Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

We are legal!!

October 16, 2018

Woohoo! So about two weeks after we handed our papers in we have finally heard the good news; The Henson’s are legally Zimbabwean residents!

This is AWESOME news, as it means the pressure is off for being made legal before getting kicked out. But mostly, it is awesome news because it means we can get to Harare and collect our things.

I have not be in my own home, with my own things around me, since about April I think, so I am HANGING OUT for that container. Also, we have broken a few of Jackie’s things, which is never fun to have to confess (she didn’t mind in the slightest). It will be nice to get back to smashing our own things.

In other news, the Trust that had books for rural schools in the rest of our container has had one disaster after another with paperwork. This has resulted in a US$4000 fine, and unfortunately they are at this point thinking of tossing the whole lot. It’s not the best solution I have ever heard of, because they will still be liable for the fines…it’s just the kids who so desperately need books won’t get them.

We are pretty gutted, as we spent hours collecting books, sorting them, packing them and organising that container. To have it so close to its final destination – those children – and yet so far it rather heart-rending.

I’ll let you know what happens.

In other, other news, we got a dog…and then lost it.

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Rocco arrived just over a week ago from one of the local villages, where a vet had taken him in. He flinched whenever we reached out to pat him, wouldn’t go near his food if we were close, and lay down if we came over to him.

Within three days, he was racing around our yard, chasing the ball he once flinched at, barking furiously at Shylock to defend us from attack and had firmly ensconced himself in our hearts.

Then, on Sunday, as we rushed out the gate to church, he must have slipped out, and he hasn’t been seen since. We have put the word out on Whatsapp and Facebook, and even offered a reward. We are hoping it won’t be too long before he is back home from his “holiday, playing cars with this friends” as Kepler puts it.

To help us all feel a little less down, I’m going to finish with this video of how to get fertiliser for your garden in Zimbabwe.

Shongwe Lookout update

October 13, 2018

I have learnt something about building a lodge in Victoria Falls. You need lots of water, and if you have that, everything happens very fast.

I mentioned a few posts ago that we were, at one stage, caught between needing to pump our water supply up to Shongwe Lookout for the building to go on, and making sure we had enough for our family (well, not really, but that’s how I felt).

Anyways, the point is Municipal Water was in short supply a couple of weeks ago, thanks to a break down, and no spare pump as the money was all (apparently) spent on cars.

In the end, our gardener Emmanuel came up with the brilliant idea of pumping water up from our tank, under the road (thank you culverts!) and through the neighbours’ property (thank you neighbour!).

That allowed us to all take turns watering cement over the weekend, and supplied enough water to keep the cement coming for the following week.

All of that meant that suddenly a bunch of boring foundations were being turned into rooms! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

While the building is now full steam ahead, we are busy checking over top-secret designs and lists of gear most days.

From the pool to room chairs to the decorative tiles on the shower and pattern at the bar…it’s super fun having a bit of creative control and working with an expert to get everything looking AWESOME. I can’t wait to see the final result.

Renovating the cottage

October 10, 2018

So, while the there is an economic hiccough going on, we are renovating.

We made the decision well before we knew what would happen, and perhaps would have gone with it all the same as we had budgeted for it in New Zealand.

Anyway, we have an independent cottage on our property. It was converted into a garage by the previous owner, so we are converting it back.

We are a week in, with most of the demolition complete. Here’s a little peep at how things looked on day one versus day five:

This is the view from the side entrance:

It’s been…a learning curve, trying to source builders, electricians, plumbers and materials.

Will has been out most mornings wrangling with suppliers as the heat of the day grows, trying to get them to fulfill their promises.

Fortunately, we’ve had the world’s most handy handyman visiting, Corky Sheppard. His wife, Jo, is Will’s godmother, and they have basically adopted us as their newest set of children.

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Corky has been busy drawing up AMAZING plans for the builders to follow, helping Will through the supplier wrangling, and making sure everybody knows exactly what they need to do.

He has also fixed our front door, to boot. We had to throw our bodies against it just to get it open, thanks to the concrete underneath having risen at some point. Jo, meanwhile, has engaged in some serious babysitting and doubled as our pool expert, advising our gardener Emmanuel on how to get it SPARKLING.

We’ve also had some fun along the way.

All the piles of sand, dirt and building supplies around have been heaven for Kepler. He spends hours driving his trucks and cars around the “sandpits” and is quite well acquainted with all the builders.

It took quite a bit of convincing for him to learn that the wheelbarrows were not there for rides, and the tools were not for him to “fix” our cars with. Mine now has scratch marks from the rake being used on it, and we just managed to save Will’s from piercing by screwdriver the other day.

But apart from that things are progressing well, and I’m quite looking forward to using my decor budget on the project!

 

Ekonomikrisis

October 9, 2018

So we are in the middle of a genuine, honest-to-goodness, economic crisis.

Last week sometime, the government made what seemed to me to be an obscure, irrelevant announcement about FCAs (whatever they are). Next minute, I woke up and everybody – EVERYBODY – was talking about the crisis. Everybody was panicking, and talking about “2008, this is just like 2008”.

Now, conversation entirely revolves around what is in shortage where. I kid you not, within days medications have run out, most pharmacies have shut down, the hospital is demanding payment for medication in US dollars, fuel stations only have petrol AND diesel about once a week, and there is a bread shortage in Harare. You can’t buy flour either.

Honestly, I will never look at another Western policy debate on economics the same way (because I watch SOOOOO many). In my lifetime, I have never visibly seen this kind of impact from any government announcement – even during the Great Financial Crisis.

In New Zealand, we still had functioning hospitals and pharmacies, as well as food, THE WHOLE TIME the Great Financial Crisis endured. It’s been a week, and Zimbabwe doesn’t.

This is part of a fuel queue near us. You can imagine what fun it is sitting in your car on the side of the road in 34 degree Celsius temperatures. For hours. To get a 20L ration.

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Apparently, according to my hubster, we are ok…although we are panic buying just like everyone else. We’re making sure there is plenty of stock in the pantry and I’m rather keen to get some Jerrycans of fuel going on.

I had already ordered a First Aid kit with basic medication up from South Africa when we first got here, and buying from South Africa is still a good option for us, which makes me feel a bit better.

Also, thanks to living close to the border, people here aren’t QUITE as stressed as those around the rest of the country. The saying everybody finishes off conversations with is; “hey, we are Zimbabwean, we’re tough and you know what they say: Just make a plan.”

For now, I’m feeling calm but wary. We have our plan of buying across borders, so we can still survive. If Will (or is it Jamie?) gets stressed, I shall promptly freak out, and tell you all how that goes.

In case you are wondering what, exactly, this economic crisis is, I’ll attempt to explain, using a cartoon made by the awesome team at Zimpreneurs TV over on YouTube.

Basically, the government made an announcement that meant it acknowledged the local currency – bond – was not equal to the US dollar as it had hoped we would all believe (this is where the FCAs came in. Google it if you really want to know).

This loss of confidence by the government in its own currency saw the value of our bond plummet over night.

Suddenly, anyone wanting to import stuff into the country was still earning the same amount (in bond) from their business, but was having to pay three times as much bond to buy the US dollars needed to import.

Quite simply, no one can afford stuff anymore, so there are shortages.

Anyways, onto the cartoon from Zimpreneurs TV: Introducing Bond Note and US Dollar, who are busy having a chat about whether or not they are equal. Poor Bond is quite ill, and every time he sneezes…well, you’ll see. Welcome to Africa, people.

Welcome to our house

October 6, 2018

Time for a little tour of our house and garden!

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but the day Oupa left mum and dad arrived from New Zealand. Since then, I’ve been racing to catch you all up on the ridiculous amount of news we seem to have each day.

Anyways, we live along one of the main roads heading into the Suburbs, but thankfully, the neighbourhood has so far been blessedly quiet…ever since we got rid of the Guinea Fowl after they woke us yet again, this time at 4am. (Don’t worry, no fowls were harmed during this process. They now live with the rest of their tribe just down the road.)

Oh, and aside from a two-day party on the Zambezi River 3 kilometres away that we couldn’t block out even with ear plugs.

Anyways, we live on a big section, and Will is already busy creating an ENORMOUS veggie garden, under shade cloth, with misters out back. The house is totally fine, but we will eventually make some changes just so it works for us.

Our main goal is to have a home in which people feel welcomed, lulls them into lingering, and draws out deep conversations.

My theory is that to achieve this one needs super comfy couches, which people feel they can put their feet up on and…actually, I’m not really sure beyond the super comfy couches.

So without further ado, welcome to our house.

Where my container at?

October 2, 2018

It’s about time to give you all an update on where our residency and container, last seen at Mason Place in Cambridge, are at.20180622_124230

But just quickly, before I do, a totally unrelated fact. I’ve lost my husband. Sort of. Will has spontaneously decided now that he is back home, to take up the name by which he was called as a child in Zim; Jamie. It’s his third name, and use of middle names is quite common here because of the good ol’ Afrikaans tradition of giving almost everyone the same first names (or so it feels to me).

Unfortunately, he decided to do this a week or so after we arrived, so half the people we have met know him as Will, and the other half as Jamie…this all means that whenever I am trying to explain who I am I have no idea who I am married to. Is it Will or Jamie? It is VERY CONFUSING, and VERY ODD after seven years to suddenly have a husband with a different name.

 

Ok, back to the subject at hand. At the last update we had just discovered the concept of fuel shortages, were trying to work our water systems at home out, and still had no residency, which meant we were facing a huge bill to keep our container in a bonded warehouse until we were legally residents of the country and so could collect it.

I think I also mentioned that Will spent a lot of time praying in the fuel queues.

Well, it seems to have worked. We decided to break one of the golden rules in Africa, and hand in the paperwork for each of the six consecutive steps to get to residency at the same time…this meant each step would be missing the approval of the previous step.

Within three days, step six was approved, and we were free to hand in our application for residency. What followed was a hectic few days photocopying, certifying and collating endless paperwork to prove who we were and what we were doing.

In the meantime, our container seems to have become part of a comedy show. A still unknown error meant the moving company lost our paperwork, which meant the container has been travelling all over the country (at one point, it was on its way to Zambia). Our clearing agent has been growing increasingly incensed, and is now trading insults over emails with the moving company, while we watch in awe…after all, every day of stuff ups saves us the bonded warehouse fee.

So far Africa being Africa has saved us about US$900.

It’s all fantastic news for us, at present. Now, we’re just praying that our residency comes through super fast, and that as soon as it does our container miraculously arrives so we can FINALLY collect our stuff. We really are yearning to set up our home.

In the meantime, we have learned that fuel shortages are, indeed, a regular occurrence around the entire country. It turns out the lack of USD in the country makes it hard to buy fuel, hence the shortages resulting in 1km queues about once a fortnight.

We’ve learned to fill up as soon as fuel arrives and the queues are gone, then drive Will’s/Jamie’s diesel instead of my petrol whenever possible. Diesel seems more readily available!IMG-20180822-WA0000.jpg

We’ve also learned how our water system at home works, and have a steady flow of both hot and cold water coming into the house (hallelujah!!), unless there is a power cut. In which case we have a generator.

So, little by little we are getting there.

 

 

Bad days are made for laughing at

October 1, 2018

So as I mentioned in my last couple of posts, we had a great time testing mum’s heart out through close encounters with wildlife, and other such things over the last few weeks…in between all vomiting our hearts out and running to the toilet every hour.

That’s right. One by one we have all been struck down with “Livingston Fever”, which my insiders inform me hits every summer.

My turn came on Monday a couple of weeks ago, just as I reached the top of a 25 minute gorge climb, in 38 degree Celsius temperatures, after a 6 hour rafting date with dad which covered 31 kilometres and 19 rapids (check out the video in my last post).

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and my only water intake had been the bits of Zambezi river forced down my throat by Rapid Number 7. Gazing at the view, I took a nice, big swig of cold coke and knew instantly my time had come.

The next eight hours of my life involved so much throwing up that I eventually found myself in the bath, with my husband washing warm water over my seizing muscles, while I begged the Lord for mercy.

He heard the bit about the vomiting, but I forgot to mention the other end. So after a fitful sleep, no food and no water, I found myself facing another day with a runny, cramping tummy.

Finally, Wednesday dawned, and I spent a relatively glorious day sipping water and nibbling toast whilst lying in our air conditioned room…until the power cut out for six hours and Mum suddenly turned green. As usual, the farm gal from Raetihi was the last to fall.

Honestly, there is only so much candle-light that feels romantic, and then you just start to worry about burning the house down. More pressing, I felt anxious about my medically-sustained mother regurgitating her pills within minutes of consumption. Worse-case scenarios flashed into my mind. So we cranked up the generator we had FINALLY had connected, turned her air con on, and sat back to enjoy the mind-numbing hum rage just outside Kepler’s room, after shutting windows to block the petrol fumes.

Ah, the serene sights, smells and sounds of adventure.

That all brings me to my proper bad day; that Friday. It started when I woke still unable to properly face food and our cloudy, pot-boiled municipal water.

It plunged significantly when I learned there was, in fact, a major break down at the Municipal Water Works, and no spare pump. We needed to gear up for a major water shortage (what did that mean? A day, a week, a MONTH without water??).

It nearly hit bottom when we learned that the concrete was about to be poured at Shongwe Lookout…and you need water to pour concrete. Our tank, 200m down the road, was the only option left, and we happened to have all the gear needed to get water from it to Shongwe.

Being stuck between the pressures of building, and not knowing when you will next have a water supply for your family is a very unhappy place.

I finally cracked when my poor, innocent mum washed her raw chicken hands all over my carrots while we prepared dinner for a guest.

It barely counts as even a straw (not your fault mum!), but I was a well-loaded camel by then.

I stumbled to the bathroom to cry and wash my (now also) raw chickeny hands, only to grab the conditioner instead of soap.

And there you have it. The pinnacle of my bad day. Standing at the bathroom sink desperate to cry from hunger, tiredness and stress all at the same time, with raw chicken hands smeared in conditioner.

All I could do was laugh.