It has taken me a while to write the concluding part of my travel reflections. But I always say, better late than never.

As I said in the previous blog, when I go to Zimbabwe, I like to make each day count. I do not let a day go to waste, which means places to go and people to see. This entails a lot of travelling, from point A to B, from door to door, location to location, city to city, and sometimes it means crossing the border into a neighbouring country or two.

In Chinhoyi, after disembarking from the white minibus behind me.

Should you decide to take a trip to Zimbabwe one day, assuming you do not own a car there, you do not have to worry about transportation. There are different options at your disposal and these are determined by where you want to go and/or indeed the resources at your disposal. You can rent a car, hire a taxi, get a relative to drive you, use the bus or the ‘kombi’ (minibus). There may be a few bumps on the road, a roadblock or two (I wish there weren’t), but with a bit of resilience, you will get to your destination.

I fancied a stroll in the sunshine, so I went to buy my ticket to Johannesburg at the Harare International Airport in person.

The week before Christmas, I decided to venture a bit further than the inner cities. I travelled from Harare to Johannesburg. I had wanted to take the long journey by bus to give myself and my daughter the opportunity of an adventure. But I was warned that the festive season was the wrong time for such an adventure unless I fancied spending Christmas at the border as there would be long queues at the immigration. I can be resilient but I was not feeling that resilient so I changed my mind about my choice of transport.

Fast jet, a budget airline got us to Johannesburg in less than two hours. The ride was smooth, the flight attendants friendly. However, I cannot say the same about the tea! So much for saving. I guess it is true what they say, ‘Cheap will cost you.’

In my view, you are not truly African if you do not talk about family. Families come in all shapes and sizes. Grandparents, parents, in-laws, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. In Zimbabwe, these people come together, at times, under one roof, in different assortments to form a whole unit. Our families, regardless of how we come together, shape our characters, inform our views of the world and to some extent influence how we interact with it. The people in our lives influence who we become, and without them, I believe, life would not make that much sense.

Christmas is usually the time when we all come together as a family. When you live far away from ‘home’ like I do, there are bound to be additions to this family. People get married and children are born, all adding to the family dynamics. Within my family, I have different roles. I am a sister, an aunt, a niece, a granddaughter. Each role adopted and adjusted in accordance with our African custom.

The day I spent at the Zoo was fun and educational. There were lots of living creatures to see and plenty of information about these on display. Elephants, lions, giraffes, slithery snakes and more. Each as beautiful as the other.

I am always fascinated about the peacock. The way it opens its beautiful feathers and glides back and forth. As I watched it at the Pretoria Zoo, I pondered. Is this creature too vain and burdened by pride causing it not to fly as some might say? Or is it simply embracing all its beauty and basking in all its glory, perhaps encouraging you and me to do the same and bloom where we are? I do not know, you decide.

In Zimbabwe, we are identified by totems which are linked to animals. I am a ‘Soko’, the monkey. That cunning long-tailed animal which climbs trees and likes to hop from branch to branch. So, when I got to the monkey enclosure at the zoo, you can understand why I had to stop and pay homage to this wonderful creature.

I had also seen several monkeys at the Chinhoyi Caves (where I took this photo) and played with them which added to my fun.

Christmas was fast approaching so I found myself scouring through the malls for some last minute bargains. My favourite shop was the Rosebank African market where I got to feast my eyes on different cultural art works on display. I walked away with a few treasurable items.

Christmas also brought with it an avalanche of emotions for me. On one hand, a joyous time as I got to spend time in the bosom of my family. We did not have dinner at home, instead, we drove to the Moyo Zoo Lake Restaurant, a fabulous ethnic place where I had a remarkable dining experience.
Food to impress the palate and friendly service.
Inside the restaurant, I got to experience the Savannah and went on an adventure in the African jungle as we sat on a table under a tree, all designed to stimulate the senses. I feasted listening to music being sung by the local bands. My favourite piece of the day, the one which had me take to the dance floor was ‘Lion Sleeps Tonight’. A group of women moved around, treating the guests on each table to a song, making them feel welcome and special.

I sat still as a local artist painted my face. Such a thrill!
Later at home, we ate some more food, played games and danced to a concoction of music. All to mark the end of a perfect day.

Well, almost perfect because as we were celebrating, I could not ignore the jolting inside my chest. A sadness which had been caused by another reality which I had witnessed that morning as we had driven across town. Mothers and children standing by the roadside, in the rain, begging for food. Men selling Santa Claus hats, some offering to clean cars, in the hope of making some money to feed their families waiting for them back home. When my sister-in-law had handed me parcels she had prepared the night before, to load to the front of the car, I had been puzzled. But, when she had slowed down by the traffic lights and asked me to hand one of the parcels to the boy standing in the rain, shivering from the cold, I had understood. As we had driven off, I had asked my sister-in-law to tell me what she had put in the parcels. All she had said was, ‘something to put a smile on someone’s face.’ Then I had looked behind and seen the boy look up to the sky, gesturing a prayer with his hands. After that, we had driven in silence for the rest of the journey, stopping and handing out the parcels to those who needed the smile. I knew this was not enough to change these people’s lives, but I felt reassured, for that brief moment at least, that something had made them smile on Christmas.

I have discovered that whenever I travel, back to Africa or another place, I grow as a person. No experience is the same. During my travels, I experience and witness both the new and the familiar, all of which have the capacity to plant a seed within me. A seed of compassion, a new understanding of the world and its people, a fresh perspective and outlook on life, gratitude for this thing called life.

Unfortunately, my joy and excitement came to a screeching halt on the day of our return. When we finally had to bid farewell to our loved ones, to the sunshine, the mangoes, and the African noise. Although parting is somewhat bittersweet, I can always take comfort in the fact that for me, Africa is just a flight away.