Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

100 (and 60) days of lockdown

August 7, 2020

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.

Soul sedimentation

July 9, 2020

It’s nearly two years since Will and I hit the ground running in Vic Falls.

Now, I love a good run, but I have to say two years of it is hectic.

Which is why the DRAMATICALLY slower pace COVID has foisted upon us all hasn’t all been bad for us.

Last year felt insane. It was exhilarating, chaotic, difficult, fun, brutal and nowhere close to boring.

The year before was, for me, almost emotionally traumatic. It involved months of dreading goodbyes, which got more and more unavoidable with every passing day, and so more and more painful. I still hate even thinking about those final few weeks in New Zealand.

But, when I was pondering what this year would look like at the end of 2019, the words ‘make it your ambition to lead a quiet life’ kept rolling through my brain. I knew, after two years of rollercoasters, it was time to get off the ride and stand on the sidelines for a bit.

Given that I was also mega pregga, it seemed like a good idea anyways.

Now, that may sound easy, but it turns out that when you have been living on adrenaline for so long, winding life back (even with a baby) is actually quite hard. You feel a bit edgy, skittish, jumpy- mad basically. Throw in a my people-focused personality and saying no to social occasions is virtually impossible.

So COVID did the job for me.

Months of lockdown, a slower pace, and seclusion on our beautiful property have had me feeling all soul sedimenty. Like my life was a jar full of water and soil being shaken violently by a crazy man, which had suddenly been set down. Everything is settling into place. Rythym, routine, friendships, sights, sounds, smells are all familiar now.

It’s quieter, for sure. Some might even say boring. But it is, I know deep down, very necessary.

There is a bit of a downside to all this settling for me; I have been feeling WAY more homesick. It seems strange to feel it hit in year two, but I just don’t think I’ve had a chance to notice until now.

For the first time since I moved I’ve had days staring at the door wishing my mum would walk through it, or moments staring at the Zambezi River with the Waikato River rushing through my mind.

I suppose there always will be two worlds in my mind and heart. That’s just part of moving, especially if you come to love your new home, too.

So for now I’ll take the slower pace, even if it does mean a bit of homesickness- it’s just so nice to be settling.

A wild life

June 27, 2020

One of the COOLEST things about living in Victoria Falls is the wildlife.

From the warthog family wandering our road most days checking out shrubs, to the mongeese (mongooses?) outside the post office, to the BEHEMOTH pregnant ele and her two calves who destroyed the tree opposite our gate or the chameleon living in our garden, there is always an awesome creature nearby.

Since town has quietened down a tad (ha!) the animal residents of the region have been a little more comfortable meandering around, and IT’S AMAZING!!!

On our property is Callum the chameleon, who features in the video below chowing an unfortunate grasshopper.

Occasionally on the road outside is an ele who pops by of an evening…or 1am, to snack on a certain tree she quite likes just outside our gate.

Below you can see her legs, just, thanks to the light cast by a surprised car trying to get along our road. You can also see her teenager and bubba swinging it’s trunk.

Sneakily climbing our fence and watching the incredible creatures wreak havoc on our road about 2 meters away was, funnily enough, one our most romantic dates ever. In the morning, the results were left sprawled all over the road.

The local warthog leads a family of nine, including his wife, mother and six kids (at least that’s what it looks like to my uneducated eye).

The mongoose family are too numerous to name, but seem to enjoy playing hide and seek in the drain outside the post office on pleasant days- which is almost every day because it only rains between November and January.

I did also have an argument with a hairy caterpillar, which sent waves of dizziness spinning through my brain and unbearable itching through my whole body until a red, raw, bumpy rash solidified across my knees. For four nights I had ice packs tied to my legs trying to stop the burning.

The photographs in no way do the furious, abundant red justice.

I concede the caterpillar won that round, and I don’t intend to find out if it would win another.

The sound track for this life is magnificent too. Apart from the roaring of the Falls- which would be enough to listen to each night in itself- there is the roaring of lions, and the booming call of the hyena at night. The bullfrogs are obnoxiously loud, the cicadas a dainty addition to our evenings, and the day is enclosed with the song of the Heughlin’s Robin (recently renamed something else, which I can never remember), amongst many other birds (we have a resident Barn Owl, the Trumpeter Hornbills Donald and Melania, and some Paradise Flycatchers…even the odd Kingfisher drops by).

There is, obviously, also the chance of snakes which I don’t love. Rather a few too many Puff adders have been around lately, and you don’t have to live in Africa too long to learn they are the ones to be scared of. They aren’t the most poisonous- but they are the most lazy. They just don’t move until you step on them…and then it is to complain with a poisonous bite that can be survived, but must be treated quickly.

Centipedes, spiders and other creepy crawlies are also not on my favorites list, but must be endured if the rest are to be enjoyed.

And having lived here for two years now, I can testify that the balance falls well and truly on the side of enjoyment.

It really is a magnificent, wild, life.

A MASSIVE thank you, friends

June 27, 2020

Last month I published a blog about what happens when COVID hits a developing country.

The thrust of it was that the actual health threat posed by COVID was and remains nothing in comparison to the famine crisis the global economic shutdown has kicked off for countries like ours.

The latest figures from worldometre show that 12 people have died of starvation this year for every person who has died from Coronavirus. That gap is likely to get much worse in coming months.

A number of you responded asking how to help, so we pointed people in two directions: Jafuta Foundation and Greenline Africa Trust.

A MASSIVE thank you to those of you who donated.

Jamie (or Will, for anyone outside of Zimbabwe 🙄) managed to get out with Greenline Africa a couple of weeks ago to see where that money went.

Below is the video we put together. We will keep you all updated over the coming months, and I’ll try to get back into a bit more blogging now that Elodie has started sleeping more than half an hour during the day!

COVID in a developing country

May 4, 2020

So, as most of you know (from AVIDLY following my blog) I’m a first-world girl living in a developing country.

I’ve wondered – a million times – how to write about COVID here, because I’ve struggled with how to make it relatable.

After all, while we watched the first world hit panic stations over hospital beds and flattening the curve, we were glancing sideways at a hospital with one ventilator (when they were all the buzz) and zero isolation units between 33,000 of us.

While ‘stay home, save lives’ became the catch cry of the West, we were watching tourism dry up in a tourist town where there is little to no real government support to fall back on when you lose your job (as have an estimated 90 per cent of us).

Hunger, and thereafter starvation, are very real possibilities in the coming weeks and months for roughly 20,000 of the people in this town.

It all makes the question ‘how can I help?’ so much more tangible and pressing when there is no substantial formal support system in place.

I’m not trying to be mean spirited, or political. I understand these times are scary for all of us, no matter where we live. What I am trying to get at is that living here has given me a different perspective on pandemics to what I think I would have back home.

Our little town, Vic Falls, is doing its best.


Members of our grassroots COVID Taskforce (to which you can donate here for medical supplies, and here for food) have, among other things, ensured donations are recorded and channelled appropriately, organised PPE and medical equipment for our local hospital, and organised urban planting initiatives. Many of us have jumped onboard enlarging vegetable gardens and planting every seed we can get our hands on.

Others have organised fundraisers and worked on spreading the word, while councillors in each ward are working on lists of the most vulnerable towards which donations can be channelled.

It is incredibly inspiring to watch, we are getting closer to our goals…and it has all made me feel rather useless.

After all, I don’t have official contacts I can work. I don’t have piles of money to donate. I don’t have local knowledge to even begin to organise food supplies…but it dawned on me a few days ago that I do have one thing.

I can sort of write.

So, here’s what feels like a very insubstantial attempt to help the little town that has captured my heart – and the hearts of so many around the world who have passed through.

You can help too, of course. By donating at one of the links, by sharing this article so others can donate, or just by booking in and paying for that holiday you’ve been planning for a while- even if it is only for next year.

Every little bit helps business owners keep paying staff through this tough time, or local aid organizations to get the supplies we so critically need.

We SO appreciate it, and from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Famine Relief:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/vicfallsfamine-appeal

Medical Supplies:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/vic-falls-ventilator-and-covid19-supplies/donate

Elodie ‘Soy’ and the official apology

February 8, 2020

As John Buchan writes, any good adventure sets an essential task against a shrinking timeline.

This time around, the adventure wasn’t, thankfully, the long trip home. In fact, the only mid-air drama occurred when I wandered down an entire section of economy class (twice) to get snacks and fill up my water bottle, reached up to the over-head locker to grab a bag, then stood doing stretches by the toilet before realizing I had failed to zip up my breastfeeding top.

(My apologies to all those innocent victims in economy class.)

Instead, our latest adventure happened before we even got on a plane. It involved our newborn, a shrinking timeframe, and a critical document.

It started when we applied for Elodie’s passport- admittedly a bit later than we wanted thanks to a wee stint with her in hospital (she is ok).

Still, we expected the passport back with a few days to spare in case anything went wrong.

My first hint of trouble was when an automated email came back from the Department of Internal Affairs suggesting our child was named after a legume. The email assured us that any spelling mistakes in her name would be picked up by the humans processing the passport.

At 9am, five days before we were due to fly, and two working days (plus a weekend) before we left the house for Auckland, Elodie’s first ever NZ passport arrived.

Now, my nickname for her may be “bean”, but making her a literal bean was taking it too far.

We wondered if we weren’t already in Zimbabwe, as the error sent us reeling back to our permanent residency being granted.

We briefly wondered if we should just travel with Elodie Soy and try to sort the problem out from Zimbabwe. In the end we decided it would be easier to do from NZ, so we called the passport office to explain what had happened.

The passport office confirmed it was totally their fault, and said the new passport would be sent that afternoon.

We heard nothing more until the very end of the day, when the passport office called to say they actually needed the old passport back before the new one could be printed.

Will explained that time was in short supply.

We eventually reached a compromise (involving a picture of Elodie’s old passport clipped at the corner on the front page, but still showing her face on the inside page), and were assured the new passport would be there the next day.

At midday the next day Will called just to check how things were progressing.

We were told the passport couldn’t be printed because there was a POWER CUT in Auckland. We now seriously suspected we were already in Zimbabwe somehow, and stared at each other in disbelief.

By this stage the travel agent was getting quite vocal about needing passport details to add Elodie to our ticket. The deadline was 48 hours before flying, but of course that would occur over the weekend for us.

First thing Friday morning, Will called the passport office again…we could not believe our ears when they told us the passport still hadn’t been printed because the passport printing machine had broken down.

We gently (ahem) reiterated the growing urgency of the situation, and basically begged the office to give us a passport number so Elodie could at least be added to our tickets.

MERCIFULLY at midday on the dot, NZ morphed back into, well, NZ and we got the number. Our travel agent scrambled and Elodie was officially added to our ticket.

Little lady’s passport FINALLY arrived mid-morning the next day, with one day to spare before we left the house.

It all seemed very surreal, especially when we realized the drama was actually enough to warrant an official apology in NZ. Folded neatly into the bag containing the passport was personally signed letter of apology from a member of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.

And so, in the end, Elodie Joy went on her merry way to Zimbabwe, blissfully unaware of the whole drama, while Elodie Soy stayed behind in New Zealand.

Seven pounds of news

January 4, 2020

As you all know I was heavily pregnant (unflattering term) when I arrived in New Zealand with Kepler all those weeks ago.

Our little lady was due about four weeks from our arrival in NZ, and Will was due 10 days before bubs.

Both, I am very pleased to announce, made it safely, but the question was always who would make it first?

In the end, it was rather a race to the finish line.

After the hectic journey, both Kepler and I were shattered, and I spent a good two weeks getting over the jet lag.

By the time I emerged from the semi-coma of that jet lag I had two weeks to swan around admiring my beautiful little baby bump, proclaiming how distant it’s disappearance still felt, before Will arrived.

The mythical ‘distant baby’ bump.

This I did to all and sundry. I told my midwife (the amazing Katrina Woodham) baby felt a while off, and probably wouldn’t come before Christmas. I told my friends here and in Zim the same. I told my parents. I told my in-laws. I told the lady at the supermarket check-out.

Then, at 2am on Thursday morning, Will arrived. I was so excited I hadn’t slept. We both crashed and he spent the next day attempting to catch up on sleep.

Will’s arrival at the airport.

I woke up at 1am on Friday morning with a stomach cramp. I grumpily blamed a tummy bug, and went back to bed, restless for the rest of the night with tummy aches.

All of the next day, as Will and I walked around the lake, had our first coffee date together, had our first real conversation, bumped into friends (“when are you due?” “Anytime, but she feels a while off yet!”), climbed 118 stairs out of Lake Te Koutou, I vaguely remember my tummy bothering me.

I finally clicked at 9pm, as I stood rocking back and forth holding my belly.

“Babe, I think I’m in labour,” I said tentatively.

Will looked mortified. “Can you wait till morning?” he asked.

The answer was no. Almost 48 hours to the minute after her father arrived home, little lady was well on her way and not willing to give either of us any sleep. To his great credit, my extremely jet lagged husband managed to hold my hand AND stay awake until the big moment finally arrived.

It came at 7.32am on December 14, with the light of a new day streaming through the window. Little Elodie Joy Henson joined us weighing in at 6lb 11oz, or 3.05kg- almost three years exactly after we had first set our hearts on having another baby.

Everybody cried, and we let our tears wash away the weary waiting of the past few years and usher in the wonder of a new season.

After a couple of days at Waterford Birth Centre enjoying big meals, 24-7 midwife support, and our own room, it was back home. Mum and dad have been heroes, cooking, cleaning, washing and taking Kepler at all hours, so that we have been able to enjoy the adjustment, and wee man has been able to cope with losing all the attention after four years as an only child!

Waterford Birth Centre and one sleeping husband

So there you have it. Will won the race by the skin of his teeth in his usual style, and we are settling in to being a family of four before beginning the next adventure; flying back around the world with a preschooler and a six week old!

Alternative adventures and mid-air asthma attacks

November 14, 2019

As you all know, Kepler and I recently made the journey from Zimbabwe to NZ.

Months of careful planning meant that we had a) selected the shortest route home, though more expensive, as I’m 34 weeks mega pregga and b) paid extra for premium economy for me during the longest leg (12 hours) because I’m mega pregga.

All told, the journey from door to door was meant to take 29 hours, with Will’s dad David kindly accompanying us all the way back to Auckland for extra support.

We awoke at 5:45am on the big day to news that one of our flights had been cancelled. As I rolled out of bed in disbelief, Will began putting in calls to figure out what, exactly, was going on and what the back-up plan was.

After 45 minutes of back and forth with the travel agent in NZ, we discovered Qantas’ back-up plan was a code-share with Emirates that meant we would now be flying through Dubai…

Our total travel time had just jumped up to 42 hours.

I burst into tears that lasted the entire way to the airport (sorry David and Bob). With each new bit of news Will had to manage a fresh outbreak- first the news our longest leg was about 16 hours now. Then the news I would be in cattle class the whole way. I remember resentfully thinking that G.K. Chesterton was clearly not considering emotional pregnant women when he wrote “an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered”. Here’s our teary ‘about to leave’ photo.

Our first leg involved Will’s uncle, Bob, kindly flying us to Harare in his private plane.

After stuffing around with security at Vic Falls Airport (there was a power cut, and the generator had run out of fuel so they couldn’t scan us or bags), we finally made it. Now, a small private plane is a wonderful thing, but it is also a lot bumpier than a bigger plane- especially when you are flying through the gathering storm clouds of rainy season. By the time we made it to Harare I have to confess to feeling quite green, and having spent A LOT of time bonding with the Good Lord over the need for me to remain earth-side a little longer.

After a few hours with the wonderful Jo and Corks in Harare, cleaning out their pantry and drinking all their water, while Kepler destroyed his clean travel shirt playing with BFF Rafferty, we were off for the 9-hour leg from Harare to Dubai (with a layover in Lusaka for those who are wondering about that travel time). Little did I know cattle class would be the least of my worries.

Two hours into the Dubai-leg of our trip, Kepler started having an asthma attack. After a good half hour of coughing with every breath, the team moved us to the very back of the plane (apparently called the galley), where they contacted their doctor on the ground. I was holding steaming towels over Kepler’s face to try to open his airways, since his meds didn’t seem to be working, when they eventually called the onboard doctor. Praise the Good Lord (whom I spent a lot of time bonding with over the need for Kepler to remain earth-side a little longer), the meds started to kick in just as the wonderful Dr Leke did his assessment. He declared us fit to take on the next long-haul flight, after handing out a few instructions as to how to prevent the next asthma attack. I distinctly remember having to hold in an “I love you,” as he gently explained everything and dismissed our apologies for disturbing his flight.

I returned to my three seats, cleared by the kindly Emirates team (the fourth seat in my row remained occupied by a young, non-pregnant male who refused to move as he felt my request to lie down was unworthy), and managed to get in a bit of rest before we landed in Dubai.

How we are smiling in that photo I don’t know, as by now we had flown through the Zimbabwean night. After David arranged for wheelchair aid for me, we were whizzed around the airport to a waiting room seemingly reserved for the elderly, infirm and us. It was blissfully quiet, with huge bathrooms, and a little cafe. So I sat back, while David fed and watered us, then organised toothpaste so we could refresh properly, in anticipation of the final leg: a marathon 16 hour flight from Dubai to NZ according to the tickets.

In the end, although I had no extra seats to rest on, this leg was somehow the easiest. Kepler was a complete angel, and only melted down in the last hour, after sleeping or playing quietly for the ENTIRE 14 hour trip, switching out to sit beside me or David (turns out it was faster than the ticket said, YAY!!). I attempted to doze, woke thanks to baby thrashing my insides, and then repeated that process a few times. Unbelievably, after 14 months and 40- odd hours of transit time, it was finally time to land in NZ. Just as the cabin crew locked the toilets to land, Kepler declared an urgent need to pee, and began holding himself and talking loudly about how that part of his anatomy needed to go potty. Fortunately, we landed before I had to pull out the empty bottle, and Kepler made it on time. Then, we were heading through baggage collection, customs, and THE ARRIVALS DOOR!

After farewells and thanks to David, who had yet to fly to Christchurch and then drive to Ashburton, we headed to green, luscious Cambridge.

So there you have it, our unexpected adventure home…and I have to say that after a bit of sleep, plus happy reunions, I’m beginning to think that G.K. Chesterton wasn’t so far off the mark after all.

Fan-girling and Baby-mooning

November 4, 2019

In under a week Kepler and I jump on the first of four flights that will carry us back to New Zealand.

Fortunately, we have Will’s dad with us to help out should anything go wrong, but still, the count-down is well and truely on, which means that stress levels are a TINY BIT HIGHER THAN USUAL!!!

After all, it is 25 hours of flying, a month of separation for Will and I, with a very fine line between baby’s due date and his arrival. It turns out organizing baby stuff across two countries is also not that easy, especially in 41 degree temperatures (have I mentioned the temperature before?)

So, we were chuffed when some friends offered to take Kepler for the weekend so that we could get some QT together before our next cutie arrives.

It started as a suggestion that Kepler head to the farm with his besties Callum and Amelia- which he has done before and LOVED. Little man was up for the plan so we started making some of our own.

Will had been offered a comp at a nearby luxury camping lodge and they had one room free on Saturday night.

We made the most of Friday night by heading out for an intimate date at the River Brewery…where two other friends were also having intimate dates with their spouses (small towns eh?). Fortunately, we are preeeettttyyyy social as a couple so we stopped to have a good yarn and quite enjoyed ourselves.

The intimacy of the evening was further enhanced by the arrival of two politicians; one the former opposition leaders’ son (who happened to be staying at Shongwe) and the other the famed opposition force behind the writing of the Zimbabwe constitution. He is also the star of a documentary on said constitution called Democrats, which is on Netflix. It’s well worth a watch. Will instantly started to fan-girl, and walked over to introduce himself, before asking me to take photos.

He impressed the lads with his Shona speaking skills, before they insisted that we get back to our intimate date. Will reluctantly returned to our table where we talked politics and constitutions (just like our first ever conversation!!) for the remainder of the evening before I forced him to watch Pitch Perfect at home to lighten the mood.

Saturday arrived and with it the stress levels of trying to get to our lodge in time to watch the Rugby World Cup final. For some reason, luxury bush camps assume you don’t want a TV and came for other reasons- like game watching or enjoying the view. Go figure!! So I settled us into our stunning room while Will muttered and moaned as he attempted to get live streams of the game.

Rugby World Cup sorted, and we were finally able to kick back and relax for the next 24 hours – watching thunderstorms unleashed over the landscape around us, soaking in salt baths, and reading lighthearted comedies such as ‘Eugenics and other Evils’ by G.K. Chesterton. It was BLISS.

Meanwhile, Kepler was having a blast at the farm, and awaited a pick up on Sunday. After forcing me to do a ridiculous instagram photo shoot that I’m not allowed to publish, Will and I headed out to have lunch with the family he had stayed with.

Just before we headed off, we stopped in to meet the goats and the cows. Kepler introduced me to Nelly the cow, who happens to be pregnant and due in December. We forged an instant bond, as I whispered to her that I was Nelly the human, also due in December. Somehow, it made the weekend feel complete, and we headed home full of good food, having enjoyed good company and a mini escape all in 48 hours.

All of which means it really is time to turn our minds to the other side of the world, where my next update will probably be on living with your parents again, or long haul flights at 7.5 months pregnant.

Oh, and just one more thing: I love you babe. You’d break Instagram if these shots went up anyway 😘.

The art of belonging

October 15, 2019

One of the biggest challenges you face moving around the world is that of belonging.

It’s even tougher when you go from a community in which you have generations of history, loads of ‘aunties’ who have been watching your back (and gossiping about you-in a good way) your whole life, and a good portion of your immediate and extended family nearby.

However, I have discovered some secret tips that help one nestle into a place, and the hearts of those inhabiting it.

1. Laugh loudly and often: This is best done at yourself, as it is remarkably less effective when laughing at a local. I’ve tried both and can testify to that. After all, you are the newbie in town, so you’re the weirdo probably doing all sorts of strange things every one else is being extremely gracious about…like the time I commented to some friends that I was surprised mosquitos were biting us up the lodge tower because I didn’t realize they flew that high.

Practicing my smile.

2. Endure ailments frequently: I have MASTERED this during my pregnancy. People feel sorry for you for being so far from home, while sick etc. Even better, if you haven’t already made friends, it is a sure way to add some people to that list. Here, we are planning dinner with our doctor, and every time I go to get a blood sample done Sam has a good chat to me about being hungry when pregnant (he is a remarkably astute man). Meanwhile, the pharmacists have become my own personal cheering squad, and after handing out the latest dose of drugs, wave me off with a ‘good luck!’ Or ‘I hope you win this time!’.

Another sick day in bed.

3. Force yourself on people: Don’t give them time to realize you’re strange. Just message for that next coffee date or dinner. Then, when you get there, introduce yourself to every person present (force yourself, see?) and make them engage in conversation with you. Some of them are BOUND to lack the insight to realize you are mildly odd, and you’ll be in with a grin. That’s as sound a basis as any for good friendship.

Kuda, the honorary Kiwi who lived in Auckland.

4. Start a ukulele club: This has the benefit of combining point one AND point three, as you’ll end up laughing a lot since the uke is a happy instrument, and you’ll be forcing yourself on people. Besides that, you’ll need all the help you can get making friends, so using any and every friendship tool at your disposal is advisable. Ukes are famed for their friendship-conjuring abilities.

Ukulele, the best tool for making friends.

5. Say thank you: The truth is that you are busting in on peoples’ world…and some of them will wholeheartedly and warmly welcome you in. They will look out for you, put up with your obnoxious cultural breeches, hug you (even if you’re a person who didn’t realize you would need them), check in on you and even love you.

Fortunately, we have found Vic Falls to be full of that sort. Just today a surprise parcel arrived containing gifts for our little girl. Another person mentioned wanting to get our return dates so they could stock the freezer with Pre -made meals. Friends have taken Kepler for the weekend to give us time off, or for play dates when we were sick. Others are master huggers, or listeners, or just laugh at your jokes.

Really, after one year in the Falls, there isn’t much more to say other than one big, giant THANK YOU to the very special people who have welcomed us in.