No longer does one buy ones furniture at Meikles, ones lingerie at Haddon and Sly and ones school uniforms at Sanders !!
Oh no, the Central Business District of Bulawayo has definitely moved away from what we once knew as the centre of the City of Kings.
If you need a recharge card for your cell phone you will find a willing seller sitting patiently at every robot, every intersection, every cross roads in the city. One on each corner diagonally facing the talk hungry passengers in the vehicles, which hoot for attention, and then the nimble footed seller winds his was hazardously to sell you a card , in just the right amount of time it takes for the traffic light to change (or who cares if it takes longer !!)
Oh by the way, a traffic light is called a robot in Zimbabwe !!
Now if you do not have a cell phone (mobile phone) you can find a phone shop just about anywhere, those nostalgic London phone booths are a thing of the past, cos someone stole the phone !!
I think the most ingenious phone company I have ever seen is the one right outside the Posts and Telecommunications Building in Bulawayo. There in the middle of the pavement (sidewalk) is a table, an umbrella and an array of bright blue telephones !!
Manned by a lady who takes your money, times you with a stop watch, and it does not take a genius to see that the wires are cunningly concealed under the tablecloth and lead their way into the storm drain and most possibly into the Posts and Telecommunications mainframe phone system !!
Now if you need flowers forget the once famous Joan the Florist or Wright's Florist, they no longer exist, BUT the City Hall flower sellers are doing a roaring trade.
They no longer sell just those loose flowers in colourful plastic buckets, they have become very talented florists in their own right. You can buy anything from your entire wedding floral requirements including the brides bouquet, to a funeral wreath, an upright arrangement featuring proteas, gypsophila and a magnificent array of flowers, to a very tastefully done Valentine's posy with cellophane and satin ribbon !!
Morrison's and Zippers Dress Shops of course no longer exist where one can buy that special imported outfit, but there is always the Bend Over Bazaar out side the City Revenue Hall.
Imported outfits abound here, imported from China, Botswana and Swaziland !! You need a good strong back here because you need to bend over and examine the goods which are lying on the pavement on a polypropylene sack !! But you can get some good bargains here they tell me and the vendors are lovely people... And if you need to try the garment on .... no problem ... off the vendors' backs come the babies... dumped unceremoniously on the floor and the towels used to tie baby on back, are smilingly held in a neat square while you undress, in the middle of the market square, accompanied by a great deal of appreciative clucking, nodding and squeals of delight at how nice one looks in ones new garment!!!
An Hairdo is also hard to find these days unless you make an appointment with Mark at least six weeks in advance !! But if you stop off outside the Renkini Bus Station or outside any suburban shopping centre, you can have your hair braided beautifully (if you have about seven hours of spare time) or if your hair is too short, you can have long extensions carefully woven into your existing locks !! Right on the sidewalk in the nice open fresh air too, sitting comfortably on a wooden crate.
Broken a heel on your shoe Well don't worry about trekking lopsidedly all the way to Jivans or Jacobs, there is bound to be a shoe repairer in your neighbourhood, probably sitting right outside your garden, with his various stiletto heels or pieces of leather from which to cut you a whole new sole !!
If you are looking for fuel, don't be daft and expect to find it at the more traditional garages (service stations) like Dulys and Thelwalls, and don't bother to spend the day in the fuel queue, pop into the alley behind any garage and there is bound to be an enterprising fellow with a 44 gallon drum and a hose pipe !!
And the piece de resistance, if you need bird seed, veggies, millet, sorghum, dried bean, macimbi (mopani worms), solar panels, ghetto blasters, anything electrical smuggled (oh sorry I mean "Brought in") from Botswana, in fact dried or fresh anything at all, the colourful, bustling, noisy vendor markets in Fife Street and Fifth Avenue are your very best bet.
Bulawayo is indeed Beautiful.