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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….).




Updates and upcoming changes!

Its been a while since I posted. it was also a shame I had to start posting again with a rant about a delivery company but there lack of incompetency to deliver simple packages time after time just made my blood boil! Hopefully this makes up for it 🙂

So it has been a while so fair bit of news to share I think 🙂 Finally on my final year of my degree, just 5 modules and a final year project and I will be done with studying for the foreseeable future, given that fact its obviously clear I passed all my exams in june and august. its been a busy summer for me and for STS. I finally got round to going limited as a registered company which has some tax advantages and other benefits Not forgetting a debit card with the company name on it! there’s been lots of work coming in which has been really a blessing to Marie and I.

I’m keeping this fairly short as I’d like to try and do more updates than my once every couple of months routine, so I’ll move on to upcoming changes. there’s only really 2 changes, firstly Marie has been considering blogging about stuff that she is passionate about or just plain wants to talk about, and we thought why not put it all here, because that way this will get more content over time and doesn’t have any extra expense! So soon you will be seeing posts from Marie Somerset, do read and enjoy them because I’m certain there will be some good pearls of wisdom in there.

second change which probably quite a few people now about by now is that Marie and I will be planning to emigrate to Zimbabwe by September 2012. Yes folks that’s less than 11 months away! we had been taking the first 6 months of this year to pray about the long term future and where God is calling us be it Zimbabwe or the UK or anywhere else in the world. God made it pretty clear that Zimbabwe is the place we should be to raise a family and build my business (no Marie isn’t pregnant yet!). There is going to be a lot of challenges ahead for us and some tricky decisions to be made, like do we ship everything or do we sell/get rid of stuff and re-buy new stuff in Zimbabwe? down to what church we should be involved in, we’d quite like to get involved in one of the Harare church plants but that is still to be decided, ultimately we want to do what God wants us to do so we are still open to prayers on that. we really would appreciate your prayers and thoughts over this next period of time while we plan, co-ordinate and ultimately move from the UK to Zimbabwe. Initially the biggest hurdle in our way is that I need to get residency status this December when we travel for Christmas. because Marie was born in Zimbabwe and is a resident herself it should be a straightforward process, however we are not dealing with a straightforward government so we do need specific prayers that the right people see the documentation required and have the grace and wisdom to grant the application

I will leave our news there for now, perhaps next time you might see a post from Marie.




Summer is here… I think!

Wow! haven’t blogged here in a while and thought I should post an update. It’s been pretty pretty hectic for me the last month or 2 with studies, exams and work, I’m not complaining though! It has just meant that some things have taken a back burner while I focus on the priorities in the right order (God, Wife, Study, Work, Other). So roughly in that order :).

ChristChurch has been good, Marie and I got to witness Andy Tilsley being officially “prayed in” as an elder and the general comings and goings of church life, Marie has joined the crèche team to help combat the current and further impending baby boom! and they couldn’t keep me away, am back serving Sundays on the sound team now technically called the tech team (excuse the pun) which encompasses the visuals team also which i think is a brilliant move purely because the 2 teams were quite small on there own and trying to organise social events was rather difficult because normally what ended up happening is 2 guys end up meeting up for a beer (which is not a bad thing!) rather than 5 or 6 people meeting up having a meal and enjoying good fellowship.

Marie has been the usual busy with working for Newfrontiers, carrying on as usual despite all the ongoing staff changes that take place regularly, she is still knitting a woolly green scarf for me for Christmas, hopefully its ready in time although i wont need it because we are going to Zimbabwe for Christmas again, Woohoo!

Studies have finally concluded for the summer, I am still awaiting results and have one exam to do in august – due to the bad organisation of Uni which I have probably mentioned before. i had to spend 4 weeks at uni after my exams attending lectures which apparently had been the plan since the beginning of the academic year but we weren’t informed until mid way through our exam period despite several people including myself asking for clarification several times throughout this year (i think that shows how badly organised the uni is) in fact some were so badly caught out because they had already booked flights home for the summer and couldn’t attend the lectures. gladly though its all done, i cant wait to get this degree over and done with purely because it holds very little relevance to my day to day freelance work, and any content that did is already going out of date, that’s how fast paced the IT industry really is.

Work has really ramped up the last month or so, I’ve had the chance to meet and even work with some great teams like Made.com (new web infrastructure), Rackspace (got to see the Rackspace mini and got a goody bag) and have met the awesome GoSquared team and WooThemes just the other week, its keeping me busy which i like and importantly its earning money, I’m actually quite thankful to God for all the work as I had to replace my laptop a few weeks ago (the old one couldn’t take the load i was throwing at it) which cost a seriously painful amount of money which if it wasn’t for the work i wouldn’t have been able to buy.

Other than that, not much has changed, still busy busy busy, off to see my dad and Karen for the weekend next weekend which should be good as we will probably get to go to the village church too so that should be an experience for Marie (its not Newfrontiers!), the weather here has been pretty miserable the last few days but we got a couple of thunder storms that Marie and I both enjoy watching.




Freelancing and University

well today is the day! 2 changes in my life happened today 🙂 well to be honest they have both been a gradual transition really but hey 🙂

i go back to University as a “full time” student today i say full time with a lot of emphasis because this term until december i am actually only at university 2 half days a week. i had been part time previously so already had some credit hence not so busy this term and the story behind why i went full time is a long and stressful one, to summarise it. My uni is just poorly organised and they care about businesses more than there students so part timers often get overlooked easily, i was one of the unlucky.

my second change is that i am now a full time freelancer! i was previously working full time for Newfrontiers and ChristChurch London and doing bits and bobs in spare time as it allowed, but no more! My job title is probably still to be decided but i like the idea of Freelance IT Consultant. my main skills and areas are particularly hosting management, web hosting, server setup and management and other troubleshooting or optimisation. as i gain more time and skills i will definitely add web development into that list also, if your interested in that head over to my freelance site: http://somersettechsolutions.co.uk and have a look around or email me on anthony@somersettechsolutions.co.uk – i know my freelance site is in dire need of an overhaul, its somethink i plan to do now that i have more time.

with these new changes come some great opportunities that i cant yet talk about yet and it presents challenges mostly financial. i am praying that God blesses my freelance work and provides me with lots of clients so that i can work hard and earn the money needed to keep me financially stable. i am praying that the right opportunities come through and that i can have the wisdom to discern which ones to go for, which ones to pass up (probably not many!) and how to take things like brushing my web design/development skills back up to speed (lots of reading to be done no doubt).

hopefully with the new changes and new beginnings i will also have time to blog a little more too!




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!