It turns out it is difficult to find something nice to say about Zim these days. There's the weather, of course, but technically the weather is out of control of the government thus it's hard to picture how they could screw that up.
There's also the general niceness of the people I work with on our HIV/AIDS project, but having said that, even they are starting to flag a bit under the humanitarian crisis. The pressure is mounting to new levels to be sure and people are really suffering.
In line with that, here are some quick observations from my first week about the latest difficulties in Zim:
1. Water can be a mirage in the African bush too. Harare and the rural project area where I work, have no piped water anymore. In light of having no foreign currency to purchase anything to treat the water coupled with the cholera epidemic, the government has shut off the water supply. On the plus side, bottled water is expensive but at least it's available.
2. US currency is still valuable somewhere. As of this visit, Zimbabwe as a whole has adopted the U.S. dollar. Every food or personal item here now costs a dollar, unless it costs two dollars or eight dollars or $1.37. On one hand, the dollarization of the economy is good because there is much more food available in the shops. On the other hand, the dollarization is bad because there are very few actual dollars, let alone U.S. coins, circulating in the economy. At this point, the only currency value available is the 20 dollar bill. Ways of dealing with this are threefold. One, someone scurries off for non-existent change when you buy something for less than a twenty and eventually just disappears without bringing the change back. Two, having grown tired of the small-bill currency searching game, you buy things you do not need just to make it to the twenty dollars. Three, you get some kind of voucher for the remaining amount which for a foreigner is the equivalent of paying for twenty dollars worth of merchandise even if it's far less. In practice everything costs 20 bucks here. Also, if you don't have a way to get dollars (read: for everyone else except tourists or people with relatives in foreign countries), you are in no uncertain terms - screwed.
3. The last survivor standing in the Zimbabwe crisis could well be the cockroach. Cockroaches crawl everywhere in our rural staff house despite the fact that there is little food. They have also set up organized camps in my 80 dollar a night "luxury" hotel bathroom. They are everywhere. I'm starting to think that cockroaches have invaded Zimbabwe with the force and numbers that every other country concerned with human rights should have.
Enough for now. This list to be continued next week, I fear.