Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

Clothes shopping in Zimbabwe

November 5, 2018

So, clothes shopping in Victoria Falls is a little different to New Zealand.

Back home, I had a range of fantastic Op Shops (second-hand clothing shops) to select from. They were all neat and tidy, the music was subtle and quiet, the sales people were mostly standing or sitting behind a counter.

I loved Op Shopping; the thrill of a bargain, the cheap-as-chips price tags, the treasures you might find on the next rack made it all rather exciting.

I think that excitement has been multiplied by a factor of 10 over here. But before we head to Comesa Market, here’s what Op Shops in New Zealand are like:

It’s all RATHER different to our bargain shopping mall here.

In Vic Falls, if we want cheap clothes we head to Comesa Market. I don’t know what it is, but the noise, squash of humanity together, colors, chaos and great drama involved in bargaining, just make it the funnest morning ever.

There are no racks, no counter tops over which to pass your purchase, and there is certainly no such thing as subtle, quiet music or dedicated changing rooms.

All you’ll find is piles of clothes – all second-hand donations from lovely aid or religious organisations who couldn’t sell them back home – and a bunch of humans lying around on them.

I thought I would bring you guys along with us, so without further ado, welcome to Comesa market.

A brush with Cholera

November 3, 2018

Heelllooo everybody! Sorry about the long delay between posts. Let me explain.

Last week we went to Harare to collect our permanent residents’ stamps, and then to collect the very, very long awaited stuff from our container.

We went Fastjet instead of Scair Zimbabwe this time, and I have to say it could have been a flight in New Zealand.

Anyway, the visit didn’t exactly go according to plan, Africa being Africa.

After collecting our permanent residents’ stamps with extraordinary ease, everything went downhill.

It started with a six hour visit to Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority), in which we applied to collect our container tax-free as residents are allowed to do. Here’s the action shots of us waiting:

(Thanks, by the way, to Nancy Pearcey for publishing “Finding Truth”. I think it singlehandedly kept me sane. Thanks also to MaryJo Sharp for friending me on Facebook so I could see awesome book recommendations.)

Now, the important thing to understand about this is that Zimra is RIGHT in the middle of Harare, and Harare is RIGHT in the middle of a Cholera outbreak. Just remember that for later.

At some point during the six hour wait, the toilet called, and I realised I was taking a risk. There was no soap, and I had to touch taps and doorknobs. We only had baby wipes to clean our hands with for the greasy Chicken Inn finger food we managed to find to keep us going.

Despite our interview going well, we were informed at 4.30 in the afternoon that, thanks to a paper work stuff up by our clearing agent, our tax-free status had been declined. That will be US$6000, thanks.

We berated Wellington, the thoroughly useless clearing agent, (I have no qualms in saying), worked out how to appeal, then went home.

That night, I woke up feeling rather queasy. Eventually, I couldn’t hold it in, and began to serenade the Robb family, who had kindly hosted us, with the sounds of vomiting and diarrhea until the wee hours of the morning.

Will and Kepler quickly followed, albeit with less severe versions, thank heavens.

Only once we were back in Victoria Falls, away from robust medical care, did round two hit.

About midday, my tummy suddenly swelled like a balloon, and I found myself running to the toilet to flush a few more kilograms (that I really don’t want to lose at this point), down the toilet.

By the evening, my half-hourly WC visits were getting closer to 10mins, and the cholera outbreak in Harare was quite present in my mind.

And honestly, I still don’t really know if that’s what it was. All Dr Google would tell me was that Cholera is “acute diarrhea” which in 1 out of 10 cases leads to death. (Medical friends, feel free to hypothesis/correct Dr Google in the comments).

It was enough to get me sipping rehydration liquids like crazy, and cramming activated charcoal into my bloated belly. Thank heavens, it worked. I was asleep by 11, and on the mend the next day.

On a positive note, I did discover post round one with Cholera (OBVIOUSLY what it was), that Harare was once a BEAUTIFUL city, and still is in many ways. Unlike many major African cities, you can drive through the middle without the slightest fear for your life. It’s full of wide avenues, shaded by tall trees, through which beautiful buildings pop up. Parking agents in bright orange vests, and uniforms, guard the streets, and the pavements are mostly free of rubbish.

If it weren’t for the whole Cholera thing, I wouldn’t be opposed to living there one day!

Anyways, Will will be back in Harare next week, hopefully to succeed in our appeal and FINALLY collect our container (tax-free!).

Ekonomikrisis Pt 2

October 19, 2018

After the events of last week, the entire nation of Zimbabwe was left holding its breath for two days.

There is no official weekend trading, so for 48 agonising hours we all punted theories as to what the rate would do on Monday.

Never in my life have I had reason to care about exchange rates (like, really care) before. I don’t intend to convert you, but I will just try to paint a little picture of all the awful, jargon-filled, language is trying to tell us.

As I said, EVERYBODY was debating the rate. We huddled in little groups at a party on Saturday, with local cafe owners, butchers, and catering people trying to keep the stress out of their voices and the strain out of their smiles.

The last week had hit hard. They had been paid in a currency that almost devalued by the day. Supplies dried up as suppliers closed their doors.

So prices went up, and cafes emptied out, fresh milk went into the freezer at retail stores in the hopes customers would come by soon.

Then the weekend hit. Will’s sources on the street told him the rate was flattening out. Someone said the government had secured US dollars and everything would be ok. Someone else said major companies had been cashing in their local currency to get rid of it for US dollars.

None of us really knew what was going on, but we all made up theories anyway just to try to make sense of things. Word of mouth is the best we have in lieu of newspapers, which no one seems to read AT ALL here.

We went to church, played touch rugby, and gathered at dinners as usual, because not doing these things wouldn’t make a difference – but acting normal now felt odd.

Monday rolled around, and word from Harare was the rate had come back…phew! Local currency wasn’t so useless after all! Except, no one could get currency there at the new rate.

The inevitable had hit by Wednesday. Local currency was tumbling again. By now major supermarkets and shops were opening later just so that they could get a sense of the rate, and rejig local prices before customers hit the store. The 7/11 became a 10/6. Other stores closed entirely.

And here we are; facing different prices everyday for the same tray of eggs, or cup of coffee; with email inboxes stacking up with official notices from banks and health care providers about “the current situation” and how on earth payments will be calibrated; with roller doors down on store fronts till mid morning, while the government remains thunderously silent.

Here we are wondering what to pay staff and the cottage builders as their wages get cut by 75 per cent in days according to some strange, unknown equation a government kicked into action without being able to control it.

And the worst economic indicator of all hit today; Will looked grim.

When an eternal optimist looks grim – very grim – and says the rate won’t recover from another hit, you know the poo is flying very close to the fan.

It’s all odd, for a naive little Kiwi to make sense of. I’ve never been in such a baffling, bizarre situation before.

For now, I’m just sticking to the plan; plan meals carefully and cross the border to Botswana for food and petrol each week if we run out here. Help our friends and family further inland however we can. Make sure we have well-stashed first aid kits, fuel cans and cupboards.

Then, just find something nicer to chat about.

Like this: hey, did you know Rocco came back! He’s got ticks and fleas, and dog flu, but still, he’s back!

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.