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Zimbabwe Life – 4 Months In

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, it’s a testament to how busy its been for me with work, church and life.

I thought I’d give an update on African life 4 months in as it’s the new year, its been interesting to look back on the last few months and compare the differences to life in the UK.

I’ll try and not rehash too many of the details that Marie shared in her last post.

So we have been in Zim a little over 4 months now, I have to say all the negative stories you hear about Zim are probably a little over blown by western media, sure there are some problems but I wouldn’t say they are as bad as western media makes out.

We’ve been blessed enough that we live in an area with very few power cuts and I mean perhaps 2 mins every other week or so compared to 12 hours a day that some areas get. I think this is because we probably are on the same power feed as the local hospital in our area.

Water hasn’t really been an issue for us with the exception that you cannot safely drink straight from the tap, we have a borehole (2 actually) which supplies drinking water for the complex, but its not enough to run the general water supply for the whole complex, which means the main water pipes are fed from a tank which is kept full with a mixture of Borehole water, Municipally supplied water and even the Swimming Pool when the municipal supplies are not working (which is fairly regularly at least in the winter months which are June through September). As you can guess chlorine isn’t good for you and it’s commonly known that the municipal water is not to the same standards compared to the UK. This is mostly down to the infrastructure not being as reliable (burst pipes, no power at treatment facilities etc). The water situation hasn’t been too much of an issue for us, we have our containers with which we go to the main borehole tap and fill for drinking water and for the puppies, which is luckily by the side of our house which is convenient. The only real challenge has been remembering that I must spit the water out when rinsing my mouth out after brushing my teeth (I used to have a quick drink after rinsing my mouth in the UK).

As I mentioned, work has been pretty hectic the last few months. I’ve made some changes as well in recent months too, I was previously spending a lot of my time working with Frederick Townes, Willie Jackson and the gang at W3 EDGE who are the main go-to guys to go to when you want WordPress to scale. It was a blast but unfortunately it was ultimately taking way too much time away from spending it with my wife and doing some of my own project based work (not directly in the WordPress/Internet sphere).

While I was working at W3 EDGE, I had the privilege to take a trip down to Cape Town in October and speak at a WordCamp Conference. I spoke on how to scale servers for maximum WordPress performance. It was quite a geeky and very tech focused talk but it went down well from feedback from others. I put the slides up on slideshare and the video has been uploaded to YouTube, unfortunately the audio quality for the first few minutes of my presentation was a bit poor but it picks up further in. Hopefully I’ll be able to do another talk at WordCamp Cape Town in 2013.

So even after wrapping up with the W3 EDGE team it turns out I was still very busy, some new hosting clients came in looking for more capacity for their magento store, as they were paying a rather hefty amount to Rackspace each month but not getting the amount of scale they desired. Scale roughly can be thought about as the amount of traffic a site can take based upon certain factors – for example when I mention scaling up a site, it could mean adding more servers into the equation or adding resources to the existing servers or just optimising the existing gear so it can do more in the same hardware, and so on. I won’t bore you with all the details, if you do want to find out more, please do take a look at my business website and contact me there 🙂

So Christmas has been and gone, perhaps the most exciting thing in the run up to Christmas this year was getting to be involved with our church’s (ONE Church) large missional event. This year it was called “Christmas Unrapped”. It was a mix of traditional carols, a 5-10 min gospel message and a play/performance combining Spoken Word, Dance, Acting and even some Bollywood, all in the Avondale car park (there’s a reasonably large Indian population within the Avondale area). I was originally only put down to do some lighting design and lighting on the day, but quite late on it was realised that a lot of the technical side of things was not arranged yet at all. So I got promoted to Technical Director and ended up arranging and organising all the technical aspects of the event from Power, Sound, Lighting and then running Sound on the night. It was definitely an eye opening experience and may have given me a few grey hairs in the process, but looking back I really did enjoy it!

Christmas itself was nice and quiet, I was able to take just over a week off which made a real change to the fast pace busyness of work and was really relaxing, spending lots of time with Marie, enjoying the quiet moments while they last, and playing with our puppies! We can’t really call our dogs “Puppies” for too much longer as they are over 6 months old now and just recently got spayed, which was a little bit traumatic for them but Salt & Pepper have both bounced back nicely.

In just a few days that quiet will be all but gone for the most part & I don’t say that as a negative point. Our baby is due on around the 28th January, so it literally could be any day now. In some respects its still a bit surreal that I’m going to be a dad in a few days time (because I haven’t really had much to do in the last 9 months), in some respects its quite scary to think another human life is going to be totally dependant on me (& Marie) for absolutely everything, and in some respects its quite exciting and I look forward to the challenge. I’m certain that as I learn stuff, I’ll share here as time allows as well as share as many photos as I can, here or via facebook.

I’m going to leave it there for now, hopefully we won’t be so tardy with updates in the future (I say that now….).




A precious 3 weeks in my home country!

After a long and grueling 15-hour overnight flight from London to Harare, via Joburg, Ant and I finally arrived at my parents’ house to the warm greetings, hugs and kisses of my family. In the past year, they hadn’t changed much at all (apart from my daddy’s and brother Andre’s stomachs appearing a few inches wider 😉 It was great to sit down and catch-up with everyone over a delicious cool lunch of cold meats and salads, after which I retreated to the bedroom for a much-needed afternoon nap (Ant prefers to stay up and fight the jet lag).

Our first week involved seeing lots of family and friends in Harare, with a large family braai at my parents’ house on the Tuesday evening for around 30 people (which was only half of my family!). We also spent hours and hours gathering together all the documentation for Ant’s residency application, going to the Immigration office and being told that a new additional requirement is police clearance from the UK. Blow! That came as such a disappointment to us as we were hoping to sort out Ant’s residency whilst we were in Zim this time round (now that we’re back in the UK, we’re busy getting Ant’s UK police clearance sorted at the moment). Thankfully, our friend Craig is coming over to the UK in February for a week, so he’s kindly offered to take Ant’s UK police clearance back with him to Zim for submission, along with all the other residency application documentation.

On our second week in Zim, Ant went off to Marondera (about an hour’s drive from Harare) on Zam Hols Boys’ Camp for 7 days, which consisted of 56 teenage boys and 15 leaders, a total of 71 males! Originally, I was going to go along as a spouse, but I then found out that I’d be the only female on the campsite, so I very quickly changed my mind! In the end, I went up for just one night with Craig’s parents who were visiting (Craig is the guy who leads Zam Hols Camps). It was great to join them for the evening session of fantastic Spirit-led worship and an inspiring talk by Tariro on the gospel and not living for the things of this world. After breakfast the following morning, I headed back to Harare with Craig’s parents, and looked forward to seeing my husband again in 4 days’ time. When Ant got back to Harare after Zam Hols Camp, he was very tired and sunburnt, but he said he had a fantastic time and looks forward to next time 🙂 Ant also did a talk on Sin the one evening on Zam Hols Camp, which he said was very well received by the guys, and he got a lot of positive feedback about it. He also led an afternoon Bible Study for the 16-18 year olds on 1 Peter 3, which he said was very interactive and it got people discussing.

On our third week in Zim, we headed to Kariba (about 4 hours drive from Harare) with my family, who have a holiday house there in an area called Charara. The house is a few minutes’ walk from Lake Kariba, so we often went out on my dad’s boat on a game-viewing drive or just for a ride. My brothers really like fishing, so they often took the boat out to go catch fish. There is also a swimming pool, so we’d often find ourselves in the swimming pool for most of the day, as temperatures were around 40 degrees on most days. The heat in Kariba is almost unbearable and the mosquitoes were a real nuisance (Ant especially got bitten the most out of everyone, we think it’s because of his English blood;) but apart from that we had a great time! Christmas Day was nice and relaxed, we exchanged presents, had a delicious and very large Christmas lunch, then relaxed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.

We drove back to Harare on Boxing Day and flew back to the UK on the 27th. We thank God for a wonderful, relaxing, long holiday!




76 Days :)

its 76 days until our wedding day, thats just over 2 months or just under 11 weeks, either way time does not wait for anyone! And i cant wait either!, we have just been to our second week of marriage prep and i have to say i am finding it remarkably helpful, Ross & Joy have experience and advice from there 30+ years of marriage that we would neccesarily be able to access as openly and honestly in any other setting except perhaps one to one, its humbling to see a couple so open and honest about some of there past challenges and issues and how they dealt with them, its refreshing and only helps for when we might have those same or similar issues.

this week involved a little bit about looking at some wedding vows and what they mean to us, we were given a few different versions, and i have to say we found something pretty much on the money of what we want to have at our wedding – not going to reveal them here so its extra special on the wedding day and we still haven’t tweaked them for us.

Life in general has been ebbing and flowing this week, had some work through this week but i cant say i was specifically busy, my uni lectures hit that “Mind Bending” stage which is good, i shall no longer be bored in the lecture! for my freelancing i got Marie to help me with Proofing the copy on my work website (http://somersettechsolutions.co.uk) and i am glad to say it now makes sense and is grammatically correct – i wish i could say the same about this blog!

we have looked at a few houses and flats now while hunting for our new home together for the new year, pleased to say we put an offer in on a place and it was accepted, so hopefully the relevant credit checks and paperwork go smoothly and we can pick up the keys from the landlady or agent in early december just before we fly to Zimbabwe for Christmas and the Wedding! pictures of all of the above to follow in due course)

next week is a little bit more of the same at the moment, although uni coursework is out so i should really get on with that (shouldn’t take too long) Running Front of House Sound at church tomorrow which will be good fun, will try not to put too much delay on lead vox (echo to non technical people!)




Back in the UK

well i have actually been back since tuesday evening, but its been such a busy and exhausting week that this is my first chance to write something here.

Zimbabwe was an excellent time, if only i had internet to blog about it as i went, sadly i only had enough internet to do the basics and minimum stuff near the end of my holiday (like making things official on Facebook 🙂 ) i got to see a lot of the country while spending time with Marie’s family including there farm.

Shelley & Adam’s wedding at Antelope park was totally stunning and totally unique and the pictures i did get to take dont do it justice. it was a great time and a great party.

after Antelope park i took Marie up Domboshawa (its basically a very big rocky hill) where we enjoyed a picnic and the view while waiting for the sunset and i waited for the right moment to propose! note to self or anyone considering similar, if you plan to get down on one knee in a rocky place either wear full length trousers or knee pads 🙂 it goes without saying Marie said yes of course.

we spent the rest of our week celebrating and meeting friends and planning stuff for a december Zim wedding. Coming back this week was eventful, i first got food poisoning on the plane (but not from the plane food – likely something just before) and spent most of my 8 hour flight from Nairobi curled up in a ball or over the porcelain (well metal) throne, got back to england to find the good old tube unions decided to strike so we had to get a taxi from the airport at a cost of over £100 by the time i got home 3 hours later 🙁

was ill the next day at work but had to crack on, and its been non stop all week with trying to catch up with the backlog and with new FP’ers starting in the office, its scary and sad to think that i will only be working for Newfrontiers for 2 more weeks.

hopefully normality resumes soon! at least first time back at church in about a month!




Never underestimate the power of “Word of Mouth”

the title says it all really, and seriously dont underestimate it. lets just give some background, i do occasional freelance systems admin work in my free time, this includes but is not limited to, server setup and maintenance, site migrations and optimisation and other general geekery relating to webservers 🙂

i was contacted last week by a guy called Rick Anderson of Tailoring the Web to optimise and speed up his server hosting one of his sites Build Your Own Business Website he told me that he had paid for VPS.net to migrate him from bluehost and manage the server for him, he was telling me how since moving his site had in fact slowed down. i set out to optimise the server and also optimise the site by making use of the awesome W3 Total Cache plugin for wordpress, over 2 nights i was able to improve page load times from 4.5-5 seconds down to between 1-2 seconds, i was pretty pleased with that and went to sleep pretty happy.

over the next 2 days i recieved 5 enquiries about doing similar stuff (Migration/Optimisation/Setup etc) now bear in mind i currently only do this in my spare time (will have lots more time to spend on it from October) all of these referrals were as a result of Rick making one single post on the Thesis Support Forum where he is a very active member, i dont currently actively advertise my services so that i dont get swamped with extra work so its a pleasant surprise especially as i need to earn some extra money at the moment (Uni fee’s amongst other things).

Incidentally if you are looking to build your own business website, do take a look at the site as it is a great resource and tool to aid you in that process and walk you through it, and if you ever need hosting services or server setup, do send me an email anthony@somersettechsolutions.co.uk

in other news, this time next week i will be flying through 2 different countries to go to Zimbabwe for a friends wedding and to meet Marie’s parents and help out with a christian youth conference called Ignite2010 – busy times so please pray for me