“So much of Chivanhu feels like this, people whispering around you never fully telling you what is going on. I used to think that it was because I was a child and they felt I just needed enough information to let me do as I was told. However, the older I get the more I think that as a people we no longer know why we do the things we do. We’re just going through the motions because we’re afraid to find out what might happen if we don’t. What if these ancestral spirits turn out to be real? If we did not perform the kurova guva then my uncle’s spirit could be wandering in the wilderness for all eternity. No matter how much we say we’re Christians, we find it hard to discard Chivanhu. It always calls us back. Even in Mass, it calls to us. The drums beat their ancient rhythm tugging at something long forgotten in our souls. Once again, we feel that familiar sense of longing but we cannot really say for what.”
I have to produce an essay for my nonfiction class on Thursday, so now feels as good a time as any to return to blogging. Safe to say that Graduate School has not cured me of my terrible procrastination. In fact it seems to feed it. Between teaching, classes and just trying to get grips with a new place, I’m left too exhausted to write, the thing I’m here for.
Wyoming is…different. I’ve been here for almost two months now, but it’s such a new experience that I really don’t know what to make of it yet. It’s weird being standing at the front of the class with the authority of teacher. In my head I’m always thinking, “But I’m just Chido. Why are these students looking at me like I actually know something?” But I do know something, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
The hardest adjustment though is being so far away from family. I’ve lived 1200 miles away from the closest family member. I can feel quite despondent when I think about that. Inevitably, I ask myself “Why am I here?” When I was in Denton, I never seemed to have a satisfying answer. An English degree didn’t quite seem reason enough to be so far away from home. I could have gotten that in Zimbabwe. But now, I ask myself why I’m here and instantly I feel better and can’t help but smile. I’m here to get an MFA in creative writing, here to experience a new part of America, here to learn my craft on someone else’s dime.
After 8 months of lollygagging, I’m back to actually working. My brain hurts from all the thinking and reading it has to do. But I have to admit, it feels great to be back in school.
When I abruptly stopped blogging in the middle of my thirty-day blogging challenge, I never thought that it would be almost three months before I returned to the blog. I was swept up by the helter-skelter of moving and it is only now that my head is bobbing above water. I last blogged on the 18th of April from the coziness of my first apartment in dear Denton. Now, 3 months, 2 countries, 3 cities, one bus ride and 5 flights later, I’m back. Here’s what I’ve been up to.
“Sometimes goodbye, though it hurts in your heart, is the only way for destiny.” – S Club, ‘Say Goodbye’
May marked the end of a beautiful 5-year love affair with the city of Denton. Saying goodbye made me sad, yet I knew that I had learnt everything I could there. Denton had given me all she could, and it was time to move on to new things and new lessons. But I’m still going to miss Denton, especially The Candy Store on the Square.
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” – Louis E. Boone
I spent most of June in South Africa taking in the beautiful sights of Kwazulu Natal. There really is no place like Africa. It took me a little longer than usual to get back into the groove of African life. I kept telling my mother, in exasperated tones, that people in this place have no respect for personal space. Personal space – that is definitely a concept a picked up in America.
There really is nothing like returning to a place that hasn’t changed to see how much you have. The last time I was in South Africa, I went to the beach every day hoping the ocean would tell me what to do with my life. Obviously, it didn’t. The ocean has no answers. But now I returned to the ocean with none of the fear, anguish and confusion of two years ago. And with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I always knew what I wanted to do. I just didn’t have the courage to say it out loud. But now I can boldly declare I AM A WRITER! Instead of thinking of all the things that could go wrong, I try to think only of the things I can control. I can’t change the current book market. I can’t change the odds of getting published. But I can show up every day at my desk, ready to write, ready to revise, ready to work at making my dreams come true.
“Home is where the heart beats the loudest and proud.” Freshlyground, ‘I am an African’
And now in July, I can finally say I’m home. It is no accident that my return to blogging has coincided with my return to Zimbabwe. This country inspires me. I didn’t get any writing done in my first 2 years of college. I kept trying to write stories about my new environment and failing miserably. Only when I started to write about Zimbabwe did the proverbial dam break.
The pace of life in Zimbabwe lends itself to writing. People just aren’t in as much of a rush as people in America. And here, I have no responsibilities, no job, no classes to go to, no homework. All I have is time.
And with that folks, there’s really only one thing left to say. I’m back where I belong.
I’m feeling like a room without a roof!
I woke up this morning at 6am humming “Hakuna Matata”. In the shower, I was singing Pharrell’s Happy. I walked out of the apartment to a gorgeous sight. It was a monkey’s wedding. There was a light drizzle and my heart leapt up at the sight of a large rainbow stretching across the sky. The sun was just above the horizon, a bright orange ball with warm rays stretching towards me.
Well, the sun is now hiding behind some nasty grey clouds, but still I feel happy. I’m just so freaking happy! I’m going to Grad School y’all!
This week was not as productive as I had hoped it would be. And by not productive I mean nothing was written. It was Spring break and take a break I did. Since there is nothing to report on the writing front, I’ll share with you an important realization I came to.
When we were kids in Zimbabwe, there was a game that we liked to play called Country Game. You would draw two circles, one large circle, and a smaller circle in the middle for the caller to stand in. You would divide the large circle into pieces, one piece for each person playing and everyone would get to pick which country they wanted to be. Everyone wanted to be the USA or England and no one wanted to pick somewhere poor like Burkina Faso or Zambia. Once everyone had picked their country, the caller would shout out one of the countries and everyone would run as fast as they could from the circle until the person whose country had been called ran back to the circle and yelled stop.
This game is such a great metaphor for my generation who find themselves scattered across the world trying to find better opportunities than those in Zimbabwe. We’re everywhere: America, Australia, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria. Just like in the game, we’re picking the rich countries trying to escape the poverty in Zimbabwe. I positively squealed with delight when this analogy came to mind. It was just so perfect. And I carried it in my head for a year, bringing it out from time to time to smooth out the edges, preparing for the day when I would commit it to paper. This was going to be my first Freshly Pressed blog post. I was sure of it!
So imagine my dismay upon reading the first chapter of NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names and discovering my perfect analogy used excellently by a writer much better than me. She stole my idea!
“Soon we are all busy drawing country-game on the ground, and it comes out great because today the earth is just the right kind of wet since it rained yesterday. To play country-game you need two rings: a big outer one, then inside it, a little one, where the caller stands. You divide the outer ring depending on how many people are playing and cut it up in nice pieces like this. Each person then picks a piece and writes the name of the country on there, which is why it’s called country-game.
But first we have to fight over the names because everybody wants to be certain countries, like everybody wants to be the USA and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and France and Italy and Sweden and Germany and Russia and Greece and them. These are the country-countries. If you lose the fight, then you just have to settle for countries like Dubai and South Africa and Botswana and Tanzania and them. They are not country countries, but at least life is better than here. Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti, like Sri Lanka, and not even this one we live in. Who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart?” NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names
Obviously, she did not steal my idea. She does not know I exist. But she does know the country game as do all the people who played it as a child. The leap from the game to the Zimbabwe diaspora is not large. Probably many people have made the same connection.
So what’s my point? If you come up with a good idea, you’re probably not the only person to have thought about it. So don’t bury it in a corner waiting for the day when you’ll be qualified enough, smart enough, relaxed enough or brave enough to make it happen because somewhere out there, someone is probably working on the same idea. You better beat them to it.
Writing Lesson of the Week
Today is the first day of the spring semester. It feels weird being surrounded by all these college students who are either excited about or dreading the new semester. I walk with them, but I’m not really a part of the group. After my graduation ceremony, it felt like everything had changed, but now I realize, everything is the same except me. Somehow, the town seems smaller. The things that used to excite me seem childish now. On graduation day, I felt like I was standing at on a great, big ship headed towards whatever was beyond the horizon, but now I find my ship still tethered to the familiar harbor that is college.
I think that’s why I’ve been feeling sad the last few weeks. For four and a half years, I steadily worked towards achieving one goal, and even though I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do after graduation, I knew that it would be something spectacular. Yet here I am still in the same place. I find myself in limbo, waiting on someone else’s opinion of my writing to decide what my next step is. I have no major goal I’m building towards at the moment, no reassuring syllabus laying out the road for the semester, and no real plans for the next few months.
In the past, I have not dealt with such gaps well. The day I got my O’ Level results, my dad said he was happy that I was finally going back to school because I was a miserable soul when I wasn’t in school. Six weeks after finishing high school, I went running back to piano lessons in search of a semblance of familiar routine. But this time, I think I’m going to embrace this feeling of being in-between. I’m going to do all the fun stuff that I never had time to do when I was busy writing papers. I’m going to take afternoon naps and not feel guilty about it. I’m going to get up at three in the morning to watch cricket matches in South Africa because I don’t have to go to class. But most importantly. I’m going to write, write and write. And when I’m done, I’m going to write some more. When next am I going to have so much time on my hands?
They say depression is normal after achieving a big goal. Athletes feel depressed after the Olympics or a World Cup as they come down from the high of competing, whether they win or not, because there is suddenly an emptiness in their life where a long-term goal used to be. Pensioners feel sad when they go into retirement. I’m sure even Beyoncé feels a little sad at the end of a long tour. Tired, relieved and excited about the next step, but still there is a little sadness at saying goodbye to something that occupied your life for so long. You return to your old life, but nothing is the same. Then you move on, get yourself some new goals and life continues
I had a terrible week last week. I got a bad cold that should have kept me in bed, but I had so much going on that I just had to push through. I had a mini panic episode because the reality of what exactly it means to take 6 classes (including an honors thesis) in one semester started to hit me. I really could turn this blog post into a long moan about all the things I have to do, but I’m not going to. I may have been down last week, but this week I rise again.
Lovely Lira! I love this lady so much. When you watch her perform, you can tell that this woman just loves her job to absolute bits. I want that. I want to be that in love with what I do. Lira was actually an accountant for a little while before she decided to ditch the safe route and follow her passion. And she made it because of hard work and perseverance. She made it because even when life knocked her down, she rose again.
Today, I’m choosing to take heart in Lira’s story. She’s an intelligent woman and I have a feeling that just like me, people always told her that smart people get jobs as doctors, lawyers and accountants, not singers or writers. Can you imagine the day she sent in her resignation letter? They must have all thought she was crazy. I bet those neighbors were whispering that she would be back begging for her job in 6 months. But she never looked back and she never would have become a successful singer if she had not taken a chance.
If I have learnt anything this year it’s that there will always be people who think your dreams are crazy and unrealistic. Very often the voice telling you it can’t be done is your very own. But at some point you have to let go of those voices and do what you really want to do. Every one of us is going to have regrets at the end of our lives. I’m choosing to minimize those regrets. Following my dreams may turn out to be the wrong decision, but even if I fail, I will rise again.