Finally arrived in Bulawayo! The second-largest city in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo is sprawling and dusty and poverty is rampant. The people are incredibly friendly though. I landed in South Africa this morning at 8am (2am Boston time) and hung out in the Johannesburg airport until 10:30am when we boarded a bus (not a plane) at gate A29 and were driven out on the tarmac to our Airlink jet. The smaller jet made it to Bulawayo in less than an hour and a half, and we boarded another bus on the tarmac which drove to a large warehouse - customs!
My immigration went off without a hitch and my bags were even waiting for me at baggage claim (a guy heaving them off the back of a truck). I caught a glimpse of Ale waiting for me outside customs and he and Alfa, one of the guys from GRS, welcomed me to Zimbabwe with helping hands were scrub brush and extremely hot and dusty with taller trees lining the road. People were walking alongside the road carrying things on their heads or driving cattle and there were no buildings in sight for a while.
Once we entered the outskirts of the city there were some mud houses with thatched roofs and then more sturdy structures of concrete block with corrugated iron roofs like I'm used to seeing in central America.
We arrived at the airport road lodge where Ale has a room with adjoining bathroom and shower...not too shabby. The place is clean and it's right around the corner from the GRS offices (literally next door and Ale says he gets the wireless from the office in his room sometimes, it's so close.)
Alfa and Ale introduced me to everyone on the staff and we walked around the corner to get my first Zimbabwean meal - delicious beef stew with sadza (corn meal they use as a utensil by making balls of it and eating the other things with their hand) and covo which is like spinach or kale I guess.
We've spent the afternoon sorting out all our paperwork to apply for business permits to allow us to stay in country long-term so they won't kick us out. Now heading to check out the Bantu training grounds - first practice for me tomorrow at 3:15pm.
Sorry for a boring entry about logistics but it's a start. Great story about Ale buying an ear of corn and eating it solely in order to use the cob as a loofa. He swore the women on the side of the road were selling corn cobs wrapped in plastic mesh to be used for this purpose. He decided he didn't want to scrub with someone else's saliva, so he figured he'd make his own Zimbabwean loofa. Fortune and Kwinji, two girls in the office, just died laughing when he confessed and they explained that the women were selling sponges but they weren't made out of corn cobs. Two weeks and Ale just wants to dive right into the local culture. Way to go. He's been washing himself with a corn cob for a week. Thank goodness I'm here to straighten him out.I only hope I can get off to just as good a start.
I'm going to end it there because the internet is so slow, I type entire paragraphs and then watch my computer type it out over the course of a minute while I watch. Huge delay. That's why I'm not correcting any typos either. Thank you for all the support!