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Zimbabwe: Masking pain behind humor

Boy and goat
One of the jokes doing the round on social media in Zimbabwe. Source: Whatsapp Message.

Zimbabwe, a tiny southern African that has endured almost two decades of a downward spiral, boasts of one quality – that of resilience.

In reality, the nation is seething with anger and simmering in pain but hiding behind humor while hemorrhaging within.

Once the envy of many African nations and touted as the bread basket of Africa at independence in 1980, the nation has experienced various crises since 2000 and is now ranked among the poorest countries in the world.

Throughout its descent from prosperity to poverty, Zimbabweans have remained strong and adjusted their lifestyles to suit their changing fortunes, thus earning the admirable quality of resilience.

Indeed Zimbabweans ought to be commended for their survival skills, not too many nations would survive this kind of trauma.

The question that comes to mind is: how have Zimbabweans been surviving in spite of all they have been through?

There are many answers to this question that are probably influenced by various factors. Whatever the answer, one must admit that in addition to all the other coping mechanisms, humor has also played a significant role in helping Zimbabweans to cope with the myriad of challenges that have affected the nation.

Over the last two decades, Zimbabweans have sought comfort in humor while veiling their pain and suffering. Although the methods of spreading jokes have changed over time with technology and sharing tools becoming more sophisticated, the strategy has remained pretty much the same (see http://bit.ly/2qswHHX).

While in the past, humor about current affairs was confined to cartoons in newspapers and satirists in the theatre, the advent of social media has made it possible to share information about current affairs in creative but humorous ways. The most popular current methods of sharing jokes in Zimbabwe at the moment include whatsapp, facebook, twitter and youtube.

Over the years, social media has been awash with jokes about various issues affecting the country, with the most recent being the goat for fees saga.

Goat fee structure
Yet another joke on the goat fees saga. Source: Whatsapp Message.

For example, The Sunday Mail of 16 April 2017 (see http://bit.ly/2p3LhIC) quoted Zimbabwe’s Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora saying parents who could not afford to pay school fees for their children could do so using goats or labor. The remarks were immediately rebuffed and became the butt of jokes. Admittedly, payment of fees through livestock and produce, has been done before in rural areas to accommodate students whose parents did not have cash, while in urban areas, parents who could not afford fees sometimes contributed their skills. Although the practice was not wide-spread, it was usually an informal arrangement between the school leadership and the affected parents based on their circumstances. However, in a country facing a cash crisis and a myriad of economic challenges with no tangible solution in sight, the suggestion did not settle well with the populace. It came across as yet another failure to address the country’s economic problems and a retrogressive step towards archaic barter trade, hence it was ridiculed. The minister later called a press conference to clarify the issue following the public outcry against his suggestion, which was expressed mostly through jokes

Why turn to humor?

There are varying reasons why people turn to humor instead of facing up to situations and this could, in part, explain why Zimbabweans have opted for humor as a coping mechanism.

Some psychologists have described the use of humor as a “mature defense mechanism – a primarily adaptive technique to help us to cope with tense or stressful situations. Looking for a funny aspect in an environment in which we lack control can help us to endure it, and can even be an altruistic act in helping others to better cope as well.” (See http://bit.ly/2pLuDyr).

Our social construct and the fear of the consequences revealing our vulnerability are among the many reasons we choose to lighten up situations rather than deal with them (See http://bit.ly/1FfWtpj).

Dangers of hiding behind humor

mask
Source: https://brainmass.com

While humor is one of many normal coping mechanisms (See http://bit.ly/2pLuDyr) that help us to avoid embarrassment and confrontation, it has its dangers.

First and foremost, there is always the risk of trivializing a serious matter. Admittedly, by joking about some of these issues, Zimbabweans can better cope with them. However, the humor also dilutes the gravity of the situation. Matters that should be addressed are relegated to mere jokes, so we laugh and move on. Consequently, we all laugh about the situation and dismiss it without finding tangible solutions.

Secondly, while it helps us to avoid confrontation, the risk is that our point of view may not be taken seriously because we have chosen to reduce it to a joke. We create an excuse for those we should be confronting to disregard our concerns. We have all been in situations where we did not want to be confrontational, so we turned to humor, but what was the outcome? In the cases where I turned to humor, at some point, I still had to go back and address the issue more soberly because as long as I tried to be light hearted and joke about it, I was not taken seriously.

Thirdly, although it is a polite approach that prevents us from hurting other people’s feelings, we fail to communicate effectively. By turning a situation into a joke, we give the other party the option to dismiss our hurt and pain without addressing the matter at hand – after all, we have chosen to laugh about it so why should they take it seriously?
In the final analysis, hiding behind humor prevents both the aggrieved party and the perpetrator from taking action. Humor, while good, leads to a form of paralysis as no one is compelled to act. After all, it’s all a joke, right? So why should anyone take it seriously and act on it?

The painful truth

Zimbabweans have tried to deal with the issues affecting the country through various methods, with limited success. Indeed, the efforts of all the valiant women and men who have stood up against what they did not agree with regarding the economy, policy etc, should be acknowledged. However, such actions are often taken up by a brave few. The majority watch from the sidelines while joking about the various issues bedeviling the nation.

At some point, Zimbabweans will have to regroup, wake up to the reality that humor is not a strategy, and deal with issues. The country has been on a downward spiral for almost two decades. People have been assaulted with wave after wave of negative policies and economic decline, with each wave being more brutal than the previous one.

The painful truth is that the jokes will not bring a solution. They will not address the situation. They will simply bring temporary relief but at the end of the day, Zimbabweans remain in the same situation.

At some point, after the jokes have ceased and the sound of laughter has died down, Zimbabweans will have to get together and collectively address the issues confronting the nation. The country’s future and destiny are no longer a laughing matter.

Why ‘Lameck’ Struck A Chord With Me

Places that make history come alive

#BloggingChallenge Day 10: The best trip of my life!

Jordan, March 2014….

I love travelling and have visited a number of countries. Each trip has it’s unique memories.

However, my trip to Jordan in March 2014 was particularly pleasant and memorable. Of course nothing is ever perfect and like all trips, it had its pros and cons. Most notable among the cons was the cost of the trip. The visit was particularly expensive because of the strength of the Jordanian Dinah, which made my US dollars quite worthless. At that time 1 JD was equivalent to US 70 cents and shopping was a nightmare.

mount_nebo-siyagha_jordan_2009
Mt. Nebo. Photo: Wikipedia

Nonetheless, it was a memorable trip for one reason. It made the Bible come alive for me. It was interesting to actually see and be in places that I had only read about in the Bible in the past. Among these were Mount Nebo, where Moses was buried, the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized and the Dead Sea, where everything floats.

 

I also visited Jerash, the ruins of an ancient Roman City and for a while, I was taken back in time and immersed in a totally different world. The historical sites transported me to another era where I was able to appreciate past influences on modern architecture as I walked through the ruins of what was once a great city. As I was shown an old Roman grave, I realized the true meaning of the biblical statement about the “stone being rolled away.”

On my way to Jordan, I passed through Egypt where I saw the River Nile for the first time. I’ve since seen the Nile from other countries, but Egypt remains special as it was my maiden encounter with the majestic river.

I also went to the pyramids and visited a papyrus museum, where I had my name written in hieroglyphics.

tut-ausstellung_ffm_2012_47_7117819557
The burial mask of Tutankhamun. Photo:Wikipedia

Being in Egypt was particularly significant for me from both a biblical and education perspective. Learning about Egypt was part of my form two history syllabus. It was fascinating to see facts that I had crammed to pass an examination at the age of 14 being transformed from dead text to real life as the tour guides and museum staff narrated their country’s history aided by the images and monuments that I was seeing. Names like Tutankhamun took on a new meaning as I was taken back in time.

 

I also rode on a camel. Although this was not my first camel ride, the significance of being in Egypt made the experience weightier than previous ones.

Afterwards, I was taken to a beauty spa and got a brief introduction to Cleopatra’s beauty secrets.

History and the Bible became palpable. They ceased to be text whose interpretation was confined to my limited imagination, and became real.

At the end of it all, I’m glad I went there and that trip remains among the most memorable of my wonderful travels.

Food glorious food!

#BloggingChallenge Day 11: Ten of my favourite foods!

Not difficult to list my 10 favourite foods at all, but oh, just listing them makes me want to binge.

OK, here goes!

1. Ice-cream

roloI love ice-cream. Just thinking about it makes me want to drive to the shops and get some. I particularly like Nestle’s rolo ice-cream, a rich mix of chocolate infused with choc chip and toffee. Yummy…

 

2. Chocolate

This is my addiction. I understand it’s normal though for women to crave for chocolate, particularly towards the menstrual cycle. I love chocolate anytime, although I crave for it more at other times.

I remember a time when I’d get an uncontrollable craving for chocolate and my period would start just after I satisfied that craving. I became very curious and that’s when I read up on it and realized my cravings were normal. Some scientists argue that it is more psychological than physiological. Whatever the reason, I love chocolate!

I particularly like Cardbury’s milk chocolate and Lindt dark chocolate, especially when it partially melts from the warmth of my fingers before I eat it. There’s a limit though. I can only take 100g or less per day.

3. Custard

Milk, custard powder and a little brown sugar are a must have in my home. These three ingredients top my shopping list where ever I live for more than a month. I make my own custard, to the consistency that I like. Some days I like it thick and at other times I prefer to have it runny depending on what I’ll serve it with.

4. Banoffee Pie

banoffeeI don’t know how to make this, but the Bottom Drawer, a coffee shop in Harare, Zimbabwe makes the best Banoffee pies. Mmmmm, that luxurious topping of toffee, banana slices and whipped fresh cream in a crusty pie is enough to kill my weight loss goals. I only eat it once in a while though. Those ingredients, eaten too often, could easily push one towards obesity.

The Bottom Drawer also make lovely pot pies, another of my favorite foods.

5. Cake

Carrot cake is my favorite. My mom also makes lovely coconut chews and I bake the best ginger loaf. I guess because these have carrot, coconut and ginger, I can fool myself into believing I’m ingesting something healthy.

6. Seafood

paprika-garlic-prawns-and-calamari-88724-1I particularly like prawns and calamari. Strangely, I’m also allergic to prawns. For a long time I wondered why my mouth and throat itched every time I ate prawns. I assumed the problem was with the chef and the recipe, until sometime last year when I ate seafood immediately after a visit to the orthodontist which had resulted in a cut in my mouth. As my friend and I ate our scrumptious seafood dinner, my mouth started swelling. My friend watched in horror from across the table as my mouth changed shape with each mouthful.

Although my mouth itched intensely, I ate heartily and enjoyed my meal. I then realized that I was actually allergic to seafood and resolved to ensure that there are no cuts in my mouth whenever I eat it. A few days ago, I had my nails done before a seafood dinner. The finger that I used to pull the prawns from their shells itched and swelled as I ate. I guess I’ll have to eat seafood before I visit the orthodontist and manicurist. I can handle the itching but not the swelling.

7. Fish

However, it has to be deboned, coated in either batter or bread crumbs and ready to be thrown into the oven.

8. Fruits and vegetables

In spite of my terribly sweet tooth, I try to eat healthily. I try as much as possible to stick to a five a day diet, that is, a combination of five fruits and vegetables daily. The more colour I have in a meal, the healthier it is, so I try to include a variety of vegetables in each meal. I also snack on a fruit salad and make it with a minimum of three different fruits. I juice up a lot too, mixing at least two different fruits and herbs in my juices. I particularly like water melon, ginger and orange. I also like banana and avocado with milk, although I drink that alone – my family members find it disgusting. I also like to throw chopped fruits and raisins in my salads to sweeten them.

9. Ginger, lemon and honey mix

Java House in Kenya still makes the best dawa as they call it, but I’m getting there. I mix my own dawa and I believe it’s beginning to taste more and like the one at Java’s.

10. Nuts

nutsI love nuts, cashew, ground, pecan, almonds – you name it. I eat them raw, roasted, toasted in honey or boiled. I throw them in rice, cereal and stews just to give my food that crunch. At any given time, you’ll find me with a minimum of two types of nuts. My former boss once asked me if I lived on nuts – he’d never seen me eating anything else.

When I got my braces a year ago, the orthodontist advised me to avoid a number of hard foods, including nuts. I’ve stuck to most of his advice, except that which bars me from eating nuts. I learnt how to eat nuts with braces, thanks to a friend who also had braces at that time and would not give up her love for nuts.

5 Current Goals

Blogging Challenge Day 8: 5 current goals

Hmmm, now that’s a tough one, not necessarily because I do not have goals, but rather, because I prefer to keep certain things to myself. Nonetheless, since I committed to this blogging challenge, here goes.
1. To have my first child
2. To get my PhD.
3. To set up a trust that funds education for disadvantaged girls.
4. Move up in my career
5. Embark in more meaningful financial investments.
That’s it in a nutshell.

15 Essential Handbag Items

Blogging Challenge: Day 9 – What’s in your handbag

Ooooh, this challenge is becoming increasingly personal, pushing me to share more and more intimate details about my life.

For most people sharing such details is probably normal, but for very private individuals who are introverts like me it’s a lot to ask.

Anyway, here goes – and note, these are essential.

A book to read.

A Prison Diary.jpgIn my case it’s “A prison diary” volume III by Jeffrey Archer
This is the latest book I’m reading and I’ve just started it. So far, it’s interesting, but then again, I love Jeffrey Archer and enjoy everything he writes. This helps to fend off boredom in case I find myself with extra time on my hands, e.g in a service queue that is not moving.

Personal Organizer

Purchased in March 2013, my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet has become my reliable companion and personal assistant. I take it wherever I go and use it to organize my life. It has outlived most of my other gadgets and is extremely handy.

Mobile Phone

Mine is a Samsung A8. I’m sure it’s clear by now that I’m an android loyalist. This is my back up companion and most essential for communication.

Kleenex facial tissue pack

Absolutely necessary for all sorts of emergencies, the chief one being a sudden runny nose caused by an allergy or the urge to cry – although the latter hasn’t happened to me yet.

Powerbank

Another necessity in case the gadget battery dies while one is on the move, particularly given the unpredictability of life.

Earrings

Always handy, in case of a change of plan – particularly on the social scene.

Used up boarding passes

Just returned to Harare from spending time with family in Bulawayo (the City of Kings) today and am yet to clean out my handbag. This is not essential but happens to be in my bag. However, they may be a useful alibi.

Black pocket diary

This is actually not mine. It’s my Mom’s. We had one of our quality time days and went shopping together. I was responsible for writing the to do and shopping lists and ticking our achievements. After running our errands, I packed the notebook in my handbag and forgot to return it to my mom. Nonetheless, it’s a must have. Sometimes technology fails and one must have a little booklet close at hand to note down important things.

Receipt for household items I bought today

This is self explanatory. Also not essential but happens to be in my bag. May be useful as proof of purchase in case of a complaint so may be good to keep them for some days.

Perfume, cosmetic and make up pouch

Yes, I’m a woman and love to smell good. So, in my pouch I have some fragrant scents locked up in tiny bottles. Armani mania – just a few drops left in the bottle, Armani code – virtually empty, Bvugari Jasmine Noir – now empty but still in my bag, Givenchy – Very Irresistible and Victoria’s Secret Escape mist. I also have vitamin E oil,  hand lotion and some make up items.

Septonia anti-bacterial wet wipes pack

Bacteria are lurking everywhere and its best to be safe and disinfect your hands frequently, especially before you eat! Sometimes we find ourselves far from clean water but need to snack or use clean hands. These wet wipes are very hand and easy to carry. I throw them everywhere, including my car, office, laptop and camera bags.

Purse

I guess the contents are the same for most people. Bank cards, identity documents, driver’s license and cash that I will only part with when I can’t swipe.

Keys

Of course, car and house keys.

Pen

Mostly for signing documents and in case technology fails and I have to write something in my little notebook.

Flash disk

In case there’s no internet connection and I need to save some information.

Glass case with two sets of daily disposable contact lenses

Self explanatory.

Emergency kit

Some accidents can be avoided by carrying an emergency case like this one. This hasn’t just saved me, but also comes in handy when fellow women find themselves in distress. The kit contains tampons and pads in all shapes and sizes in order to meet a broad range of needs – ie, mine and those of the next woman who may find herself in a situation. I was a girl guide and our motto was: “Be prepared.” Prior to that, I was a Brownie and our motto was: “Lend a hand.” I guess those two mottos are deeply ingrained in my conduct.

So, in just over 700 words, I have publicized what I would normally consider to be private by sharing what’s in my handbag.

Of strange dreams, analysis & interpretation

I had a very strange dream last night. I dreamt that I was among 11 people from different countries and we were sitting in a waiting area similar to one at an airport. I don’t know what we were wai…

Source: Of strange dreams, analysis & interpretation

Of strange dreams, analysis & interpretation

I had a very strange dream last night. I dreamt that I was among 11 people from different countries and we were sitting in a waiting area similar to one at an airport.

I don’t know what we were waiting for or where we were going, but there we were.

The interesting part of the dream was that if you did something horrible to another person, a calamity similar to the natural disasters that your country is prone to would immediately befall you.

So, if your country is prone to avalanches, you’d immediately be snowed in, right there, in that room! If your country is prone to veld fires, your hair would be singed instantly and if you’re from a flood prone place you’d be soaked in water in a moment!

Only a few people in the dream misbehaved and instantly experienced the consequences of their mischief. I was not among them, just a silent observer in all this.

Not sure why on earth I’d have such a strange dream, but wonder if somewhere in my subconscious mind I felt let down by someone.

I’m not sure what Sigmund Freud would make of this dream, but here’s what I think…

First, in this world that is a global village, we meet all sorts of people from diverse backgrounds. Considering that only a few people misbehaved, my conclusion is that the majority of people on this planet are kind and well meaning.

However, there will always be a few nasty people. I will not use the cliché of a rotten apple in the midst of many good ones, but that’s a fact of life.
Pareto had it right with the 80/20 rule. In this case though, it’s the 80 per cent that are good and 20 per cent that are mean.

Secondly, there are consequences to our behavior, whether good or bad.

Lastly, our transportation to our destination eventually arrived and it was time to go.

The conclusion?

We meet all kinds of people, some good and others bad, some will mess you up but most are too busy getting on with their lives and at some point we all move on and life goes on.

So, just be kind to people, you have nothing to lose a world of possibilities to gain!

Music, the food of the soul

#BloggingChallenge Day 7: My favourite songs

First, before I list my favourite songs, allow me to share a poem I wrote about music some years ago. It sums up my sentiments about music, which I think of as the food of the soul.

Le Musique!

The musician
Tugs the strings of my heart
As he strums the guitar
And caresses my ears
With the saxophone
While stirring my being
With the drum
And soothing my soul
With his voice.

Such joyous sounds
Creating beautiful medleys
That awaken
Countless memories
Tinged with regrets
Endless hopes
For better things to come
Diverse sentiments
About people, places and things
What more can a woman ask?

By Matilda Moyo
04 November, 2010

If music is the food of the soul, then this is what’s on the menu today.

A natural thing by Earl Klugh

Alone in a strange place by Sipho Gumede

Something inside so strong by Labi Siffre

Weeping by Bright Blue

The greatest love of all by Whitney Houston

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