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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 08:20 GMT
From Harare: 'The shoes that got away'
Harare skyline [Pic: Robyn Hunter]

Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is writing a regular diary on the challenges of leading a normal life.

Zimbabwe is suffering from an acute economic crisis. The country has the world's highest rate of annual inflation - 26,000% - and just one in five has an official job.

How to be upbeat about life in Harare? I think it's only possible when you stop looking at everything that's going on as being abnormal, and just accept it as it is.

My sister bumped into our cousin yesterday on her way back home from town.

She (our cousin) was just standing at the rank, not boarding any of the combis [commuter buses] that were leaving in the direction of our home (we all stay in the same neighbourhood).

Woman holding up a red satin shoe
Budgeting is near-impossible because of hyper-inflation

When my sister asked her why she was just standing there, she said she did not have enough to pay the bus fare - the last time she used public transport, she had paid 1.5m Zimbabwean dollars.

But fares are now 3m Zimbabwean dollars.

And, it's not that she had last been in town months ago - it was only just two weeks before.

Fortunately my sister had money to spare and so paid the difference.

This lady I share the office with is busy praying it does not get warm today.

She's wearing a pullover jumper to hide her un-ironed blouse because their power went off two nights ago, and she's since run out of ironed clothes.

You can't call the power company to ask what's going on because they never answer their phones. Or maybe they just keep them off the hook.

Over the weekend, I went to visit a friend who lives in a VERY posh suburb of Harare.

She has had no running water for two weeks STRAIGHT.

So all the water her family uses is in drums, plastic buckets, pots - any container that is clean.

It's really quite unbelievable...

Her kids go to an exclusive private school, she has two, no, actually three cars parked in the yard, goes shopping in Dubai and Joburg, but she has no running water in her house.

I miss the Harare of old: where pot holes were patched up as soon as they appeared, when you could walk into a supermarket and buy milk without joining a stampede to a supermarket where it has just been delivered (I witnessed one yesterday).

And hey, you could budget and save for that divine pair of shoes.

I saw a pair about two or three weeks ago going for 150m Zimbabwean dollars but when I went back to the store after getting paid they were retailing for the princely sum of 450m Zimbabwe dollars.


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