Wednesday marked 3 weeks since we landed in Africa. It’s hard to believe it’s already been that long, yet in so many ways, it feels like we have always been here. The girls happily returned to school after the weekend when I was prepared for a fight to stay home. Dan is settling into work on the farm, preparing for the harvest that will begin next month. I am figuring out this stay-at-home-Mom thing and enjoying the extra time I get to spend with my girls. We spent the past two days in Harare, the capital city, filing immigration paperwork and the girls are officially permanent residents! The process for me is much more involved and will take time, but we are on our way! We are feeling much more comfortable these days and I know it is mostly due to the incredible hospitality of the people around us.
I remember from past visits to Zim thinking how nice and welcoming almost everyone we encountered was. From a stranger on the sidewalk to the cashier at the grocery store to the friends of my in-laws, you are treated with a wide smile and a cheerful “Good morning! How are you?” Regardless of skin color or social status, it seems to be the universal greeting. People greet each other in the States too, especially where we lived in Iowa, but the difference is that here, it just seems more genuine. Their smile lights up their entire face and their greeting is said loudly instead of being muttered under their breath with eyes averted.
The hospitality of the people we have met has been amazing! On our second day in town the girls and I went to a coffee shop with my mother-in-law. There was a couple there with their young son. They instantly introduced themselves and looked at my tear-stained face with sympathy. They had moved to Zim not too long ago and knew what I was going through. The woman gave me her phone number and told me about a mom’s group that meets every once in awhile for coffee and playtime with their little children. I was very appreciative but expected nothing. To my surprise, she messaged me the next night and invited me to the group the following week. I was shocked! In the States, those type of introductions are often followed with silence. I was able to attend the group the following week and met 3 other wonderful women who have been so kind and welcoming. I’ve been in contact with them since and they are really making me feel comfortable and at home. They have checked in to see how the girls are doing at school, given advice on the immigration process and have invited us over for a braii (barbecue!) this weekend so our children can play and our husbands can meet. We’ve had playdates, tea and I went walking at the school with one of the moms. People are going out of their way to introduce themselves and offer assistance in any way they can and I’m hoping this is the beginnings of some lifelong friendships.
The girls have been welcomed with open arms as well. On the first day of school, Elizabeth was hysterical. She was sobbing and clinging to my leg saying she didn’t want to go to school, she wanted to stay with me. Three girls from her class came right over and introduced themselves and took her by the hand, with their arms around her shoulders. They assured her that school was fun and not scary and that their teacher was funny. One of my biggest fears with this move has been that Elizabeth would struggle at school and be an outcast and alone. But these sweet girls put my fears to rest within two minutes! Now when I arrive to pick her up at the end of the day, she is running around, laughing and playing with all sorts of kids. Older, younger, black and white, it doesn’t matter, they have all accepted her and made her part of the crowd. It has done amazing things for this mama’s heart.
The other thing that amazes me is the generosity of the people we have met. In my last post I mentioned my new friend, the fellow Ex-Pat from the UK. She has provided mayonnaise, coffee, parmesan cheese (which she had just purchased in South Africa because you can’t get it here!), allergy medicine and the life saving CD player. And she wants nothing in return! She knows how big of a difference the little reminders of home can make she’s willing to give them to us if it will make us feel better. And that seems to be the case with most people we meet. I’ve been offered a crib for Leanna, babysitting so I can go run, rides home from school for the girls if I need to run to Harare, the list goes on and on. And it doesn’t seem to be empty offers, they genuinely want to help!
We have been very lucky in our time here so far. The terror and sadness we felt in the beginning is starting to pass and we are settling into a routine. I know there will be hard days ahead as we continue to navigate our way in this new country, but knowing that there is someone offering a helping hand (or glass of wine or coffee!) every direction we turn certainly makes the future seem brighter. How fortunate are we to have come to such a welcoming and generous place!! Come visit us and see for yourselves!