Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

America to Zim: A Post about Posting

posted by Leila Z. on

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A quick disclaimer: overall my ability to communicate with family and friends while on the other side of the world has been much better than I anticipated. I spent the last few weeks before my trip mentally preparing myself for five weeks of social isolation and media blackout.

My fears were partially realized when I arrived and was told that the Zimbabwean postal service is nonfunctional and that no one receives mail at their house. So much for the carefully curated list of people I was going to send postcards. But I realized: the mbira makers send their instruments to the US somehow... When I passed by a post office in Mbare, I was further confused. The full(er) story appears to be this: packages (and postcards?) can be sent out of Zimbabwe, with insurance or other guarantees of delivery, but anything incoming is assumed to possibly contain something valuable and is unlikely to arrive at its destination intact. 

So it seems I could have send postcards? Though theoretically possible, I did not see anywhere selling postcards. And it would have been a real hassle to send them, even if I had. Friends and family instead got a "virtual postcard" from my trusty phone (probably more secure, too).

With I arrived here I was able to open a new Zimbabwean line for my iPhone ($1), buy a small amount of minutes ($5), and 500 MB of data ($20), all with one easy trip to the Econet store. And I was set.

Except for the challenge of finding phone/data coverage. The issue is somewhat more complicated than in the US... Not only do you need to find a place with adequate coverage, but also a time with adequate coverage. Early morning is excellent -- between 4 and 7, so I'm told. The local wisdom is that connections are difficult to come by when lots of people are using the network -- usual daytime hours during the week, especially in the evenings on the weekend. Other times might or might not be OK, but a matter of inches can be the difference between "successfully uploaded" and "no connection available". :(

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