Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
HOME Stay is something that Government should consider as a way to promote tourism.
Through this initiative, visitors can experience the life of ordinary Zimbabweans during their stay in the country.
Home Stay is when a tourist lives with a host family for the duration of their stay; eating what they eat and is a great way for cultural exchanges.
This can help drive more tourists into the country and rather than them staying in expensive hotels, they can utilise willing families who want to live with them.
Something of that sort is being organised by Mennonite Central Committee, a Christian organisation which arranges home stays for Christians from Canada, USA, Cambodia, Thailand and India.
These visitors live with families of the same faith in Mpopoma, Emganwini, Hillcrest, Fourwinds and Matsheumhlope for a year.
Most of them spoke highly of the friendly nature of Zimbabweans and the lovely natural environment.
For Kelsey Siemens from Canada, who lives in Emganwini, it has been an experience to remember thus far.
“My stay in Zimbabwe has been interesting and enriching. What I’ve enjoyed is the slower pace of life compared to Canada. And everyone is super friendly, I haven’t met a rude person ever since I’ve been in Zimbabwe. It’s been great to learn a new language and people are patient with me,” said Kelsey.
Chance Beachey from America, who lives with a family in the suburb of Hillcrest, said he has learnt how to greet in vernacular.
“It’s like a slower lifestyle, which is kind of nice. I’m from the US and having cultural differences is also an experience.
“I’m living with a family here and I’m learning about the greetings and things like that. It’s been slightly different,” said Chance.
Phalyn San from Cambodia is also enjoying her stay in Bulawayo.
“So far I’m enjoying Zimbabwe because of the friendly environment and the people who are welcoming. I like the natural environment. I live in Fourwinds and I love my stay in Zimbabwe,” said Phalyn.
Home Stay can also get rid of misconceptions among tourists as testified by Chance and Kelsey who thought Zimbabwe was a predominantly rural country.
“What I thought about beforehand was a rural lifestyle. But being in Bulawayo has changed that perception,” said Chance.
Kelsey said she tried not to have any perceptions about Zimbabwe when she left Canada.
“I tried not to have expectations when I came here because I wanted to experience it all as it is. But my initial reaction was that it’ll be a predominantly rural set up with dirt roads and no electricity. That was my perception. But it was very different when I got to Bulawayo. The only perception that hasn’t changed is that it’s very hot,” laughed Kelsey.
Phalyn said her family was against her travelling and staying in Zimbabwe.
“When I told my family that I was travelling to Africa through the programme, they said it wasn’t a good idea because African people were rubble rousers. But when
I got here it was a whole different story, the people here are friendly — a total opposite of what is said out there,” she said.
The group, which includes Salina Bhandari from Nepal who lives in Mpopoma and Trizah Kashyap from India who lives in Matsheumhlope, have had a taste of Zimbabwean cuisine.
“The staple food from my country is rice and we don’t eat meat. I’ve learnt to eat and enjoy sadza/isitshwala and whatever relish that I’m given. It’s a different experience, but enjoyable,” said Salina.
Some of them had the pleasure of eating Mopani worms (amacimbi) which they said was alright.
Government through the Ministry of Tourism can identify households in the city and rural areas where they can send families or individuals to experience the Zimbabwean lifestyle.
A place that’s miles ahead in this regard is koMpisi outside Victoria Falls. It’s a village set up where tourists stay and get to experience the everyday village life such as ploughing the fields using ox drawn ploughs and the like.