“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
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- How And Why You Need to Create A Content Calendar For Your Blog (That You Actually Use)
- How Super Bloggers Work: Getting Efficient with A Blog Schedule
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.