Well here we are! We have been planning this trip for so long, it doesnt seem possible that we are really here.
It is 30C when we land
in Harare, partly cloudy, very comfortable.
This is the beginning of the rainy season (summer).
It seems to rain a couple of times a day, but not for long at a
time. During the day the temperatures
are around 30C and at night around 20 - very comfortable for sleeping.
The houses have neither heating nor air conditioning, nor
screens on any of the windows, so you can appreciate how nice a climate
it is. Diana says in the
winter (July and August) it is horrible because it can go down as low
as 16C and sometimes one has to put a sweater on!
There are palm trees
and acacias everywhere. I
saw my first Jacaranda tree. They
still have some blossoms on them, but apparently they are huge magnificent
clouds of blue at their peak, before the leaves come out.
The bougainvilleas are blooming as are the flamboyant trees.
These, too, are huge clouds of
brilliant red blossoms.
Lots of plants which we keep as houseplants, if we can get them
to grow at all, grow outdoors.
It certainly is a different world. Although there is very little serious crime like murder and armed robbery, petty crime is common. Houses and cars are never left unlocked; every car has a burglar alarm and a steering wheel lock and is kept inside a locked yard at night. The houses have bars or grating on every window. We asked if we could walk downtown and were told that we certainly could not do that. So we drove down and walked around. Di says they seldom go downtown anymore. There are new shopping malls on the outskirts of the city where they feel more comfortable.
Domestic help is extremely cheap, so if you have any kind of money at all you have someone to do your housework. Rina, the lady that works for Diana, lives in a black township outside of Harare. She gets up at 3:00 am to get to work for 6:00 am and earns a little under $1000 Zimbabwe dollars per month. In Canadian funds, that works out to about $42.00. If she works more than 49.5 hours a week, she gets paid overtime. If she were to live on the premises, she would get less money because she would not have to travel to work. Rina seems a happy employee, treated like one of the family and is quite well off in her own community. In fact, her job as a housekeeper in Harare means that she can hire hire a housekeeper in the township to look after her own house. It does take some getting used to, though: breakfast and coffee appear on the table, laundry gets done, beds get made. All as if by magic! Di's parents, Pat and Brian, have a houseboy, Joseph who has worked for them for 34 years. A few years ago they bought Joseph a house in appreciation for his years of service.
The president of the country, Robert Mugabe, lives in a huge walled compound just a few blocks away. At six each evening he goes by in a big military convoy with sirens etc just going home after a hard days work, I guess. From to they block off the whole street in front of his house and there are armed troops all around the perimeter wall. If you try to drive past his house they will shoot you! After that, they will ask what you were doing there .
On Sunday, we went to pick up our rental car
and began the terrifying experience of driving on the left-hand side of
the road and shifting gears with the left hand.
We spent the afternoon practice-driving in the suburbs of
You know, it is perfectly acceptable to drive on the left in this country. In fact, at this particular moment, I would recommend it!
At Rusape, we turned northeast and drove up into
It is a beautiful area, and is a favourite place for Zimbabweans to go for holidays. It is quite rugged, with a lot of forestry and logging taking place. Pine, eucalyptus and wattle trees grow in vast plantations and there are beautiful streams and waterfalls.
We stayed in an elegant hotel, called the Village Inn, and were treated as though we really were rich, instead of just pretending to be. The grounds of the hotel were filled with dozens of different types of flowers, which kept Susan in a semi-orgasmic state. In the cozy bar, there was a fire burning in the small fireplace because the evening was cool (defined as any temperature below 20C). We became intimately acquainted with an excellent local Muyzunga Chenin Blanc, for Zim$120 a bottle (under C$5.00). In the morning, we were awakened by a knock on the door: our morning coffee, delivered to our room. When we got ready to leave we discovered that the garden boy had washed our car! We wondered how the poor people were enjoying their day!
The people in this area belong to the Shona tribe. They are hardworking, friendly people who always made us feel very welcome. As we drove along we waved at everybody on the roadside and always got big waves, and big white smiles in return. Although we took reasonable precautions about locking doors etc, we never at any time felt uncomfortable in the countryside. Anytime we stopped for gas, or to get something to eat, or to ask directions, the people were unfailingly polite and friendly and helpful. We have so far learned two words in Shona: How are you? and Thank you. Each time we try them, everyone is just delighted.