With seven months under my belt in Zimbabwe, I feel like I’m beginning to notice a distinct difference between playdates and parties in Africa, and those I used to go to in New Zealand.
Just a couple of weeks ago I was out at a popular tourist spot with a friend. It was HOT as usual lately, the kids were needing to get out, and so were we. So we decided to head somewhere with pools and refreshments to satisfy all parties.
Upon arrival, we entered the usual negotiations over what things cost on the menu in local currency, then in USD. We then entered discussions over what rate this place was using, and ultimately concluded that it was ridiculously expensive no matter which way you looked at it.
BUT, thanks to the heat, we decided to invest US$4 in a small bottle of sparkling water for me, another US$4 in a small Fanta for Friend, and also bought a bowl of hot chips.
Disgruntled, but resigned, we settled in to let the children tax our drinks and scoop up some chips. Then, we made a fatal mistake.
We decided to let the children play on the playground. We went over to resolve some issue or another, and I realised I was going to have to pick Kepler up. I handed my US$4 sparkling water to Friend, who was heading back to our sitting area with her children, and sorted out the issue.
When I got back to our seating area, Friend was blinking at me in surprise.
“Narelle, I’m so sorry! I had to throw your sparkling water at a monkey!”
Now, I’ve never heard a sentence like this in my life, so you can imagine how eager I was to know why someone would HAVE to throw sparkling water at a monkey.
Turns out the monkey had been eating our chips. All of them. The only thing Friend had in her hands when she got back and saw the catastrophe unfolding was my US$4 sparkling water.
At this point, Friend declared the playdate a fail all around. I declared it the best playdate I’d ever been on.
But the animal stories aren’t always bad, I should point out.
Just the other day we were invited to a birthday party out in the bush. The kids splashed away in the pool, bouncy castle nearby, and a table laden with food sat to the side, while Zebra grazed about 200 metres away.
A whole herd, with colts.
As we watched, a herd of Eland, which I’ve never seen before, walked slowly over to the water hole and began to drink. Then, as if some unspoken safety message was broadcast, the Zebra colts were running around playing chase, some Impala joined in, and a couple of Eland bulls had a gentle disagreement before carrying on their way. It was unbelievably magical, made all the more beautiful by that dusty golden African evening light.
So, yes, on the odd occasion monkeys steal your food and friends throw your expensive drinks at them, or (as happened at another birthday party we were invited to but couldn’t make), you’re busy celebrating a kids birthday party and then someone warns you lion are in the area, and someone else tells you Eles are on the road home.
But, quite honestly, it makes life an adventure – and a beautiful one too. What a way to bring up a child.