Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

The first rain dance

October 11, 2019

There really is no way to describe the first rains in Africa. But obviously this is a written blog, so I’ll have to try.

The key to understanding the magic of rain is to really get your head around what a lack of it feels like.

In Vic Falls, rainy season is preceded by roughly five months without a drop of rain, as temperatures incrementally creep towards 40 degrees Celsius. Come October the heat is almost unbearable.

Imagine sweltering in an oven from 9am until about 7pm. Then, add an extra 10kg to your current body weight, since you’re pregnant. Toss another degree or two on top of the ambient temperature thanks to the small human growing inside you.

It isn’t fun.

The side-effects are as follows: You drink literally non-stop. As soon as a glass of cool water is finished, you don’t think ‘ah, that was refreshing’. You think ‘man, is my mouth clammy again already?’

You wouldn’t need to go to the toilet at all, except that you are pregnant, so you have to go every 15mins. (The experience is made more frustrating by the fact you bought single ply toilet paper accidentally -BIG MISTAKE- and the frequent power cuts mean you can’t flush since the water pump won’t work).

You move slowly and inelegantly between the pool and the bedroom, where an inverter keeps the fan or air conditioner going, and you can look out the window and ponder all the things you need to do but can’t even begin to because you are just.so.hot.

You moisturize twice a day because your skin is so dry, but your heels crack anyway, and your nostrils burn from the air conditioner drying them out overnight.

All of this builds to a head over a couple of months as the dogs lie panting in any shade they can find, the national park turns to a moonscape full of boulders and dead-looking trees, and the animals move sluggishly around you towards the river.

A good layer of dust settles on every window pane the moment it is cleaned.

Slowly, an infuriating humidity starts to build, making the air thick and heavy, and that 10kg feel like 20kg. Tempers get short, sweat layers skin from the moment the sun pops up, dirt and dust coat your feet and legs, you feel sticky, sick and frustrated.

All of this is made worse by the failure of the last rainy season to show up at the party, resulting a drought that has sent the Zambezi River shriveling up to its lowest levels in decades- apparently.

Just as you think you really need to move into the pool on a permanent basis for the sake of all those you love, the last reprieve- the gentle breeze- dies completely.

Movement seems to be a ludicrous idea, even to the dogs.

Then.

Then the sky gets dark, literally out of the blue. A firm wind begins to whisk brittle, brown foliage across the property.

That’s when you see it- a shower so fine it’s only visible because of the little ripples appearing on the surface of the pool.

As distant thunder rattles the clouds, the rain grows slowly heavier. You start messaging your friends using way too many words in capital letters and exclamation marks.

Right on cue in the grand drama, fat, heavy droplets of rain let loose, and the steady shower transforms into a DOWNPOUR!!

IT’S THE FIRST RAINS OF THE SEASON!!!

As you can imagine, the moment unleashes celebration wherever those rain drops fall.

We went out to sing and dance (I was trying to convince Kepler that God was not going to flood the world like in Noah’s Ark, since he mostly knew about storms from the story).

The heat was slowly beaten out of the air, until it whispered only around our ankles intermingled with dust. Finally, even that was washed away by a cool, refreshing breeze.

We could actually smell the weariness, and heat, and exhaustion seeping out of the earth. (Seriously. It’s a scientific fact.)

Best of all, we could feel the weariness, heat and exhaustion being washed out of our bodies, minds and souls.

Even Kepler eventually got into the celebration and (after putting his swimming suit on just incase) ran outside to join us in a little rain dance.

No one knows when the next rains will fall, but for now, our spirits have been refreshed.

Really, there is nothing like the first rains in Africa.

One year: The hazards of going home

August 29, 2019

We made it. One entire year on the other side of the planet. One entire year in what is, essentially, a different world.

I was actually pretty emotional reflecting on the moment this past week, but when it came I suddenly realised something: I’m heading back to New Zealand soon, and I’ve picked up an awful lot of weird habits from a first-world perspective. If they slip out, I’m going to look like a real twit.

So now, I have to confess I’m feeling a little concerned about setting foot in the land of the long white cloud again. Quite honestly I think it will feel like a shock to the system.

In no particular order here is a list of the things I’ll probably end up doing:

  1. I’ll forget I don’t have a maid, and will pile up dishes at my parents’ house expecting them to just disappear. It’s amazing how fast you adapt to having home help…
  2. I’ll stand waaaaayyyyy too close to people in the queue at the supermarket expecting someone to try to push in front of me. If your body parts aren’t touching here, you aren’t queuing right.
  3. I’ll drive over curbs, on footpaths, and pass in town. If I get pulled over I’ll express surprise that there are road rules, and that the idea of a “road” is taken so literally.
  4. I’ll keep asking people if there is “ZESA” (power) or water at their house as a general topic of conversation. When they look at me strangely I’ll ask what rate we are using against the US dollar.
  5. I’ll go into shock when I first see the fresh produce in the supermarket and will start tenderly stroking vegetables I haven’t seen in a year as I dribble and cry quietly.
  6. When shopping in general I’ll ask the assistants what price items are today, in which currency, for every single item I’m interested in. Despite the clearly marked price labels.
  7. I will literally cry when I first taste fresh milk again. Then I will drink litres and litres of it even after my dad gets angry and tells me to stop. I’ll buy UHT milk just so I can pour it down the drain and burn the package.
  8. I’ll keep glancing around nervously when we go for a bush walk, and will say things like “this is lion country for sure” or “was that an ele?”
  9. I’ll have a look of pure terror on my face when someone suggests swimming in the Waikato River. When I get asked why, I’ll yell “the crocs and the hippos, you idiot!”
  10. I’ll smack Kepler in public. When I get arrested I’ll be extremely confused and keep saying “but it’s legal here.”

Awkward habits aside, it has been a big year. I think Will and I will be processing it for a while yet, packing it neatly into our memories and studying how it has shaped us as people, and as a family.

There have been PLENTY of horrible lows involving sickness, stress levels we didn’t know a human could survive, and feeling we let everyone down by some stuff up or another.

But I can’t deny that Vic Falls is now firmly under my skin, because on the 25th of July at 11pm I heard the call of the hyena in the night, and felt my heart glow at the beauty of the sound. Then I caught myself thinking “mmm, I’m going to miss that in New Zealand”. I knew then that the good friends we had made, the natural beauty we had come to love, the life we’d forged here and the strengths and talents we’d seen for the first time in each other well outweighed the hard stuff.

So there you have it. A year in, and I’m quite happy in my new home.

Pregnant in the third world

August 11, 2019

Ok, I know that title was offensive to some of you. But I often get laughed at here for using the politically polite language of “developing country”, so I figure I won’t win either way.

Anyways, the point is a little while ago Will and I discovered a wee surprise was on the way. After more than two years of trying, we were actually pregnant. It caught us so off guard (we were VERY busy with the lodge) that it took THREE weeks of me whining about not feeling right before we clicked.

Bump at seven weeks making itself known

After getting our heads around the news, I began the process of officiating things: call the doctor, get a script for blood tests and scans, do blood pressure etc, etc.

The only way to describe what followed is cultural whiplash.

It started with our local doctor, who is AWESOME. He does house visits, which instantly made me feel like a 1950s housewife. After the first visit, it also made me feel extremely joyful at not having to wait up to an HOUR at a local clinic like we used to in Cambridge. Quite honestly, having a doctor come to you feels like the best medical care ever, especially if you are sick as a dog and don’t want to get out of bed (more on that soon). After turning up on time, as usual, Mike did all the necessary checks and sent me off to the lab for bloods etc.

I was suddenly thrust from the serenity of feeling I was in competent, professional hands, to, well…something different. The lab was not like NZ. There was no waiting room, and as I slid awkwardly through the door, I saw there was also no Patient chair. Modern-looking equipment was stacked along one wall, covered in files and papers for Africa (pun intended), while the other was lined with boxes of supplies. Chaos reigned supreme from my observations. A technician slid his chair across to me, while another fought with a strap to tie around my arm. In the end she got a plastic glove and used that. Then she pulled out an obnoxiously big needle and fought with my vein.

Just check out that roof…

“It keeps moving” she said, before heading over to a smaller vein.

In the end, we got the blood and it was remarkably pain-free for how it all started.

Then it was scan time, which thrust me back into a world where medical care goes above and beyond. Brian, whom I consider a dear angel from the Lord, was SO thorough. He made me come back and said he would stay late at work just to get all the information he needed, thanks to bubs not playing ball. His dedication outstripped any experience I have had in NZ (I’m sure you’re out there, wonderful scan people. I just never met you).

About to do the 12 week scan- not the most modern equipment, but Brian was AMAZING!

Things turned quite pear-shaped when I got a BRUTAL flu which had been going around. Thanks to pregnancy-suppressed immune system, I was in bed for five weeks. In the end, it turned bacterial, and through a cracking headache and light-sensitive eyes I called on Mike again. By this stage I could hardly eat, drink or walk, so perhaps it was the illness, but quite honestly when he arrived he seemed to be surrounded by a gentle glow of light, and a halo, particularly when he uttered the words “pregnancy-safe antibiotic”.

I staggered back to gentle, professional, kind Brian for a chest x-Ray, just to clear pneumonia from the list of possibilities, then came home to feel blissful recovery take hold of my body AT LONG LAST as the second antibiotic surged through my system.

Now, I also got flu in NZ with Kepler at about 12 weeks pregnant. But there, a national flu jab programme ensured that if it did hit, at least it wasn’t that bad. AFTER I nearly died, someone off-handly told me that apparently you can get the flu jab here. Thank you Zimbabwe.

I am, thankfully, now fully recovered and the cultural whiplash has slowed as I instead get my head around all of the details that come with planning to have a baby in another country over the holiday period, and needing a passport to get it back again as well as adding bubs to pre-purchased return tickets.

Will’s favourite pic of me: pregnant, and bare-foot in the kitchen. About 17 weeks.

Now, to take bets on whether or not Will will make the birth…he’s planning on arriving one week before the baby is due. And Kepler came early.

Oh, one more announcement. As per Viki Johnson’s dream on February 18 (before we were even pregnant), and Kepler’s INSISTENT predictions from the moment we told him the news:

Five-star glamping and family fun

July 22, 2019

There are a few benefits to running a lodge in the middle of Africa (almost).

One of them, it turns out, comes in the form of the “comp”, industry slang for “complimentary” activity or stay. It might be the latest sunset cruise on offer in the Falls, it might be a game drive, or it might be two nights with your family at a five-star glamping set up in one of the most beautiful parks on the planet.

Now, let it first be known that we also offer our fair share of “comps”. It’s actually quite important for agents, particularly agents with whom we are partnering in some package deal, to experience our lodge so they know exactly what to tell guests about us. Because of this they might get to stay for a night or two for free. Others end up having complimentary meals or drinks. On the other hand, its important for companies offering activities locally, or a tour series that includes us, to let the lodges in on what they are offering – not just to sell it to us, but also so we can answer practical questions for guests to help them have the best time possible. Is there food offered? How long does it take? Do I need my passport?..you get the drift.

Anyways, at this point I need to say that my aunty and uncle from New Zealand visited recently. I was super excited about their visit because it was planned before we even left New Zealand, and Aunty Sheryn is like a second mum to me (along with two other superstar ladies). We didn’t have a lot planned with them because the fuel crisis is still a thing, so we weren’t sure what would be possible when they got here.

It worked out well, for them. The day after we arrived a friend needed people for a photo shoot in a game drive. At the last minute I decided to join, only to discover the whole purpose of the shoot was to get us up close and personal to elephants. We spent an hour throwing ourselves into the middle of a herd trying to get the shots, while I silently died inside a million times, and my aunty and uncle “oohed” and “ahhed” over the “magical” experience…of elephant walking WITH THEIR BABIES a couple of metres from us.

The start of the drive…
No photos of the close encounters. I was too scared.

Next up shots were needed for white water rafting, so that was Uncle Glen for the day, and Will took a much needed “break” too.

Then, we were very excited to hear that we were part of a tour series from an agent, who suggested we head out to the other stops on tour so we could talk intelligently about them to our guests. Mostly, they were VERY glam camping sites.

We thanked them, but pointed out that we had my aunty and uncle with us.

“Oh, bring them along,” said the agent.

And so, with our usual frantic, last-minute scramble we headed off to the sprawling, stunning Hwange National Park. At this point I need to do a MASSIVE shout out to Quinton and Bridget Sole, who lent us their Prado at the last second, when we discovered our Nissan would be at the mechanic’s a lot longer than anticipated (thanks Chobe trip). After a brief trial, we realised that cramming luggage plus four adults and a child into our two-door Pajero for a three hour trip was not a plan.

Will told me not to say how fast we drove to get there on time, since Bridge and Quint will probably read this, so I won’t. We managed to make it on time to our pick up at Main Camp, and the drive to our glamp-camp two hours away was one of the most magical experiences of my life. (Thanks Bridge and Quint!)

The bush was like a fantasy-land. The last of the clinging, autumn leave floated mid-air off invisible branches, lit up by the dying side a million shades of orange, yellow and brown. It was like driving through a fairy-light forest sprung up from deep, white dessert sand. Elephant, giraffe and a host of antelope nodded their hello as we passed (or ran off in fear – same diff), and then we hit a wide open vlei with a pan as its crowning glory. Vultures circled over the bush nearby, and our driver said there must have been a lion kill.

Suddenly, a hyena ran onto centre stage – pretty special since they tend to hang out at night. As we watched, it bowed its head low to the ground, and boomed out its whooping call, smashing the sound into the bare earth and flinging it, on the rebound, far across the vlei.

It’s bros heard the call, and came running to fight off the lions for the kill, but we had to head to camp before nightfall/we froze to death.

The rest of the trip passed in a bit of a dream. Glamping in California King beds, with electric blankets to fend off the freezing temperatures, is not something I would complain about. Although I did whinge about the elephant chatting loudly to its friend till all hours of the night at the pan we overlooked, and the duck with verbal diarrhea.

From there the comps ended, and we headed to Bulawayo to show off Matopos National Park, then send my aunty and uncle BRAVELY on their way to the east of the country…during a fuel shortage…in a country without a currency.

Suffice to say we all had a pretty special time, and made some amazing memories. Entirely suitable, really, that I got to do it all with my pretty special, and amazing, aunt and uncle.

Love you Uncle Glen and Aunty Sheryn!

Lost in translation

July 16, 2019

Moving countries always comes with its fair share of trying to work out local slang.

Fortunately, Zimbabweans are reasonably normal on this front and I haven’t had too many moments of wondering what was going on.

There was the time I offered some friends a “slice” only to get blank stares in return. After several translation attempts, I was informed that I was offering them “fridge cake,” which sounded quite unappealing to me given it starts with the word “fridge.”

There was also the time I asked a friend to put on the “jug”.

“The what?” came the reply.

I pointed it out. “You call a kettle a jug!?”

“No,” I replied quite honestly. “I call a jug a jug. That’s a jug.”

The reality is I lost that debate before it even started, since I’m remarkably outnumbered here. But I gave it a good shot anyway.

There’s also the classic “supper” versus “tea” debate. I haven’t even tried to argue that one. Zimbabweans are quite fond of their tea. Afternoon tea, with something to eat, and civilized conversation seated on a veranda overlooking a garden is almost a weekly occurrence for me now.

The idea that something as sacred as tea could be used to mean “supper” (or “dinner” as some of you might say), although quite common in NZ, is taken with disbelief here.

There’s also togs versus “swimming costume”, jandals versus “slops”, and whanau versus family, or puku versus “tummy”, all of which I’ve managed to handle.

But I have to confess one fairly common Southern African stumbling block is still tripping me up eleven months after arrival, and that’s the habit people have of talking about time using three seemingly innocuous words: now, now now and just now.

I first hit up against the terms when I saw my friend Claire at school. We had just finished drop off and were about 2 minutes away from seeing each other in gym class.

“See you soon,” I said.

She laughed, like that was utterly rediculous, and replied “yeah, in like 2 minutes!”

I got into the car wondering what had just happened.

Later, she explained that “soon” meant “later”…and to say “soon” I should actually say “just now”. Except, not too long afterward someone else used the words differently…then someone else..then someone else.

“Everyone uses them differently!” I whined to another friend who had just said “just now”.

Kim began the process of explaining. “Actually, you know what? It’s too hard,” she said as she broke off the explanation.

“I think this one is genetic” I said.

She looked at me. “Yeah, you have to be born into this one.”

And with a gentle pat on the shoulder as she took her leave, she threw back in a singsong voice “sucks to be you!”

Botswana drama

June 13, 2019

Last weekend we decided to head to Botswana for the weekend to get some shopping done.

We found a little more drama than that, which has had me wondering whether I am prone to exaggeration, or whether we are still a little naive for Africa…or whether this was legitimately was quite dramatic. You be the judge.

The drive there was lovely, the border was quick, and I managed to get a good amount of shopping done on day one.

In fact, by 4pm we decided we would head into the famous Chobe National Park, and enjoy a spot of game watching while the sun lit up the African horizon.

So we set off, with food and water aplenty, in our Nissan Xtrail.

We got through the gate, turned onto the track, and instantly ran into a group of eles. They surrounded the car, crossing the road ahead of and behind us, while I watched in trepidation as a little bubba ele ran off after its mother. That part was actually also a bit comical- the way they run when they are tiny is SO CUTE.

Having made it through that encounter, we headed off again, into the main drama of the day; suddenly, the deep kalahari sand national parks called a ‘track’, turned into a trap for our ill-suited vehicle.

And the petrol light went on.

Will looked at me for the FIRST time in the bush in Africa and muttered repeatedly, without drawing breath, ‘oh man, this is bad, this is bad, this is bad’.

We rocked back and forward. We put the car in 4wd. We revved like crazy. Nothing.

Will was still muttering when I told him he would have to get out of the car.

“I can’t. You’re not allowed to get out of your car!”

“Well, you’re also not meant to get stuck,” I shot back. “We have to jam some sticks under the tyres”. Besides that, we had no idea whether another vehicle would be along that evening- it was the final run of the day for game driving. The park closed at 6.30pm.

I knew what Will was thinking. With its shady trees and plentiful shrubs, this was lion country.

He got out, while I kept watch, and grabbed some sticks to jam under the tyres. Then I tried driving while he watched.

“The tyres aren’t even turning,’ he said. ‘It’s like they’re not responding at all to the engine.”

Suddenly, the IT Crowd came to mind, and I asked Will whether we shouldn’t try “turnin’ it off and on again?”.

We didn’t have any other options, so we did. By some miracle, it ACTUALLY WORKED. Yes, advice from a British comedy show saved our backsides in the middle of the African wilderness. As I revved, the car edged forward, but then I didn’t want to stop moving incase it got stuck again, so Will was left jogging alongside the car yelling at me to stop while I tried to tell him to jump in.

In the end, it wasn’t as easy as the movies make out. Partially, I think this was due to the fact Will was trying to get into the drivers’ seat while I was still sitting in it. So, I had to stop, and Will got back in and managed to keep us going through the petrol-tank-scraping deep sands, which no photograph could properly capture.

By the time we reached firmer ground, along the river flatlands, both of us were so shaken that there was no way we would enjoy the game watching. We couldn’t quite work out where we were on the map, and we didn’t know if we could hit more sand on the way back. Also, the petrol light was, unsurprisingly, still on.

At this point Kepler proclaimed a need to pee, so we made him pee out of the door of the car, without getting out. It was still lion country. He did an admirable job given he is only three years old.

We drove a little further along, and tried to enjoy the stunning vistas of the Chobe flood plains, the stupidly tame wildlife (we basically had to nudge an impala with the bonnet of the car to get it to move out of the way), the elephant playing in the water and the almost elephant-sized hippo (seriously).

But that petrol light was bothering us, so we headed back to the sign pointing to the exit, and managed to make it back safely to the parks gate, where I promptly went and found the ladies’ room.

So there you have it- yet another park visit with too much drama for my liking. I’m pretty sure we are still a little naive for Africa and the Good Lord has his guardian angels working over time on us.

The finish line

June 9, 2019

June 1 should have been a special day for our little family.

It was eighteen months from when we first checked out Vic Falls for a job offer, and nine months from moving here. More importantly, it was due date for opening our lodge.

You would think we would be celebrating, or at least marking the occasion in some way.

After all, we’ve done a lot over a year-and-a-half; we’ve moved three times, packed a container, maneuvered our way through beaucracy here to get residency, recovered our container, built a 23-bedroom lodge in a foreign country undergoing a currency and fuel crisis and known for corruption, made friends, started a ukulele band, endured months of random illnesses as our immune systems adjust to a new home, had some amazingly special moments loving our new home/country, and are now dealing with random power cuts.

But instead of celebrating, we all collapsed at the finish line. The whole family was taken out by the flu.

It’s probably unsurprising, given how intense the last year-and-a-half has been.

As usual, I went down first, Kepler followed a few days later, and on June 1, our long-awaited soft launch, Will woke up croaking like a bull frog.

So instead of a romantic dinner for two in which we reflected on how far we’d come, how much we had learned about each other and achieved, and what the future might hold, Will and I were rugged up sniffing and coughing in unison as we ate Thai takeaways and watched a movie on Netflix.

Thankfully, by some miracle, Kepler decided to sleep in until 9am the next day, and afterwards we slowly crept our way into Chamabondo National Park to enjoy beautiful views, elephants from a distance (yay), and other game -along with an epic picnic.

We followed it with a quick family nap so we had the energy for the drive out.

It was a lovely, chilled-out, slow Sunday as a family, and Kepler even did us the honour of falling asleep on the back seat shortly after his first nap so Will and I could croak at each other about our hopes and dreams.

At least, I suppose, we could make the claim to a pretty epic ‘celebration’ for a family with the flu. Even if it did involve tissues and frequent naps.

We can also, I suppose, make the claim to throwing ourselves into things 100 per cent as a family, whether it is a new project or getting sick.

If only I didn’t have the sneaky suspicion that getting flu together might be taking our family commitment a LITTLE too far.

Power cuts and culture shock

May 30, 2019

It feels quite appropriate to be writing a blog about power cuts just after writing one about the fun and wonder of camping.

Basically, that’s what living here feels like a lot of the time. AMAZINGLY high highs, followed by slammed-into-a-brick-wall lows. My father-in-law once described living in Africa as being “like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland”, and I now really get it. It’s the arbitrary, crazy selection between what functions and what doesn’t.

This time the brick wall/lack of function was the sudden announcement, two weeks out from opening our lodge, that we would be load shedding for nine hours a day.

That’s right. From 6am till 3pm, four days a week, we have no power. (We are Cycle 2 if you’re interested.)

Thankfully, so far, the 3-9pm cuts aren’t eventuating.

Anyways, I would explain why these cuts are happening, but the truth is I don’t really understand power generation and distribution even in a country like NZ, let alone Zim. All I can tell you is that in Zim it has something to do with Lake Kariba and the low water levels after a very dry rainy season.

We had heard rumors that the power cuts were quite bad in Bulawayo and Harare for weeks before they hit here. Suddenly, about a week ago, it was our turn.

Our lodge generator, being brought up from South Africa, was ordered in Feb, but thanks to hectic load shedding in SA resulting in a backlog of generator orders there, will only arrive in June. After we open.

It turns out guests expect lights, and fans and air conditioners and hair dryers and things, so after two days of something akin to depression, my husband did his usual and made a plan.

Our generator was shifted up to the lodge. An inverter was hooked up for the office. Then, we got on with business.

I, however, was struggling to get out of my funk on this one. The incompetence, the cost to the country, business, the sheer, blinding stupidity involved, were making my blood boil. As I delicately expressed my emotions to my mum over a video call, she announced that I was in the fourth stage of culture shock.

“You’re seeing the realities now. The honeymoon phase is over. You’re just going to have to be gracious,” she said, as if obnoxiously massive power cuts were very matter-of-fact.

I told mum she sounded like a counselor. To be fair, she is a counselor and she did sessions with Middle Eastern and Asian exchange students on culture shock for a few years at the local uni during their orientation week.

(Quick aside, this is one of the things I love about my mum: The evangelical Christian who adopted a bunch of Middle Eastern Muslim lads missing their mums, and helped them figure out life in NZ. They adored her. I love her practical, no-nonsense, servant heart, and the beautiful humanity of that picture so often missed in media portrayals of how our society works).

Mum won the argument, and I got off the phone knowing I’d better move on to ‘acceptance’ if I didn’t want to end up permanently bitter and twisted.

So, now we have a new routine: ironing, washing, and baking are all done on Tuesday and Thursday, when we have power. Ice goes from freezer to fridge when the power cuts to keep the fridge cold (and opening it is kept to a minimum).

Dog food, meat for dinner and milk are pulled out of the fridge before a scheduled power cut, and put away again if it doesn’t eventuate.

We have a good supply of matches and candles, and batteries in all the torches. Fortunately, we have a gas stove, so cooking dinner isn’t a problem.

Thankfully, it’s winter so we don’t need air conditioners or fans on.

I work from home when the power is on in the morning, and from the lodge, or somewhere else when it is off. We charge everything to full when we have power.

Eventually, we will get our generator back, and life will regain some normalcy. And really, I’m just learning to do what Zimbabweans have done for years now: make a plan, and get on with life.

Camping in the wild

May 22, 2019

First, yet again apologies for the time between blogs.

It turns out that having friends and a social life/ work getting busier makes it hard to keep up hobbies. It’s hard being popular, basically.

Anyways, a couple of weekends ago we went for our first Zimbabwe camping trip since getting here nine months ago.

I’ve never been an avid camper, but I definitely enjoy a spot of the old nature, and don’t have a problem with a lack of toilets. Because of this, and the fact that our lives have been quite full of work, I was very much looking forward to getting out of town for a bit…

The only mild concern, of course, was that we were getting out of town and into the national park, where lions roam free, hippos heave out great breaths of air all day (and night it turns out) in the river, and elephant pass silently by in giant herds. The hippos and lions, oddly, I can deal with…but I have had a deathly fear of elephants ever since that adventure with my parents when we first got here (thanks for scarring me mum).

The Friday came, and our friends Dirk and Claire turned up with their cars to pack our stuff. Girls were in one car, boys in the other, with another family to join us later in the day.

Now, when I agreed to go in Claire’s car, I had forgotten about her overly competitive nature, and she instantly made sure we were ‘beating’ the boys. Into the park we drove leading the convoy…almost straight into a HUGE herd of elephant. Claire was glancing at me nervously, since the whole adventure was part of her scheme to introduce me to the wonders of Vic Falls. We crept forward, while her two little ones giggled away in the back. Suddenly, we spotted a massive bull. He was looking right at us and he had just decided we had gone too far. Ears flapping, and trumpeting, he ran at us as we scrambled into reverse- except the boys were behind us and another car behind them so there wasn’t exactly an escape route. THANK THE GOOD LORD those two meters were enough, and the mock charge (which had its proper effect on me) halted, with the bull standing across the road to block us while he gave us a death stare.

We waited until we were given permission to pass, and breathed rather large sighs of relief as the herd moved off. I told Claire I was glad I was with someone who had grown up in the area and knew what she was doing. Claire held out a shaking hand and my confidence evaporated. It wasn’t a great time to ask for a toilet stop, so I didn’t mention how mock elephant charges impact me.

The rest of the trip passed smoothly, except for another mock charge by another ele, which resulted in Claire going into Rally car mode to race us through the danger zone and out into our camp.

We set up camp at a stunning little spot looking out over the Zambezi River, and all of the strain on my heart from the past hour was forgiven. Quinton and Bridget had arrived with their little man Charlie. A fire was roaring, food was cooking and the little ones were playing pretty happily in our little camp circle.

The next morning was unreal. The sun rose with such glory over a misty Zambezi, that I willingly emerged from our tent in all my glory to watch it. I am definitely not a morning person, so my glory was probably quite surprising to some people.

The rest of the day passed too quickly, with the little ones playing in the dirt, climbing trees, and skidding down sandy banks near the river (under the watchful eye of several adults). Then it was time to head home, via another route, in which we saw the back of two eles walking away (SUCH a lovely sight).

Overall, I would call the trip a raging success- we feasted on natural beauty, good company, and the serenity of being out of town. We got massively hooked on camping, and are now planning to get a roof top tent so I can sleep through the night without worrying the hippos are coming for me.

The only hiccough was the mock ele charge, and just the sheer number of elephants on the drive in.

And yet when I asked Bridget how many eles they saw on their drive to camp about an hour after us, the answer was none.

In a moment of weakness that would disappoint every nature-loving, wilderness-camping Zimbabwean on the planet, all that went through my mind was; “some people have all the luck”.

The rules of (social) engagement

April 12, 2019

One of the big worries I had moving to Vic Falls was whether or not I would make friends. After all, I was moving from a town in which roughly 50 people are related to me by blood or marriage, to one in which I knew a sum total of 0 human beings.

It turns out I didn’t really need to worry, because Zimbos, and the Vic Falls crew in particular, are super friendly, welcoming people.

However, there are some social rules I’m still trying to adjust to when it comes to meeting and greeting in Zimbabwe.

For the sake of the masses of Kiwis immigrating here, I thought I would do a helpful little round-up.

1. Zimbabweans have excellent manners. Kiwis really don’t.

I first learnt this when I was dating my future husband. During my introduction to the WHOLE family, I was greeted and kissed on the lips by an inordinate number of people. It was very surprising, especially since I’m not a particularly touchy-feely person, but I played it cool, because I really liked Will.

When I got here, I discovered the hug and cheek-brush is a more common greeting tactic. But you do this with everyone, always, the first time you see them walk into the room, and when they leave. Acknowledging people is a big deal here, and I really like it.

BUT my kiwi days have left me prone to the old nod-and-raise-your-eyebrows tactic in social situations. This has led to quite frequent, pretty awkward moments, mostly when the other person sort of lurches at me, realizes I’m not coming in for the hug and stops, only for me to have started my belated lurch, which I then have to pull out of.

Just. I’m sorry. I’m trying, Zimbabwean friends.

2. Zimbabweans are a little more hierarchical and formal than Kiwis.

This probably isn’t surprising, since Kiwis are about as informal as you can get. We generally call our Prime Minister by their first name.

Over here, our age group calls the generation up Mr or Mrs [insert last name] in formal situations like employment. We are still trying to get used to our staff calling us by these titles, or using ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy yarning away to our majority shareholder using his first name…from the very start.

Anyways, this very laid-back approach to social strata has played into my favor so far…I think. People seem to take familiarity as a sign you are relaxed and like them.

Most recently, I was competing in the school triathlon fundraiser event, and was up against Mike Johnson (among others) on the bike. Mike and Alex have been THE BEES KNEES in terms of helping us get on our feet here, and if you ever want a great place to stay in the Falls, you should check out Bayete, PheZulu or their newest lodge Nkosi.

Anyways, as I was about to ride off, Mike yelled out that I should watch out for a dangerous snake on the circuit.

I laughed, then yelled back “shut up, Mike”. SUCH a mature, witty, respectful comeback, to a man I’ll describe as slightly older than I am.

Sorry Mike. But even oldies like you aren’t exempt from psychological warfare in sport ;-).

3. Zimbabweans share our awesome sense of humour.

When we first visited Zimbabwe in 2013, I was ready for Zimbos to be a little more like the South Africans I had met in New Zealand, who seemed to be a little more serious.

Instead, when we weren’t crying over some of the stuff we saw, I felt like I laughed my way around the country. Zimbos, like us, have a self-deprecating sense of humour thanks to being the “little bro” to a nearby, bigger country. In this case, it’s South Africa. Thanks to the common British colonial history, this sense of humour is also quite dead-pan for all involved.

Anyways, over here, I think thanks to Flight of the Concords and my accent, people seem to think I’m a walking comedy (I’m not. I’m DEADLY serious). But sometimes even when I’m being serious people crack up and tell me they love my sense of humour.

I tend to roll with it and grow the joke…which is sort of how I founded a band called the Ukeladies involving 12 women, 4 of whom have ukuleles, 2 of whom have had them longer than a couple of months.

We’re going to be a huge hit.

So there you have it. A comprehensive list of the differing social rules between NZ and Zimbabwe. And I think I’m qualified to say after seven months that Zimbabweans really are some of the most welcoming, kind, top-notch people around.