Girls Day out in Zimbabwe

My good friend Lawrence had decided that he wanted the two non-family females in his life to spend time together and bond so my Saturday entertainments in Zimbabwe were entrusted to Lawrence’s Zimbabwean girlfriend, Chenia.

So into her capable hands I was entrusted and the day’s activities were to include her cousin’s wedding ceremony, reception and a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site, Great Zimbabwe. Accompanying us for the day would be her mother, Mrs. Hwehwe and two of her other beautiful daughters, Anesu & Kuda. In order to accommodate all of us passengers Lawrence also graciously allow us his lovely car to travel in.

Having been told to be ready to leave for the day by 7:00 am as we were travelling to  Masvingo for the wedding I was up bright and early at 6:00 am to bath in my cold water and get dressed. The early departure was necessitated by the fact that it is an approximately 3 hour drive from Gweru to Masvingo and the wedding was scheduled to begin at 10 am. 

One of the other cultural adjustments that I have had to make here in Africa is the flexibility in time. I try to be an extremely punctual person although ask poor Buche about the time that I left him waiting for me in the BONASO parking lot for 45 minutes because I simply was so busy that I had no idea what time it was. So generally I attempt to be ready in advance of when I need to be. However here in Africa when someone says they are picking you up at a certain time, that time can have flexibility of anywhere from 1/2 to hours later. You learn to take it in stride, trust me.

All of this to say, I was ready for the appointed time however our actual departure first from the Dingwa home and then from Gweru itself was slightly later than scheduled. Once on the road with Chenia driving her mother and sisters were kind and attentive pointing out landmarks and interesting sites, relating history or local culture and asking questions about me and life in Canada. All in all it was a very pleasant drive and uneventful until we reached Masvingo.

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Entering Masvingo it was necessary to gas up and grab some juice & water from a nearby shop. Following our stop, Chenia headed out of Masvingo for the wedding site, which ironically was named “Peter’s Lodge” located about a 30 minute drive past Masvingo on the way to Great Zimbabwe. Masvingo is a good sized city and there was a far amount of traffic entering and exiting the city on this Saturday morning. Unfortunately on our way out of the city we were involved in a minor fender bender leaving poor Lawrence’s lovely Mercedes front end rather sorry looking. Luckily other than damage to Lawrence’s car there were no other repercussions of the accidents other than I got to visit the Masvingo Police Station! and we ended up being significantly late for the wedding only arriving in time for the last twenty minutes of the actual ceremony.

Friday night with the Dingwa Ladies

Following a busy but mostly pleasant day of sightseeing, meeting Lawrence’s friends and hanging out we headed back to the Dingwa household where I had my first opportunity to meet Lawrence’s mother, his sister, Anna along with her son Tim (Mr. T) and daughter Tina (Dolly).

Neither of Lawrence’s parents actually work in Gweru. Mr. Dingwa works in the financial field in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe which is approximately  300 kilometers from Gweru. Mrs Dingwa teaches at a school that is approximately 1 and 1/2 hours away from her home. So their routine is return to their home in Senga, Gweru every Friday afternoon only to leave again at 5:00 am on Monday mornings to spend the work week living close to their work.

Friday evening was going to my first opportunity to meet Mr and Mrs Dingwa. Also arriving that evening was Lawrence’s sister, Anna and her children. Her husband, Tafadzwa was staying at the house while he completed some Master’s exams at the University located very close by and wrote his final exam on Saturday. This was why we scheduled our visit to Zimbabwe for this particular weekend as it gave Lawrence the opportunity to see his sister and family and me a chance to meet them all. Even though it meant that the house was full to the rafters and not enough beds for everyone. But more on that later.

I have to admit that initial greetings and introductions with Lawrence’s family went extremely well and the gifts that I had brought with me were graciously accepted except Mr. T pointed out to me when I presented Mrs Dingwa’s German print blue fabric to her that she is known as “Mrs Brown” as that is the color that she wears most often. Oh well, now she has a different color to wear!

When Anna had arrived with Tim and Dolly, I couldn’t help to exclaim how beautiful Dolly was. Of course in true diva style the fourteen month old absolutely preened! I guess she comes by it honestly given the way that her uncle Lawrence struts proving some traits are hereditary.

Once introductions were completed, the men disappeared to meet their father at a local watering hole while I was left alone with the Dingwa women. Do men never learn? How on earth could Lawrence possible think that it was safe to leave me alone with his mother and sister for hours? We had a lovely evening visiting, trading Lawrence stories and planning out his life – that is what he gets for leaving three strong and determined women who care about him alone for hours! The poor boy no longer stands a chance as we have plotted out his life for him and have the will power and initiative to make it happen!

All in all a wonderful way to spend my first day and evening in Zimbabwe. Thank you ladies!

 

 

 

Post Script to Exploring Gweru

One would think that Lawrence has now had enough exposure to me to have learned how not to rattle my cage….however, he appears to be a slightly slow learner in some areas.

So as retribution for a momentary lapse that he had this week I am outing him!

Early in our day of exploring Gweru when we were all congregated on the busy downtown sidewalk having our social hour I decided that I would slip across the incredibly busy street to purchase bottles of water as the morning was growing hotter and hotter.

Having successfully navigated the first lanes of traffic, I was temporarily halted in the middle of the very busy mainstreet waiting to cross the final two lanes to the safety of the sidewalk. As I was stranded there waiting for my opportunity through a break in traffic, I called back to Lawrence that should I not make it across the street and back alive to please ensure that my body was sent home to my parents.

The ungentlemanly reply (and I quote!): “No, I won’t bother because it will cost to much!”  It seems that financial considerations are always at the top of Lawrence’s list.

It is too bad that no one thought to take a picture of me standing fuming in the middle of this street 🙂

 

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Exploring Gweru

Finally fed and appropriately attired in a dress, I was set to explore Gweru and surrounding areas. Having a tour guide who grew up in the neighborhood was a decided advantage even if his tour of childhood places only took a half hour for me to see given that he was never very adventurous as a child.

A drive to nearby suburb/village Shurugwi yielded the following picture that just doesn’t hold the same fascination for Africans as it does a Canadian:

Local transportation - exactly whose job is it to take things off and on the roof???
Local transportation – exactly whose job is it to take things off and on the  bus roof???
Surigwi
Shurugwi

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Our first stop downtown Gweru was mainstreet where I waited in the car while Lawrence popped into a store to get a Zimbabwe sim card for his phone.

Downtown Gweru
Downtown Gweru
Gweru Parking Enforcement on the hunt
Gweru Parking Enforcement on the hunt

While waiting in the passenger seat of the Mercedes and defending the car from the parking enforcement officers newly instituted in downtown Gweru, I heard a female calling my name. Sort of an odd feeling given that I was newly arrived in a town and country where I did not know anyone other than Lawrence. It turned out to be Lawrence’s Zimbabwean girlfriend, Chenia who I had spoken to a number of times on the phone.

I guess that it was easy for her to recognize me as there were no other white women in Mercedes about town, ha! Plus, she had seen numerous photos that Lawrence had taken of me and sent to her while she was finishing up her Social Work degree in Lesotho. As we chatted and compared Lawrence notes we drew a little crowd of other friends of Lawrence so that by the time he had returned to the car and me, a full party on the sidewalk was taking place. Leave it to Cheryl!

The rest of the day was spent sight seeing and hanging out with Lawrence’s friends and family. All in all an excellent day and wonderful introduction to life in Zimbabwe.

 

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Surigwi mountain
Surigwi mountain

 

 

 

There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is much greener than Botswana and definitely not a desert!
There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is much greener than Botswana and definitely not a desert!

 

 

Friday in Gweru

Friday morning dawned bright and early in Senga, Gweru.

After only a couple of hours of sleep and emerging from under a significant mound of blankets attired in my thermal long johns it was time to start explore my new surroundings, the Dingwa homestead. Dressing in a pair of comfy stretchy pants that I normally only ever wear inside my apartment I headed out to the kitchen that was bathed in sunshine and echoing with the sounds of roosters crowing from the next door yard.

The ruler of this domain is the Dingwa housekeeper, Yolanda. Even though it was only 7 am and Yolanda had not gotten to bed the night before until was safely ensconced in my bed, she was up preparing for the day. This preparation includes lighting the fire outside in a lean-to in the yard to heat water for bathing. Currently parts of Zimbabwe including Gweru are facing significant water shortages. So water for the day’s activity must be trickled from the outside tap very early in the day while still available. Once the household is up and moving around the water is then heated to be used for bathing in a small wash basin.

The other difficulty facing the household was the lack of electricity. Yes, I know it is a curse that I am carrying around with me! It seems that early in the week thieves had decided that it seemed like a good idea to steal the diesel petrol out of the transformer that powers the neighborhood. So, no water. No electricity. Can you spell A.D.V.E.N.T.U.R.E.

So clad in my comfy stay at home clothes I went in search of a hot mug of tea. Before I had a chance to ask or even blink I was whisked out of the house by Yolanda, my new friend who informed Lawrence that we would return shortly.

My new friend Yolanda
My new friend Yolanda (picture taken when we were leaving on Monday)

Having no idea where I was going or why and dressed in clothing that I would never step foot outside of my apartment in, I gamely went with the flow. Why not? Lawrence had just moments before said that he wanted to take me for a walk around the neighborhood and that I didn’t need to get changed so I felt reasonably comforted that I wouldn’t offend anyone by my wardrobe choices.

Off we set with Yolanda beaming broadly and greeting everyone that we encountered. I was excited to see my surroundings in the light of day having arrived in the dark of the night. Soon it became evident that we were headed to a tiny strip mall of shops located a very short distance from the house. Once the shops were in sight, Yolanda informed me that we were purchasing eggs, bread and milk for breakfast. She was obviously proud to be showing me around and off! I was just as eager to experience life in Senga, Zimbabwe.

After popping in and out of several of the shops it took some unearthing to locate eggs to go with the milk and bread that were more readily available. To say that I stuck out in the neighborhood like a sore thumb would be an understatement. Even dressed as I was and looking more than a little rumpled after such a short period of sleep it seemed that I was still good enough to attract a proposition or two. However, I was in safe hands and we soon had accomplished our tasks and returned home.

Due to the electrical cut and the need to cook on a single gas burner to would take Yolanda time to prepare our morning meal so Lawrence, his brother-in law and I adjourned to the sunny yard to wait and chat. Of course, my appearance in the neighborhood was attracting significant attention and there were numerous drop bys and people to meet and greet. While chatting in hushed tones with the Dingwa’s lovely neighbor about the political affairs of the country who dropped by the yard but the Voter Education team bringing polling and voting information about the upcoming election in July. Oh, and yes, I am still dressed in my comfy clothes and waiting for Lawrence to zap because I am not properly attired for this more traditional culture.

Serious discussion of voter concerns
A serious discussion of voter concerns

Zimbabwe has been ruled for more than 30 years by President Robert Mugabe who is currently 89 years old and showing no signs of retiring. There are many issues at play in Zimbabwe including poverty, economic uncertainty and upheaval, land reform displacing white farmers and political repression to name a few. For this political junkie, it was a dream come true to be so fully and quickly immersed into a real and honest dialogue on politics so soon in my visit.

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