Oh it feels good to be back!” – Tony Stark (Iron Man 2)
I didn’t drop in from the sky in a multiple billion dollar suit, I came in on a bus with clothes summing up to R950 (my shoes, adidas boost, took up 90% of that sum). Stark and I are separated by billions of dollars but our feelings were the same. “I’m home!” After years of living in Cape Town I returned to Harare and I must say A LOT has changed.
I had to adjust to the old ways (which are technically new and foreign to me) and the best way I could adjust was by being a tourist. Weird? How? Questions upon questions but the answer remains the same – it’s the only way I will know what it’s like to live in Harare again. Living “Cape Town” in Harare is suicide. It would never work for thousands upon thousands of reasons for example there’s no Metrorail (the most important mode of transport during my time in Cape Town). Each time I left the comfort of my home, I sat by the window of the car and I always looked out the window like a tourist would do, and yes, I would ask questions. No fanny pack though!
Being a tourist in my own city has been quite the experience so far. Adjusting from Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu being spoken around me to Shona has been the most significant shift. From the 11 official languages of South Africa, I’m down to three; Shona, English and Ndebele. A massive relief for me! Getting around has also been an adjustment. Unfortunately I don’t have the vast options I had before (I already miss Metrorail and “WWWWWWWYYYYYYYYYNNNNNNBERG!” the cry of the gadji – operator of the taxi) and navigating myself around has been a challenge. Luckily my memory has held strong and I vaguely remember where buildings and establishments are. Driving through the residential areas has been tricky as development has increased exponentially and road signs cannot be found. Thank you Google maps! I have gotten lost each time I have travelled. The best thing about being lost is you discover something new. The silver lining of being a tourist.
Going out was a great experience. I knew I needed to learn the ways as soon as possible so I called upon the #1 “Bhawa Ranger” – club hopper/party animal/individual that is consistently in the club. He showed me the way with immediate effect as he reminded me that in Harare, the jeans, t-shirt with an immature message on it & All-Stars ain’t the look. It’s semi-formal! And I commend him as he got me entrance to VIP at Pabloz. First night out in Harare and I’m in VIP! That’s why I called upon the #1 Bhawa Ranger. From Pabloz we went to Sky Bar with his friends and again, I got in for free under the notion “Vari VIP!” – They are VIP. Amazing introduction to the nightlife I must say. People here party until the sun rises. Coming from Cape Town where the night ends at 4am, I tapped out at 3am. My friend lived up to every expectation I had of him and I am grateful.
Zimbabwe cricket was taking on India at Harare Sports Club (HSC) and a very good friend of mine got me a ticket to the showdown. Last time I was there, I was in primary school – Ruzawi School – as a class field trip and Zimbabwe was playing England. Best field trip ever! Zimbabwe lost that game and they lost against India. I guess I should stop watching them live. From there, we met up with a friend that we last saw 10 years ago. Ya, 10 years have flown by! He took us to a braai and it reminded me of the braais in Cape Town. South African braais lack quality sadza. Pap is below standard, but I did miss chakalaka. That stuff is quality! I need to find the recipe.
This past weekend I was treated to local club rugby. There is nothing like watching rugby in Zimbabwe. Though it has taken a turn for the worst, the sport is still well played. There were moments were the game went from traditional rugby to street rugby. The ref only called penalties for every offense committed, chipping the ball was frequently done, structure did not exist and finding touch was impossible. “KWADZA MUNHU!” (hurt him) was occasionally shouted by a member of the crowd. I enjoyed every minute of it because this is the rugby I grew up watching. Luckily there are paid professionals that play rugby at the highest level because what I saw was entertaining, not quality. Did I mention there wasn’t a score board? As I write this, I still don’t know what the score was as there were so many versions being told on the day.
I took a walk in town yesterday and it’s sad to see a lack of development within the central business district (CBD). The good thing is I did not get lost at all. A great thing about Harare is the CBD ain’t that big so I could walk to everywhere I needed to go. Walking is the best way to see any city and to be part of the locals. I did exactly that. Walked around, shocked my memory back and took in new markers or changes that happened over the years.
There’s a lot I still need to do to before I say I am back to being a Zimbabwean. Each day is an opportunity to see something new, experience something different and most importantly, learn how things are done. This coming weekend, Peterhouse School – my former high school – is having its 60th anniversary. An ideal opportunity to see more of Zimbabwe as Peterhouse is situated in the small town of Marondera (also where Ruzawi is). Nothing like a drive outside of Harare to explore the country of Zimbabwe. Not only am I going for a “reunion” but I get to watch rugby again. Hopefully the rules will be enforced. Then there are the unplanned trips in between that will take me to other parts of Harare and outside of Harare.
The notion of being a tourist in my own city was inspired by a former colleague of mine. We worked for a tourism marketing organisation and she took “tourism” literally. Every weekend she went somewhere new, she experienced something different and she created everlasting memories. Every Friday I would ask, “Where to this time?” And on Monday it was, “How was it?” I always wanted to know what happened in the life of Leani. She taught me that there is always time to travel, there is so much to see and even if you grew up in a particular city, there is something new you have not experienced yet. Leani taught me to be a tourist in my own city and I thank her. I urge you to do the same. Take a drive, go for a walk or use public transport and go to a place you have not been. You feel like there is no time because of all the multiple reasons you can come up with but trust me, an hour of your weekend in a foreign part of your city is refreshing. Be a tourist in your own city.