So I’ve had a few requests from my Kiwi fan (thanks for reading Jess) about what it’s like to live lockdown life in Zimbabwe.
Like most countries, it has been COMPLETELY different for everyone…so all I can offer is a glimpse of what our lives have been like.
COVID first crept into my consciousness in New Zealand sometime around the New Year. It was all the way over in China so I didn’t think too much of it.
By the time we were traveling with Elodie Joy/Soy back to Zim, the airports were full of people wearing masks. It was unnerving. Within a month I had realised COVID was going to hit our lodge and hit it hard. My eternally optimist husband was still convinced it would all blow over by April, but for my sake he started prepping the lodge for the worst.
Then the WHO declared a pandemic, our world changed overnight, and we went into a two week lockdown that was soon extended for another two, the worst bit of which included the closure of National Parks.
Will’s days became an endless parade of heated cancellation emails, wrangling over refunds, and endless fiddling to figure out how we could keep paying staff something, ANYTHING, until December. Why? Because Will’s eternally pessimistic wife was badgering him to have a worst case scenario plan in place JUST INCASE.
It was the first time I felt proud of being a pessimist.
Town suddenly went ghostly quiet, kids started dropping out of school, leaving eerily empty classrooms of two or three (Kepler among them), and conversations ran in circles about how bad this was, how bad it might get, how it was easily worse than the worst this town had ever seen.
All soul-cheering stuff to hear when you have a six month old business.
By law, we were no longer allowed to leave our properties, even to exercise. Grocery shopping and medical needs were the exceptions. Police loitered around to capture cars containing more than two people, and WhatsApp warnings were sent out saying we must stop being rubber-Neckers, and must start respecting the law.
That’s harder than it sounds in a country where so many of the law are immoral that you get into the habit of breaking them. The queues outside the supermarkets, for example, involved people almost standing on top of one another to make sure they got their government-subsidized maize meal before it, or their wages, ran out. After all, there is no real welfare system to speak of.
We, meanwhile, were stuck on our (comparative to NZ) vast, sprawling property, with winter closing in and a hospital desperately short of PPE and isolation units (we had none), and precious little accurate communication since the President hardly ever turned up for his own speeches on time.
Our domestic staff had been offered the option of staying on the property full time and working, or heading home full time but still being paid.
Thank HEAVENS they chose to stay. The washing, cleaning, gardening, and even our dinners were all done each day. Kepler had three adults to chose from, and I had extra support for when Ella went through one of those delightful developmental patches all parents know and love.
So the next few weeks involved being at home with my children, Whatsapp dates with friends or family, home workouts to stay sane, and very little worry about the actual disease most of the time.
A couple of us also did challenges to stay positive. Somehow, despite my obvious giftings and talents, I never won a single one. We peaked at our famous painting challenge, taken out by team Holshausen and their potato patch.
Slowly, in bits and pieces, we were given small morsels of freedom. We could exercise, for example, or go back to church in groups of under 50. But there was and is always a kick to these.
The day we were finally allowed out of our properties again, for example, we were also required to wear masks. There were no masks to be found anywhere, of course.
So I, like most of Zimbabwe, got sewing.
By May the schools had realised they needed to make a plan, and so we began online learning. Kepler LOVED it, and still does, mostly because he gets all my attention for an hour each morning. Three months later, and I THINK I’m getting a handle on being a home schooling mum.
And then, just when local tourism had opened up a bit, and money was starting to trickle (slowly) into town again, we were slammed back into lockdown.
Strangely, this happened just when some major political protests were planned.
But it’s probably a coincidence.
So here we are 160 days into our 14-day lockdown, with enough guests turning up, for various reasons, to keep the lodge ticking over, and enough time in lockdown under our belts to have well and truly settled into our new normal.
Winter is passed, summer has come, and life is ticking along with the usual joys and frustrations of living in a developing country.
Best of all, the National Parks opened again last month. So to celebrate, Will and I snuck off to see the roaring Falls, which have been lulling us to sleep from two kilometers away each night.
Despite having missed them at record flow, it was well worth the wait, and enough soul food to feed us for whatever the next few weeks may bring.