I was prepared for a change in culture, attitude and time management, I was prepared for heat…However nothing can quite prepare you for your first experience of Africa.
Arrival into Harare International Airport was a bit of a shock. There are no signs so you have no idea where to go, everyone is queuing, which one do I join – as a Brit we like queues and feel impelled to join the longest, which I did. I was wrong. Keep to the right and get your Visa paperwork completed, bring a pen or three, they will be needed. Be relaxed and patient, you will be waiting a while to get through immigration. Have your money handy and do chat to those around you about how much it is today, it changes. I paid $55, a week later it was $35 – perhaps it was a two for one offer?
- The people are so friendly, courteous, generous and well mannered.
The roads… oh the roads! Don’t be thinking that you might be looking to hire a car and drive yourself… make the most of your driver. The driving here is exceptional! You’ll be happily traveling down a road and there's a car driving at you and a couple of people crossing the road. The car will be avoiding pot holes and they will swerve before they hit you. The j-walkers will stop or move, they aren’t on a kamikaze mission, honest! Some of the roads are a little better than farm tracks. You won't be seeing any flash low slung vehicles here, SUV’s and big vehicles are the order of the day.
The people are so friendly, courteous, generous and well mannered. I have felt safe and welcomed every step of the way. I have been shocked at some of the scenes of poverty and extreme wealth, however, this is reality. My senses have been given a thorough workout… There are visual feasts – the colours, the fabrics, flowers, the sky so blue, the trees, the avocados, lemons, oranges so gorgeous, so huge. The food is interesting, peanut butter is a favourite flavouring and sadza a national staple. The stews are delicious and the use of fresh vegetables and fruits... delicious! If you get lucky you’ll be invited to a braai - a barbecue to you and me. A meat feast, vegetarians beware! As is customary the world over, the men feed the fire and do the cooking outside. It can be a bit chilly if you’re here nearing or in winter, so make sure you have a woolly handy!
They also drink lots here.. spirits, beers however if you don’t drink, don’t worry, there is always lots of squashes and fruit juices. The first week your chin will be spent somewhere around your knees. You’ll snap photos of everything, the road, the street corners, the trees, the street sellers, the sky, the cars, the houses, and the people. And then it all becomes normalised and you’ll feel really comfortable and really settled.
I don’t ever want to leave however I have to… and I will be back, again and again, bringing people with me to sample this extraordinary land and its people, culture and generosity of spirit.
- Amanda Thomas, U.K
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