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Views from my end of the spectrum…

Crossing the racial divide

“Can I touch your hair?” The little girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes asked shyly, interrupting a conversation between myself and two other black girls. She, too, was accompanied by two other girls, both brunettes. Their giggles gave the impression that they had discussed this earlier and the little one had been designated […]

Crossing the racial divide

15 ways to enhance productivity while working from home

This is part of a series of blog posts on coping with COVID-19

The novel corona virus known as COVID-19 descended on us unexpectedly and quickly spread its vile wings across the globe like a gigantic evil bird. 

Many of us are having to adjust to the myriad changes imposed on the world by the contagion.

To mitigate the pandemic’s devastating effects and curb its spread, a number of preventive measures are being implemented. These include isolation, social distancing and lockdowns in various countries. 

In Zimbabwe, where I’m currently based, we are on a 21-day lockdown imposed by the Government as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus. That essentially means we have to stay at home and only go out when it’s absolutely necessary. Consequently, I’m among those who have to work from home.

While the thought of working from home initially seems exciting, one soon discovers that it also has its challenges, which can negatively affect productivity.

For those who find themselves having to work from home, here are some tips to help you remain productive during the lockdown.

Even when you work from home, you still have 24 hours, so plan for your time well.

First and foremost, as much as you can, try to maintain your regular routine – that is the overarching message in this post.  Undoubtedly, there will be some adjustments, however, as much as it is within your control, maintain as much of your regular routine as possible. This will keep you anchored and help you to regulate your time.

Create a comfortable work space where you can think clearly and be productive.

Create a suitable workspace that’s separate from your place of relaxation.  If you have a study, that’s the best place to work from. However, if you live in a confined place, you can allocate a section of that space e.g your dining area, for work.  Avoid working from your bed or couch, or you may end up spending the entire lockdown period on it. Besides, when work gets stressful, you may end up dreading your bed as your mind will associate the space with the stress.

Manage your time.  Separate your working hours from your leisure time. Just as you have time allocated for work, for example some people start work at 8am, have a tea break at 10am, have lunch at 1pm and finish work at 4pm, create a schedule that allows you room to work and rest at intervals. Also, develop the discipline to maintain those times. If you must work late, have a cut off time, e.g decide not to work beyond 8pm – unless you have pressing deadlines and it’s a life or death situation.

Also, during working hours, take regular breaks from your work station and move around a bit, just as you do at the office.

In addition, take breaks from work during the weekends. Right now, while working from home, it may be difficult to separate work from leisure, but it is absolutely necessary to do so. Use your weekends to disengage from work, breathe and do something you enjoy. You need to recharge your batteries so you can be effective in the following week.

Make time for the things you enjoy. As one of my favourite speakers once said, “schedule your pleasure because pain schedules itself.” We’ve also heard the cliché that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” so make time for activities that you enjoy, particularly those that can be done in the comfort of your home as we are in lockdown. You can catch up on reading that book that’s been on the shelf forever, write something – bloggers, this is your chance to write all those pending posts that have been on hold for eons,  watch that movie that you haven’t had time for,  bake a cake – try out new recipes, knit that scarf, write that poem, create that piece of art, tend your garden, reach out to that person you’ve been neglecting, the list goes on and on.

Scheduling pleasurable activities will also give you something to look forward to “after work” and during weekends. It will also give you a reason to pull yourself away from your desk and shift your focus to something pleasant.

Regulate your social activities. Just as you would ordinarily see your friends during lunch or after hours, schedule time for calling friends and family or other social activities outside your working hours. This will help to ensure maximum productivity during the eight hours allocated for work. In the same vein, avoid spending too much time on social media. As much as you can, if your work does not involve the use of social media, then set a time for when you check your social media during working hours. This could be during your tea or lunch breaks, or in the evening.

I make regular trips to the garden to smell the roses and enjoy the pleasant sight.

Get outdoors and breathe.  Being cooped up indoors for long periods is the surest way to kill your productivity. If you have a garden, set aside some time to sit or walk there, smell the flowers, listen to the birds chirping, and enjoy the fresh air. If you don’t have the luxury of walking in your garden, stand on the balcony and observe what’s happening around you or look outside through your window. The change of scenery will also do you some good.

Eat regular, healthy, balanced meals. For those who are somewhat involved in the COVID-19 response or are generally busy, it’s easy to lose track of time, neglect eating healthily and snack only when one feels hungry.  Avoid this, for the sake of your health. If your schedule does not allow you to cook during working hours, then set aside some time after hours to prepare meals in advance and store them. That way, you will have ready made healthy meals and avoid unhealthy snacks as a quick fix to hunger.

Just because food is within reach doesn’t mean you should eat it. Regulate your meals and snacks.

With the fridge and snack cupboard within reach, it’s tempting to pick out snacks every now and then. Avoid that as it is a recipe for disaster. In the same vein, just because the wine rack is within reach does not mean you should take a swig every now and then. Drink after your working hours, if you must.

Routines like Nicole Steen’s no equipment full body toning workouts are very effective and can be done at home.

Exercise. It will do your health, mind and body a world of good and enhance your productivity. There are plenty of free online resources that you could tap into.

Clean up. Yes, take a shower in the morning and dress properly, just as you would if you were going to the office.  At the moment, due to COVID-19 and the resultant isolation, most people are attending meetings via video conferencing. Look decent during such calls. Your appearance also reflects your attitude, so look the part.  Besides, appearing in an official video conference in your pyjamas, looking bedraggled as if you’ve just woken up, reflects negatively on you professionally.  Take yourself seriously and everyone else will follow suit.

Share your schedule with those you live with. Much as your family and friends understand that you are working from home, they may not understand the nature of your work and may interrupt you at the most inappropriate times. If you live with people who do not understand the nature of your work, explain your work to them so they can appreciate that your presence at home does not mean you are available to them for the entire day. I give those around me a run down of my scheduled meetings and the expected duration of each one in the morning, so they understand that when I disappear, I’ll be in a meeting and require some privacy.

Some of your friends may also feel that they can call you anytime, just because you are at home. Enlist your family’s support in warding off social calls while you are working. You can always call your friends after hours, unless its urgent and cannot wait.

Also, keep a tidy environment as it enhances productivity. However, you must separate the time for your household chores from your working hours.

Get enough sleep, at night. Maintain your regular bedtime so that you can wake up early, start the day fresh and stay awake during working hours. Just because no one is watching doesn’t mean you should watch movies all night and nap during the day.

In conclusion, be disciplined. Working from home, unsupervised, is not a licence to be irresponsible. Be responsible and accountable. Your employer is paying you to work, so deliver on expectations.

These are tips based on my experience. However, you know yourself better and know best what works for you.

My final word of advice is develop habits that improve your productivity based on your unique personality and nature of work.

Tweepression: Definition, causes and suggested solutions

Do you sometimes feel depressed after being on Twitter? Well, you may be suffering from tweepression.

That’s the new term I coined today to define depression that’s caused by exposure to a myriad of negative messages on Twitter. It combines two words, that is “twitter” and “depression.”

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines depression as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”

It further lists some of the symptoms of depression as feeling sad or having a depressed mood; loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed; changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting; trouble sleeping or sleeping too much; loss of energy or increased fatigue; increase in purposeless physical activity or slowed movements and speech; feeling worthless or guilty; difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions; and thoughts of death or suicide. However, these must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.

On the other hand, Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.

While the social media streets are exciting and brimming with positive energy and ideas, sometimes I stumble on the opposite and end up depressed. I spend most of my time on Twitter so the focus of this piece will be specific to that type of social media. Besides, a lot has already been written about facebook and Instagram, as causes of anxiety and depression. So, I’ll focus on depression that emanates from being on Twitter, hence the term “tweepression,” although you won’t find it in the dictionary, yet!

Tweepression, therefore, is a form of depression that is triggered by Twitter. This can result from reading a tweet and associated responses, or following a link that one first sees on Twitter and being affected by the material thereafter. Here are some potential triggers of tweepression.

  1. Reading tweets or following links that evoke sadness

The twitter streets are littered with all sorts of stories, some interesting and inspiring, yet others sad and depressing. Similarly, just as there are pleasant, kind and loving people on this earth, there are also some cruel ones and all these sorts can be found on Twitter.

Examples that immediately come to mind include a story about a girl who was trafficked and landed in a prostitution ring after being hoodwinked by a friend, another girl who was raped by a guy simply because he had bought her dinner, appeals for financial assistance, cries for relationship advice etc. Yesterday I read a tweet from a girl who had passed her examinations but could not afford university fees. The reactions were a mixture of sympathy and vitriol, but beyond the tweet, I couldn’t help but wonder what her family circumstances were. All these evoke some emotion and in my case, some level of depression.

Some tweets are factual and educational, but still get us thinking. Being human, we find ourselves asking questions that go beyond the tweet. Today I experienced some tweepression after following a link by @teachingbiz to an article titled The tiring matric pass rate chorus. By the way, the article was great and the analysis deep, but I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of children, who are caught up in the cycle of poverty because they did not matriculate and the thousands more, who dropped out of school long before they could write the matric examinations simply because their parents could not afford to pay school fees. The staggering number of school drop outs and children with little hope of falling out of the perpetual poverty cycle had a depressing effect on me.

  1. Being bullied

Social media is a microcosm of society in general and just as there are bullies in real life, the Twitter streets are also teeming with bullies. To be honest, I don’t get bullied much on Twitter, although I have had some shocks and been called all sorts of names after expressing strong opinions. However, I am aware that not everyone has a thick skin and being bullied can take its toll on people. I have observed that some people get bullied more than others, probably because of their level of activity on twitter and nature of their posts, although I believe no one should be bullied, no matter how much we disagree about an issue.

Still related to bullying, sometimes one can be affected by reading the responses to other people’s tweets, even if one is not directly targeted. I generally believe people should be cordial, but I don’t always see that on Twitter and I empathize with those who find themselves on the receiving end of nasty responses. This can be somewhat depressing. Indeed, sometimes it’s all in jest, but I think that’s risky, particularly among strangers.

  1. Being ignored

Let’s face it, everyone is on social media to socialize, right? So, tweeting and getting no responses is equivalent to speaking and not being heard, a bit like talking to yourself, right? Being ignored in real life can be embarrassing, and I guess the same applies to being ignored on Twitter.

Recently, I was surprised to learn that some people get depressed when their tweets do not get the number of likes or retweets they expect to the point of needing counselling. In the same vein, some people get depressed if certain individuals don’t respond to their tweets.

So, what should one do when they either have or face the risk of tweepression?

  1. Think before you tweet

This may seem obvious but that isn’t always the case. In the past, we were advised to “think before you speak.” The same applies to Twitter and my advice is “think before you tweet.”

Indeed, think about what you are tweeting, what the possible consequences could be, how you will respond to the various reactions etc. Not everything should be broadcast to the broad public for all and sundry to comment on.

  1. Choose your tribe

As indicated before, social media is a microcosm of society and just as we choose our friends in real life, we can do likewise on Twitter. While you may not have much of a say on who follows you, you can at least choose who to follow. Don’t just follow everyone, be selective. Take time to decide who to analyse people’s tweets and responses before deciding to follow them. It may seem like you’re going overboard but it will protect you from future pain.

Tied to this, don’t be afraid to unfollow and block people who steal your joy by being nasty, rude or abusive towards you. You have the power to press that button and it’s your prerogative to decide whether they stay on your timeline and continue to harass you or disappear from your cyberlife.

I know there is a tendency to want as many followers, but sometimes you’d rather have a few quality followers who add value, than be subjected to abusive multitudes.

  1. Be selective about what you read and respond to

We’re encouraged to read a bit of everything and while this helps to broaden the mind, let’s face it, not everything you read is beneficial. Just as you select your friends and who to follow, be selective about what you expose yourself to as well. Indeed, sometimes we can’t control what we see, but we can decide how much attention we give certain tweets and the extent to which we follow and comment on discussions.

Also, don’t be shy to unfollow, mute, block or report those who steal your joy, particularly when you feel you are being bullied or abused. Those buttons exist for a purpose and could be the ticket to reclaiming your peace of mind on these twitter streets.

  1. Okay to take a break from Twitter

Sometimes a break is good. Just as we take a vacation and break away from our busy schedules, sometimes its necessary to take a break from Twitter, particularly when one starts to feel overwhelmed by the floods of information.

Suspended between life and death

A tale of survival against brutality

Shuvai drifted between consciousness and semi-consciousness as she lay on the slim bed at Parirenyatwa Hospital’s intensive care unit. Her fragile existence suspended between life and death like a pendulum, as if the gods were debating her fate and playing a tug of war of some sorts. It was uncertain whether she would live or die.

“Images of my son strengthened my resolve to live,” says Shuvai, a survivor of gender-based violence. Image credit: Dreamstock.com

Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Feso, watched helplessly as their daughter’s life hung in the balance. Shuttling to and from the hospital had become her family’s routine for the past fortnight, during which Shuvai lay comatose, yet her elderly parents refused to give up on their only daughter. This new pattern had been imposed on the two retired teachers since the day they received a phone call from a stranger who claimed to be their daughter’s friend, informing them that their Shuvai had been hospitalized and her life seemed to be slipping away.

The friend, whose name they forgot before the call ended as they tried to absorb the shocking news, didn’t offer much detail, but the little she told had alarmed them.

“Shuvai was found on the street, half naked, in a pool of blood and almost dead,” the friend said.

That call, at 4 in the morning, had scuttled their lives. They hoped for the best, but feared the worst. The Fesos immediately packed a few clothes and drove for just over two hours from Kadoma to Harare. They headed straight to Pari, as the hospital is known, where they found their daughter in a coma. Given the circumstances, the couple remained in Harare to monitor their daughter’s condition, although they really couldn’t do much but watch her frail body deteriorate further every day.

Two weeks had gone by without any indication of whether she would live or die, yet the Fesos dared not imagine the worst, clinging, instead, to the hope that she would survive, despite the absence of any signs to support their expectation.

On the 15th day, Shuvai drifted briefly into consciousness, raising hopes of the possibility of survival, but the worst was not yet over, her life still hung on a string.

Her mother and father dared not celebrate prematurely, there was still too much uncertainty given the fluctuations in Shuvai’s condition. Each day was unpredictable and new complications could arise at any moment, so her parents maintained an attitude of cautious optimism.

On the 21st day, she finally broke out of the coma, like one tearing through the invisible curtain of death and firmly landing back on earth. The doctors confirmed that she would live and some days later, she was moved from the intensive care unit, to an ordinary ward, where she continued to receive treatment.

Now that her survival was certain, they could ask questions.

Mr. Feso spoke first, permeating through Shuvai’s confusion as she took in her surroundings.

“How did it come to this?” he asked wistfully, jolting Shuvai’s memory back to the events that had led to her current circumstances.

She stared at him blankly, still rather groggy from a combination of sleep and the medication that was being plied on her. Her mind was hazy from the times she’d drifted in and out of consciousness, making it difficult for her to distinguish the medically induced hallucinations from reality.   

Her mother, always the more sensitive one, chided him for being so rash.

“Leave her to recover Ba Shuvai, can you not see she’s not in a position to speak yet?”

Her mind would gradually clear, as her condition stabilised and the dosage of medicine was reduced.

Another week went by before she could finally speak, and tell the story that had baffled her family for almost a month.

They hadn’t spoken much since Shuvai came out of the coma. Her father heeded his wife’s advice to refrain from bombarding her with questions and let her recover first. Knowing their daughter, and the close relationship they shared with her, she would speak when she was ready to.

On the 28th day, she finally mustered the strength to speak.

“It’s Ronald,” she whispered more to her father who sat on the visitors’ chair by her bed, while her mother stood by the window staring listlessly into space. Her voice was a bit gruff from the long periods of silence.

Her father immediately froze in his chair and exchanged a knowing look with his wife. Shuvai had confirmed what they already suspected. There was no reason why anyone would try to kill a sweet person like Shuvai, except her husband Ronald, who was given to violent fits.

Time and again, her parents had pleaded with her to leave him, yet she stubbornly clung to the marriage, arguing that she should honor her vows and insisting that one day, he would change.

“Where is my child?” Shuvai asked, her mind now clearly grasping reality.

“He’s with your cousin Danai,” her father replied. Shuvai and Danai were very close, so she knew her son Ronald Junior was safe.

“There were times when I almost gave up on life, but every time I saw Junior’s image, it strengthened my resolve to live,” she said.

“What triggered the violence this time?” Mr. Feso asked, drawing Shuvai’s attention back to her circumstances and to the matter he’d wanted to discuss for the past 28 days.

“I went for an evening church service and when the service was over, the taxi was late so I hitched a lift from a friend. Some hours after I got home, he accused me of having an affair with the friend and started beating me up. When he pointed the barrel of his gun at my forehead, I knew I had to leave, so I broke through the window, jumped out and ran as fast and far as I could.”

A shard of glass from the broken windowpane cut her foot, slicing through a vein, which resulted in excessive bleeding. She intended to run to her nearest friend, Netsai, who lived about 10 houses away along the same street, but due to the profuse bleeding, she fainted before she arrived. Luckily, she was close enough to her friend’s house to be noticed by Netsai’s 20 year old son Emmanuel when he drove home from a night of clubbing. He woke his mother up and told her about the semi naked lifeless body near their gate. Netsai and Emmanuel alerted a few of their neighbours before they went out to check. When Netsai got close enough to the body, she recognized her friend Shuvai and immediately called an ambulance and the police. She then called Shuvai’s parents and told them about her condition, although she too, was not aware of the circumstances that had led to incident.

On hearing Shuvai’s account of the event, Mr. and Mrs. Feso wept. As much as they disapproved of their daughter’s marriage to Ronald, they never thought he’d almost kill her. They reiterated their advice for her to leave the marriage and offered to provide her with financial support until she was settled.

On the 30th day, Shuvai was discharged from hospital. Her parents thought it best for her to live with her cousin Danai for a while. The following day, Mr. Feso accompanied his daughter to her marital home to pick up some clothing and other essential items. On arrival, the house help, Priscilla seemed jittery. She was under strict instructions not to let Shuvai in the house.

“This is my house too,” Shuvai declared as she pushed past the nervous girl and forced her way into the house, leaving Priscilla and her father at the door. A few minutes later she emerged from bedroom empty handed. “Where are my clothes?” she demanded.

Priscilla quietly led her and her father to the garden and pointed at a patch of parched ground with a small mound of ashes.

“On the night you left, he collected every item you owned, shredded it, made a huge bone fire and burnt it all here. He did not sleep until everything of yours was razed to ashes.”

She stared at Shuvai and her father with imploring eyes.

“You must leave before he returns.”

This blog post is part of a series of posts in tribute to survivors of Gender-Based Violence. It is being run to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. The campaign, which began in 1991, is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

Blogging Tip for September: 5 Suggestions for capturing your bright ideas

Do your ideas fly away like birds? Photo credit: freepik.com

Are you one of those people who have an influx of brilliant writing ideas for your blog when you’re in the shower, during a run or in some place where you can’t sit down to start writing, then discover that the idea has taken flight when you’re ready to sit and write?

If you are, then you’ll probably find this month’s tip useful.

The blogging tip for September is simple: Capture your ideas.

Yes, those fleeting thoughts that perch on your mind like birds and flee when you’re ready to write, need to be captured.

This seems pretty obvious and most bloggers are probably doing it already. However, there is no harm in an occasional reminder.

Most people have places where ideas flow unfettered. For some, it is the bathroom and for others it is during a long drive or train ride. For others it is during their exercise routine, while for others it is during visits to unique places. The options are as varied and diverse as our personalities. For example, I get a flood of ideas while I’m in the shower and during my morning run.

The question is, how does one capture those ideas before they either disappear or become diluted?

While it is good to capture ideas as they come, it’s also important to do so systematically and in a way that works for you.

While there is no single answer to this question and it is best to do what works for you, here are five suggestions that you could consider.

  1. Audio record the ideas on the go

One of the ways to capture your ideas, particularly while walking, during your exercise or throughout your daily routine, is to do an audio recording of the idea as it comes. This can then be transcribed into whatever gadget you use for writing when you’re ready to write your post.

The advantage of capturing ideas in this way is that most of us carry our phones everywhere. If you’re worried about looking crazy as you capture random ideas on your phone, fear not, you’ll probably look like you’re answering a phonecall. Besides, people in the world are so preoccupied with their myriad issues, they probably won’t pay much attention to an odd blogger who is capturing thoughts on their phone – unless you do it with a flair of drama of course.

2. Move around with a notebook and jot down your ideas

This is an old, tried and tested method that works for some people. In fact, this method existed long before the advent of smart phones and all the functions that they offer us now. It is also good to capture thoughts in this way in case one’s mobile phone battery dies etc.

If it works for you, then by all means go for it. If, on the other hand, you’re one of those people who tend to lose pens and forget notebooks, then this may not be the best capturing method for you.

3. Jot down your ideas in your phone/tablet/ipad or whatever gadget you use

This has been the most effective method for me as I can work from anywhere. I have thousands of half-baked ideas in my tablet, which I carry everywhere, so I can capture ideas as and when they come. If the ideas come during my walk or in the shower, I make sure I capture them as soon as I get to my tablet. The advantage of this method is that the tablet is compact and easy to carry, so it can fit in my smallest handbag. I can then refine my ideas as I go about my business until I feel the post can be shared. 

4. Email messages to yourself

Another method that I’ve found useful is to email myself ideas and half-baked thoughts from whatever gadget I’m using. This enables me to start a post on my tablet and finish it on my phone, laptop or any other gadget through which I access my email account. This means I can continue from where I left off if I happen to forget my tablet or run out of power.

I found this particularly useful in February this year, when my two laptops were stolen during a robbery at my house. While some of my information was backed up on an external drive, the most up-to-date of my works in progress were captured in emails, so I was able to resume my writing with ease and continue from where I left off.

5. Jot the ideas on your calendar

This is tied to the August tip, which was to create a calendar/diary/schedule for your posts. You can capture ideas on your calendar. For instance, if you plan to write a blog post about International Mother Language Day and you know it falls on 21 February annually, it is a good idea to set a soft deadline for when the blog post should be finalized and the hard deadline for when it will be posted. You can then start jotting your ideas on the day you’ve set as the soft deadline on your calendar, write the article and post it on the projected date.

I find this useful when capturing ideas that are related to specific days that are commemorated throughout the world. Setting a soft deadline also serves as a reminder that the day is approaching and pushes me to finalize the post.

This is useful and serves the dual role of capturing ideas while setting deadlines.

Traces of my father

7 ways through which he lives on, 40 years after his death…

A photo of my father published in a Facebook post on my brother Taffy Will Moyo’s page. Photo: Family Archives.

Today, 1 September 2019, marks exactly 40 years since my father’s death, yet, he lives on in our lives through the traces he left behind. Incidentally, the youngest of his children also turned 40 this year.

Forty is a significant number. There is an old saying that life begins at 40. As we mark the the 40th year since my father’s death, today, I choose to honour his memory not by mourning, but by celebrating seven ways through which he lives on in our lives.  

Indeed, none of us is ever really gone forever. Like footprints on a rock, we all leave marks of our existence for those who come after us to appreciate and follow.

Four decades after he departed, I still see traces of my father in various aspects of daily life, particularly in my home and family. Below are seven ways through which he remains prominent in our daily lives.

Facial features

The most prominent trace my father left is that of his facial features, which are firmly imprinted in my siblings and nieces. I’ve always believed that heredity is one of nature’s greatest compliments to humanity. It is amazing how our features are perpetuated through future generations and how family members who have never met can exhibit similar traits.

Nature was also fair in distributing my parents’ features among us, their offspring. Out of my parents’ four children, two resemble my father and the other two resemble my mother. The balance was also perfectly spread across sexes, ensuring that one boy and one girl resembled each of my parents. My elder brother and I resemble our mother, while my elder sister and younger brother look like our father.

Posture

My father had a unique standing posture that we all seem to have inherited. Interestingly, the grand children who resemble him the most also stand in the same way. I’m not sure what influenced us to take on that posture, but one thing is certain, it is extremely comfortable.

Scientific inclination

Out of my father’s four children, three inherited his scientific brain and studied sciences. I see traces of that in and some of his grandchildren too. I guess that aspect skipped me, but I’m content to be the family scribe and tell our story.

Books

My father, who was an avid reader, left a rich library of an eclectic collection of books. As a teen, I occasionally abandoned the usual romantic novels read by adolescents to explore my father’s library. I guess it helped me to connect with him in a way. I lapped up most of what my young mind could understand from his collection. Most enjoyable were the historical books as I gained knowledge that was not taught in the school syllabus. Although I’ve forgotten most of the titles from his collection, the book that had a profound impact on me was For those I loved by Martin Gray, which was the account of a holocaust survivor in Germany during the time of Adolf Hitler.

My parents. Photo: Family Archives.

Home

I see traces of my father in the home where we grew up. His favourite colour, green, which he and Mom had a mutual love for, still dominates our home. I don’t think our home would feel the same if certain items were to be changed to any other colour. Mom has also refused to change some items of furniture, in honour of his memory. As a family, we have learnt to accept that while our mom is happy to revamp the house and replace the furniture, some items are not negotiable and she will not compromise on that. Thankfully the items she’s chosen to preserve have appreciated in value with time and become antiques.         

The items that were removed, due to wear and tear and of course in line with new trends, remain etched in my memory. Interestingly, I remember some of the items and the way they were laid out in the house before his death, especially the set up in the lounge.  

Music

Our dad’s music collection was as varied as that of his books. Sometime during our adolescent years, my siblings and I started listening to my father’s music collection. I remember mom driving us around with tapes from my dad’s collection playing on the car radio. It may not have been the coolest music at that age, but I think this helped us to connect with our dad in a way. We somehow found a way to balance between keeping up with the latest music trends, while also developing an appreciation for the music our parents loved. I believe my father’s music collection influenced our collective love for jazz and our ability to listen to anything and everything as a family.

A few years later, I would also hit the theatres to watch musical shows and movies that I’d been introduced to through his music collection. I guess his music collection also influenced my love for theatre. I can even do a date night alone, just to watch a good play, in the absence of people who appreciate the theatre among my friends.

When watching plays like The Sound of Music, Oklahoma and movies like Iphi intombi, we were probably among the few people in the audience who could sing every song, word for word, thanks to my dad’s diverse music collection.

Legacy

Of course there is so much more to our father’s legacy. A lifetime can never be summarized into a few words. However, on the 40th anniversary of his death, today, I chose to celebrate him by sharing these seven ways that he lives on in our family.  

3 Practical Blogging Tips for August

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First of all, I must apologize for failing to meet my commitment to share monthly blogging tips throughout this year.  While I started off well, I seem to have hit a snag in April, May, June and July. My last blogging tip was in March and now we’re in August, which means I skipped four months.

This goes against the advice I’ve given in previous posts on tips for bloggers, i.e, that one should be consistent in meeting expectations.

I guess at this point I should slap myself for reneging on my promise, but I won’t, because I’m averse to pain. Nonetheless, this subject segues neatly into the first blogging tip for this month.

Tip 1: Create a blogging calendar, diary or schedule.

Why is it important to create a calendar, diary or schedule?

Let’s face it, life happens and sometimes we neither have the time nor the ideas to write blog posts, yet we have to fulfill our promises and meet the expectations of those who read and support our blogs. Creating a diary, calendar or schedule, helps us to plan in advance and to start developing content for our blogs in good time. This gives us time to research and write well thought-out content, thereby enhancing the quality of our posts. Further, it helps us to manage our time and to develop the discipline that is required for one to be an effective and consistent blogger.

There are plenty of useful resources on how you can develop a calendar, diary or schedule that suits you. I found these particularly useful.

  1. How And Why You Need to Create A Content Calendar For Your Blog (That You Actually Use)
  2. How Super Bloggers Work: Getting Efficient with A Blog Schedule
  3. The Easiest Way To Create The Perfect Blogging Schedule For Your Business

Tip 2: Be practical about what you can do. Indeed, good intentions don’t always translate to reality.  When you develop your calendar, diary or schedule, it is  important to set realistic goals about how often to blog and when to post, bearing in mind the demands on your time and your responsibilities as an individual.

Tip 3. Be kind to yourself. Finally, it is important to acknowledge that despite the noblest of intentions and the most realistic goals, sometimes we may fail to deliver quality blog posts at the specified time. Should this ever happen, remember to be kind to yourself. The truth is none of us is perfect. We are all fallible human beings. We try our best to succeed, but sometimes we fail. When that happens, we should not beat ourselves down, but look for practical solutions, learn from our mistakes and make amends.

It may take some time and adjustments to create the most ideal calendar, diary or schedule for your blog, but soon you’ll get the hang of it and work yourself into a routine. While working on this, be patient but firm with yourself.

I hope you find these tips useful and practically applicable in your blogging journey. Iwish you all the best as you continue to impact the world through your blog.

Flight tales

Here are three interesting encounters I had during recent flights.

Flying regularly is part of my life and an aspect that I thoroughly enjoy. As if to add the cherry on the cake, I almost always end up sitting next to someone interesting. I’m a chatty flier and will certainly talk to the person next to me, unless we either have a language barrier or they give off an unfriendly vibe. Thankfully, some of the people I’ve met are happy to talk about their lives and I’m content to listen.

Although I’ve met many interesting people with fascinating stories, here are some memorable encounters from my recent trips.

1. Couple working to save indigenous languages before they become extinct

Recently, while flying from Kenya to Zimbabwe, via Lusaka, I sat next to a missionary who was also a linguist. Her husband was in the same profession so, as a family, they ran a small non-governmental organisation whose focus was to save dying languages. They would identify a language that was almost extinct, move into the community that spoke that language and work with the elders to learn and capture as many words in that language as they could. They would then translate the Bible into that language as an initial step and encourage its use among the younger generation. Later, if resources permitted, a dictionary and some primary school books could be developed.

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The rationale behind translating the bible as an initial step, was that most families in the countries that the family works with own bibles, so she figured that the one of the quickest ways to get people to start familiarising with a language was to put it in a functional book like the bible.
Besides, as a missionary, her core business was to spread the gospel, so she killed two birds with one stone by preaching the gospel in a language that people understood, while helping to preserve their language.

On this particular flight, she and her husband, who was the opposite of her and was quiet throughout the journey, were travelling to a remote community in the southern African country of Zambia, to set up camp and start working. I can’t remember the name of the language they were going to work on, but I certainly thought this was a noble cause.
Should I ever meet that lady again, I’ll whip out my notebook and lap as much information as I can. I really would like to document and contribute towards her organisation’s work in future, such great deeds should be recorded and supported.

As you’ve probably predicted, most languages that are dying off are spoken by a few elderly people who are also at the tail end of their lives, hence the urgency with which the couple works.

On other hand, the younger generation is more focused on being adept at languages that enhance their chances of survival in this global village, hence the lack of interest in their mother languages, which are increasingly becoming irrelevant on the global scale.

Sadly, most people don’t realise the value of their mother languages until it’s too late to salvage them but it’s great to have gems like this couple, who recognise the value of language and try to preserve them long before communities realise what they’re about to lose.

2. Lawyer who wants to grow marijuana for medicinal research purposes

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My second memorable encounter took place during a fligh early this year. I was travelling from Harare, Zimbabwe, on Ethiopian airlines and happened to sit next to an interesting gentleman who was en route to London. Our conversation started from the moment I sat down because I somehow evoked his curiosity. Thereafter, we discussed a broad range of topics, with the most interesting being the object of his visit to Zimbabwe.

To set the context, in November 2017, after the coup that toppled Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe, the new military assisted president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal and research purposes.

My fellow traveller, who is well read about the medicinal properties of marijuana, decided to travel to Zimbabwe to survey opportunities as he also saw some potential for big business in the future. I will not delve much into his business plan but must say I was fascinated by the amount of research he’d done. I was also impressed at how well thought out the Zimbabwean policy on growing marijuana for medicinal and research purposes was.

When government made the announcement, most people scoffed at it and it became the subject of cartoons and a lot of jest. It seems most people imagined the country being overgrown with “weed” and getting high at will. It didn’t help that the new military assisted president wears a scarf that evokes images of marijuana-smoking reggae musicians.

To the contrary, however, on reading the various documents my fellow traveller collected, I was comforted to realise that much thought had gone into ensuring stringent controls for growing the plant. Getting a licence to legally grow marijuana in Zimbabwe will not be easy for just anybody. Only those with serious commercial interest, financial muscle and technical know how will survive the gruelling screening process.

Secondly, one needs some technical knowledge about the properties that they want to harvest from the plant so not just anybody can grow it, unless they employ qualified laboratory scientists who can glean what’s reflector from the cannabis.

Thirdly, the plant will not be easily accessible to the public as there stringent rules and regulations and the prospective grower cannot get a licence without putting in place adequate security measures. This includes physical security such as the location where the cannabis plants are grown as they must not be easily accessible to the public, employing security guards and installing CCTV among other measures. The licence clearly comes with a lot of responsibility for the grower.

Fourth, as this is for commercial or research purposes, the end user must be known and confirmed, with all the necessary documents in place before the license is granted. That means prior engagement and agreement must be reached with either a research laboratory, health institution or pharmaceutical company among prospective clients before a licence can be granted. Therefore, one cannot get a license and grow marijuana and then hope to sell it later.

3. Pilot who was flying livestock for an organization to supply meat for refugees

My third fellow traveller was a retired Zambian pilot who was involved in semi-philanthropic work. I use that term because he was being paid while contributing towards the provision of humanitarian assistance. In his sunset years, his focus was on helping people affected by conflict in countries that host refugees by using his skills, not to fly people, but to transport livestock, mostly cattle, that would be slaughtered to feed refugees.

He preferred to work for a few months at a time, after which he would rest for a while before returning to work.

He was returning home from such a mission when we met. Not being one to travel long distances in silence, we ended up talking. Our conversation not only taught me a few life lessons, but also gave me an opportunity to ask him all the questions I’ve always had about his profession and flying in general. I’m not sure when his next mission will be, but I certainly was impressed by the nobility of his work. I also realised that regardless of one’s profession, we can all contribute to helping other people and make a difference in our little corner of the world.

Image sources:

1. https://bit.ly/2WvwB70

2. https://bit.ly/31nd07B

One valuable blogging tip for March

Okay, so I promised to share monthly blogging tips and I’m trying to live up to that promise. Today is the last day of March and a few minutes before midnight, 19 to be precise, so I’m literally racing against the clock to deliver on my promise.

Here is one tip that I found useful and I’m sharing for the March installment.

It’s simple.

Verify information before you publish.

Don’t pass on myths and assumptions as facts. Respect your readers enough to get accurate information on the subject you’re writing about. This is one sure way to enhance your credibility as a blogger.

When I was a student, there was a belief that anything that’s written is true. “Zvakanyorwa (it is written),” was used to settle arguments because we assumed that by the time someone wrote and published an article, they would have verified the information it contained.

As a cub reporter, I once wrote and submitted a story without verifying one little fact. My editor called me and asked for a number of statistics. I shot them off like a pro.

“How many people watch TV station A?” he asked.

“According to the latest survey it’s 6 million,” I replied, beaming with pride.

“So, then, you realise you’ve just lied to 6 million people,” he said.

“Ooops!” I was deflated but learnt a valuable lesson.

Thankfully, that error was corrected before the story was published, but imagine how many people would have been misled if my editor had missed it!

Before you publish on your blog, think about the number of people who’ll read it and ask yourself if you’d be comfortable lying to those people. That should be enough motivation to make you verify facts before posting.

Take the responsibility to verify your claims because someone might read and take what you’ve written at face value. People trust you enough to believe that you’ve done your due diligence.

Hope you found this tip useful.

What valuable lessons have you learnt during your writing journey? Kindly share them, so we can all benefit from your wisdom.

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