I got the hang of it! I can communicate in some Shona now and that makes life way easier. When children happily shout murungu* at me, I surprise them with Seke mutema!*. I feel fortunate: I can make someone’s day by just saying ‘hi’ and I can even deprive them of their sleep… some people say: ‘Aaah, she greeted me! I am not going to sleep tonight!’
For the grocery service company of a friend we are driving in the middle of nowhere on a horrible road that is primarily 99% covered with potholes. We try to find the address where we need to drop the bags of ‘mealie meal’; corn flour. It’s dark already and the car is driving on its last drops. Typical… in Zim people seem always to run out of fuel. About twenty times we ask for directions and every time we are sent somewhere else. Desperate as we are we even try to get informed by four drunken guys that stumble along the road. One of us suggests that we can’t find the address because many women don’t know the difference between left and right. ‘No offence’ he adds.
For sure, this trip for the grocery service company is not lucrative, but the fellow has just started his business and is still finding out what works and what doesn’t. It’s 11 pm when we finally get home and eat some tasty sadza and slimy okra for dinner. I stay over at my friend’s place so we can attend the famous Celebration church together next day.
My sissy and my mom
I didn’t tell yet, but I have a huge number of relatives in Zim. I’m bathing when someone in the corridor says ‘sister!’ I don’t pay attention because I am nobody’s sister in Zimbabwe and I continue pouring buckets of cold water over my head. The voice is talking in Shona now. After a while I hear the voice of my friend: ‘Taura chiRungu’* I realize the woman is actually talking to me and assumes there is a Shona-speaking girl in the bathroom. Excuse me sister! I think I’ll have to integrate some more. With this idea in mind, I push myself to act like everybody does. Another day I ask a complete stranger to help me and afterwards I thank her with maita basa Mama!* It feels like a small victory!
Speaking some Shona words and calling people ‘Mama’ is not enough however. My neighbor girls are determined to give me an African makeover. Finally I give in to them and I sit down at the famous hairdressing-rock in their garden where they always braid each other’s hair. They soon find out that it’s hard to turn somebody into a Shona. My hair is too soft to braid and I refuse to wear any make-up. Still there’s hope for me: my real sister in Holland showed me pictures of African fashion before I came to Zimbabwe. We were both so excited and I promised to bring her an African garment. Our dresses are now being made in the dressmaking workshop of Young Africa.
Best friends forever
Sitting at my table I am drawing with the neighbor boy. We both draw a lion and we let his younger brother decide which one is the most beautiful. I mention that I will be leaving Zimbabwe in some weeks. The seven-year old tries to make sense of this sad fact: ‘And then you go away and then I will miss you forever.’ Indeed, I will miss my big family so much, but hopefully not forever.
* murungu = white person
* Seke mutema = black person from Seke
* She speaks English
* thank you mom!