Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Weddings, croquet, and waterfalls

Its funny the difference in Harare and Bulawayo. The “Harare-towners” think Bulawayo is just a sleepy little town. Which by comparison, it is. Harare is a large, fast paced town with a ton of different restaurants and bars and shopping centers, etc. "Bulafoofoo" has enough decent restaurants to count on two hands, and about 2 bars that everyone goes to on the weekends. But that means that you are always planning things whether it be in town or somewhere close by. It’s a quaint feel. Even as small as it is, it seems there is always something going on. Polocross, rugby, birthday parties, weddings. And if there isn’t, we make something happen. And you can always guarantee people will show up because they all love to get together, whether it be a chill Sunday afternoon “braai” (BBQ), or a big party. And I love how is always involves being outdoors. Don’t get me wrong I love a lazy movie-marathon Sunday as much as the next person, but it’s nice to get out and do something. Even if it’s just down the street. 

So recap of some of the things we’ve been getting into on the weekends:
First weekend back we went to a beautiful wedding. It was at this place called Nesbit Castle. And it literally is a castle. Built by some German when the country was being colonized. Right in the middle of town but you'd never know it. It felt like I was in Robin Hood. Just a canopy of trees everywhere, perfect weather, good music, nice food, and experimental dance moves…

Cu and I as per usual hit the dance floor running, and kept it up all night. Even after a minor set-back…
I won’t go into detail but let’s just say some dance moves are meant for professionals only. Its been about a month now and I’ve still got a sore neck. In Cuan’s defense it was my idea to have him flip me upside-down, he didn’t want any part of it. I’m just lucky we decided to do it on the grass… 

I didn’t bring my camera to the wedding but I’ve stolen a few photos from the Cozim Functions Facebook page so you can get an idea of the setting. Absolutely beautiful. 

 The following weekend we had nice croquet session with afternoon burgers and Gin&Tonics at Johan’s house. First time I’ve ever played and I may need a little bit more practice. Came in last out of five people. Womp woooomp. Still fun to try new things! 

(Burgers and G&T's... Cuan makes a mean G&T, and by "mean" I mean sooooo nice!)

(Croquet isn't my sport... yet.)

 Sunday of that weekend was the best day. We went out to this place called Lumene Falls, just an hour or so out of town.. And boy did we have a crew. Cu and I rode his new(ish) motorcycle out there and the caravan followed. I think it was 4 full vehicles and 3 more motorcycles in tow all together. Once we got to rough dirt roads I hopped off the bike and got in a truck and Cu grabbed a more off-road bike to finish the trip. There were a bunch of little kiddos with us as well. Two of whom also rode little motorcross bikes to the falls. So Cu and a friend Alan rode with them the rest of the way.

This place was so different from any other place I've been to in Zim. It reminded me a lot of home with a bit of a different backdrop. But just going out t o the river, (we brought tubes, although most of them busted from being too blown up... yikes!) and floating, grilling and enjoying the day reminded me of a nice weekend in Louisiana! The actual falls were about a mile from where we set up our little camp and you could only get there on foot. But it was an amazing walk. The rocky mountainous scenery around us was breathtaking. You know, it reminded me of the oasis where Timone and Pumba live in the Lion King! :)  

It was really a dramatic buildup as we were walking because you could hear this waterfall, giant roars of rushing water, but you couldn't see anything! We followed the sounds all the way up the side of the mountain until we finally found it! Man, was it worth it. It was like 10 waterfalls in one area. It started waayyy up the mountain would have a beautiful fall.. then the rocks leveled out into a little pool, but then it kept going to another fall and another little pool, and another fall and another pool. Maybe not ten but there were at least four!, all the way down to the bottom. We spent an hour or so out there before our food clock kicked in and everyone headed back for lunch and more floating. It was a really nice day all together. 

Even our walk to the falls was eventful: We met some four-legged friends walking the same path, passed the beautiful landscape of mountains and forest, then we finally made it!

Such an exciting day! -- caught a shot of a little guy hiding in the tree

The next few weekends we took it pretty easy, aside from one big party at the house. It was supposed to begin in the afternoon, but didn’t get started until a few hours past our original time, therefore lasted way into the night. Lots of grilling, pool games, and of course music and dancing. 

It didn’t take long for us to want to go back out the Lumene falls. We are trying to get the most out of it while the weather is warm and the water is flowing. So we planned a camping trip! Similar set up and crew as before, except this time it was my turn to ride the bike. Once we got off the main road, Cu and I unloaded my little 250cc and it was time to test out my memory from 2 years ago… Just like riding a bike right?? Ehh sort of. 

Starting off is the hardest part. You don’t want to floor it but at the same time if you don’t give it some juice you have no balance and the bike will fall. So once I kicked it into first gear and got going I didn’t want to stop. So I kept going! Cu hopped in the truck and followed me the 45 minutes or so all the way to the falls. And I didn’t fall off once! The last mile or two stretch is pretty rocky and super sandy so I was a little nervous. But like Cu told me as long as you keep your momentum up, shift it to a low gear, then (to quote from a great motorcycle movie The Worlds Fastest Indian...) "bob’s your uncle!"

It was taking forever to try to load this video onto the page, the pains of Zimbabwe internet... so here's a quick clip of me in motion! Don't make fun, I'm just a beginner... http://youtu.be/9wTg2uYwT6U


Watch out for the donkeys!

 We set up camp at the bottom of a smaller waterfall right on the sandbank. Spent the afternoon sunbathing and swimming until the rest of the group showed up. Then it was time to set up tents. I assumed Cuan had a decent tent, at least one the size of our Alaska trip tent. Well.... The tent was juuust big enough to fit a TWIN size blow up mattress. I literally could pick it up with my pinky. It looked especially tiny next to the surrounding tents towering over us. But hey, a tent is a tent.

Fun in the sun!

 The evening was passed sitting around the fire roasting marshmallows and sharing stories, maybe even a ghost story or two just to keep it old school. I still need to teach these people what a s’more is though. Its tough when they don’t really even know what a Hershey bar is!! But the marshmallows were still just as delicious as I remember. The next morning we explored more of the river before heading back to Bulawayo! Didn’t ride the bike back because, ahem, Cu may or may not have misplaced the key... but it was found after we got back home and unpacked.

 And that's just a summary of our weekends! I think now I am mostly caught up.. which was my goal. Posts after this one will probably not be quite so long, but hopefully more frequent.Or I can make them just as long if you want! - typing up this stuff is my favorite. 

Until next time friends! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Bachelor Pad...

After saying goodbye to friends in Harare we took the short (5ish hour) drive down to Bulawayo. The highway down is PAVED and actually getting a new coat in some areas! Except most of the roads are just 2 lanes, so Zimbabweans learn the art of passing vehicles at an early age. Trust me, in places in America you can just be patient and wait for a passing lane. But here, some people drive 40+ks under the speed limit! Anyway my trusty escort got us there in no time so we could begin the unpacking process!

But first a geography lesson: 

  Bulawayo is about 445 kilometers (270ish miles) southwest of Harare, around 5 hour drive. It only takes 41/2 hours to get to the South African border. Coastal Mozambique to the east and north, Botswana to the west, and Zambia to the northwest!

One of the first familiar faces I saw when we arrived back in Bulawayo was good ole Charles. Charles is our garden boy/pool boy/housekeeper/laundry man/cook when we need it, etc… basically anything that needs to be done he will do it. He even changed my flat tire last time I was here and I didn’t even have to ask! It is not uncommon for an individual or family here to have hired help like that. I know it seems backwards. And this just may be the white person’s view, But before we hired Charles, he was working in a factory, with ridiculous labor, for half the pay. With just Cu and I, he has a fairly relaxed schedule and really has such a good heart he can’t wait for the next task to help out. Hell, he even irons my underwear! No joke. He has his own living area in the back of the property, so he is always there when we may need him. In any household with a “Charles” the male is “the Boss” and the female is the “Madame.” Cu said Charles was very happy when he told him that “The Madame” was coming back. And he showed it with a grin from ear to ear when we first saw him. 

Charles and his wife who works just down the street!

Took a few days to settle in, but its nice moving back into the same house, it makes it feel more familiar.. I got everything unpacked, pics of the fam set up, did a HUGE shop for food, cleaning supplies, etc. But the house still needs a little bit of a female touch… 

One difference in moving back now it that last time I think I felt like I was living in someone else’s house (which essentially, we are.. just renting). But this time I want to make it my own! Cuan did some great things to the garden while I was away. Something I will probably never be good at, Mom’s green thumb must have forgotten about the youngest… 

But seeing as I can’t exactly picture Cu going out and buying wall d├ęcor and throw pillows, the inside is like a blank canvas. (Except for the dining room Cu, I love the things you put in there.) Even then I feel like Mom could fix it up and have it looking fabulous in no time. But as much as I would love to, I can’t exactly afford to fly my personal decorator out for a week. SO its my turn to see what I can come up with! On a budget. In Zimbabwe. 

Believe it or not there are shops.. furniture, linen, etc. in Bulawayo. But with it being such a remote city in land-locked, tiny country, you can imagine the selection is a little less than I’m used to. I did find some beautiful pieces I would love to see in my house. However, the price is also an issue. Going to try a few auctions around town to see what they have to offer. I love unique, do-it-yourself pieces. But I think my best option will be going to South Africa. -- The country. 

I know most of you reading know the difference in southern Africa and South Africa. But please allow me to indulge in Geography lesson #2, as its something I would not have really thought much about before meeting Cu. 

South Africa with a capital 'S' is its own country in the very bottom tip of Africa. First-World, feels like it could be somewhere in America. Southern Africa just describes the region. I know it's different especially for us Louisiana folk where South Louisiana is just an area, but according to Cuan, its like calling Canada part of America when they are two totally different places.

Okay enough of the side-note.. the plan is to go to South Africa sometime soon and do a big shop! I’m looking forward to it. So I have included in this blog the “before” so eventually when we get to the after, you can see how great I did. The outside obviously won’t change much, which is honestly one of my favorite parts of the house anyway, but maybe I can conjure up some of mom’s talent and transform the inside! 

And now for the official tour. I did my best to get angles so that you could get an idea of what it looks like..

My attempt at getting a panoramic... this is what the house looks like from the front gate

Left: the patio, you'll see in a minute what that door leads to. Right: The "front door" that never gets used, so we converted it to the bike garage...

Top left: the bar where many a pool game has been played, bottom left: that door leads out to the patio from the
 above picture, Top & bottom right: the dining room that runs just off the bar, and archway into the living room

This pic really captures the main area of the house. Everything is pretty open, the only room not really showing is the living room which you can sort of see in top left and bottom right of the above pic.

The living room. We did have the TV on the right wall but just took it to the bedroom so that Cu could set up the projector. And it works! Got it hooked up to the satellite box with the surround sound. NCIS last night was INTENSE.

And last but not least the kitchen!

 The house is a 3BR, 2 Bath, kitchen, dining room, living room, and game room/bar. The whole area is fenced in with 10 foot concrete walls. Which is the general layout of a house in Bulawayo. For safety reasons everyone has tall walls surrounding the entire house with electric gates to get in. And electric wire on top of the walls another 3 feet. So needless to say when I am at the house alone I feel pretty safe. And if nothing else I have Charles to protect me!

Our pool and beautiful Cuban Royals are one of my favorite features of the house. The pool is actually in the front of the house. It seems weird but with the walls and foliage all around the house its difficult to tell which way your facing. The street is on the other side of the wall behind the palms..

 In the back yard, I’ve got my veggie garden (still a work in progress…), lemon trees, orange trees, banana tree, and my own home-grown Avocado tree! Still going to be a few years before it actually produces any fruit, but it began as the pit inside an avo I ate 2 years ago! Find out how to grow your own here

The back yard: Veggie garden complete with the BIGGEST rosemary bush
 I have ever seen (that might have to go soon), our banana tree,
and one of the orange trees!

Top left: MY avocado tree! Lemons, a tiny little pepper in the garden,
and yummy bananas!

So that’s the house! Picture overload, I know. But just wanted all the fam and friends to get an idea of where they are going to stay when they come visit! ;)  Will keep you posted on any updates I attempt to make, if you have any ideas please let me know!

Our little street...

Until next time my friends!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Well it Only Took me a MONTH

Its been a long time coming...

Well I’ve been on African soil now for a MONTH and have yet to start this blog I kept talking about! I know, shame on me..  I think it’s the build up. When I think too hard about what I want to say, nothing comes out. So I’m just writing. Like I did all those emails to Mom and Dad and Linds and Laur last time I was here in the Motherland. 

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. 

The trip over was…. Long. After a total of 18 hours of flying, a series of extreme layovers (12 HOURS in Germany and another 8 in Johannesburg)  and a considerable amount of excess and overweight baggage fees, we finally landed in Zimbabwe! After that trip I think we both decided not to choose the absolute cheapest option. It was exhausting. But we managed to arrive in one piece with ALL of our luggage (including Cuan’s 2 “suit cases” AKA ice chests, aka cooler boxes for you ZImbos).. an absolute miracle. Despite my first real struggle with jet lag, we had a great welcome home from all the friends and family in Harare. 

First impressions of being back? Honestly is was almost as if I had never left. Everything came back to me like it was yesterday. The smells, the people, and more or less the native language Shona.
One thing that did slip my mind, was despite the economy and corruption, Zimbabweans are an overwhelmingly happy people. You can see it in the faces of the local children  in their little uniforms walking home from school, skipping and laughing all the way. In the guys selling “mealies” (version of roasted corn on the cob) on the side of the road. These people who seem to have a more challenging life than we can even imagine are completely content in the way they live. It’s inspiring. And of course the friends I left a year and a half ago, along with some new faces could not have been more welcoming upon my return. That is one of the most addicting things about this country. The people I met on my last journey over have such positive attitudes and love their country so much, you get wrapped up in it and cannot help but love it too. 

So English is the spoken language of everyone in Zimbabwe, which makes it a nice transition for me (although some tend to struggle with my accent…) But Shona is the 2nd language, and first to most all of the locals in the northern part of the country. So to be able to speak it is not a necessity, but it benefits you in many situations. I’m lucky that Cuan speaks it fluently, so maybe I’ll be able to pick up on it. So far I haven’t gotten much past “Good Morning” (Monguanane) and “How are you” (I’m not even going to attempt to write that one down, I know I will butcher the spelling…), but it’s a work in progress. 

One more thing about the people. They. Love. To. party. So what better excuse than the return of Cuan and the “American” as well as a birthday all in one night??! Squirrel and Cat Meredith, Cu’s dad and stepmom and our grateful hosts, threw a lovely gathering at their beautiful and recently remodeled home. Lasagna and mopane worms were on the menu and the drinks flowed like water. (yes, real worms. Found in the local Mopane trees. Considered a delicacy by some Zimbabweans and disgusting by others) My opinion? A little crunchy, but nice in the delicious mushroom sauce Cat prepared them in. I’ll try anything once.

And then the dance party began. I instructed what I believe will be the first of MANY line dancing lessons and got to dance with my favorite dance partner. Even after a year and half apart, Cu and I managed to pick back up on it! (or so I felt, nevermind the opinions otherwise…)

                                                                              (Ah, the infamous Mopane Worms!)

                                          (Steve Bristow's birthday celebration!, good to see old friends, and dance partayyyy!)

                                                                            (Catherine's beautifully remodeled outdoor living space!)

 So after a nice few days in the capital, we loaded up our lives yet again and made the scenic drive down to "Bustling" Bulawayo…. 

Until next time friends! More to come I promise!