Dusty Roads

A Kiwi living in the new Zimbabwe

Finding our feet (and avocados)

September 16, 2018

So after a couple of weeks in Vic Falls I feel like I’m finding my feet.

I can find everything I need for the immediate future, and we are starting to think about what comes next.

Things like sourcing furniture, stuff for an office, and how to make our house look like home.

I’m even driving both my car and Will’s, whipping around the local roads avoiding potholes, other drivers reversing from any angle, animals, pedestrians and humps.

We’ve learnt that the loud ‘CRACK’ followed by a thud is a Tik tree pod exploding and falling to the ground.

We have learned to expect the sound of helicopters carting tourists over the Falls most days, and the Steam Train hooting throughout the evening as the drivers earn spare change letting tourists into the drivers’ seat…who would do that?

We know that jumping in the deep end of our pool will result in body freeze, despite the 30+ degree Celsius temperatures (tragedy). We have been told in hot season (next month), we will be glad for it being a “colder pool” (read FREEZING!!!).

We have even contemplated murdering our Guinea fowl at 2am when they wake us up squawking. In the end we gave them back to their old owner.

We have had our first, honoured guest in Will’s Oupa, and even caught up with Uncle Tertius and Aunty Erica who live 20 mins across the border in Livingstone, Zambia.

The best thing about Aunty Erica is that she always exclaims ‘sherbert!’ because she doesn’t swear, but she is a blackbelt in Karate.

But perhaps my favourites discovery, after our garden, is these babies:

GIANT AVOCADOS!! We have basically eaten them non-stop for lunch since we got here, since they are 99 cents per KILOGRAM.

It’s probably about time to show you around the house and garden next, so stay tuned.

We have pets

September 11, 2018

Soooo many pets. But no dog. We are still waiting for a labrador to have puppies, so that we can collect one for Kepler.

In the meantime we do have plenty of animals to keep us going.

First up, Shylock the Tortoise. We so named him for his tendency to hide whenever he senses, well, us. To be honest I’m still wondering if we shouldn’t call him Sonic for his ability to rapidly disappear.

Next, Penelope, Clarence and Josephine the Guinea Fowl.

They are ridiculous.

Will also managed to catch a picture of our elusive Trumpeter Hornbill’s, Donald or Melania. It is hard to tell which is which from so far.

Technically, these guys aren’t pets, but they basically live here so I’m claiming them.

Finally, we have some fruit bats, also elusive, that tend to serenade us to sleep with a rhythmic squeak that sounds like, in the words of Oupa, someone is trying to blow up a bicycle tyre.

They are not really pets either, but they haven’t left the property since we got here, so I’m claiming them too.

That’s our collection so far, not to mention the ants whom I have been battling since we arrived, with success, because I remembered them from my Ivory Coast days. If it fits in the freezer or fridge, it goes in the freezer or fridge. From flour to fruit to biltong.

The Great Fuel Shortage

September 7, 2018

To be fair, we were warned. For days we had been watching the queues outside the two (official) fuel stations in Vic Falls grow.

But, we reasoned, queues in Africa are kinda part of everyday life.

This is me at the supermarket, for example:

Will had heard a rumour through his contacts that fuel was about to run out, but he thought it was…just a rumour.

Turns out it wasn’t, and that alongside the dramatic drop in water pressure each evening, the surging power/power cuts and the touchy hot water supply to our house that we haven’t quite figured out, we need to think about fuel.

As it happened, by the time our first guest had left (Will’s Oupa), we hardly had enough in my car to move it…and just enough in Will’s Pajero for me to go to the airport and pick mum and dad up!

(That’s Will twinning with Oupa below, and Will’s aunty and uncle visiting from Zambia).

Apparently, these fuel shortages aren’t too rare, although the trucks make it up within a few days so life can carry on as normal.

So, technically, this wasnt THE great fuel shortage, it was just the one that taught us about them!

Because just as my car hit the red light, Will’s starter motor gave up the ghost!

For two days we were essentially trapped at our property with mum and dad (fortunately jetlagged and unwilling to do anything). We were, (also fortunately), well-stocked on the food front thanks to my supermarket dash the day mum and dad got here (see above queue).

Finally, Will got word through one of his contacts that both petrol and diesel had arrived, so he set off to fill my car.

Two hours later he returned, with 20 litres in the tank…the petrol was rationed!

All of this has been happening alongside a minor crisis in our residency status, which still hasn’t come through thanks to a stuff up from our team.

That means our container can’t cross the border without generating a big tax bill…and the container is due in a few days.

Suffice to say Will spent most of the time in the petrol queue praying, and if you are the praying sort, feel free to join us.

In the meantime, I will be hoarding as much food, water and (eventually) fuel as I can!

Finding fresh produce

September 6, 2018

As you may recall one of the first ‘culture shock’ moments I had here involved fresh produce.

I don’t know why. Perhaps my cheese and chocolate addiction hid a secret obsession with healthy food.

The point is, I did find it terribly discouraging…until the next day when Jackie arrived.

This lady is sort of one of the heartbeats of Vic Falls. If you need something, she can source it. If there is a battle to fight with council over corruption, she’ll fight it. If there is a tree to be saved, she will save it (actually kinda essential in this hot climate).

Jackie knew I was new in town, and knew I would be facing some, well, differences.

She decided to give me a whirlwind tour of the place, and honestly, by the end of our morning I was almost singing with joy.

First stop was a fresh veggie FARM!

That’s right. Row upon glorious row of FRESH PRODUCE!!! So flipping fresh you actually walk along and order it to be plucked from the very soil for you. And it is stupidly cheap.

Lettuce, herbs, strawberries, tomatoes, the list goes on. The only catch is the need to get it home and into the fridge asap, because it will literally wilt in your hands.

I cannot tell you how delariously happy I felt to realise my produce would be fresher than I even imagined.

I’ve even discovered one just around the corner from us!

Next up, we whipped around Chinotimba, which I will tell you about another time, and discovered an electrician, general house wares store and butcher (also the supplier of fresh milk in town..it is all UHT here).

As we whipped around in her old Mazda pick up, which Jackie swears she will be buried in, she told me how she had wanted to give me the tour just to ‘soften the blow’.

There it was; another moment where I glimpsed the kindness and consideration of people here behind their tough, Mazda-driving exteriors.

Finally, up we whipped around the supermarkets and I got a closer look at exactly what was there.

Suffice to say I arrived back home armed with way too many veggies (lucky we have so many animals, more on that in the next post), and extremely, over-the-moon happy.

Shongwe is a goer

September 4, 2018

The building at Shongwe Lookout is well underway!

We had our first visit the other day, and Will was champing at the bit to get into things.

About 30 builders seemed to be on site, all kitted out in matching construction gear and ALL going for it.

The foundation for the office and reception area is close to being laid, as are the foundations for all of the rooms.

Yet to be touched is the main house, which still has renters living in it, and the dining/bar area.

Kepler had a blast running around barefoot climbing mountains of sand or whacking everything he could with giant ‘sticks’…until mum ruined the fun.

Keeping shoes on that child is proving to be an exercise in futility.

Anyway, it was wonderful to see Will come alive again. He is slipping back into his African groove no worries, and is already thriving on the idea of the challenge ahead of him. It is very cool for his wife to see!

We are both starting to feel a little more oriented now that we have internet and an idea of where to get everything, which I’ll enlighten you on in my next post.

I have a maid!

September 3, 2018

Actually, I have a gardener too. And it’s WEIRD!!!!

I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with having two perfect strangers in my personal space all day, doing the work I’m so used to doing. I have to force myself not to make the bed, or take a load of washing out, or clean the dishes.

I sort of feel like I can’t relax, because if my staff are working I should be too.

By the by, let me explain why we decided to employ domestic staff. One word: jobs.

We now live in a country with 90 per cent unemployment. People are moving to Vic Falls from all over Zimbabwe just to get work. It is really the only part of the country growing at the moment.

The economy is in a sorry state, the welfare system is non-existant and the cost of stuff is hideous (thanks to the broken economy).

We could sponsor kids (and will one day). But hiring staff provides jobs for adults, and skill sets they can take elsewhere. Employers often pay school fees for their employees’ children, and provide a sort of health insurance system too.

So, basically, if you (black or white) can afford to hire someone to do any sort of job, around your home or workplace, you do…just to help out.

Besides, when I get working along with Will, and we have guests coming to stay, these guys will keep us functional as a household.

So, that is why I have a maid and a gardener called Faith and Emmanuel, a brother and sister team who seem shy but very good at their work.

Emmanuel spends all day watering, tending to our huge garden, cleaning the pool or whatever other outside job he is set. Faith washes dishes, makes beds, cleans washing, irons it (to kill tiny creatures that burrow into your skin and cause boils), mops floors, cleans bathrooms and windows…or swaps those jobs for other stuff that may need doing.

Not only do they speak their tribal language of Ndebele, they also speak Shona and English.

Kepler is already bugging them and running around greeting them loudly all the time. They are locals, and their dad works for a friend, so we are keeping it in the community.

Titles are another super weird thing to get used to. Faith and Emmanual call me ‘madam’, Will ‘boss’ or ‘sir’, and Kepler ‘mister’. The titles they picked for us are stock standard around here for when you are dealing with anyone in business. Kepler’s title was selected I suppose because that’s what I call him!

Anyways, my big mental question at present is how to negotiate the relationship with a maid…it’s a formal employment situation…in my private abode from 7.30am to 5pm 5 days a week, and a half day on Saturday!!

I don’t want to be too informal, but I don’t want to be too formal…this is all SO STRESSFUL!!!

We have interwebs!!

September 2, 2018

One of the biggest frustrations we have faced since we arrived is the lack of readily available internet connections.

This is not for lack of interwebs…it’s simply because the Robb’s had run out of data in Harare. When we arrived in Vic Falls a week later we were well behind on our contact with people, but still had to wait two days for the lads from Zol to come dig up our garden and connect our fibre.

It seems the idea of ‘unlimited’ data packages is quite limited here (excuse the pun), because every company we looked at was asking $150 or more!

But once we picked our 75GB per month package it was all pretty straight forward, and by 5pm in the evening two days later we were FINALLY in contact with the rest of the world.

That all brings me to another lesson about Zimbabwe. It is a weird mix of super advanced and functional, versus totally undeveloped and dysfunctional.

We got internet pronto, but the next night this happened:

Also, thanks to the broken economy Zim is basically a cashless society- totally undeveloped right? Except someone came up with the genius idea of linking banks to cellphones so your phone becomes your wallet. This is a society that basically operates on it’s own virtual currency, a type of ‘bitcoin’ called Ecocash.

Everyone from the supermarkets to the stall owners on the side of the road use it. A couple of clicks on your cellphone and their one beeps, with a message saying they have been paid.

It’s such a simple, but genius idea, streets ahead of NZ!

Then, of course, your water cuts off or the power surges and blows up your cell phone charger (true story, should have taken pics!) and you feel like you’re in the Africa of the news clips again!