Search

sheXpress Blog

Views from my end of the spectrum…

Diary of a female crime victim

26 February 2019

1am

I’m woken up by a stranger in my room. He’s pressing my head down with a duvet so I can’t move. I open my eyes and see an unfamiliar face. He’s worked up and shouting with a sense of urgency, warning me of the consequences of screaming.

I suppress the natural instinct to scream in the hope that I won’t be harmed.

He has not only invaded the privacy of my home and inner chamber of my bedroom, but he’s also interrupted my slumber.

I stare blankly at him as I awake and realise what’s happening.

“Who are you?” I want to ask, but he won’t let me. He speaks again, gesticulating with his hands for emphasis.

“We don’t want any noise, just show us where the money is.”

“What money?” I ask, totally lost. The warning is not lost on me, but the problem is I don’t have money on me, apart from a few dollars that I haven’t counted. I make a mental calculation of the money in my bags. It won’t be anything above $500, I think. Under the circumstances, they can take it all, as long as they leave me alone.

The agitated stranger shouts repeatedly, demanding money.

I see some movement behind the one pressing my head down as another stranger crosses to the corner with the stand where I keep my hats and hang my handbags.

The second man tells me someone told them “there’s always lots of cash in this house. ”

“Really?” I’m surprised again, because that’s not true. “I don’t keep money in the house.”

I repeat my initial statement because I don’t keep money in the house.

“Where do you keep it?” the second man asks, as he goes through the contents in my collection of handbags, takes what he wants and throws the rest on the floor.

“In the bank.” I’m surprised they don’t know that people keep money in banks. Indeed Zimbabwe is facing a cash crisis and many people have stopped banking their money because they can’t withdraw it.

Besides, once banked, it will be converted to a valueless pseudo currency recently called bond notes but now known as RTGS dollars. In spite of this,  I still don’t keep money at home, I prefer to transact via transfers as it’s generally safer than transporting wads of money in a cash strapped economy. However, the strangers in my room don’t know that and seem to expect cash to rain from somewhere.

I can’t believe I’m discussing my financial decisions with strangers who’ve broken into my house and feel entitled to my money.

I’m asked for the umpteenth time where I keep my money and I tell them, once again, that I don’t have money in the house.

I’m not sure what time it is, but by now, I’ve figured that there’s a third man in the room, working through the contents from behind me. It seems they have clear roles, one holds down my head while the other two comb through the half of the room they’ve allocated themselves. I start praying under the covers.

As I generally sleep in a fetal position, I’m still curled up in a ball, lying on my right side with my head pressed down at the foot of my bed, it counts for variety when I can’t move my furniture. I can only see what’s within my line of vision so my other senses are heightened.

My head is released and uncovered. I briefly take in my surroundings. There is chaos everywhere. Everything that was carefully packed and arranged is strewn all over the bedroom floor. The strangers are tramping on everything they’ve discarded on the floor, disregarding its value to me. It means nothing to them, they’re a group of thugs on a mission to earn money through unlawful nocturnal means. The sentimental value of gifts from family and friends or mementos from my travels are not worth anything to them, as long as they can’t be converted to fast cash.

“Cover her face,” one of them barks as he realises that I’m quietly observing them. The others echo the chorus.

By now I’m apologising profusely to these intruders for not having what they want.

“I’m sorry I don’t keep money in the house, I’m sorry for….,” I catch myself. Why am I apologizing to strangers who’ve invaded my house for the precautions I take to protect the money I earn? They don’t have a right to it, so I owe them no apology, yet I apologize because I hope it will pacify them and make them go away.

I explain to them that I have no other cash apart from what they’ve taken from my bags. I point out that they’ve already helped themselves to my cash, so I can’t give them anything more. By now my tone is more of a plea than dialogue.

The men realise that my response won’t change, and they change their tactics. One of them calls someone and another man emerges from the spare bedroom adjacent to mine. I don’t get to see much of him and I don’t think he speaks at all.

“Tie her up” one of the two men who’ve been speaking to me says. My face is uncovered and I’m moved roughly into a different position by the men, a bit like grilled chicken being turned over, my hands are forcibly clasped in front of me and my wrists tied together with a cellphone charger cable, then reinforced with an orange ribbon. I recognise the charger, it came with my latest mobile phone when my sister and I visited Dubai last October,  and the ribbon, well, was probably saved from some girly toiletries I bought long ago.

I squirm as my wrists are tied, tighter than necessary in my view, but right now I have very little say about what’s going on in my house. My feet are also tied at the ankles.

For the first time I catch a glimpse of the man who was working behind me. He seems very young, probably the youngest of the squad, with a disproportionately large head compared to the rest of his body. Perhaps he should consider auditioning for an alien movie, he’d do well, I think. That could be his ticket out of a life of crime, but I can’t advise him, he has the upper hand and wants cash, not advice.

I’m now fully awake, drinking in the scene and it’s sickening.

The mingled odours of four strange men who clearly aren’t fond of soap and water fills my room.

Someone has brought some knives, they look familiar. They’re knives from my kitchen. One of them is blunt, my youngest niece complained about it the day before yesterday, when it was her duty to cook part of the meal that thse girls had decided to treat us with. She felt it was slowing down the preparation of her contribution to the meal.

Two of the strangers point the knives at me and threaten to kill me.

“Tokuuraya,” they chorus as one of them prods my side with the blunt knife.

I’m afraid of both knives and the pain they could inflict. I fear the sharp knife because of the incisions it could make and the blunt one for the effort it may take to make it cut.

“We are going to rape you,” the leader announces.

At this point, I realise that I’ve been bargaining with the devil. Complying with the command to stay silent hasn’t helped me. I start to scream.

“In the name of Jesus you won’t,” I scream repeatedly.

“Iwe, iwe nyarara, kuti Jesu Jesu ndokuneyi (shut up,  what’s Jesus got to do with this)?” one of them says.

They abandon the idea of the knives and rape altogether as a new command to strangle me is given.

“Mudzipe,” one of them commands. At this point I’ve established that the second man to enter my room is the leader, dishing out orders of the various abuses that should be meted on me.

My torso is roughly raised up into a semi sitting position by two pairs of hands, while the third pair grabs my favourite blue shawl from the mess on the floor and gags me with it. I try to fight, but can’t do much with my hands and legs tied, while two strangers hold me up and a third one gags and chokes me.

I think the youth with the big head is the one chocking me, but I’m not sure as it’s being done from behind me. He tightens the knot on the shawl and I gasp for breath.

“So mother, you’d rather die than tell us where the money is?” the youth asks as he chokes me. I wish I could ask him if this is how he’d treat his mother, but I can’t, I’m literally suspended between life and death.

He tightens the knot with each breath, so that eventually, I can’t breathe. My airways are blocked and I can neither inhale nor exhale. I stop fighting, it’s futile. I can’t see anymore, I feel as if the whites of my eyes have turned upwards and rolled into my eyelids. My tongue fills my mouth and chokes me too. I hear a strange gurgling sound coming from my mouth, it feels like my tongue fighting for space in my mouth and expelling the saliva. I feel my body going limp.

“So this is what death feels like,” I think to myself as my body succumbs to the pressure being exerted by the strangers. I’m reminded of the sheep and goats that died to put meat on our table. I wonder if this how they felt.

“Muregedze (let her go),” the leader commands, and the shawl is loosened. My body bounces on the mattress as I’m released and once again, the tactic is changed.

Two of the strangers start beating me up with a twisted white iron rod. It looks familiar. I recognise it. It’s a burglar bar from my windows, although I’m not yet sure which window it was taken from. At this point, I notice that there’s been a change in roles. The one who held my head previously and the leader have switched positions. The leader is now pressing my head down while the previous head presser occupies the space in my line of vision and beats me.

They’ve also covered their faces with scarves, my scarves, leaving just their eyes in view. Only one of them has a scarf I can’t recognise.

They still want to know where the money is. I’m back in a fetal position with my head covered. I’m being beaten with my own burglar bars, mostly on my left leg. A few blows reach my head. I think the youth behind me also has a burglar bar, which he uses less frequently than the one who’s beating my legs.  I cry out in pain and am beaten again. “Be quiet,” they shout in unison.  How can I bear such beatings in silence? I can’t tell how many times I’m beaten, although I can say my left leg absorbs most of the blows.

I’m tossed to and fro as my bed and later my mattress are lifted to check for money underneath. They seem convinced that there is money in the house, although I don’t know why.

During the breaks in between the beatings and tossing, I notice that someone is mopping up, going through my dressing table and jewellery boxes. I’m not sure what he’s taking. He’s slinging my grey and blue Nike gym bag, which I bought in Botswana some years ago and hardly used, on his back, and wearing my latest light brown leather jacket. My valuables are in that bag. I don’t know in detail what they’ve taken yet, but I know they haven’t left anything of value.

The unwelcome visitors have overstayed and I wish they could just go away.

The beatings stop.

“Give us the keys to the door, we want to get out,” one of them demands.

I offer to open the door for them.

“We’ll let ourselves out,” the youth says angrily.

I ask to be released from the pressed down position so I can get up and give them the keys. They consent. I sit up and open the drawer where I keep the keys and hand them over. The bunch also has my car keys.  One of them takes the bunch.

An instruction is given to bring me water. The youth goes out briefly and returns with water in one of my smoked white wine glasses.

“Here, drink some water,” the leader commands as he hands me the glass.

“I’m not thirsty,” I respond.

He orders me to drink the water again and I refuse.

“Do you honestly think I’d kill you? Look, I’m drinking it,” he says as he takes a sip then hands me the glass and commands that I drink the water. I look at him in disbelief. This is a man who ordered that I be choked and beaten some moments ago, after entering my house unlawfully, and he asks if I think he’d kill me?

To avoid any pain that might ensue from confronting him, I take the glass, tilt it and touch my lips with it, but I don’t drink the water. He notices that I haven’t drunk the water and tries to coax me again. His tone has changed from the previous brutal commands to a softer, more  persuasive one but I’m not fooled by it.

“It’s to calm you down,” he says. I’m not sure what the water is laced with and why I’m being forced to drink it, but I gingerly take a sip.

I tell him once again that I’m not thirsty and he orders the youth to take the glass from me. I’m not sure why it’s important for me to drink the water, but he seems satisfied that I’ve taken a sip.

I’m pressed down again. This time I’m lying on my back with my covered head turned to the right. There seems to be less movement in the room. A draught enters the room, adding to the eeriness of the night.

There are fewer people in the room.

“Don’t you have any jewellery of value?” the youth asks.

“No,” I tell him. “I only wear beads.”

He asks again, sounding quite desperate, but my answer remains the same.

I hear him walking out.

I’m left with the leader, who makes a final futile attempt to extract information about where I keep my money.

“Right now I’m your god, your life is in my hands,” the leader says calmly. He tries to coax me into revealing where the money is. The truth is I have no cash outside the bank and I’ve already said so numerous times.

“So what do I tell my boss?” he asks me, claiming his boss works for the government. I don’t believe the irrational claim and am not intimidated by it. I tell him to tell his boss the truth, that I don’t keep cash at home. He asks me a few questions about my job and I don’t say much, then he accuses me of supporting the opposition political party.

I respond with a question and he reminds me that he’s the one to ask the questions. I comply.

“Don’t move, I’m coming back,” he says as he pats my covered head.

Once again, I comply and stay still.

An eerie silence fills the room.

I sense that I’m alone. I wait a bit, still no movement or sound. I uncover my head. Yes, I’m alone in the room.

I untie my hands, then my feet, but wait, what if they’re still in the house and find me untied? I cover myself again, just in case. No, I’m definitely alone. I see my tracker on the dressing table and reach for it. I check the time, it’s 01:19am. I walk out of my room, down the passage and feel a draught again. The kitchen window is open and two burglar bars have been removed.

“Oh, so that’s how they got in,” I conclude.

The water tap has been left running. I shut it.

I move further and notice that the lounge door and screen are open. I peep outside, and pause briefly, what if they’re still in the vicinity and spot me. They may come back and hurt me.

I scan the room for my keys. It seems they’ve taken them and left the lock.

I rush back to the kitchen, shut the window, then remove one of the locks from the screen gate and use it on the screen gate for the lounge.

I shut the lounge door and go back to my bedroom. I start to process what has just transpired as I can’t sleep. I wonder if anyone can sleep after such a violent invasion.

The entire place has been turned upside down and is in a mess.

I start taking stock of my valuables. Two laptops, professional camera and accessories, cash and gold jewellery are the first missing items I notice.

My new mobile phone and tablet are nowhere in sight. The landline has no credit. I can’t call anyone. My old tablet, which was not charging, has been left on the TV stand. I take it, go to my Facebook page and send messages to my family via messenger. I then write a status update on Facebook about what has just happened to me.

Time is dragging and I long for daytime to come.

I hear the distant beep of a message tone but can’t tell if it’s from my phone or other tablet. I also can’t tell if it’s in the house or was dropped outside as the thieves left.

At 05:30 am, my alarms go off simultaneously. I manage to trace my phone and tablet, which have been hidden in the spare bedroom.  My phone is in a red toiletry bag I got from my former landlady and the tablet is tucked in a box with some clothes.  I’m not sure if they packed it with the intention of taking it. My phone has been smashed, with the burglar bar they used to beat me. I can see the outline of the burglar bar where the impact hit most on smashed screen.  It smells like it’s burning. The tablet is still intact. I retrieve them both carefully to avoid tampering with any fingerprints.

I wait until daybreak, then go outside in the hope of finding my car keys. They are nowhere in sight. I take a tour of the yard and do a video recording for my family. How else does one tell such horrendous story at once to loved ones who are scattered across the globe?

One of my scarves the thieves used to cover their faces is thrown on the ground. One of the burglar bars they removed and walloped me with is suspended on the lock by the gate. They have vandalised the water supply pipe and clean water is gushing out. I’m expecting the plumber today, so there’s no need to call him. I simply shut the water supply to avoid further wastage.

I go back into the house, finish my video recording and send it to my family. My siblings call immediately and offer words of comfort and advice. My mother can’t get through to my line,  which is already blocked with incoming calls,  so she calls my sister instead. I manage to retrieve my truck keys from one of the handbags on the floor.

I decide to take a shower before going to the nearest police station to report the case. Elsewhere our in the past,  I’d have dialled an emergency number immediately after the crime,  but in the current Zimbabwe,  the police force is poorly resourced and the quickest way to get a response is to provide transport.

I can still smell those men’s ordours, especially when I look at my bruised wrists.

As I enter the bathroom, I catch a glimpse of my reflectoon in the mirror. There’s a huge bump on the left side of my forehead from the beating. I thought this only happened in cartoons.

I shower then leave for the police station.

On arrival at the station, I’m asked what happened. I show the police officers the bruises on my wrists, ankles, legs, head and mouth, and as I narrate the story of the horrific night, the charges quickly shift from simple theft to housebreaking and attempted homicide.

For the first time since my ordeal began, the tears flow.

My left side is so badly beaten, one of the police officers offers to drive as we return to the place I’ve called home for the past seven years,  but has overnight become  a crime scene.

 

 

Advertisements

Five blogging basics for February

Every blogger probably knows this and it most likely goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.

As we grow in our blogging journeys, as with everything else, we tend to forget the basics. Since we’re still in the first quarter of the new year, I thought this would be a great time to revisit the basics of blogging. Here are my five blogging basics. The list will probably increase with time, as I learn and grow, but for now let’s start here.

1. Keep writing

Yeah, it’s pretty obvious that the more you write the better your become at it because practice makes perfect, plus constantly updating your content makes your blog more dynamic and increases traffic. Admittedly, some days are hard and one just can’t find the motivation to write. I’ve just emerged from a two month writing hiatus so I understand that sometimes one just can’t conk up the strength to put together a few meaningful paragraphs. If you feel you need a break, by all means be kind to yourself and take one, but at some point, please remember to get up and start writing again, especially if you’ve built a following that appreciates and looks forward to reading your work.

2. Strive to continue improving your content

Life is all about learning and improving oneself. Those who fail to learn soon become irrelevant. We’ve all heard the cliche that an avid reader is a good writer – or something along those lines. Read, read, read. Yes, read often and read widely. However, be selective about what you read because not everything that’s published is worth reading. Also, what we read influences our perception, so choose wisely. Define your reading objectives before you interact with any reading material, then glean what you need from it. Learn as much as you can from other authors and bloggers etc, but make sure you’re learning from the best.

3. Interact with people who read your blog, especially those who take time to give you feedback.

When people read your blog, consider it a privilege because they have no obligation whatsoever to read your work. They’re there because you’re offering something that they like, appreciate that. When people comment on your blog, consider it a bonus because there are many others who’ve come and gone quietly and who you’ll never know because they just read and left. So, appreciate those who take time to like or comment on your posts. Feedback, whether positive or negative, is always good and ultimately contributes towards growth. One sided relationships are taxing and the same applies to the relationship between the blogger and the reader, so please be responsive to those who take time to share their thoughts and feelings about your blog.

4. Show respect to your readers by giving them your very best

This too goes without saying, but respect your readers enough to research about a topic, edit and proofread your work before posting. Make it palatable for your audience by eliminating the niggly bits that spoil your writing. Failing to research can affect your credibility as a writer, so at least fact check and separate myths from reality, unless of course your post is about a myth.

Secondly, be mindful of spelling, homophones, tenses, grammar and other details that could either enhance or negatively affect the quality of your work. To be honest I find it annoying to read content that’s full of typos. True, we’re not perfect, but let’s at least try to give the readers our very best.

5. Be your best self and share your uniqueness

Don’t feel under pressure to write like anyone else, just be yourself and you’ll eventually carve out your niche. It’s tempting to imitate other writers and some experts recommend it, but personally I believe in the authenticity of individuality. It is possible to learn from others while maintaining your individuality, so try to balance the two.

Finally, as I said in the intro, these are basics, no major revelation but just a reminder of the little things we tend to forget, even if they matter. Remember, it’s the little things that count, after all, it takes small grains of sand to create a sand dune.

I hope you enjoyed revisiting the basics of blogging through this postand I look forward to your feedback reading your posts. What are your writing or blogging basics? Let’s share and learn from each other.

Streaks of grey

Signs of ageing or wisdom?

So I’ve grown a clump of silver/gray hair just above my left temple and I kinda like it, although the frame of my spectacles sometimes hides it. It got me thinking about grey hair though. Greying is often seen as a sign of ageing, but in my culture it’s dignified as the attainment of wisdom, so the more grey hair one has, the wiser they are – or should be.

They’re probably about seven grey hairs, but I won’t count them to confirm. Back home there’s a superstition that if you count your grey hair it will increase, I won’t test whatever forces are in charge of monitoring and multiplying grey hair when it’s counted, lest they add to it, so we’ll just stick to the estimate.

Anyway, there are varying causes of greying, with age being the most common. As we grow older, our hair greys – some later than others, depending on the genes.

Stress is another cause of greying. I’m not sure how many people observed how Barack Obama’s hair rapidly changed colour after he became the 44th President of the United States of America. I guess the responsibility of running the world’s superpower weighed so heavily on him that it became physically evident through the transformation of his hair colour. Obviously he chose not to dye it, like some presidents I’ve observed, whose hair has remained the same colour since their teens even though they’re past 70 years, which looks somewhat odd and unnatural.

Barack Obama

Closer to home, I watched with intrigue as someone’s hair turned from jet black to snow white in five days, after an anonymous phone call that changed his life. He received the call on a Monday morning and the caller, whose identity was hidden and voice disguised, instructed him to visit a certain address at a specific time on any weekday. Being the curious cat he was, he decided to turn up that very Monday. He went into the particular apartment, which was not locked, at the given time and discovered that his wife was having an affair. He was so devastated and distraught, he didn’t know what to do and we didn’t know how comfort him.

Anyway, after the anonymous call on Monday and the sequence of events that followed, the man’s full head of ebony medium-sized afro was completely white by Friday that same week, as if the heavens had poured snow on it. On a more positive note though, he forgave his wife, they made their peace and life went on. Some tragic events have happy endings and this was one of them.

I’ve had instances when my hair temporarily greyed during stressful periods, then blackened again when the storm was over. This last happened in 2014 when I took a huge leap in my career, not knowing what the future held in store. I took on a temporary contract in another country, with no guarantees of an extension and the risk of unemployment thereafter. Thank God it all worked out well, but it certainly was a stressful time, as reflected in my hair colour then. Thankfully the black hair reemerged, until now when I spotted the grey streaks.

Heredity is another cause of grey hair, particularly when it starts extraordinarily early in life. I once met a 27 year old lawyer with a spray of silver/grey hair right in the centre of his head. He’d been like that from a very young age and was comfortable with it. I got the impression that it was genetic and therefore quite normal in his family.

He told me he was accustomed to people stopping him at malls to ask “are you young or old?” because they were puzzled by his youthful appearance and grey hair. My variation of that question was ” is that the natural colour of your hair or did you highlight it?” The language isiNdebele has the most appropriate name for this kind of greying. It’s called ufuzo, which actually implies heredity.

What to do when grey streaks emerge

My advice to people who spot streaks of grey on their heads is to embrace it, like Maya Angelou and Barrack Obama did.

Maya Angelou, the phenomenal woman, author and poet.

Secondly, avoid dye because it causes hair loss and thinning. So, while it may hide the grey, it could also compromise the quality of your hair. You’ll have to choose between a full head of healthy hair with streaks of grey and a head with your preferred colour but thinner hair. Bear in mind though that over time and after consistently using dye, your scalp will shine beneath the sparse and thin hair, thus giving away your age anyway, as age and dye both contribute to hair loss (read more on https://bit.ly/2MKCYLB and https://bit.ly/2Ts17sS).

I’ll put a disclaimer on the third option because it’s not advice but an observation. I’ve noticed that some people opt to shave off their hair when it greys, and take on a bald new look.

When I was doing my post- graduate studies, a friend of mine, who was studying at the same time, had a life altering event. This, coupled with the pressure to succeed in his studies, made his hair grey rapidly. He’s shaved it completely and taken on the bald look since then.

My choice is the first option, I’ll wear my steaks of grey with pride and the world will get used to me. I hope the mix of black and grey won’t evoke images of a skunk. I’m not sure if this tuft of grey is permanent or temporarily stress induced as I’ve just emerged from yet another stressful phase, but whatever the case, I’ll embrace it.

On another note, I don’t know what happened as the earth completed its orbit around the sun and we entered the new year, but I seem to have developed a new fetish with the start of 2019. I’ve always had a fetish for beards, particularly the ones that grow in a circle around the mouth. My dad and my brothers’ beards grow like that so I guess that’s what influenced my taste. Interestingly though, since the start of this year, I pay particular attention to beards like that, with a mild streak of grey. Everytime I see a beard like that, I feel like reaching out to stroke it. I certainly hope it’s a passing phase.

My idea of the perfect beard, thanks to my dad and brothers’ influence.

Three things I wish men knew about women

So in the wee hours of this morning, as usual, I had a dream, but unlike my other dreams, this one was normal.

I dreamt I was with a good male friend and we were arguing, like we usually do, about anything and everything. In the dream, we had seen a bouquet of a flowers and he had assumed I’d automatically like them because they were flowers and I’m female, so he had casually remarked that “women like flowers.”

The bouquet had red roses and carnations. He thought the flowers and their colour symbolised love, which is the general myth. I did not like the flowers, the colours and the combination at all. This had triggered a lecture from me about how men generalize what women like, and prompted me to write a blog post on the subject.

So, in the dream, I’d started writing a post about “three things I wish men knew about women,” then I woke up.

Elements of this blog post were penned in my dream and merely transferred to the blog when I woke up. I figured that since it’s a subject I’m passionate about, I may as well write about it now that I’m awake.

So, here are the three things I wish men knew about women.

1. Flowers

Not all women like flowers, and even those who do have their preferences. Just because someone is female doesn’t mean she’ll automatically like flowers and just because a woman likes flowers doesn’t mean any odd bouquet is good enough. Women are individuals, whose diverse personalities and backgrounds inform their choices and tastes.

We’ve all heard the cliche in poems and songs,

Roses are red, violets are blue…

Thanks to Valentine’s day, literature and the movies that associate red roses with love, there seems to be a widely accepted but erroneous association of roses with love, so there’s a general assumption that women will automatically interpret them as a symbol of love. I appreciate the origins of that, but I also wish men would understand that the interpretation of the meaning of symbols is subject to cultural context and individuality.

For example, I grow roses in my garden, so getting me some may not be as meaningful as doing so for someone who lives where roses are rare. Buy me red roses and I’ll be annoyed. Why? Because that’s the surest sign that you’ve not taken the time to know me and you don’t respect my individuality. It’s a reflection that someone is relating with me based on the general perception about women, rather than as an individual with specific preferences.

Buy me a protea arrangement and I’ll be blown away, even if the entire bouquet only has one. I love proteas. Proteas are unique and it takes more than average thinking man to even consider buying them for someone. They cost more than roses too.

Anyone who buys you a specific flower, has clearly done their research and takes you seriously enough to invest some time and thought into impressing you. Of course some women love roses and if you buy a woman roses because you know she likes them, then it’s certainly different from doing so based on a general perception influenced by assumptions, convention and stereotype.

This segues very neatly into the next subject, which is individuality.

2. Individuality

Women, men, girls and boys – the people who constitute the world’s population of about 7 billion – are individuals. I’ve found that most men I’ve met relate with women based on some default setting based on long standing stereotypes, so they relate with us as a group rather than as individuals. Very few men I’ve met, whether in a professional, academic or social setting, actually take time to study an individual and relate with the person based on their uniqueness. This may work in the broad sense when you can’t know hundreds of people individually, but for the close circle it’s totally unacceptable and there’s no excuse for it.

If you’re part of someone’s life and you’re investing time and emotions in each other, you cannot treat her like Sue or Zoe or Grace or Nozipho or Tafadzwa. No! I presume people spend time together so they can know each other better.

3. Chivalry

It’s quite sweet when the right man goes out of his way to be gentleman because he knows what appeals to you as an individual. However, it’s extremely annoying when all sorts of men try to impress by opening doors, bringing food, buying drinks and pulling chairs for women without any thought about how the intended beneficiaries feel.

Sometimes attempts at chilvary are plain impositions and violations that rob women of their basic right to make simple choices. For example, I like my food arranged in a particular order on my plate and I’m fussy about quantities. I’m very deliberate about most of my choices, including food. During dinner, in an attempt to be a gentleman, the man I was with decided to sputter a whole lot of salad all over my plate, creating a huge mess in my plate.

When I protested that he’d messed up my plate with food I didn’t want, he told me he was being a gentleman and I should get used to being treated well. My idea of being treated well is respecting my right to Male choices. I’d rather be first asked what I’d like, than have someone impose their assumptions of what they think is good for me. I’d have thought of him more as a gentleman if he’d acknowledged and expected what I wanted before acting.

Conclusion

In the final analysis, I guess my entire dream and this blog post boil down to one thing, recognising the individuality of women and treating them accordingly.

Psychologists would probably conclude that my dream and this blog post were influenced by an deepseated yearning for my individuality and that of women, to be acknowledged and respected.

Or that perhaps, my dream and post were influenced by what was happening around me. Both could be true too.

Ever watched one of those interviews where artists are asked where they get their inspiration and they give answers like, ” I dream about it then I wake up and draw it.” Well, I guess this post is one of those.

Coincidentally, yesterday I read the interview of a famous henna artist who said she saw some of her designs in her dreams, then simply translated them to body art when she woke up. Interesting. I guess that influenced my dream.

Regardless of what triggered the dream, I hope the men in our lives will take note and be more attentive to women’s individual needs. It would go a long way in making life more comfortable and the world a better place.

Photo credits:

http://bit.ly/2zg9DD6

http://bit.ly/2K9C4Hg

3 tips I picked up from 3 bloggers today

Every weekend, I try to visit and comment on at least three blogs that I haven’t read before, then I check my favourite blogs for new content.

This is also convenient because Saturday is the blog follow weekend when @Afrobloggers, a community of African bloggers, take time to appreciate each other.

I like to think of this exercise as a walk in the park using different routes.

So far it’s been rewarding and I’ve stumbled on some gems.

Each cyber excursion is like an exciting treasure hunt because I never know what I’ll find. One thing is certain though, I know I’ll learn something new, so consider it a virtual classroomclassroom too.

Much as I know that each blogger is unique, I also appreciate that we can learn from each other, just as iron sharpens iron.

Learning from others, without losing one’s uniqueness, is part of the growth that we all seek.

Here are three tips from my virtual walk through some blogs today.
1. Set a standard and stick to it
When you visit @LilyofNigeria’s blog https://bit.ly/2RuOls4, the first thing you see is a note that tells you what her blog is about, but more importantly, when to expect new posts. “New blog posts every Sunday at 4pm WAT,” the note boldly announces.

Here’s what I like about this.

First it shows respect for the reader because it tells one what to expect and when, so you won’t be disappointed if you visit the blog on a random day hoping for a fresh post. Readers can plan for their reading time knowing when to expect new content. From a writer’s perspective, it’s a promise that shows commitment to writing regularly. It also shows discipline, because that’s what it takes to commit to providing readers with new content regularly and to write consistently.

Of course, I imagine that there are occasional exceptions to the rules, like when something earth shattering happens and it’s important to post immediately while information is still fresh. However, on the whole, this vital piece of information helps to manage the expectations of both the blogger and readers.

So will I copy this?

Yes, although I won’t put it in writing on the blog yet, until I’ve developed that level of discipline and written consistently for at least two months. I like the predictability as it helps with planning, but I have to train myself first before I can fully apply this great tip.

2. Brevity and imagery

I think @heyAnci’s blog https://heyanci.wordpress.com, aptly demonstrates this combination. What struck me most when I visited the blog was the brevity of the posts. They are brief and to the point, with a generous sprinkling of vivid imagery, yet the author manages to tell a complete story in not so many words. I found the posts long enough to tell an interesting story but short enough to retain the reader’s attention.

I’m definitely picking this tip and plan to apply it immediately. I hope I can pull it off as well as this blogger did, but its definitely worth a try. This is my first attempt at brevity.

Tell me how I’ve fared on a scale of 1 to 10.

3. Variety is the spice of life and be real

To specialise or not to specialise, that is the question.

I’m neither for nor against specialised blogs, but I like variety and a mixed bag of content.

I visit specialised blogs, as they’re a useful resource, particularly when one needs information about a particular subject.

For most bloggers though, variety is still the spice of life. I love the way @Beatonm5 does this in http://becomingthemuse.wordpress.com.

The blogger successfully weaves current affairs and political analysis into ordinary life activities, while covering a wide range of subjects. I wish I had that story telling gift.

What do I learn from this? People enjoy your writing when they identify with the writer as one of them so “be real” and spice up your writing with some variety.

These are all probably old lessons that have been written about before but I thought I’d still share them.

Here’s to blogging and growing together as a community as we write away…

#AbWCT

A childhood tale of adapting to change…

When I was eight years old, my mother made the decision to move my siblings and I from a school that was designed for Africans, to a multi-racial school. These were schools that were initially set up for whites only during apartheid, but were opened up to accommodate different races in post-independence Zimbabwe.

A teacher by profession, she knew the intrinsic value of education and sought the best schools available at that time, in the hope that this would enhance our chances of success in future.

So it was that my siblings and I were bundled off to boarding school and transferred from Mbizo Primary School to Hillside Junior School in Bulawayo.

The contrast between the two schools was striking, but naturally, any transition requires adaptation, so we too, adjusted to our new environment.

Our fears changed…

Mbizo Primary School was known as the home of tokoloshes (goblins) called Abeya.

Rumour had it that the school was once a graveyard so at night, the tokoloshes would come out to play. Interestingly, they only played one game, during which they sang the danceable tune:

“Abeya, Abeya, Abeyabeyabeya…”

I remember getting to school one day and finding all the pupils from my class standing outside. The group of six-year-olds was clearly petrified and refused to get into the classroom because, apparently, an invisible hand had written “Abeya” all over the chalkboard. This could only mean one thing – that the tokoloshes had been playing in our classroom all night. Someone even claimed that the little sprites were spotted leaving our classroom just before dawn. Not wanting to be the first to encounter any leftover tokoloshes, since they were invisible anyway, I stood outside with the rest of the class until the teacher came.

Our teacher, Miss Moyo – no relative of mine though – simply walked into the classroom, rubbed off the meaningless words and called the class back to order. No tokoloshes rose up to challenge her so classes resumed as usual and the myth of the Abeyas was forever busted in my young mind. I’m sure I saw an older boy from one of the senior classes snickering in the background as he watched our torment. I suspect he was the prankster.

However, when I moved to Hillside, I was introduced to new invisible forces in the form of ghosts with biblical names like John. Thankfully the ghosts respectfully kept a safe distance from the school, unlike the intrusive Abeyas, and preferred to haunt nearby homes.

So we adopted new fears, this time of ghosts in haunted houses.

I’m not sure who among us was qualified to certify a house as being haunted or how they managed to recognize that there were ghosts in it, but it happened anyway. Often the more experienced senior girls pointed out the haunted houses and we believed them, without question, and just became afraid, because ghosts were supposed to induce fear.

The background of the ghosts also changed, the Abeyas were from the liberation war, while the ones in the haunted houses were of royal family ancestry with associations to the House of Windsor.

I’m not sure how that came about, but a nearby castle, which now operates as a hotel, was rumoured to have a friendly ghost called John and some years later, when I went there on assignment as a reporter, the owner (jokingly) whispered “a friendly ghost called John stalks the building…”

Our poems changed…

…. from…

Mzwa mzwa mzwa kaNkoviyo

Uphetheni ngomlomo

Ngiphetha ‘mas’ omntwana

Uwasa kobani

Ngiwasa koZamncenga

Omncenga kancinyane

Ngci, ngci, ngci…..

 

….to…..

 

When I went to fairyland, visiting the Queen

I rode upon a peacock, blue and gold and green

Silver was the harness, crimson were the reigns,

All hung about with little bells that swung on silken chains…

 

Our games changed…

Our games changed too, from Ara huru huru and Amina, amina kadeya and Christopher Columbus (those who know, know),  to I spy with my little eye, and hop scotch jump.

When it rained, we stopped singing “zulu zulu buya” and did handstands to “thunder, lightning handstands up.”

 

Our music changed…

At the old school, assembly was an outdoor acapella affair, with the most prominent sound being that of our voices. I remember the deputy headmaster, a strikingly handsome man known as Mr. Ndlovu who swung seamlessly from soprano to bass, directing the choir with such uuuumph!  When he sang “uthando lumnandi …” (love is sweet), you could almost physically taste the sweetness of love in your mouth, I’m sure some pupils even caught themselves chewing. In my mind’s eye I can still see his fine features, framed by a neat medium sized afro, and his tall, slim figure in a grey suit, dancing to the rhythm of our voices. Clicks sound like instruments when sung in unison, and isiNdebele has lots of them.

At the new school, assembly was a prim and proper affair. We walked in and out of the hall to the sounds of Beethoven and Mozart. Hymns were accompanied by a piano and there were no smooth dance moves from a handsome young deputy headmaster.

Our sports and pass times changed too…

Although sports were similar at both schools, the new school had additions like rounders, hockey, swimming, cricket and rugby. Horse riding was optional.

 

Our language changed…

Adapting to this change was purely involuntary though, we were not to speak local languages on the school premises and if we were caught doing so, due punishment was meted out. Those who dared to disobey the rule had their knuckles rapped with a ruler. Read more about this in my post on the value of language https://bit.ly/1T0exJA.

Not surprisingly, we lost our ability to think and dream in our mother tongue. Although I’m literate in Shona and isiNdebele, and tried to broaden my knowledge of both languages in adulthood by reading more literature in local languages, I still miss out on the nuances and lack the depth that I’d love to have, particularly in Shona, as I studied isiNdebele up to high school.

I was awestruck when I read about Nompumelelo Kapa, the first academic in the 102 year history of the University of Fort Hare to write a PhD thesis in isiXhosa. She was conferred with a PhD in literature and philosophy in October 2018 https://bit.ly/2CE0IOe. I was impressed because I can’t even dream of writing more than 5 pages in our local languages.

 

Our mannerisms changed…

Everyone around us had long flowing hair that they tossed occasionally so their tendrils wouldn’t get into their eyes. Interestingly, the black kids picked up the same habit of tossing invisible tendrils – which our relatives found rather odd when we went home. I remember one of my uncles asking me about the newly acquired habit and failing to understand what hair I was keeping out of my eyes.

When the invisible hair was no longer good enough, we tied our jerseys on our heads and tossed them –  hair extensions were not allowed at that time, so we made do with what was available.

 

Our accents changed…

I believe most children are a reflection of their teachers. At the old school, I read and pronounced words like Miss Moyo, but at the new one, I was taught to speak like Miss McKenzie.

It saddens me to be treated like a stranger, particularly in my home country, because I don’t sound like everyone else, and unfortunately, it happens often. A few weeks ago, I was speaking to my sister on the phone while standing in a queue at a supermarket in Harare. When I finished my conversation, the lady in front of me asked where I was from. I told I was Zimbabwean and she remarked that I must have lived outside the country for so long that my accent had lost all traces of being Zimbabwean.  Coincidentally, we grew up in the same city and attended the same high school around the same time, but despite those common threads she did not identify with me.

 

What didn’t change…

Zimbabwe’s education system is still dichotomous, decades after independence. As individuals, the pupils who were transferred to multi-racial schools changed to suit the environment and moved on. However, the country’s education system was barely transformed to suit changes in the political environment. After independence, the differences between the two groups of schools were not addressed, but institutions simply shifted from perpetuating divisions based on race, to reinforcing differences based on social class.

I get worried when parents boast that their children, who have lived in Zimbabwe all their lives, cannot speak or write their mother language, and treat that as an achievement and a sign of their status.

The change I wish for…

I hope someday, our system will offer the same standard of quality education to all children regardless of their social and economic differences, while fostering and preserving our diverse cultural heritage.

Don’t be that man

He rose up the career and social ladder
But failed to rise above his weaknesses
Today, his achievements
Have come to naught
And his reputation is in tatters
Because those little foxes
Have returned to haunt him

They say in my language
The axe forgets, but the tree remembers
Today, the scarred and wounded trees
Have gathered their courage
And collective memory
To rise and challenge
The axe that caused their pain
And stole their dignity

Because it had no conscience
And didn’t value them
He was unaware that
Rine manyanga hariputirwe/
Okulempondo akufihlwa
What you do in the dark
Will some day come to light

As you rise up the ladder
Remember this Zimbabwean Shona/SiNdebele proverb
And think about your actions
Lest they reemerge
As roadblocks to your dreams
Sometime in the future
Don’t be that man

Matilda Moyo
27 September 2018

#sexualharrassment #discipline #Integrity

5 Lessons from my father’s death…

My memory was born the day my father died.

Coincidentally, it was on the 1st of September.

Hockey team
Dad (right) as part of the Dadaya Mission School Hockey Team. Source: Family archives.  

September, the month of my birth, will always be a time of internal conflict as it is characterized by pain and joy.  Pain because my father died on the first day of the month, and joy because I was born on the 12th day of the month.

I can’t say much about life before my father’s death. As a four year old, then, I was not aware of much around me. My memories of that period are vague and probably convoluted.

However, life changed and with my father’s death came the birth of my consciousness. I became acutely aware of everything around me, more attentive to people and my surroundings and more aware of what was happening around me.

Tragedy has a way of transforming us and always comes with some lessons.

For me, the most significant transformation was on my mind and I have carried some lessons from that experience throughout my life.

I guess it’s because part of my centre, as parents are central to any child’s life, had crumbled.

First, I learnt the value of people and relationships.

Perhaps because my father went to a land from where he would never return, I developed a new sense of consciousness about those who were left with me. Part of me learnt to appreciate people. Consequently, I value relationships and those around me, and treasure every moment with them. People matter to me and I pay close attention to them. I’ve been accused of paying attention to the minutest details about people, but that is their uniqueness, that which makes memories about them precious, and that’s what my father’s death taught me.

Secondly, I began to value words.

At that age, my memories of my dad were predominantly of him telling us Shona folklore about Tsuro na Gudo (the hare and the baboon) around the large blue asbestos heater on a winter night.  I certainly remember him teaching me our home address, phone number and other details in case I got lost, as a first step in preparing me for the outside world before I started nursery school. Needless to say I still remember that phone number more than 30 years later. I also remember the values he imparted to us about respecting people regardless of their station in life, after my siblings and I had disrespected the house help. Most of my memories of his words though, were based on what my mother and my siblings told me. I am glad they are balanced words that have molded me and shaped who I am today.

I may not remember much of what my father said to me individually, but I certainly became more attentive to people’s words after he died. Perhaps it was because I would have wanted to hear more of what he said in my mind, memorize his voice and immortalize him through his words, but that opportunity was lost. I desperately wanted to hold on to some of our conversations and retrieve some quotes from him in later years, but I missed that chance. But then again, how much can one really say to a four year old, and how much of those words can one so young retain?

You see, words are the glue that binds us together as human beings, because they are the vehicle through which we express our thoughts and emotions. My father’s words would have been the string that connected us, despite our being in separate worlds, and I wish I’d heard more of them. I treasure the words that have been passed to me by family, and from that experience, I learnt the value of words.

I believe people when they speak,  and I take them at their word. I trust that people think before they speak and weigh every word before it is uttered. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but that’s been a major weakness on my part because I judge people based on their words and trust them. Unfortunately, some people just don’t take themselves seriously and are very flippant with their words. I’m amazed at the number of people who make plans and promises that they don’t live up to. I’m equally shocked by the number of people I’ve met, who forget their own words as soon as they are uttered. I am appalled at the number of people who don’t place any weight on their words, are careless with their tongues and don’t mean what they say. I guess they don’t realize that their words will form part of the memories they leave behind when they die. It would be a tragedy to be remembered for abusive, untruthful or flippant words.

It’s very uncomfortable when you remember  what people say, yet they don’t even value their own words enough to retain them in their memories. This sometimes puts me in an awkward position, particularly when I have to hold people accountable or repeat their words to them.

Sometimes my tendency to remember people, places and events can have negative consequences, like the time I caught my landlady’s husband trying to play the bachelor a few days after I was introduced to him. He had no recollection of our introduction, so you can imagine his embarrassment when I reminded him of how and where we had met before.

My third lesson was to celebrate life and to value memories we create with our loved ones.

Not surprisingly, the year my dad died, my fifth birthday was not celebrated. How could it have been, in the midst of mourning?

The following year though, we celebrated my sixth birthday.

It was a memorable occasion, although bitter sweet because one person was missing.  This, to my young mind, marked a first step in our collective effort to move on and start living again, in spite of our tragic loss.

I vividly remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the creamy orange cake, with neat little orange slices, some of which turned out to be made of jelly when I tasted them.  I remember all the children from our row of seven houses being present. I remember my mother reverting to her old wardrobe,  after shedding off the black clothes she had worn for a year as part of our cultural mourning  ritual for widows.

But most important of all, I remember my mother picking up the pieces of what was left of our lives, and rebuilding the family that we became. I will never stop admiring her strength and resilience. After that bleak year, we forged ahead. Mom went back to college, and built her career, thus enabling her to provide us with a comfortable life despite my father’s absence.

Dad at wedding
My dad (right) as best man at a friend’s wedding. Mom, very pregnant, in the background. Source: Family archives.  

This was my fourth lesson, that tragedy may strike, but you have to get up and move on.

Indeed, it is important to mourn, but it is even more important to move on, give the best of yourself, live life to the fullest, create your own memories and carve your own legacy.

That was my fifth lesson.  My dad lived his life to the fullest and gave his best in all he did. He excelled in what he did and at the time of this death, he had risen to the highest post available to black Africans at his workplace in colonial Rhodesia.  Without saying it in words, he passed on his values through what he left behind, be it a note from former Prime Minister Garfield Todd, evidence of appreciation from his employer or his foresight and forward planning that ensured we were covered financially long after he was gone.

Garfield Todd signed pic
A congratulatory note signed by then Principal at Dadaya Mission School, Sir Garfield Todd, who went on to become Prime Minister of  Rhodesia. Source: Family archives. 

I respect my father for what he imparted, both in life and in death. I appreciate the lessons he taught me, and the senses that his death awakened in me, which form part of the legacy he left behind. He will always have a special place in my heart. Although I wish death’s cruel talons had not snatched him from us, I’ve learnt to accept the loss and to draw lessons from it. So on this day, I take time to pay tribute to him and express my appreciation to him in the best way I know how, through writing.

 

The voice of the people, the voice of God…

It was once proclaimed
The voice of the people, is the voice of God

Yet when the people spoke

Their voice was not heard

Drowned by vociferous egos

It was disregarded

And rather ignored

Like a quiet and unwelcome breeze

On a chilly night

Their cries became more desperate

As the people magnified their voice

And became like a howling wind

On a stormy night

Yet when they shouted louder

They were silenced, like a noisy gong

Crushed with a heavy hand

And bludgeoned to death

Their blood sputtered
Staining the streets

On which they once sang

Songs of freedom

So they were silenced

And their voice whittled

To a distant echo

And background noise

A furtive whisper

And an occasional murmur

A barely audible sound

The voice of the people
Became a silent fart
With an obnoxious stench

Questions were asked

Was the voice of the people

Ever really the voice of God?

Would anyone dare to silence him

If he chose to speak?

Perhaps then, the voice of the people

Never was, the voice of God.

But rather, a collective wish

That could be casually dismissed.

Matilda Moyo

20.08.2018

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑