership we want. What a day that will be - what a great surprise that will be for all of us!

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 7th January 2008