A creepy visitor

Recently, I was reading tips on how to take macro (close-up) photos with my iPhone. Then this fellow showed up and gave me a perfect opportunity to practice.

Back on - sorry, swimming, and school

I just realized it's been a month since I posted. I must have been collecting photos and composing posts in my head without actually posting them. Sorry!

It's been warming up here, to the point that swimming is now a nearly daily activity. We started when it was bracing, but couldn't swim long due to lips turning blue. For the last week or so, it's been so nice we've spent an hour or more in at a time.

At a recent party at a friend's, the boys were swimming when William performed a tricky twisting backward drop into the pool from a seated start...a bit too close to the edge. We took a quick trip to the local hospital/clinic for a couple stitches.

It was our first real test of the medical system here and we were quite pleased. William was wiped out afterward, to nobody's surprise.

Later in the week (in fact, starting the next morning) he returned to his usual chipper self.

We're looking forward to Thursday, when the stitches come out and he can get back in the pool.


Caves and drawings

Thursday the Grade 6 students went to a series of small caves in which we viewed some cave drawings. The most amazing part, to me, was that there were no staff nor restraining fences etc at these national monuments; we could have walked right up and touched the walls if we'd wanted to. It speaks well of the responsibility of the population viewing these that they are still in good condition.

Later, we had lunch near a small reservoir. Our leftovers were investigated by a baboon; the students had a bit of fun chasing him away before we calmed them down.

And finally, we climbed to the top of a large basolith and had an amazing panoramic view. These hills are truly unique in my experience.

- Matthew


In the Matopos hills

We arrived at the national park an we're greeted by a baboon, who promptly headed into the bush as soon as he heard out horde of 11- and 12-year-olds.

Then we drove another 20-25 minutes, first on one-lane paved and then on dirt roads, until we arrived at the lodges.

The lodges themselves are quite nice, with electricity, indoor plumbing, and fabulous catering by Chef Matthias and his crew.

The roofs are traditional construction and quite geometrically interesting.

But what interested the students most as we arrived hot off the busses was the large pool, created in a natural granite basin.


A trip to Matopos

Today I am on my way to Matopos National Park, near the southern city of Bulawayo. We have a bus with 14 boys, and another with 16 girls, from grade 6.

Matopos is about a 6 hour drive from the school, depending on traffic and how many police stops there are. Around lunchtime, we stopped briefly for bathroom breaks and a cool drink.

Along the way the scenery was both familiar (sere grasses, dried by sun, with an occasional wildfire burn) and new (dotted not by sagebrush nor pine but by flat topped bushes/trees called thoi).



There are 3 main supermarket chains in Harare: Spar, TM, and Bon Marchè.

Today we walked with a friend about 2 kilometers (a little over 1 mile) to what we call the "Gucci" Spar. It's bigger than any other in the area and has the largest selection of foreign goods. As you might expect from our nickname for it, it also tends to have the highest prices (though it also has deals, you just have to comparison shop).

Our friend pointed out a display I was about to walk past: the milk company is giving away...cows!?! I read it twice before I really believed it.

- Matthew


A good nightlight

We've been searching for a good nightlight for the boys' bedroom for a few weeks now. It's pretty dark here at night; although there are streetlights , the level of ambient light is much lower than in Boise.

On my birthday, Juana took me out to a great dinner and we noticed a really beautiful lamp. Juana found a local shop that sells similar, but smaller, lamps and they also had low-wattage bulbs. Eureka! The boys now have a beautiful glowing cheetah to protect them from the dark.



Today I got my birthday present, a fabulous countertop water filter/dispenser. Now I won't need to lug 5-liter jugs of filtered water home from school each day! (We prefer the filtered water, although our tap water is also quite drinkable.) Juana also gave me a small box of universal adhesive (along with a nice pair of round-tooits :-).

We had a small party with our staff and their families: Elizabeth, our housekeeper and nanny, her daughter Patience, and her grandchildren (Patience's children) Takudzwa and Tanai; Itai, our gardener, and MoreBlessing, his wife. The cake was pretty sugary (the kids loved it) and the ice cream was delicious.

It was a wonderful day!


Blooming views

Plants are starting to bloom, responding to the slowly warming days (here below the equator, the cool dry season is beginning to end). All around our property, beautiful blossoms and flowers are appearing...


Zesa (electric)

Electricity here in Harare often goes by the name of the company that provides it, Zesa. As in "oh, blast, Zesa is out again," or "Papi, do we have Zesa?"

It's not unknown to have Zesa for an entire day, but it's rare. More often, electricity will be off for some portion of the day. Entire days without Zesa are also rare, fortunately.

We do have a generator for when Zesa is out. It's a big diesel beast, quite noisy, but invaluable when we loose power just before dinner, for example.

To run it, we just turn the key, just like starting a car. The there's a switch in our breaker box that toggles between Zesa and the generator. (In the middle, labeled Z/Off/G. There's also a switch that activates a buzzer, so we know when the power is back on and can shut off the noisy beast (lower right in the picture).

We're getting pretty used to this routine; even William isn't much phased when the power drops any more.

On Friday, Michael had a sleepover at a friend 's house, so Juana and I had a nice dinner out. William figured out how to make a fairly stable hat out of his bread, which I didn't even know was possible. The other couple in the restaurant were quite amused.


Walking around

Walking around our area of Harare is interesting.  Almost everything below 2-3 feet is colored rust/orange, due to the dust.  Sidewalks are very rare, but there are walking paths along almost every side of every road.  Cars have no speed limit (so some go by pretty swiftly) but they seem (so far, at least) to be pretty considerate of pedestrians, and vice-versa.

My favorite part of the walk to school is the path just outside the school gates.  There is a double-line of tall firs on either side of the gate, so the final bit before school feels like the Forbidden Forest from the Harry Potter stories.  Fun! :-)


Fun day with new staff

Today the school took the new staff members to a local historical park called Dombashava. It's set around a giant rock outcropping in which historic cave paintings were discovered and are preserved. We hiked around, on and over, admired the cave and paintings, then headed back for lunch.

For lunch, we were taken to a restaurant on a small game preserve. After a fantastic meal, we walked out to see kudu, impala, zebra and I don't know what all. Up close (at least, as close as the animals felt comfortable with, which was plenty close).

A quickie tour of our house

Here's a quick visual tour of our new digs: