Tales in a cup of Tea
In the sticky heat of the Harare International Airport Terminal I struggle to distract myself in any way possible from the discomfort at hand. I take note of the various groups of travelers around me, many of whom are returning to the normalcy of everyday life after Christmas holidays in Zimbabwe. A cluster of “20 something” university students talk excitedly beside me, reminiscing about various “benders” that took place during their time home, New Years trips to “Mozam” and Kariba; annual reunions of a generation born in Zim but with the fortunate opportunity of being educated elsewhere around the world.
As for us, there is a level of detachment that occurs when you can come and merely visit Zimbabwe. We catch up with friends and family, hearing tales of the trying everyday existence that constitutes working and dwelling in a country that has wavered in and out of complete economic demise for the past 2 decades. Our detachment allows us a perspective untainted by the trials of daily life. We have the freedom to revel in all the beauty, nature and leisure lifestyle that the country has to offer, but return home to the safety of our routines and our white picket fences when the potholes in the streets and daily power outages become too uncomfortable.
We spent our remaining days in Zim tucked away in a remote corner of the country - Honde Valley in the Eastern Highlands. Surrounded by hectares of verdant tea bushes and bustling production of dried tea, it would be possible to convince oneself that the economic strife of the country was a thing of the past. Like a well oiled machine, the tea workers at Wamba Factory process 125,000 kg (275578 lbs) of raw leaves into dried tea daily. The packages of dry tea leaves are then sent to the auction floor and brokered in UK, prior to ending up in a china cup at high tea. We were fortunate enough to be able to tour the factory and gain a much more detailed understanding of the effort that goes into producing a single cup of tea.
During our stay in Honde Valley we resided at Aberfoyle Lodge, a farmers club, turned war barracks, turned hotel which now contains about 20 well appointed rooms which look out over dense jungle and a sprawling 9 hole golf course. We learned from managers Clementine and Blaze that about 10% of guests are international and we relished the opportunity to ring in the new year amongst a crowd of genuine Zimbos.
There were too many hikes and activities to do in our three days there but we did our best to pack out schedule and make the most of our time. Each day we hiked to a different secluded waterfall and greatly appreciated our swim upon sweaty arrival. We continually remarked at the fact that we were alone everywhere we went, something we seldom experience in the States. In between meals, naps, and pool time at the lodge, Chris managed to run every surrounding hillside. As a family we engaged in games of Hearts and a friendly put-put golf competition. The food and drink provided left us wanting for nothing - Gin & Tonics being a fan favorite.
On the morning of day 4 we packed our things, ate breakfast, and emerged from our luxury hideaway into the real world. As we rounded the terraced hills of the tea fields exiting the Honde Valley I envisioned the distances these leaves would travel and the stories they would never have the opportunity to tell.