Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One reason why I love Zim...

Yesterday started out as one of those days. You know exactly what I mean. I’d had no sleep, felt sick, was late to my first meeting of the day, and broke my favourite coffee mug in the morning (pouring coffee over my carefully chosen outfit). The internet didn’t work so I had to drive to a friend’s house to get my email to meet my deadline, then rushed out to find my car had a flat tyre, thanks to me rushing to get there and falling unceremoniously into a deep new pothole.

Some other friends were also having a challenging day: their internet was also down, they couldn’t do any business and were frustrated by the high internet fees and the fact that we never get the bandwidth and reliability that we are promised. So they dropped by for a visit.

And that’s one reason I love Zim. It doesn’t matter that is a Tuesday, that its 10am, and that my day is already unravelling. You can always make time to spend with your friends.

We made a pot of tea and sat under a tree in the garden, chatting. Within five minutes we’d told everyone about our days, within 6 we’d discussed politics and what our predictions are for Zim (no change for now), and within 10 we were all feeling much better. My hubby was having a meeting with a client (we both work from home), but when that was over, he joined us, and since it was 11.30 we felt justified in opening a bottle of white wine.

Well then it was lunch time so we rustled up some scrambled eggs on toast, and had some more wine, and made weekend plans for a mini bush adventure, and then chatted some more, and then it was 3pm, and our friends had to leave to pick up their kids from school, and we had to get back to work.

The rest of my day went so much better. I felt so refreshed, so lucky to have good friends who also work from home and can be flexible in their working hours. So happy that they thought of coming over for a chat, even if we ended up persuading them to stay much longer than they’d planned.

My husband and I are not the sort of expats who have come with a company or aid agency, and can access company resources/help on occasion. We came here to set up our own small business, and therefore our friends fill this void: they are our equivalent of an extended family: our support network. We can call on them night or day to help with anything. Even without asking, offers of support come flooding in, our friends wouldn’t think twice about driving us to the airport (a 40km round trip) or lending us food, fuel, money, their car, or help fix the boiler. Likewise, they can call on us to help move house, or look after the kids, or help fix the roof.

People are generous with their time, and that to me is worth so much more than earning a fortune, climbing the career ladder, owning a fancy car or accumulating goods and chattels. Of course it means that we also have to be prepared to drive across the country to rescue someone with a broken car, or share water supply with our neighbours. We provide professional services and advice to our friends and family for free. But it is not an inconvenience at all, merely part of life, and it’s a joy to be able to help!

Of course I’m not comfortable realizing that people in Zim are suffering and dying, while I drink wine under a shady tree and chat with my friends. I do my bit to help, both in a personal capacity and professionally – I work for aid agencies and NGOs. But sometimes I need to relax, and to let go of my deeply-held concerns for Zim. Otherwise I will explode. We are all under huge pressure here, and we need coping mechanisms to deal with the challenging environment that is Zim these days. My favourite coping mechanism is spending time with friends or family. It epitomizes true quality of life for me – and it’s one of the reasons I love living in Zim.


Christine said...

That's a great post! I hope you will stay in Zimbabwe and see through this difficult time - here's to better ones to come! Friends are truly one of life's greatest riches.

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

thanks Christine

- I haven't forgotten that I owe you the story of my first visit to Zim - am thinking of how to conceal my identity as the best bits make it rather obvious who I am. However, being quasi-Zimbabwean, I can always be creative and make a plan.

Take care, Fambai.

Christine said...

Thanks, I really look forward!

Tesco said...

Are you a white British woman? Can you tell me do you get discriminated against for Being white in Zimbabwe. Also where do you buy food from?

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

Hi Tesco,

Yes I am white, and on the whole treated with respect, although as a woman it can be challenging to get african male work colleagues to take you seriously. In general racism against whites is stirred up politically and only rears it head in confrontations (such as in the farm takeovers), especially when antagonists have been pumped up by alcohol, drugs or actions to make the blood run high.

However, we have had an interesting incident with the police some years ago, when the young offier had clearly just come out of some political training camp and preceding every sentence to my husband with "As a white man, you should know that... " In retrospect it was quite amusing as we had already complied with every law, regulation and recommendation he then listed, and after detaining us for three hours, we were rescused by his superior officer.

Clearly discrimination against white people does exist, but it is much more politicised, and there is constant propaganda that all Zimbabwe's problems are due to white people, especially Brits. I guess if you live in a remote area, facing continual starvation, and the only news you hear is how white people have created or compounded all your problems, that claim might take root in your head.

Re food shopping - I will post a blog on grocery shopping as that is an adventure in itself.

Thanks for reading!


mfs1011 said...

Fambai - if a large number of your relations from overseas were to come over for a special occasion, regardless of the money involved, do you think you could cope with the hassle of fuel, food etc? There is a reason for this question.

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

hello mfs1011,

Yes it is possible to arrange a family event as you describe. You do need to plan ahead though, and at the moment we have to pay for everything in US dollars cash, so it takes a bit of organising. Fuel and food are available, although if you have special food or items that you need to celebrate with, its worth getting someone to bring them over from overseas.

Hope this helps and thanks for reading!



Christine said...

Hello Fambai,

just wanted to stop by and say hello.. hope all is well in Zim!

Best regards from Singapore

Shannon said...

Hello. I just discovered your blog. My husbands job may have us moving to Zimbabwe. Considering how much it has been in the news lately I am a bit apprehensive but am open minded. Can you let me know a bit about living there? Thanks so much.

syiling peringatan malaysia said...

Hi, nice to meet your blog ...i from Malaysia, I hope u visit back my blog ... tq

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

Hi Shannon,

Thanks for your comments. Life in Zim is very much improved thanks to the economy now been based on the US dollar, which means we can now buy things in shops, keep and withdraw US dollars from our bank accounts, and generally have fairly normal life.

In addition, rents are a lot cheaper than in Europe so you may well move into a lovely large house with an acre of garden and some staff to help you with the house, children (if relevant) and garden.

Schools are good, private health facilities are improving, and the climate is second to none. If you like the outdoors there are some good game parks within easy driving distance, wooded mountains, lake kariba (for fishing or relaxing on a houseboat), and stunning scenary around. Harare is very small, friendly, and a bit old fashioned - quiet if you like your nightlife but there is some entertainiment - good restaurants, a couple of doddery cinemas showing two year old Hollywood movies, an annaul film festival and drama festival, and a theatre or two. People have braais (BBQs) and invite friends round to dinner, poker games, or book clubs etc - like most expat outposts, you make your own entertainment! Personally I love it here - you will soon find good friends and figure out how things work.

In terms of personal safety, Zim is a lot safer than nearly every other African country. There is very little theft (much more in the West than here!) and although there is sporadic violence, it is politically motivated, so unless you are a political agitator or an undercover journalist you should relax. Whenever I go away from Zim I get a bit paranoid because I read such dramatic news reports but then I remember that the journalists are reporting rumours as they are based in South Africa, a thousand miles from Harare! So, take the news with a pinch of salt and try to keep an open mind.

As an expat you will have a ready made network of support through your husband's job, which will also be really useful.

My hubby and I moved out with no jobs, work permit etc and figured it out - we love it. please do feel free to email me or comment if you have any more questions.

Cheers, Fambai.

Anonymous said...

Zimbabwe is an amazing nation, not just of natural beauty, but its people are pretty amazing too.
Hear's what I have to say about why I love my Zimbabwe.