The sound of a door opening often wakes Fortunate Hove ’11, MPPA ’14, with a start. It’s been that way since she was in seventh grade, the year she felt so lost that she missed Rhodesia’s national school exam. At that time, late in the 1970s, the war of liberation was spreading to her part of the country, which was soon to become independent Zimbabwe.
Like other young villagers, Hove (pronounced HOH-vay) was drafted into one of the black revolutionary groups opposing white-minority rule. She carried food to a guerilla base for the first time at age 11, and the work did not stop. School became optional. Hove prepared meals, fetched water, listened to Maoist political indoctrination, and attempted to keep herself and her family out of trouble. Used as a human shield, she evaded gunshots by crawling through thistles and survived the shelling of a base at age 14.
“Rest,” she writes in her 2013 memoir, “became a thing of the past.”
Given her always-uneasy sleep, it’s meaningful that Hove now thinks of Cal Lutheran as “a resting place.” She has needed the quiet.
“This is not just a school, it’s a community,” she said, “and personally I felt that. It was a time when I really needed support, and I got it.”
A decade before Hove came to Cal Lutheran for a bachelor’s degree in communication, she had already spent 11 years working as a professional radio and television journalist for Zimbabwe Broadcast Corp. She rose to become a ZBC regional bureau chief and later managed public relations for a steel company.
She was also the mother of two children, whom she’d left behind when she fled to the San Fernando Valley in 2002. In the Valley, she worked as a drug rehabilitation counselor.
Hove had always wanted a degree like her uncle, who was respected in the village for his education. “But so many things militated against my acquisition of that degree,” she told a classroom of Cal Lutheran criminal justice students last March. “You don’t know how lucky you are to be in the positions in which you are…. Not many kids your age have that opportunity. Use it – that’s all I can say – productively.”
She finally studied military and economic history, earning her first bachelor’s degree in Zimbabwe. Adding knowledge from her own experience, she developed a deep appreciation for the smaller intertribal and interpersonal conflicts that always lie behind “the bigger conflict that catches the attention of the international community.” Those smaller, less visible conflicts regularly claim more lives than the larger one, Hove says.
Tradition taught Hove that life is one fabric and that everyone weaves a share of it. Storytellers conclude, but the stories do not. Like a very long education, a true story is instead a series of commencements.
Experience taught her that women endure more than men. Hove married a man of extraordinary educational attainments who, she said, nevertheless felt threatened by her success and relative fame. She went through a divorce, received politically motivated threats that led her to flee Zimbabwe, and suffered “a long season of loneliness” until her children finally arrived in California last year. In both of her countries, she learned that she could gain the trust of other women and found “a passion” for working with them.
When she decided to study again, she felt at home at a Lutheran university. Although she has been on a long journey of discovery as a Christian, she was raised a Lutheran and keeps a missionary’s work ethic and hours. “In my darkest time, when I was out here alone, it was the Lutheran hymns that really saw me through,” she said.
With her children now studying at Moorpark College and Thousand Oaks High School, Hove’s ambition is to earn a doctorate in international relations or a related field, and to apply her expertise to gender issues of global significance, including human trafficking. She would prefer to remain near Los Angeles to address those issues here.
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