To kick-start my writing expedition this year, I thought what better way to do it than to reflect upon my brilliant time in Africa.

Arriving and finding my way in Harare.

The day after my arrival in Harare, after I had fretted about unreliable Wi-Fi and settled on being hot spotted by those in my company, I finally decided how I was going to spend my holiday. I can be organised but I have since come to the realisation that planning my activities in advance is a futile attempt, the same way it is for me to structure my thoughts as I write these blogs, and especially when I go to Africa. For example, this year, as with all the previous years, I swore, to myself, that I would not move from house to house greeting the neighbours, relatives, friends, their cats, and dogs, of whom I will not have seen for many months, and that instead, I will let them come to me (we do not need social media for news about my arrival to spread). I was going to be the visitor whose only motivation for doing anything was to relax and indulge in every possible way. Alas, I did not give these people and their animals the chance to find me, because as soon as I landed on the African soil, I was knocking on their doors.

I love Zimbabwe in December, the rain season. Not only do I get to bask in the soothing sound of rain as it splatters on the roof during the night when I am in my bed, the trips to the market are the most rewarding. I love viewing the stalls with their bountiful stashes of convenient merchandise, from clay to brooms. I was spoilt for choice and was able to satisfy all my cravings of the food I had not eaten in a long time. I was delighted to be able to taste, once more, my favourite wild fruit, mazhanje. The flavour of which left a lasting taste in my mouth. There is a garden and an orchard in our backyard and so for the vegetable and fruit varieties that I could not get from there, I scoured these markets. The experience of plucking out a ripe mango from a tree each morning and eating it at my leisure, knowing that I could pick another one and another, when I wanted, was priceless!

The market near my home in Chinhoyi is always buzzing with excitement, from the man who uses comedy to lure you to his stall to the chubby-looking woman who quietly flashes you a smile as you pace up and down, perusing the merchandise, hoping that her pleasing demeanour will eventually draw you towards her goods. Then there is the aggressive vendor selling from the back of his truck which is usually parked outside the market, yelling to remind you that he is not going to hang around forever. In my silence and stealth contemplation, I cannot help but formulate some mental images. I imagine the woman thinking about the six children she has left at home, and whose clothes are now torn. The animated man strikes me as the breadwinner and he knows he has to provide. As for the aggressive vendor, I see in my mind’s eye, the frown on his boss’s face as he reminds him how precarious his position in his enterprising business has become because he cannot sell everything. I mean, come on, you’ve got to love Africa and her resilience. Her inspiration and colourful people. That which makes you appreciate all that which we take for granted and drives us to value the little things in life. In case you are wondering, I bought from all these three vendors and left the market with a basket bursting with fruit, grain, nuts, and vegetables of all kinds to satisfy all my cravings.

Going back to the town where I was born and raised always makes my heart glow. The experience ignites within me, a deep longing for my childhood days. Days when my parents saw to all my daily needs. Days when life was as I like to put it, ‘uncomplicated’ and when I could just be without a care in the world.

Chinhoyi, the provincial capital of Mashonaland West province in central northern of Zimbabwe is also the home of the Chinhoyi Caves, also known as the Chirorodziva Caves. The place where I once again found myself. When we got to the reception, a tall, skinny man in his late thirties, early forties perhaps, not that it matters, greeted us with a welcoming smile. After we had made some inquiries because I had noticed a few things had changed, we purchased our tickets and a tour guide was assigned to us. The guide’s eyes glinted with pride as he recounted the story of the Chirorodziva Caves. Although this is a story I have heard many times, hearing it being told by a different person and with such passion and conviction, installed some degree of novelty to my understanding and feeling towards the tourist attraction.

And so, I toured the two caves with the fresh pair of eyes that I had been given.

Me admiring the splendid view of the Sleeping Pool inside the Light Cave. Check out that crystal blue water!

Venturing into the Dark Cave. The lights made it less scary although they went out once, making us scream with terror.

I was just as thrilled, inspired and intrigued as those who were viewing the caves for the very first time.

At home (UK), I am forever telling my daughter about our African culture, my wish being to pass on and to instill in her the values of our tradition. The thought of her not knowing what I grew up knowing terrifies me. I want her to develop and to enshrine within her soul, the same pride that I have as an African. I want her to be inspired by the stories of my childhood. During this trip, I had the pleasure and privilege to show her. I told her how I spent my typical day as a child growing up in Zimbabwe. I recounted, at times demonstrated, to her dismay, how climbing trees is to me as is the way she plays her video games. I sat with her on the veranda where I spent time playing with my home-made dolls and where I played nhodo when the ground was too wet for me to sit on. I made her taste the liberating experience and the freedom of walking barefoot and that of allowing nature to entertain you instead of relying on gadgets and social media.

I discovered that many things had changed. People had matured, some had left for greener pastures, so I was told, some passed on, infrastructure built and some destroyed. What I discovered had remained constant was the way people still treasure sitting in the park taking pictures. How they still greet each other with a firm handshake and inquire about each other’s day. In Africa, we are guaranteed of sunshine regardless of what season it is. The fact that you can venture outside without fretting much about the weather or making it the subject of conversation is what I had missed the most.

More to follow in part 2….