A dog, a suit and a handful of goodbyes

The 1950’s Singer, Necchi and other sewing machines whir and compete with the musical chatter and laughter of the seamstresses and baritone words of the tailors hard at work on the clothing of the people of Zimbabwe. The little room in which I wait for final alterations on my suit is much like a dozen or two more in this downtown office building. Colorful finished pieces hang along the periphery, lit only by one long fluorescent bulb. A small “fitting room” is a corner stacked with back packs and other personal effects, closed off by a swath of extra fabric on two nails and a string. A Battery-powered FIFA clock hangs by a wire from a small board screwed to the plaster wall. Small Zimbabwean flags hang here and there. In stark contrast to all official businesses, Robert Mugabe does not stare down at us from an official government portrait. A tittering radio blares out a mix of modern pop from Zimbabwe’s and other southern African artists.

A young woman tries on her fitted dress in the hideaway fitting room. She looks stunning and innocent, probably ready for duty as a bridesmaid, or for another formal occasion. The red fabric is broken up nicely with batique patterns of cream and maroon.
My tailor puts button holes in my three piece, and irons the shoulder pads into submission, as they are a bit bolstered for my liking.

I’m leaving Zimbabwe in less than a week.

We’ve met some amazing people and made many wonderful friends, all of whom we to see again sometime, somewhere around the world. We don’t say “goodbye,” rather “See you ’round the world sometime,” instead.

We’ve seen every corner of this country, several times over in some cases, driven thousands of kilometers and taken a few thousand photos. Jean has learned the names and calls of dozens of southern African birds and my kids can spot the difference between a Bush Buck and Kudu or Klip Springer and Duiker in a second.

Our Rhodesian Ridgeback, Alice, has accompanied us on many of these adventures, staring down Eland, Zebras, and chasing an Ostrich or two in her travels. She is decidedly nervous we will leave her behind and has no idea of the sights, smells and sounds that await her across the US and in VA.

We are all packed out and the house is empty, save what we’ll take in our suitcases and carry-ons for our journey back to the ‘States. Our lives, once all packed up, can be catalogued in a series of numbers, like the ingredients in a recipe, the product of which has been an amazing Zimbabwe adventure:

Four days to pack out
Six man packing crew
291 boxes in HHE
7147 pounds
Countless camping, lodging and safari trips
Five lift vans
One pet shipment
4 suitcases
7 carry-ons
40 hours transit HRE-JBG-ATL-ELP
6 Airplane meals
12 movies watched
1 airport lounge
7 days in Las Cruces
8 day drive across the US (Las Cruces – Carlsbad – Austin – Memphis – Nashville – Asheville – Raleigh/Durham – Tappahannock – Hearthwood!)

Over the next year we’ll live at our house in VA, Jean will learn Albanian at FSI, the kids will go to school in Fairfax County, and I’ll steward Hearthwood, doing home improvement projects, gardening, chopping wood, and everything that goes into running a homestead.

Then off to Kosovo next July!

One Reply to “A dog, a suit and a handful of goodbyes”

  1. I liked your beautiful descriptions in your introduction to your posts. I also like your packing lists.

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