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Sun, 16 Aug 2009 01:00:00 +0000

Rainbows are elusive — almost mirage-like. Typically, they appear behind the house on a Sunday morning, next to the green garden hose that leaks just enough water to create a suitable mist. There, rainbows are weak.

But, here, rainbows are real.

Water tumbles endlessly down a 200-foot drop. At the bottom is the lightest whipped cream in the world. No one said the land of milk and honey wouldn't be whisked.

It’s Victoria Falls. A brown-nosed British man named it for his queen, as if he created it. Quite arrogant, if you ask me.

But such thoughts are too impure while standing in front of the falls. Nothing could go wrong here. It is natural; it is perfect—

Then I remember where we are: Zimbabwe.

I went there five months ago as a tourist. I am writing about it now because, frankly, I didn’t know what to say about it. Sure, we stayed in the best hotels, we ate the best food and we always had air conditioning. But those are things money could buy — it was great, but, as they say, money can’t buy happiness. This water fall, though, was pure joy.

As you get closer to the falls, the water gets blown into the air and comes pounding back down. The water slams into your body — at first a steady massage, then pain. It’s disorienting, but safe. It’s a loud but calm.

Trying to keep dry using a poncho is like trying to kill a lion with a Nerf gun.

Walking through this white mist, I wonder: Could this waterfall be an escape for the suffering Zimbabweans? After all, it used to be a sacred place for the locals. They used to come here to visit the dead and pray for better times.

I leave the falls, drenched and smiling. The rain stops. I take off my poncho and walk out the entrance.

And that’s when I see the sign.

$20 entry fee for tourists, $10 for locals.

That’s $400 million Zimbabwean dollars.

That’s 10 percent of their monthly income.

That’s 4 percent of what they need to survive.

There is an entrance fee — a damn entrance fee — to a place so beautiful, so peaceful, so perfect.

It strips the place of its rare sanctity.