1. Zambuk is her solution to any medical issue.
Zambuk is a fix-it-all herbal ointment that markets itself as The Real Makoya! Have you got a splinter from ice-skating on the floorboards in your socks? Zambuk it. Have you burnt yourself making sadza nenyama? Zambuk it. Strained a muscle while changing a flat tyre? Zambuk it.
Not only does Zambuk really work, but it’s part of a wider no-nonsense approach to life that comes from having to get by when you’re several hundred kilometres from the nearest anything.
2. She enjoys a good power cut.
While first-world dependability might seem kind of cool at first, it gets stifling. Nothing unexpected happens…Ever.
So when you’re sitting eating dinner one night and a power cut finally hits, she’ll dash out into the street to make sure the whole neighbourhood’s in darkness and it’s not just your trip switch. She’ll whip out the candles and cross her fingers that this one will last at least an hour.
You see, not only do power cuts hark back to childhood nights of awe-inspiring lightning and watching moths burn their wings in candles, but more recently the general mismanagement of Zimbabwe has led to chronic load shedding, so she’s a total pro at living without the internet for a while.
3. You don’t share the same notion of space.
She doesn’t come from an overpopulated island or a country the size of the Kruger National Park. She comes from a place with SPACE. Zimbabwe’s amongst the least densely populated countries in the world. Also, her idea of a capital city is probably your version of a fairly rundown town.
It’s no wonder she goes on about people having a lack of kinesphere when a stranger sits next to you on a city bench and she makes you walk miles to find the most deserted stretch of beach.
That said, she’s probably way more comfortable than you on overcrowded public transport.
4. She hyperventilates about any Zimbabwe-related event and takes you to every one.
Chances are you met your lovely Zimbabwean girlfriend because she’s now a part of Zimbabwe’s massive diaspora. As someone who’s been separated from her country less out of choice than necessity, she’s been driven by homesickness to develop a highly sensitive Zim-dar.
Her desperate need to touch base with home will be even more acute if you’re in a diaspora-poor area such as mainland Europe. She will take you to Mokoomba shows, Zimfest, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona performed in Shona. Be warned she may even be capable of crossing borders just to listen to Petina Gappah read from her new collection of short stories.
5. She laughs in the face of your inflation rates.
So there’s a global economic downturn, what’s the big deal? Most countries’ economic woes pale in the face of Zimbabwe’s infamous hyperinflation. In mid-November 2008 inflation in Zimbabwe went up by 79.6 billion percent. In 2009, the governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, had the dubious honour of being awarded the Ig Nobel prize in mathematics “for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print banknotes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one-hundred-trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).” The situation got so bad Zimbabwe abandoned its currency in 2009. Currently people use a mixture of South African rand and US dollars to get by.
Your girlfriend’s probably already shown you her collection of incredibly high denominations. They’re worth more today as collector’s items than they were when the currency still existed! In fact, if she ever takes you to Zim for a holiday you’ll probably be able to pick up all kinds of cool craftwork made out of the old bills.
6. By her side, you bear witness to limitless ignorance and bigotry.
Part of being in a relationship is sharing in each other’s hardships, and soon enough you’ll get as pissed off as your girlfriend does when people ask her questions like, “Do you have the sky in Africa?”
There will be people who ask her where she’s from and then laugh because they think she’s just invented a country to take the piss. There will be those who go through silent inner turmoil at the thought that one can be both white and Zimbabwean. “No, but where are you really from?”
There will be unwelcome comments made in confidence about how “we always knew the country would go to the dogs once they got into power.”
There will be patronising comments about how her accent “doesn’t sound black at all.” Worse still, she might be asked how much she charges for a night.
And you can be sure most people don’t even know there are Zimbabweans of Indian descent.
Your only solace will be surfing Africa is a country and watching Trevor Noah DVDs together.
7. Winter is her least favourite time of the year.
Winter in Zimbabwe isn’t like winter in the Northern Hemisphere. First of all, it’s the driest time of the year. Most Zimbabweans’ idea of a coat is a lightweight jacket worn despite the temperature rather than because of it. Introducing your girlfriend to snow for the first time will be like becoming kids again, but things will probably go downhill from there.
She’ll suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Her feet won’t fare well in closed shoes for extended periods of time. She may be known to stand in the street and cry because it’s too damn cold. Her mind will boggle at the thought that any kind of civilisation could have developed under such conditions.
It’s a rare Zimbabwean that takes to skiing.
8. She’s your hero.
By and large, her experience of flora and fauna is way more hardcore than yours. From having a finger-long acacia thorn in her foot, to cobras in the bathtub, to watching the family chickens get slain by a serval cat, she’s seen some hectic stuff.
So, no worries, she’ll take care of that daddy longlegs above your bed.
9. She knows all your pop-culture references, but you don’t know any of hers.
Post-independence Zimbabwe had one TV channel — ZBC TV — and even though it was a couple of years behind the rest of the world, she still got to watch most of the stuff you did. In the ’90s she huddled around her tiny TV set to watch all the crusty ’80s cartoons like Voltron and Jem and the Holograms. Thanks to Zimbabwe’s socialist ties with the East, she even got to watch obscure Christian Japanese cartoons like The Flying House.
Suffice to say you’ve probably noticed your Zimbabwean girlfriend can sing along to your favourite songs, gets all of your references to Friends, and knew exactly what Jesse Pinkman meant by, “Gatorade me, bitch!”
But can you sing the jingle for Ngwerewere sadza? Do you remember that time when Dorcas Chibanda was reading the evening news and the map of Zimbabwe behind her fell? Would you know how to respond to someone if they said, “Howzit exay! Eish bru, I can’t wait to hit Shoko with you and the ouens! D’you wanna come over to mine to graze something first?”
I’m guessing the answer is no.