Zambezi Kiwi

Living in Zimbabwe

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.

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

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 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!!


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.

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? 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.