A year in Zimbabwe

20131231-093433.jpgWe’ve been over a year here in Zimbabwe and are now counting down the months (lamentably) until we post out. We’ve really been so busy enjoying the country that I’ve not made the time to blog about it, or really anything! So, just what have we been up to?

We’ve very much enjoyed making new friends in our small expat community of both U.S. and other embassy missions, not to mention Zimbabweans and NGO/International School people. Harare’s expats enjoy hosting braai’s (BBQ’s), so most weekends we are in town we’ll be at someone’s house (or hosting) for a brunch or midday braai.

The children are quite occupied with school and afterschool activities, and hanging out with their friends afternoons and weekends, or attending birthday parties. We keep our closet decently stocked with gifts!

Jean is quite active in her job at the embassy, and even got to be an official observer for the elections this past July.

I am continuing to enjoy my role as stay-at-home dad, or “life coach for young people” as I sometimes say. Harare is a very large and spread-out city, though quite unpopulated for the size. It’s possible to cycle to close-by things like school and some markets, though the “Combi’s” (Commuter Omni Buses) make cycling treacherous at best. Mostly I drive, sometimes up to 200km’s a week!

When we are not in town, we are out enjoying the country-side. Zimbabwe keeps a number of national parks, and has lodges and campsites within. We’ll either be there on our own, with friends, or with house guests. We try to get out once a month, though sometimes it’s more like three times a month and then no traveling for two or three months!

When we told friends we were coming to Zimbabwe, those who were from here and/or had lived here were quite excited for us, telling us we’d love it. Why? None of them could quite put a finger on just why, simply telling us we’d love it. Now that we’ve been here a year, I can put it in some words, especially for world travelers like those in the Foreign Service.

The weather here is perfect. I’ve heard it called “champagne air” because of it’s arid and clean quality. It’s sunny most all the time, and to cool down one only has to step into the shade. The roads, though sometimes a bit bumpy in neighborhoods, are for the most part un-clogged and wide, with decent frontage between houses and shops and the road-side. One can get most anything one needs here, sometimes albeit at a price. The people are pleasant and friendly; always willing to give a thumbs up and children always happy to wave.

As we begin our second year here, we inevitably begin looking at the pantry to see what we should be buying to last the year; more toilet paper? Any more Scotch? We don’t want to have too much on hand to leave behind, or try to shove into our suitcases or household effects. We are also making our mental checklist of places left to visit, things left to do before we go. Should we visit that one national park again, or visit a new one?

We are also quite excited for our next post, Pristina, Kosovo, and the inevitable U.S. tour that comes along with it: Albanian language training! This means we’ll be in the U.S. for nearly an entire year while Jean is learning Albanian, and the children will be in the U.S. school system for an entire school year! This also has major implications for us: we’ll get to shop at Wegmans! (It’s a grocery store, the very best one, and for foodies like us…well, it’s pretty awesome) We’ll see friends and family, and not just compressed into a four week frenzy! We’ll be driving on the right side of the road for the first time in four years! We’ll be directly exposed to the political and marketing engine of the U.S. economy. We’ll get our mail in days rather than weeks. We’ll have to think about car registration, speeding tickets, and we’ll have to pump our own gas! We won’t have a maid!