1. We have the best climate in the world- ask anyone. Harare in particular is wonderful, but the whole of Zim is pretty lovely. No, I am not biased.
2. We are really nice people. When you sit in a kombi (public transport), you can pour out your troubles and everyone will listen, perhaps laugh, usually have a kind word to say- no matter how pressing their own problems are. Strangers also smile and say hello. I love that.(Australians are nice too, incidentally).
3. We are peace-loving. After all the troubles we have been through in the last ten years… Well, anything could have happened. That stuff happens in other African countries. Not to minimize the cases that have been in the world media so much, but we never thought to turn to arms to make our point.
4. We know how to have fun. In the old days (pre-financial trouble), Christmas was a good excuse to party all night- with the whole neighbourhood. We know how to laugh, no matter what’s going on around us. I think Zimbabwean jokes are among the best in the world. Maybe it’s the weather, but anyone can have fun, at any time- and we do.
5. We endure. I admire the businesspeople who’ve stayed, and stayed in business, in spite of how tough things have been. I love walking into the shops and seeing products made in Zimbabwe. I love seeing people “making a plan”- people who lost their jobs five years ago just finding a new way to stay in the game. I love that most Zimbabweans don’t sit around waiting for a handout, no matter how hopeless the situation seems. I love that we are a hopeful lot.
6. I love that I don’t have to worry about the food I eat. Since just about everything we eat is organic, I don’t have to wonder if I’m getting cancer from my food… Or worry about being morbidly obese because of a reliance on takeaway food.
7. I love that no matter what the stresses we live under look like to the outside world, we still live a relatively stress-free life. Our lives are real. When we are stressed out, it’s because we have no food in the house, or because we are sick. It’s not because we want that fancy new car, or because of credit card debt. Levity aside, the incidence of so-called lifestyle diseases is low, and as a result we are healthier even into our old age.
8. I love the importance we place on extended family. One is never alone here. In times of trouble, there is always someone to turn to… And one in turn looks after others. I love that I will raise my children in community.
9. I love the importance we place on respect for elders. I think it’s a good basis for stability in society. I love, too, knowing that I will not be placed in an old age home for the convenience of my family, because that’s not how we do things here.
10. I love the way the rainy season comes. I love the way the dry heat builds up until it is almost unbearable, but then if you watch, every day you see storm clouds growing on the horizon… And then the first rains come with their drama- huge storm clouds, lightning, wind and the wonderful scent of rain mingling with dust… And then the storms that come at lunchtime and when you are about to leave the office after work, just to drench you. And then everything becomes green again, and it’s like the whole world is sighing with happy relief.
11. I love seeing the farmers work in the fields. I love going up to Honde Valley in Nyanga, the way the road winds until you are sick with vertigo, and yet you are gasping with amazement because each turn reveals some pretty, secret, lush valley… I love standing on the mountainside where home is, and looking across to the tea estates near the border with Mozambique. I love getting up really early, on those tear-inducingly cold mornings in Honde Valley, when you see woodsmoke from a dozen fires drifting upwards to mingle with the mist.
12. I love walking through the rain forest at Victoria Falls, getting drenched, and feeling like a child again… And then coming to a sudden clearing in the “jungle”, and there is the magnificent, me-shrinking majesty of the Falls. And all the other things- the hotels in Vic Falls and the excitement of being on holiday and ordering breakfast, the not-too-resorty “resortiness” of Vic Falls, the crocodile farm, watching the hippos swim at A’Zambezi River Lodge…
13. I love taking road trips here, and taking in the vast expanses of savanna… I love how beautiful the countryside is, and how the space gives one a feeling of freedom. I love that even in the city, I don’t feel cramped. I love that one can own a few acres of open land even in the city.
14. I love the pace of life here. Not even in the so-called fast-paced Harare is life truly fast-paced. I love that one still has time to stand and stare, and that work is never really frenetic.
15. I love that we don’t really have crime here. Not compared with other countries, I mean. And when there is crime, it’s hardly ever violent. The incidents are so isolated that this is the exception, rather than the rule. I love that you can walk around during the day without worrying about someone pulling a gun on you. I love that you can drive around without being certain that someone will try to hijack you.
16. I love how patriotic we get around sport- but usually only when our teams are winning. I remember going to a soccer match in Harare, and failing to get in because the stadium was packed. And how everyone was singing, and the feeling of pride in being Zimbabwean. I suppose this happens in other countries too… (grudgingly).. I love, too, going to watch cricket, whether at Harare Sports Club, or Queens in Bulawayo. The weather is always wonderful when cricket is on, and the atmosphere is fantastic.
17. I love how Zimbabweans think a party- or fun- is synonymous with a braai (barbeque)
18. I love the little places there are? were? in Harare, informal eating places like KwaMereki and Cresta Mbare, where one could get an excellent Zimbabwean meal- excellent value for your money. I love that one got to know about these places by word of mouth, and that everyone seemed to go to these places… So you would meet your friends and associates there. And that a lot of office workers would drive there at lunchtime, rather than to some fancy takeaway place… And the service at these places would be the envy of any catering business. And gradually the service would get personal, too, as you became a regular. I love that you never had to worry about the hygiene, because the hosts were at pains to make sure everything was perfect- just like home. I hope these places survive.
19. I love township life. I love how when you play your radio, it’s so that the neighbours at the end of the line can hear every word. I love that everyone knows when you have bought a new fridge- even those who live ten roads down. I love that every home has a fruit tree in the front yard- and if you don’t have one, you can steal your neighbour’s fruit- doing them a favour, because otherwise the neighbourhood kids will. I love the fact that you can borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbour, or a teaspoon of salt- unless they started a rumor about you ten years ago, in which case you would rather go to the people two roads away. I love the general exodus to any cleared space as soon as the rains begin, to plant maize (corn), which you can be sure we’ll be eating like mad for four months.
20. I love how we exaggerate. I love that nothing is small, especially when you tell a story. I love that everyone is a storyteller- you only have to watch a Zimbabwean, any Zimbabwean, for two minutes as they relate something, to know that. The gestures are huge, the voice is raised, and there is a great deal of poetic licence.
21. I love that I can joke with policemen. I call them “chef” or “officer”, and watch them puff up with pride when I do. I love Zimbabwean in-jokes like that, the words and phrases that I can use to any Zimbawean that convey a wealth of meaning- words and phrases like “berial cheques”, “demonize”, Diaspora, and “under curatorship”. I love how we are about community, and every experience becomes a shared “Zimbabwean” thing.
22. I don’t know how many of these things are particularly, or originally, Zimbabwean, but I love: Mazoe Orange, Buttercup Margarine, Sun Jam, Willards Custard, Colcom Cambridge Pork Sausages, Chimombe…. Zimbabweans will know what I mean. I love that we get homesick when we think about such things when we are far away.
23. I love how public transport is never full here. There is always room for one more person on the bus or Kombi. I love (strangely enough) the “chicken” buses that take you to the rural areas, no longer with squawking chickens, but with squealing babies and sweating mothers, with blaring music and a shouting conductor, and a household’s complement of furniture on the roof. I also love how the informal bus stops gain a name that everyone knows them by- pa chibage (“by the mealies”, referring to where someone is selling roasted maize/ corn); pa ma gum tree (at the gum trees), pa musika (at the market), ekhoneni (at the corner), e mapostorini (where members of the Apostolic Faith meet or sell their wares). I love that the name may last even though landmarks change.
24. I love the music… From the endlessly-repeated riffs and plaintive sound of the lead guitar in sungura, to the sort of Afro-jazz sound of Oliver Mtukudzi, to the vernacular choral music we sing at the Anglican church, that has the ability to move me so…
25. I love how Zimbabweans in the Diaspora long for home. It must mean that there is something particularly special about this sort of teapot-shaped piece of earth.