Airport security, economy class, transit and then the unfamiliar: not the poster images of fun. But I dare say they are, in their own incomprehensible way. The times I felt all this nuisance couldn’t really be worth the unknown that awaited me in my destination are numerous. But in retrospect, I feel safe to say without a doubt, that whatever did await me in my destinations was certainly worth it all.
My love affair with traveling started long ago. I have always liked to be on the move. For me, travel isn’t essentially airports and airplanes, even though they offer the most excitement of any form. Apart from trains (whose platforms I am yet to grace), long rides on cars, buses, boats, planes, exotic animals and even the subway constitute their own degrees of travel in my eyes.
Fortunately, this love was fueled by the fact that both my parents worked in the airline industry, so it was pretty much innately expected of me to be fond of traveling, and I did not disappoint. I was truly lucky in that this love wasn’t left to fend for itself either. I was given the chance to go to different places around the world, and I grabbed the opportunities with both hands. I have been to a few places in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As a transit passenger, I never made it past Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, so I can’t recount any European adventures yet. As for the Americas, I had a brief stay in Dulles airport in Washington (again, the dreaded transit) and Montreal, Fredericton, St. John and Ottawa constitute my Canadian experience.
No two destinations are ever the same. The locals you encounter , the food that tickles your fancy (or not), the memorable stories you will always remember and the breathtaking sights you get to take in all make it something I truly can not stray away from. I dream of doing a lot more traveling. Practically speaking, I understand there isn’t enough time on this planet to see all places and do all things. However, my argument is that, at the end of the day, I would love to say I gave it my best shot.
So, after all this rambling about a love affair with traveling, exactly where have I been to? Remember, I am yet a humble beginner so I can’t say that I have gazed up at the magnifique Louvre or leaned against the leaning tower of Pisa. I have yet to scuba-dive down under or tango in Buenos Aires. But thanks to one incident in the beautiful country of Zimbabwe, I can never look at puzzle pieces the same way.
Zimbabwe: a ruthless dictator, a failed economy, and a closed society are a few of the phrases conjured up in the minds of many today. But it was never always like this. The Zimbabwe I remember was certainly not the old British colony of Southern Rhodesia but the modern day Zimbabwe that seemed to have a relatively stable economy, a nation with what I thought was one of the most tourist-friendly infrastructures in Africa.
Admittedly, a nine year old would be at loss to understand that this period was indeed the early stages of a process that today has culminated in a full blown economic and social disaster.But the early stages it certainly was: inflation in 1998 was 32% as compared to the astronomical figure of 11.2 mn% in 2008. Robert Mugabe is the once celebrated man who took the reigns of the newly independent nation in 1980 and continues to hold that firm grip on power today. While Zimbabwe’s leader remained unchanged, many are forced to ponder what happened to the nation in the intervening years, a nation which once had a currency stronger than the USD, with 1 Zimbabwean dollar (ZWD) trading against $1.59 USD in the years following independence. Today, 1 USD is traded for 362 ZWD and the country finds itself amidst grave food shortages, political upheavals, lack of security and incited social tensions between its citizens on the basis of skin color and economic status.
It was 1998 when I first made my way to Zimbabwe. We had been in neighboring Malawi (a small country on the southeastern side of Africa) when we got an invitation from a friend of my dad’s. And so, as is expected from diligent lovers of adventure, we accepted . It was a bright sunny day in Harare when our plane landed. We were met by the friend who took us to his house where we were to stay. As days have a way of flying by fast, there was no time to waste. Soon after unpacking and resting, my mother and I headed downtown. We just wondered aimlessly under the shade of baseball caps and the refreshing cool of ice cold drinks until we couldn’t stay awake any longer.
Day two was spent at the zoo. We got to observe a snake, or a least my innocent explanation for its lack of movement. Chasing after ducks and soundlessly gazing at a majestic pride of lions was all the fun a nine year old could handle. Back home it was. The next few days were spent hanging around the house and just getting to know Harare, going into supermarkets, walking its streets and getting the feel of the city. The rest of the story is continued on part two.
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