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This is for Heidi:

After a zeitgeist tour of Zimbabwe from the southern outskirts of Masvingo to the northern border of Victoria Falls, all Heidi and I wanted to do was shop and relax.
So as Hildi and the Shaws went white river rafting and Kevin went AWOL, Heidi and I browsed the boutiques and made a reservation for high tea at the luxurious Victoria Falls Hotel.

Built in 1904, the historic edwardian hotel has remained a destination for royalty, dignitaries, and elite travelers for over a century. It was named after the majestic falls which was in turn was named in honor of Queen Victoria by the legendary explorer David Livingstone.

Upon arrival we were immediately struck by the hotel's imperialist grandeur. Measuring a mere two stories high, the hotel compensated for height loss with mass gained by two expansive east-west wings jutting out from the main reception foyer. At the front a blooming lotus reflecting pool graciously cooled our eyes from the blinding white facade.

At the entry a Zimbabwean footman greeted us with his hundred watt smile. Decked in a top hat, he wore a waist coat studded with souvenir pins given to him by appreciative guests receiving years and years of white gloved service. After we checked in with the receptionist, we made our way through the crimson carpeted white walled halls, into and past the elegant victorian sitting room, and took a quick detour through the dining hall to exit out french doors onto the weathered bricks of Stanley's terrace.

Once seated, Heidi and I regarded the breathtaking view. Situated southwest of the falls and built along the gorge, the view from the hotel worked it's way past more bricked terrace, down to a vast jacaranda shaded lawn and out towards the Victoria Falls bridge where bungi jumpers could be seen diving 360 feet into the Gorge.

We sat quietly. It was the first time we were able to sit alone and get acquainted with each other since our arrival in Zimbabwe three weeks earlier. "I would really like to take a tour of the world and visit all the places from the colonial era," explained Heidi with her prim demeanor.

She looked perfectly at home in the grandiose setting while I slouched a little deeper into my wicker chair. Our conversation danced awkwardly around politeness and uncertainty but then started to catch a beat as we shared humor and insight.

While our talk became more fluid, the service for our table began. We were attended to by a man of ebony skin dressed impeccably with a starched white jacket and shirt, black pants and bow tie, and a linen towel draped over his forearm. He presented us with an array of splendor: On a three tiered stand there were buttered cucumber and ham sandwiches, sugar dusted scones, and crumpets topped with clotted cream, chocolate and fresh fruit. Individual porcelain pots, cups, and decanters, rimmed with a stripe of blue, held our hot water, tea, sugar, cream, iced butter and jam.

We sipped, nibbled and giggled our way through our meal. The opulence of our setting made us feel like royalty. We were enjoying each other's company and forging a friendship that would sustain us through our one year stay in Africa. Unbeknownst to the two of us, we were celebrating an alliance between two young ladies, princesses, who would laugh with joy at absurdity and lean upon each other during great times of need. It was the beginning of a friendship rich in the collection of shared experiences, including the ones with incredible loses in the effort to gain. Little did we know how much we would live, thrive and die in the great continent of Africa. We did not know. But Mother Africa did. And when we left, we left as women, learning to reign the uncharted territory of our open hearts. It was indeed an unforgettable and fitting service for the two Queens to be...

August 25, 2000, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe