‘Hello again, my dear wife – it’s been a long 20 years…’

The story of how a Zimbabwean family reunited – after nearly two decades apart. Pythias Makonese tells his story.

It is not easy to sustain a marriage when the husband and wife live thousands of miles apart for almost two decades.

A lot marriages would collapsed under these circumstances. Somehow – thanks to the patience of my wife, Nomia, and the help of the Leicester branch of the British Red Cross – we managed to not only keep strong but to re-unite. This is our story.

Nomia Vongai Makonese, 58, a mother of five children landed at Heathrow airport, accompanied by her youngest daughter, Florence, 22, on December 5, 2020. I was there to meet them. At long last, we were together.

This is a story that goes back a long way.

After my teaching qualification, I started work as a teacher in 1978 at a primary school and taught for seven years before I got married. I married Nomia in a Civil Court at Mvuma, Zimbabwe in May 1985. We settled down and raised five children – one boy and four girls.

For 17 years, we lived together and looked after our family. I worked as a teacher. Life was good.

In 1980, there was a change of government in our country as the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) took over from Rhodesian Front (R.F.) headed by Ian Douglas Smith.  

An opposition political party, Movement for Democratic Change, was formed in 1999 led by Morgen Tsvangirai. Most teachers were aligned to the opposition party and were considered enemies of the then-ruling ZANU. This is allowed in England. It’s the nature of politics in a democracy. It wasn’t in my home country.

Many teachers became political victims. The pressure was so great I felt I had to leave my job, my home, family and move to England. This was 2002 and I had been accused of supporting the MDC when I invited the local parliament (MDC) to an annual general meeting of a School Development Association. 

My story for fear of political persecution was not believed by the Home Office when I applied for refugee protection in the United Kingdom. It took 10 years for the UK to believe me, when I finally won my appeal case.

When I gained refuge protection, I used my news status to try to bring about a family reunion – to bring over my wife and my youngest daughter.

This was refused in 2018. But I was determined and appealed again. This time, I was successful.

Still, it took a whole year – red tape, forms, officials – before we could get the travel documents.

The date was set. April 4, 2020. They were all set to board the plane – and the flight was cancelled because of the COVID pandemic.

The reunion was put back another eight months.

It was the end of a tough chapter for Nomia, raising the couple’s children single-handedly.

“I was just thrilled to meet my husband,” she said. ” I last met him in October 2002 back in Zimbabwe.”

Its as also a joyous day for Florence. “I was only four year old when my father left me and had only a faint idea on how he looks,” she said. “I am very happy to meet him and will be the happiest child on earth to stay with him unlike in the past when I used to talk to him over the phone.”

Florence is now 22, and aims to further her education, and hopes her siblings can join her one day.

It’s been a long and difficult process to get this far. But the lesson here is that no matter how tough it has been, people want to be with the ones they love the most.

If you have that – and the help of the Leicester branch of the Rad Cross – then anything is possible.

Watch: Kisha Cazley’s Prague vlogs

By Nakisha Cazley

Journalism and Media student Nakisha Cazley has produced a regular vlog during a summer internship working for the iForum website run by Charles University in Prague.

She has included highlights from trips to see the John Lennon Wall, beer gardens, the city zoo, and so much more.

Watch one of her Prague vlogs below or visit her YouTube channel to watch all the highs from her trip to the Czech Republic.

Dragon’s Back Trail – An unmissable hike in Hong Kong

A map of the Dragon’s Back Trail courtesy of Discover Hong Kong. https://goo.gl/eSFR58

By Sara Torres Vinagre

Whether you love hiking or you’re a newbie like myself – the Dragon’s Back Trail is definitely worth doing.

Hong Kong might seem like the sort of place that’s rammed with tall buildings, cars and buses and never, ever sleeps –all of which is true. But Hong Kong is also filled with a lot of places where you can get yourself back in touch with nature while embracing some truly amazing views.

One of those sights is situated at the top of the Dragon’s Back. Yes, you have to walk all the way up, but it is definitely worth it, trust me. Also, at the finishing point of the hike, there’s a beach so what’s not to love?

The quickest way to get to the start of the trail is to get to the MTR station Shau Kei Wan on Hong Kong island. After that, you should catch the number 9 bus to Shek O. The trip costs somewhere inbetween 50p to £1.

The bus will stop at Shek O Road near to Tei Wan Village, and it’s almost impossible to miss the stop, as most people are headed to the same place.

The trail begins with a steep climb up steps, which I wasn’t expecting, so one or two bottles of water are absolutely needed for this part of the hike.

This section is definitely the most strenuous bit of the whole hike, however, it only lasts for about 30 minutes.

At this stage, skyscrapers and the ocean will start appearing on the horizon- all part of the breath-taking view over the Shek O Beach.

IMG_0182.JPGThe view over the Shek O Beach.

After this, the trail gets easier. Although we were still going up, there weren’t any steep steps – but mostly paths and occasionally rocks.
At 284 metres high, we reached the sightseeing platform on Shek O Peak. This is the highest point on the trail and offers a stunning panorama view over Tai Long Wan and Tung Lung Island. We could see some people paragliding in the great blue sky, which is also a great way of admiring the view.

IMG_0216.JPGThe panorama view over Tai Long Wan and Tung Lung Island.


IMG_0229.JPGFrom here, the trail levels out for about 1km before the descent into Tai Long Wan begins. It begins to feel comforting to know that somewhere down there a beach awaits.

There’s a lot of shade and humidity on this part of the trail, as trees and bushes reign at this point.
Little fountains can also be found along the stretch.


After a 45-minute walk, the trail ends at Big Wave Bay, Tai Long Wan. (A bus back to the MTR station can be caught from here, so no need for more strenuous walking.)

This is the perfect opportunity to ditch the sweaty clothes and have a swim in the ocean. There are little bars where you can eat local food while enjoying a Dragon’s Back Pale Ale or even coconut water.IMG_0261.JPG

Big Wave Bay, Tai Long Wan.

Enjoy some fried dumplings, coconut water and a beer after completing the trail.

How to haggle in Hong Kong

Temple Street Night market PICTURE: Toby Jeffery

By Ross Barnett

Not only did Hong Kong open my eyes to the natural beauty of the state and surrounding area, it also threw me into the world of having to haggle at Temple Street Market, Stanley Market and the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok.

Less common in in the West, haggling is the skill of reducing the cost of souvenirs to a mutually agreed price between the buyer and the vendor. Particularly prevalent in Asian countries, what may seem like pennies in Britain, may mean the world to the family of the seller in other countries.

The ability to haggle is one of the essentials when visiting the markets of Hong Kong. A successful ‘haggle’ can turn a rubbish deal into a bargain and there’s no better feeling than halving the price of an object.

Having learnt to haggle the hard way there were several things I noticed during the trip to the market:

1. Making a mental note of the price of an item in each stall
As a stereotypical tourist, everywhere I go I collect key rings. Probably the most popular low cost souvenir, the markets in Hong Kong were filled with them, making it more difficult to remember the price at each stall. When in an unknown location it’s difficult to get your bearings and therefore impossible to remember where the best price is. Although it has to be said that, as most of the markets sell similar items, the price usually much the same.

2. Vendors are desperate to sell
I am slightly confused as to why the vendors are so desperate to sell their stock, but by walking off, or threatening to, the vendors that I dealt with often panic and knock off huge amounts of money. Of course, they will still make a profit but it is possibly the thought of losing trade to another vendor. Use this to your advantage.

3. If they accept your first offer first, you’ve been ripped off
It’s a sinking feeling when you suggest paying HK$100 for a plastic snow globe but by then it’s too late to review the price. Many people take the tactic of halving the price first initially and bargaining from there. As many vendors have caught on to this tactic, they have considered this in their original asking price for the item.

4. Local expertise
Gaining local expertise is a sure way to avoid getting ripped off. Of course, make sure this ‘insider’ is trustworthy or else this will just increase your risk of paying extortionate prices. Their knowledge will inform you of an estimated value of the item allowing you to make a calculated decision as to whether haggling with the vendor is worth it.

5. Let them make the first move
as they are desperate for a sale, if you show a slight interest in the product, it will show the vendor that you need convincing before making a purchase. They are well aware of the possibility of buying from another stall. By not showing a definite interest, you’re more likely to secure a better discount.

Tai O: The fishing village on stilts

Many of the houses in Tai O stand on stilts above the estuary





By Sebastian Old
Negotiate your way through the bustling market streets where dried puffer fish and starfish in a bag dangle from walls and an elderly women of around 85 can be found cutting up fresh fish with scissors and laughing away with her mates.

This is just another day in the life of Tai O.

Tai O is a fishing village in the south-east of Hong Kong, raised up above the water on stilts. The locals ride around on bicycles too small for them and there’s a dilapidated shower that’s been converted into a temple.

Dried puffer fish at a street stall

It’s all too easy to begin to feel sorry for the locals of Tai O.

There’s a quaint charm; its one of the last traditional fishing villages in Hong Kong. But, its lack of shiny cars, buildings, cafes and other markers of  ‘normal civilisation’ are nowhere to be seen.

The truth is that to think this way would be to miss the point.

First of all the locals don’t, at large, know any different. So, as little, smiling child entrepreneurs help their parents and grandparents sell grilled garlic prawns, oysters and Hong Kong’s famed ‘fish balls’ you begin to realise that what the locals lack really doesn’t matter.

A colourful shrine

The village is in the north-east region of  Lantau island; an island know by many as ‘The lungs of Hong Kong’ because of its stark contrast to the densely populated and industrialised Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Beyond the village and its rivers, the scenary is made up of rolling mountains for as far as the eye can see.

It seems fitting then that the salt water rivers should wind around streets and under the raised houses like vast green veins.

Chinese white dolphins or ‘pink dolphins’ are among some of the rarer species in the world. According to National Discovery, in 2016 there were around 60 pink dolphins left. Yet they’re found swimming in these winding green veins.

Brightly coloured blossoms in the streets of Tai O

If you can’t find the time or the 30 Hong Kong Dollars (about £3) to go on a boat ride to explore the inlets and give a little dolphin spotting a go, do not despair.

There’s a strange, understated beauty to be found amid the village’s corroding ‘lego-block’ houses where cherry blossoms grow from drain pipes.

After a while, you begin to understand how that little old lady with those scissors in her hands managed to chuckle as much as she did.