Do African immigrants suffer mental illness?

Many of you may not know what else I do on a day to day basis. I work with adults suffering from mental illness. It is a challenging job but very rewarding in many ways. It’s always a good feeling when you see people’s mental health improve when you work with them. It’s those golden moments when you see the little glimmer of hope creep back into a young depressed mother’s life after you’ve spoken to them.  When you reassure a distressed father that their life is still worth living and they don’t need to take a bunch of tablets so they could sleep forever. But not all cases are hopeful and successful, I’ve found in my job, and that’s a painful realisation for many mental health practitioners. Not every depressed person gets well and certainly some suicidal people succeed in ending their lives and that’s the part that is challenging to us. The mental illness that we seem to be dealing with more now originates from social, financial and relationship problems such as family issues, housing and occupational issues, debt and drink and drugs. There is an even stronger correlation between mental illness and poverty since the credit crunch. All these problems cause stress which may lead to hopelessness, feelings of failure, guilt, domestic disputes, depression and even psychosis.

As an African working in mental health services what I’ve realised too is, contrary to the general belief among African immigrants that we ‘Africans’ are stronger and made of sterner stuff and we do not succumb to these European diseases of the mind, that a lot of African immigrants are slowly seeking help from mental health services. The socio-economic factors affect us equally. It is well known that in Africa people do not really seek help for such ‘minor’ problems and I myself hardly knew of depression whilst in Africa and all suicides I heard of were successful suicides. It is also well known that in Africa people still enjoy that communally protective social structure where families help their own. A strong family structure that supposedly cushions life stressors and eventualities as depression,  bereavement and loss and even poverty. Despite the numerous problems in Africa it is very common to meet jovial,  chatty, extremely hopeful and spiritual people everyday.

The danger therefore that is faced by African immigrants in the first world countries is to still carry that belief that family is always around to cushion the life stressors like ‘back home’.We clearly know that is not the case in the diaspora. Some travelled alone from Africa and are desperately isolated and lonely. Some travelled with families of course but the pressures of work,  education and their own lives means they have no time for people bringing their own problems. Is it not true that we are more distant from each other as family in the diaspora than we were in Africa? That we see more of our work colleagues than our brothers and aunties? That we have learnt to talk about stress and depression too as the indigenous population? Could it not therefore be said we are now equally susceptible to the stressors of life as they are? We will suffer depression and we will feel suicidal. At worst we will even induce psychosis through our lifestyle choices. This could explain the increasing number of Africans that are requiring help from mental health services. What it means more importantly is as we assimilate into a different world and environment we should be aware that we will soon be affected by that environment and we should be prepared. Let us also remove the stigma around mental illness and seek help sooner rather than later.

 

Posted in Inspirational, Short Story adventures | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 7pm meeting

Seemingly rallied and buoyed by the spirited advice from her colleagues at work on how to deal with her philandering husband, Rejoice marched up Simpson crescent to her home with a fool-proof plan. Or at least she thought it so. She balanced a head full of a deviously canny scheme to once and for all curtail her husband’s harlotting ways. A scheme so forth-rightly brutal she couldn’t help but chuckle to herself as she fished out her keys from her huge brown hand bag to open her front door. Inside the house she knew she would find Panashe watching TV as usual instead of doing his homework and Precious on the iPad chatting to her friends on Facebook. They would say daddy went out. Panashe would say daddy went back to work but Precious would just snigger and call Panashe stupid. At ten Precious thought she knew it all. She had heard the arguments between her mother and father and she had begun to laugh sometimes when her father dropped her off at home and said he was going back to work around five pm.  No lecturer works after five in the evening. Does he think she’s stupid. Does he think she doesn’t know he is going to meet one of his many white girlfriends? The real reason why he is never at home and they hardly do anything together as a family anymore. On one occasion she sarcastically asked her mother why daddy always had lectures after five pm.”Even university students finish around five. Certainly not until 11pm”. Her mother did not know how to respond to this and she shouted at Precious to keep quiet and go to bed.
When Rejoice opened the door Panashe was sitting on the sofa munching on a packet of crisps. Two empty packets lay immediately below him on the floor. Precious was not on her usual seat by the computer. She must be upstairs, Rejoice thought. Perhaps finally doing her homework without prompting.
“Hi mum!” Panashe shouted without moving his fixed gaze from the TV. Rejoice was used to this now. Just a casual recognition of her presence by her family. Peter her husband was the worse of them. He was just an absent. An effigy of a husband and when he was around, which was very rare lately. He never looked at her with those loving longing eyes the way he used to do when they were at university. He would call her “sugar munch”, look at her in his puffy befuddled eyes before he drew her closer to kiss her. They would spend many nights lying awake staring at the ceiling in his nurse’s hostel on his creaky single bed. She loved the way they would cross their legs over each other and pull each other even closer to squeeze their frames on the small bed. Now he slept on the far end of their queen bed, with a distance as large as the Sahara desert between them. If they ever touched in bed it would only be by accident when he turned and threw his arms across the bed fast asleep. She still longed for his touch though. But today she was going to stop all this once and for all. Rejoice went upstairs and knocked on Precious’ door. The huge signs on the door “Keep Out”, “Enter at your own peril” and ” Knock before you enter” just reminded her how quickly things were changing around the house. Her daughter becoming a prepubescent recluse, always preferring her own company or that of her friends on social network. Her son fast becoming an obese sloth. A lot had changed and Rejoice wondered if Peter had even noticed any change at all in this family. Behind the fortified door Precious was sitting on her bed listening to music on her iPod whilst chatting on the iPad and phone. When Rejoice finally got her attention, she slowly and deliberately paused her music, flipped her iPad over and put her phone away.
“Are you going to see your friend Sally later?, Rejoiced asked without any greeting. She had learnt to get straight to the point with Precious now.
“Why?” Precious rolled her eyes and picked her phone up again.
“I’m just asking?”
“No!”
“Okay then!” Rejoice left the room with a slight grin. This would work perfectly for her plan.
In her room she retrieved her phone from her bag and a diary from the wardrobe and sat on the bed. Her first message was to Sam. Sam was the first person to raise Rejoice suspicions about her Peters’ cheating. Sam would text or call at odd times. At first she thought Sam was one of Peter’s male university friends. But when one day she saw a text message reading’I miss you’ her world was shuttered. She started suspecting that Sam may not be just a university friend. In fact he may not even be male as she had assumed. When she sneaked her husbands’ phone into the toilet again to make sure she had read the correct message from Sam, the message was gone. So she noted Sam’s number and transcribed it on her diary. From then she started monitoring all the other phone calls and messages from even male names and through this she was convinced about six males on her husbands’ phone book were not really male friends. There was Vincent, Jordan, Tindo, lizwe and Ray.

The message she was going to send was long and just straight to the point.
Hello, my name is Rejoice Makande. I am Peter’s wife and have been for the last 10 years. We have two beautiful children together. I know it is very likely that you were not aware that Peter was a married man. Well, he is! He has lied to you and his family. As a woman like you I would not stand for this. I therefore invite you to my house at 7 pm so we can resolve this just the two of us. I should not need to stress how bad this will appear to your family and work colleagues to know that you were involved in an affair with a married man. So I shall see you later. Mai T. She then included her address. The message was forwarded to all six women.  She then sent a message to her husband saying that Panashe ‘ s school had some grave concerns about his behaviour such that the headmaster and someone from social services were coming to the house at 19:30. She knew he would be there. He would do anything for Panashe. Proudly satisfied with what she had done she lay down on her bed struggling to wipe a naughty smile on her face.
To be continued.

Posted in Short Story adventures | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Of assumptions, conclusions and vexations.

The lounge is a good size. Not too big and not too small either. Two brown settees are forming an L shape in the open space and about five armchairs are dotted randomly throughout the room. The man with a thin ponytail showing off his tattoos on his arms is sitting on the back of one of the settees with one  leg swinging free. The girl peppered in pimples across her face is admiring the tattoos from afar. She’s feigning interest.

“This one is snakes in flowers, right. When I ripple my muscles yeah, you see the snakes move about, you know warra mean?” The pony-tailed man says as he lightly brushes his left arm without rippling his muscles. I can only make out a mosaic of green and orange ink on his arm from where I’m sitting . His tattoo climbs up from his wrist to his arm and disappears under a black T-shirt.

The man has thin graying hair and a balding patch on the top of his head shines through the strips of hair that he has somehow managed to tie in a note at the base of his head.

“Wow, thatf naith. I wouldn’t get a tattoo though, I’m too scared!” The young girl has lisp. It’s strange as I’ve not come across a person with lisp for a long time. I try not to let my mind be drawn to her mouth as she speaks.

“On this side”, the man continues, “ It’s a dragon in water!” I can’t see him show his arm to the girl as I am shielded by his body.

“Where do you go for your tattooth?” The girl hisses as she studies the art on his arm. My mind wanders at this point as I’m not really interested in the conversation. I can still hear the girl hissing far away from my mind as she questions the tattooed man.

“See on my back I got this one right” the man fumbles through his trouser pocket and pulls out a couple of pictures. Somehow I’m relieved he’s not pulled off his T-shirt to show his tattoo.

“You know the film the Grudge?” I know that scary film, I think.

“Oh yeah thath like the girl in it.” The girl inspects the picture with the tattoo.

“Yeah so if you spend a night with me, that’s what you’ll wake up to. He he he.” Wow, how did that slip so easily into the conversation, i’m shocked? The girl laughs it off and continues hissing about something else. Now she’s talking about her stiff neck and how on holiday in Tenerife only the sea relaxed and massaged her neck.

“I’m always juth thtiff around my neck. And I think thath what givth me a headache?”

“Are you sure it’s not like sexual tension?” Mr Ponytail laughs awkwardly.

“No no no, theriouthly, feel here, here”, the girl moves backwards to Mr Ponytail, stretches her neck and leans to the right to expose her shoulder for him to touch.

“Feel how tenth I am.”

“I’m not sure you’ll want me to do that!” Laughs Mr Ponytail as he swings his leg frantically from where he is sitting. He feels for the tension quietly. I’m studying his face now as I’m beginning to raise an eyebrow here. His hands linger a bit longer than necessary and when he finally lets go he just nods his head. I’m not sure if he is nodding because he agrees with what the girl is saying or due to some other reason. Another man walks into the lounge as I ponder over Mr Ponytail’s sexually deviant mannerisms. This man is wearing a smart sky blue shirt underneath a dark blue jumper. He has a uniform golden stubble that runs from one cheek, all over his head and to the other cheek. He gingerly greets everyone in the lounge. He talks fast, a nervous but forceful talk. His voice and words rush out of his mouth as if they are fleeing an apparition. Both his hands are buried deep into his trouser pockets He spots me sitting on the armchair and rushes straight to me.

“Hi how you doing? Are you new here? I’m Steve!” He digs out a hand from the grap of his pocket and throws it in front of me.

“I’m new, nice to meet you!” I shake his soft clammy hand and then surreptitiously wipe it on my trouser as I shift about in the chair.

“Did you have to come from far? I ask as he is now standing there towering over me with a static smile and without a word.

“Actually I live not far from here. Newton. Do you know it?” I tell him I don’t know where the place is and that I had to drive from Wolverhampton, an hour away and that I was not pleased. I have to say this. You’re almost expected to complain about everything in this country as I’ve learned. You can’t just say “Oh yeah, I drove from Wolverhampton, I know it’s an hour away but I’m fine with it really.” You can’t say that. Besides you kill the conversation. You have to complain. If you cannot complain about the weather find something else to complain about. So I tell him how displeased I am to have driven this far for work. But he used to live in Wolverhampton and so as we exchange our common knowledge of places in Wolverhampton, he  Instantly makes me his best friend and finally takes one hand out of his pocket and relaxes.

A black girl walks in soon after. She is late and she smiles at everyone. Anyone. She mouths “Hello” to anyone. I’m trying to guess which African country she comes from. Yes I’ve been doing this a lot lately. If It’s women, the hair, the clothes and sometimes the make up always gives this away. With the men, it’s slightly complicated without listening out for the accent. Sometimes a closer inspection of the size and shape of the head may help. She’s from Nigeria.

“My ex wife used to annoy me. Each time we bought a car she would insist on choosing the colour. And she names the cars too. The last one was called Kevin. Fuckin weird woman!” Mr Ponytail is saying, still talking to the lips girl.

Mr Pockets has left me now and moved to the corner of the room as quickly as he had approached me. I’m tired of sitting now and I decide to stand. It’s time to be cordial and make conversation. Sometimes this is the most difficult part for an African immigrant. So I naturally gravitate towards the Nigerian woman.

“Hi, are you Nigerian?” I get straight to the point. There’s no need for pleasantries here. She’s African. She understands. I’m smiling because I know I’m right. She looks slightly startled by my bluntness, but she confirms anyway.

“Okay, which part?”

“Which part do you know?” She turns now with an I-dare-you-name-one-place look. Instantly, I regret trying to show off my knowledge.

“Are you Hausa or Igbo?” That’s all I know about Nigeria.

“I’m Igbo!” I paddle out of that one.

“Okay.”

“Where do you live here?” She is direct too.

“Wolverhampton.”

“I live in Birmingham myself. So I go with you to Wolverhampton train station!” I’m not sure if this is a request or a command. Has a random Nigerian woman I’ve just met told me that I am to take her all the way to Wolverhampton train station?

“So I go with you.” She repeats. “Aaah but I bought ticket for twenty six pound.” She stops and considered. I stop and consider this.

“No! I go with you!” She has concluded. Within five minutes of meeting this Igbo woman she has assumed and concluded that I will take her to the train station. Never mind what I thought. All she is bothered about was the money she was going to lose (now that I’m taking her to the train station.

Hmmm- an utter vexation of the mind and spirit.

 

 

Posted in Short Story adventures | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

We need new names

‘Oh that’s an unusual name! Umm Ka hoo li. How do you say that?’ Asked the burly nurse peering over his glasses as he traced my name on the paper with his pen.

‘It’s Ummcooloolee. Or just call me Ummcoo‘, I smiled as I fumbled for my ID badge from my bag which I pressed hard on the table in front of him.

‘I’m gonna struggle with this…don’t you have a christian name? How about if we call you Mark, for today?’

‘How about if I called you Susan for today sir?’ He dropped his pen and his jaw, looked up at me and adjusted his spectacles quietly. My point. That was exactly my point. Needless to say the man did not attempt to pronounce, let alone remember my name for the rest of the shift that day. Any communication between the two of us was conveyed through a third party. But the work got done regardless.

What I meant by ‘exactly my point’ is, no one wants their name to be changed to suit the caller. Your name is your identity. It is you. You cannot exist without your name but your name can exist without you.  So when you’re dead and gone the mention of your name will conjure up beautiful memories of you, or the contrary for that matter. Therefore your name is sacred as it becomes intertwined and interwoven with your personality. In fact, some of our names can even shape people’s personalities. For instance how many Netsai’s (Trouble) do you know that do not live up to the meaning of their name? I sincerely apologose to all the good and genteel Netsai’s of this world. It’s just that you may be outnumbered by the true Netsai’s. Many African names that I know not only have meaning but they usually tell a story about what was happening or in the thoughts of the parents around the time of birth. My name (Mkhululi, incase you didn’t know) and it means the liberator. I was born during the months when the whole of now Zimbabwe was pregnant with the expectation of independence. The freedom fighters were battling the occupiers in the jungle while our African leaders were conducting serious talks with the same occupiers to try and gain our independence . Independence was gained for Zimbabweans eventually. So I brought liberation. Of course explaining to many of my white friends that my name means that I brought liberation to my people may sound patriotic, even heroic, but it’s not cool. It’s not sexy. So I’ve been telling people my name means I bring liberation to women…yeah baby! Alas, never really works.

On a serious note though. I’m sure many of us with the complicated, tongue-twisting, mouth-drying, teeth-breaking unChristian names full of consonants have had one or two names suggested for us. Some of us may have even forgotten our real names as we adopted the given name. I’ve heard of some African gentleman that actually legally changed his name because his African name was not only too complicated to pronounce but was just even embarrassing to say within his African community.  Sometimes we really do blame our parents that take upon the English language as flies on shit. Only because the English word rolls nicely on the tongue. Yes, it sounds educated. No wonder some children were named Xenophobia in South Africa during the Xenophobic attacks. Some were named Talkmore, because it sounds good. It’s English.
An adopted name is difficult to adjust to. It takes constant conscious effort not only to remember it but to associated yourself with it and answer to it. However it is well known that many African immigrants have to undertake conscious constant effort just to survive in foreign lands and therefore a simple name change is only but a fart in a storm.

Sometime ago I learned of two young boys direct from kwaZvimba in Zimbabwe who found themselves spewed onto the streets of London by Air Zimbabwe courtesy of a sponsoring generous distant uncle. In the 90s it was possible to land in the UK in the morning for the first time after a ten and a half hour flight from Zimbabwe and go straight to work on a night shift. Of course. Why not? Who do you think was going to support all those you left behind in Zimbabwe?
Well such was the case of the Zvimba boys. Even though they could not make the night shift, they were quickly dispatched to work the following morning by their very eager uncle.
‘Youuuuu! You name is now Nixon, and that’s your NI number! And youuu your name is now Nathan and this is your NI number’. Uncle Nobert barked as he stuffed crumpled pieces of paper with scribbled NI numbers in Guvaratsva and Zendemu’s pockets.
‘Don’t forget them!’ With that he shoved them into the agency office and departed. So Nathan and Nixon entered a replete full office as completely new people. New names, new identities, new clothes and new steel-toe capped shoes. They will be called as work came along and dispatched accordingly. In the meantime they were to sit and wait for their names to be called. After sitting quiet for over an hour they couldn’t contain it any longer. They needed to share with each other the experiences they’ve had of England so far. They needed to pinch each other.
‘ I can’t believe this is us!’ Nathan started.
‘ I know shaaa!’ Replied Nixon looking around, suddenly feeling free.
‘ Shaa, would you say it was us that were swimming in the dam naked only the other day? Exclaimed Nathan as they both tried to stifle a giggle.

‘Did you see all the new cars…?’

‘Nathan and Nixon!’The receptionist was calling as the two quickly immersed themselves into a game of ‘Did you see that’

It was after several minutes of shouting Nathan and Nixon and still only after someone physically shook the Zvimba boys that they realised it was them that was being called. They had forgotten their new names. As the Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo aptly puts it in the title of her novel ‘We need new names’, maybe we really do need new names to survive in foreign lands. From now on call me Mark.

Posted in Inspirational, Short Story adventures | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sending our children to Africa for discipline!

Okay so I wasn’t going to write about this but the more I related the story of this woman’s experiences to my friends, seeing the lack of shock in their faces, the more I realised it was such a regular and common issue that still required to be explored and discussed at length. As first generation immigrants in foreign lands how do we deal with our wayward teenage children? On one of my nocturnal work duties I happened to be working with 2 middle-aged Zimbabwean women. One stern and concrete as a park attendant, the other, ditzy and frazzled as a deer caught in headlights. Such fun. Mrs Concrete appeared terribly troubled by something. She repeatedly snuck off into a secluded corner to make phone calls to someone who didn’t seem to want to answer her calls. We therefore ventured asking what seemed to be getting her knickers in a twist (shouldn’t really be saying this to elders, especially Mrs Concrete). Alas, it was her 25 year old son living in the city of Johannesburg who had not thought it wise to be within the safety of the family home on a Friday night. Such a wayward ‘child’. When we carefully laughed off Mrs Concrete’s ludicrous concern over her 25-year-old hot-blooded son out on a Friday night in Johannesburg, she sternly warned  us of the dangers of the city of Johannesburg.
‘Don’t you know that in Jo’burg, Thursday, Friday and Saturday people get paid, and on the same days a lot of people get killed? He needs to be home, sleeping!’

Well, true to the fact as that may have been, those that have lived in Jo’burg know that ones’ life is equally in danger in the safety of their bed even on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

‘When my daughter was 7…’ Mrs Concrete continued with an even sterner no nonsense look. Anyway, one day her daughter brought home a piece of paper with a phone number of the children social services from school. The teacher had told them to ring the number if they were ‘abused’ by their parents. It so happened that Mrs Concrete required her daughter to clean the dishes in the kitchen one afternoon. By the way this is a normal chore required of children in certain cultures. When the imp, now equipped with the social services lifeline in cases of abuse, declined and told the mother she will never clean dishes again as that was tantamount to child abuse. Now those of us who grew up in the times of abundant vegetation in Africa know very well where such kind of talk would lend you. Your mother would just reach out and de-branch a nearby tree and with the other hand hanging you up-side-down by your leg, lay upon your backside so severely such that for the following few days you would forget how it felt like to sit on one’s backside.

Fortunately for young imp, Britain is mostly a concrete jungle with an abundance of slippers. One stray slipper was therefore grabbed by Mrs Concrete and a quick successive ‘Pa Pa Pa!’delivered on the poor child’s bottom. Now she wailed of true abuse of the severest kind and wanted to ring social services immediately. The mother quietly furnished her with a home phone ( free to phone all UK numbers remember) and demanded she phoned social services immediately. When the child could not phone social services another Pa Pa Pa was delivered, just for dishing out empty threats.
Now many people could see Mrs Concrete’s actions as abusive and unloving. Many would want the child to be removed from her home and her jailed. Others would pat Mrs Concrete on the back for trying to instil discipline and respect on the child, while they themselves would not do it.
But how do we deal with our children that are straying away from cultural values of respect , humility and love.

Many of us have heard of stories of African  parents that have been to jail for smacking their children. Or that have lost their children to social services altogether because they hit them. Some parents have given up and their children run the streets like marauding homeless thugs. Some parents have even gone to the extent of duping their children into visiting, uncles, aunties and grand parents in Africa only to dump them there within well vegetated areas .

One woman who from the fear of social services kept a detailed diary of the occasions her daughter was rude to her, challenged her and swore at her,visited an uncle in Zimbabwe with the daughter. You can guess what happened with the branches of the trees in the homestead.
‘Now call social services!’ She said.

Many children return disciplined and full of respect. But not all can be corrected by a few lashings especially by a grandmother. Three young sons that had terrorised a poor single mother in London, were sent away to Nigeria for ‘correction’. From what I heard the village begged the mother to come and get her sons as they wrecked havoc in the village.

A complete culture shock is what many African immigrants experience when they travel to first world countries. Suddenly they are not allowed to ‘discipline’ their children by hitting them. Suddenly, they have to escort their children to school. Fathers have to actually remember their children’s date of births and also what size clothes they wore. Yes, suddenly they have to care . Suddenly law is not something that only lawyers and judges dealt with. Breaking the law could actually lend you in prison. In mental health they term it adjustment disorder and many African fathers suffer from it. They say culture is ever dynamic. Are people not adjusting quick enough to other cultures? What are the consequences of adjusting to other cultures and losing our old values? Is the law the new culture, because if it is we will be filing peace orders against our children within the household.

Posted in Inspirational, Short Story adventures | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Immigrants “go home”

I suspect there will be a sudden proliferation of dubious witch-doctors, n’angas and suspicious prophets all stepping in to cater for the many illegal immigrants in the UK that will soon be denied healthcare because of the new immigration  bill. Among other hostile laws to be introduced by the bill, banks, landlords, GP’s will be required to check and verify their clients’ right to live in the UK. Well, it’s not easy to say I saw it coming without sounding like a reflective prophet. But I saw it coming and it’s here. What? You ask! The slow, calculated instilling of division among impressionable people ultimately creating a hostile environment for immigrants in the UK.

Irresponsible and offensive van

That the coalition government has been busy tightening the nuts and screws was known by everyone, but this! This, is too much. Do you remember the , offensive and irresponsible “go home”  vans in London a few months ago? How they were reminiscent of racist slogans by racist groups in the past. Well I believe what is going to follow after this bill is passed will be widespread panic from not just the illegal immigrants, but the lawful immigrants as well as the Indigenous people. We know UK is an experienced expert in the art of panic. Draconian policies such as these do not help but fuel the already tempestuous anti-Islamic , anti-immigrant sentiments in the UK.
At Birmingham airport the other day the immigration officer asked me what was the initial reason I had moved to UK so many years ago?
What! This is even before he looked through my passport. I bit my tongue so hard. I know he was doing his job but if the job has already been done what is the point of doing it all over again, unnecessarily? This bill will make your quiet and docile landlord turn into a ferocious immigration officer, your GP (Health Provider) into a sanguineous biased immigration officer, and your banker, well, you will simply not see your money.

What drives them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where we need to start from is to explore what an illegal immigrant is. So what drives a human being to sell his house, his goats and chickens. To borrow money from a sworn enemy, bid farewell to a pregnant wife, a five-year-old child and dying parents knowing there was a likelihood he may not see them again? What drives a human being to agree to to be stuffed into a rickety, sieved boat across oceans with no food, no water and having parted with thousands of dollars and pounds to get to the ‘promised land’?

Let’s hear your responses then…

Posted in Inspirational, Short Story adventures | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My repulsive encounter

I descended onto the stretch of beach covered with a mosaic of coloured parasols flapping away in the sandy wind. Half-dressed beachers wobbled in the coffee loose sand between the parasols and the blue sea, coming back with  exasperated expressions and spitting away the salty sea water. They looked accustomed to this nakedness, this simple and yet fulfilled life. Where their half-naked bodies instead portrayed abundant wealth and comfort. Even when they spoke in their animated melodic Portuguese to their children it was as if they were promising them plenty more toys and a much better and luxurious life. The men lubricated their women with sun cream under the sun as if to block away the poor outside world. I watched with admiration as the little carefree children ran around pulling body boards headed for the blue sea. I stayed away from the sun as much as the sea with a determined African stubbornness. Have you noticed that black Africans on holiday are more fearful of the sun than our Caucasian friends and yet we stubbornly refuse to apply sun cream. The number of times I’ve laughed off my wife’s crazy suggestions to apply sun cream! Pfeew! Us, of tougher, African hunting skin. Yet we shade from the sun and run from the rain.

This was only a few weeks ago as I lounged on the beautiful beaches of Lagos in Portugal. How different other people lived their lives. One thing for certain I observed was the fascination people had there for the sun and the sea. It still boggles me how one can find amusement In alternately roasting their bodies in the sun only to cool them off in the sea for the entire day. Do people not have work to do? Do they not have relatives to visit and speak of important issues other than how windy the beach was? So as I lay under the parasol away from the sun and sea contemplating how one can adopt such a lackadaisical attitude to life, I did not notice the only other black person on the beach until my son asked:
“Dad is that your friend from Africa?” He was a tall thin man with white cracked lips that matched the soles of his feet. He had a smooth dark complexion that glistened in the sun. His was the kind of dark skin of people originating from the equatorial regions of Africa. Around his shoulders were several floral beach dresses and hung on his arm were several african artifacts that he was showing around to the sun-bathers. Never had I been so affronted by my own son. How could he think such a dark and dirty African man could be my friend!

I never understood the fascination with the sun and the sea


“No, thats not my friend!” I protested with such contempt ensuring the white people next to us noticed how different I was from this man. How we were completely different breeds of African immigrants. I wanted to distant myself from this man so much. The fact that he almost begged the beachers to buy his artifacts only made me want to sink deep into the beach sand in shame.
“Why would you think that could be my friend?” I began to quiz the five-year old as if it was not obvious the man was the only other black person on the beach. I was relieved when the man quickly whisked passed me without even casting a glance my way. He must have seen me obviously and he was not going to sell anything to me. He was not going to debase himself in front of another black person. He was going to pretend as if he did not see me and he did not need my money, but his need for money was much stronger than his shame. He was soon imploring the next white couple to buy his products.
Later I reflected on my ridiculous response to my son’s innocent question. Shame befell me. How affronted I was at being associated with another fellow African. How far I wanted to distance myself from him. How our chance meeting in a distant country could prove such a repulsive encounter. An eargerness to present a different character of oneself among the indegionous in the face of our fellow immigrants. But this is how you become as an immigrant. You vilify your people as the lesser evolved kind. Far less polished than yourself. How their strong rural accents at work were so difficult to understand. Yes this is how we are better immigrants.

Posted in Short Story adventures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Euro adventure begins

Watching the nauseating vast expanse of the endless sea was far more appealing than smelling the grotesquely infused smell of egg, bacon, baked beans in the ferry canteen. I would rather wretch at the sight of thr moving sea of water, I thought. I moved to seat away from the canteen and closer to the window. A sizeable queue had begun snaking along the thin ferry corridor. How could people eat so early in the morning? I could not recall a time when I had to eat this early. Perhaps on the days when I was at Maboleni and we had to rise before the cock crowed just to catch the early bus to the city. Even then it was difficult to say whether we ate early or simply delayed our evening supper to the following day. Here people were filing out onto the sitting area with trays heavy laden with sausages, eggs, hash brown and baked beans. I watched the morning grey sea gently crush aginst the huge ferry and wondered what the French people would look like. I deliberately ignored the blotted faces stuffing themselves with morning breakfast. They couldn’t be french. French women wore very thin floral dresses that loosely clung to their bony bodies while the men stretched they crossbelts away from their bodies each time they spoke just to emphasise a point.

Posted in Short Story adventures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Chapter 5 Travelling to the UK

TRAVELLING TO THE UK

The call came on a Tuesday afternoon while Brian was out working in the fields. It was the shop owner Juba who received the call in his shop phone from Brian´s Uncle Sindiso Nkomo in Harare. Mr Juba quickly sent a young boy to call Brian´s grandmother gogo MaDube. As the only place with a phone in the whole area, gogo maDube had to wait an agonising hour and a half before Sindiso could get through again. The message was simple and succinct. Brian had to travel to Harare immediately as a message had been received from Cousin Michael in London that all was ready for him to immigrate to the UK.

When Brian heard the news later that evening after the prayers, he almost leapt for joy had it not been for the preceding sombre proceedings of worship. He clinched both his fists very tight and pressed his feet hard on the concrete floor in excitement. He could not sleep a wink that night. His imagination wandered vividly about this effulgent place called London all throughout the night. Many idolised this beautiful place’s wealth and its democratic principles. He could easily get a job there, he thought. He imagined how he would be able help his poor mother who had struggled to raise him since his father passed away. How he could repay her for all the sacrifices she made to put him through school.

The flight to the land of dreams

Unable to contain his crazed excitement that night Brian sneaked out to break the wonderful news to Bonius. As he expected Bonius jolted upright from the floor where he was sleeping in excitement. He begged to accompany Brian for part of the journey. Brian wanted to share so much of this joy with his best friend Bonius and he wanted Bonius to accompany him. Very early in the morning with the help of his grandmother Brian packed a very small bag for the journey as uncle Sindiso had said Brian would not need many clothes or any material possessions to take to London. A red hen was quickly gutted for the important journey. Gogo maDube cooked and fried the hen so quickly such that it was packed into his lunch box straight from the pot.

The decrepit motor rattled on the undulating gravel road sending billows of dust shooting into the sky. Jets of stones shot behind as the spinning wheels of the pickup truck ground onto the gravel as it hurtled along headed for Gweru. Bonius held on to the rattling bars of the car and Brian watched in amusement as Bonius gritted his teeth clenching every orifice possible from the fear of being thrown out the speeding vehicle .Unlike their sapient fellow commuters Brian and Bonius had both not brought a cloth to shield their faces from the dust. All they could do was shut their eyes and seal their lips. The Dusty wind played havoc with their faces and it felt as if all the moisture was being sapped out of their skin. The truck sped past a group of boys that were watching over a herd of cattle. Some of the cattle grazed so close to the road. Brian was sure the truck was going to knock one of them off the road but it snaked its way through the cattle as they quickly swung their heads away from the rumbling truck. This was the only transport they could take if they wanted to get to Gweru at all. Waiting for the bus was a prospect Brian could not gamble with, especially as it was the only bus that ran the route. To get to London, Brian would have walked the fifty four kilometres journey from his grandfather’s house to Gweru just to catch the main bus to the capital city Harare.

For Bonius this was more than a trip to Gweru. He travelled to Gweru every week with several tins of tomatoes to sell at the big market. This was more than just a trip to Gweru market. Besides, he didn’t have his ragged green overalls on that he wore every week for Gweru market. He had his best Saturday church clothes on. His face had beamed ceaselessly from the previous day when he was asked to accompany Brian for part of the journey to Gweru. Watching his dusty face now, with grinning white teeth between deep red lips just convinced Brian that he had a good friend in Bonius indeed. They couldn’t talk until they got to Gweru because of the jangle and shattering of the pickup truck. When they arrived in Gweru they started musing about how it will be in England. Bonius had more questions that Brian readily answered with the little knowledge he had gathered about England from school and from a bunch of colourful photos of uncle Michael in England that he had seen many years ago.

“They say there’s no soil!” Brian said.

“There’s no soil?”

“No. You can wear your shoes from the day you buy them to the day you throw them from old age, without polishing them”, Brian added pointing at Bonius’ only pair of old rugged black shoes which was now unrecognisable from the red dust. Bonius looked at his feet with a deep thoughtful face for a minute.

“You wouldn’t throw yours away, would you? Bonius’ serious entreating countenance broke Brian’s heart for a moment, and noticing his sudden sullen face, Bonius quickly added with a forced smile.

“You just throw them this side friend and although they’ll be small I’ll take them to ‘masganda’ and he’ll fix them.”

“He fixes everything you know!” added Bonius, shy from showing his emotions. That was Bonius, always careful not to show too much emotion. Everything was always masked by an all-is-well weird smile. He was Brian’s protector and he was going to protect him even from his emotions. They spoke about the queen as they sat on a concrete bench at the crowded bus station not far from the putrid grey public toilets. Brian told Bonius how the Queen did not age like everybody else. She renewed her youth every decade. At least that was what Brian was told by his school friend Vincent who had visited England during one of the school holidays. Vincent said he had visited the queens’ castle during his trip. He had even shaken her gloved hand. Brian had envied Vincent’s privileged life, as did the rest of the school. On Vincent´s return from one of his trips to England the headmaster asked Vincent to stand in front of the school assembly and tell everyone about his trip. Most of what Brian told Bonius is what he remembered from that day.

“By the way, they don’t eat s’tshwala in England!” Brian said to the clearly mesmerised Bonius.

“You mean they only eat rice and chicken as well? What do they eat? I would really love to live there”.

“They drink tea without sugar and they have trains that travel below the earth.” Brian was really enjoying this privilege of shocking his friend. He seemed more puzzled by the idea of trains underground. Brian could see Bonius’ face squinting trying to visualise the image. Bonius’ world knowledge was drastically cut short after just finishing primary education. That was as far as he was exposed to some sort of education. His father had struggled to get him through primary education anyway and he had struggled to grasp the whole concept of learning. It was therefore a unanimous decision not to persist with schooling, a decision that brought great relief to Bonius.

“Tell me something my friend?” Bonius whispered as he moved closer to Brian.

“So where’s this Inglandi?” he softly enquired as he looked up in the sky.

“Is there land up there?” he directed with the movement of his head. They both briefly stared into the distant cirrus sky in silence. Brian began to explain how the world was a sphere and that the planes that went up there landed somewhere. He explained how there were some areas of the world that had mostly white people and very few black people. He also explained how they only spoke English and that they followed their own cultures. Bonius listened attentively but with even more confusion. Brian could tell that Bonius had a lot of questions to ask but he was not going to ask.

“I’m even hungry now,” Bonius exclaimed after his friend had finished explaining. They looked for fresh roasted maize and drinks from the vendors at the bus station. They ate and talked until the Tauya bus ranked ready to take people to Harare. After a lot of pushing and shoving to board the already full bus, Brian set off for Harare waving goodbye to his dear friend. He wondered whether he would see him again. Melancholy descended upon him but this only lasted briefly as his mind was soon engaged in imagining what he was going to see in London.

When he arrived at his uncle’s house in Harare it was around 2pm and the sun was searing hot. His Uncle, Mr Nkomo’s house in Harare was in the Waterfalls’ suburb named after the rapids of the Mukuvisi river. Waterfalls was beautiful residential suburb overlooking the dirty now almost stagnant Mukuvisi River. Mr Nkomo’s house was nearer the river and the two were separated by the long-winding Beatrice road that led directly into town through the industrial areas of the city. The suburb was overgrown with jacaranda trees and it had mushroom small scale industrial complexes cropping up at every corner . Mr Nkomo had a big extended house with light green paint on the outside walls with a brick red roof. The house was well looked after by sisi Linda the house maid who was brought from the village by Mrs Nkomo. Between the two of them they made sure the floors were polished clean every morning with Mrs Nkomo shouting out instructions and sisi Linda doing all the hard work.

Uncle Sindiso Nkomo was a modest man, in spite of his achievements in the city. He was still a respected man in the village and made it a point that he took everyone to the village every Christmas to visit his extended family. As a fortunate and clever child he was educated by the missionaries in the then Rhodesia and as a hardworking and excelling student he managed to secure a place at Mkoba´s teacher’s college where he trained to be a teacher. Mr Nkomo moved to the big city where he educated his only children Thembi and Michael. Thembi and Michael were now in the UK and it was Michael that was going to sponsor Brian’strip as because he was a promising student.

A cool fresh breeze always swept through the clean house in the afternoon bringing the fresh smell of the blossomed jacaranda flowers in the huge yard. When Brian arrived it was around midday when the rays of the sun struck right on the crown of the head and he was glad to be out of the searing sun into the cool house. He placed his royal blue suitcase and heavy plastic bag on the kitchen floor to shake his aunty Mrs Nkomo’s hand. He removed the fresh mealies to show his aunty as well as the ground nuts from grandmother and also gave her the letter in the khakhi envelope. Aunty quickly washed the mealies and put them on the electric stove to cook.

“Your uncle will love these when he gets back”, she said.

“So are you excited about going to England?” Mrs Nkomo asked immediately beaming widely.

“I guess I am! I’m very grateful to your son auntie.” Brian said smiling. He didn’t mean to be ambivalent about going to the UK, but he wanted to reserve his excitement until he was actually on the plane.

“It would be good for you. An opportunity to do something with your life! Zimbabwe is getting tough these days, there’s no money. There are no jobs.” Brian nodded in agreement.

“How long ago did you complete your A levels? Almost two years. Two years no job!”

“The next thing you will be drinking and smoking like all these jobless boys who hang around on sewer bridges. Worse still, to learn that you’ve impregnated a girl!”His aunt was always strict and reproachful towards him.

“I’m grateful to Cousin Michael auntie”, Brian repeated.

“I’m also grateful to you and uncle”, he added realising he had not thanked them. He was surely thankful to his aunts’ family for affording him this opportunity. Having not passed his A levels well enough to proceed to university, he had struggled to secure a job. He sent hundreds of application letters to various industries without any success. Zimbabwe’s economy was fast declining and the effect was felt widely by the people. People held onto their jobs for dear life and those that left were never replaced by companies. He was surely lucky to get the chance to escape.

“Yah, your aunt from Nkayi just arrived not long ago. She’s resting in the spare room.” Mrs Nkomo suddenly spoke in a rueful tone.

“You can leave your bag here in the kitchen for now.”

 

 

 

Posted in Short Story adventures | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Chapter 4 The Nigerian lovers

The two tall women that joined them for the night shift were Mary and Rudo. They were both large big boned women, especially around the hip area. One could have sworn they shared parentage. Mary’s jumbo heavy head supported brown ropes of plaited artificial hair with bright red highlights shooting out at various places.  Her hair contrasted deeply with her dark curved facial features. She was a heavy-boned woman in every sense. Her cheek bones rose high on her face to shelve deep blood shot eyes.
Through the ropes of hair Brian could see she was not wearing any make up. Somehow that was a relief as he dreaded to imagine what makeup could complement that forceful face. Mary quickly introduced herself to Brian, asked where she was allocated to work and proceeded firmly. Brian watched her walk away to the rhythm of the squeaking floor boards. But she carried her weight elegantly. Rudo was more passive and heavier. Her body was rounder and she struggled with it. She spoke softly with her eyes always fixed elsewhere. There was something with her that drew sympathy from Brian. Her face spelt of suffering deep bone. Her tired shoulders spoke of many nights of this sort. There was something in her eyes that brought anguishing pain within Brian. He saw a broken guilty woman who had found herself travelling a road that she would not have dreamt of ever travelling. A woman disheartened and submitted to her fate. Such a cruel fate with no glimmer of hope.
As Brian paired with Mary for the first half of the night, they brutally worked through their allocated half of the people to put to bed. He marvelled at how dextrous she was with her hands and mouth. She juggled two phones that rang constantly and at the same time working at great pace and with such precision at wiping bottoms. He had been quickly instructed by Mary (to the greatest of his relief)to just “roll” while she did the dirty bit.
With a phone cleanly pinned to her ear by her head, Mary alternately backed commands to the poor residents to shift this way or that way. She would then return to her conversation on the phone as if the interjection was insignificant to apologise for. This continued until they finished putting everyone to bed.
During all this Brian had picked up that Mary was speaking to a number of different men. They were all being made to promise to do one thing or another for her. Her voice changed when she was on the phone and there was an impersonated sexiness that made Brian shudder.  The fact that she jumbled up her English often didn’t seem to bother her. As long as there was sexiness in all. Brian somewhat admired this woman’s determination such that when they sat down for their break he ventured to point out.
“It seems like you’re a very busy lady”
“Who? Me?” Mary enquired with a satisfied smile. “I just live life to the fullest my brother”, she continued as she adjusted her chest to take another incoming call. Brian couldn’t help starring at her bosom which had pushed up as she adjusted herself. Although fully covered, on her chest she secured two of the biggest plumps he had ever come across.
“This one thinks he’s clever, nxaaa!” Mary continued pointing at her phone after completing her conversation.
“He is a Nigerian fool! Now I’m making him raise a son who is not even his. Fool!” Mary sneered. Brian sat back onto his chair. He said nothing. Rudo came to join them at the table with a plate full of jell-of-rice. It smelled glorious.
“At the moment I have three, three”. Mary continued as she stuck three plump fingers at Brian across the table. Brian could see Rudo’s lips lift to crack a smile and reveal beautiful white teeth.
“Three what?” He wanted to know more.
“Nigerians of course..ahah! I don’t do Zimbabweans anymore. Nigerians have money”. At this Mary and Rudo broke into a simultaneous belching laughter, tilting their heads back with a high five across the table. Brian smiled uncomfortably and remembered a dear friend of his who had a serious Nigerian problem. Bruce, his name was. Bruce was going through a terrible divorce. His wife of seven years had suddenly “turned” as Bruce had put it to everyone. She had begun mixing with Nigerians.
As the wife was bent on a quick clear cessation of all ties with Bruce she had expedited the divorce process out of her own pocket. She wanted Bruce out of their mortgaged house with nothing but the shirt on his back. He could take his computer too. Bruce, with a bit of luck on his side and with witty friends as advisers pleaded with the courts that he still dotted on his wife. That she was the one intending to breakup a perfect marriage.
He claimed his wife’s unsocial trysts with these Nigerians were the source of this alteration in his wife. The courts then instructed the wife to depart the house pronto and seek accommodation elsewhere. As Bruce was the aggrieved, he had the privilege of choosing the car to use and he obviously opted for the slick 2009 model leaving the wife a battered 1996 model.
Unfortunately Bruce’s wife had to continue paying for the mortgaged house as well as the car on finance. So to celebrate his court success Bruce invited a few trusted friends for a barbecue one afternoon. As usual small gatherings tend not to be small as word spreads quickly. Free running golden nectar and meat! Bliss.
One such individual that caught the waft of the barbecuing meet was of course Sheila, Bruce’s soon to be ex-wife. It was the screeching halt of the Ford Focus outside the gate that announced Sheila’s arrival at the barbecue. Bruce calmly lit a cigarette unmoved.
“What are you all doing here?” Sheila bellowed as she exited her car.
“What’s all this, heh!”
“You Bruce, what are you celebrating? In whose house?”
“Sheila kani!” Bruce tried to say but a torrent of expletives ejected from Sheila’s mouth as she brutally described how her husband Bruce was now morbid in bed, how he always has been morbid. How he never satisfied her with his disabled manhood. How he lacked adventure unlike the Nigerians who had extremely long manhood and performed all kinds gyratical manoeuvres in bed. Sheila went on to gesticulate and demonstrate how the Nigerians flipped her around in bed at which point he angled her body acutely almost hitting the concrete floor with her head, slapped her bottom thrice while shrieking “…they even do me this side too…”
At this point Bruce, drawing the last smoke from his cigarette, flipped the butt over the fence, shot strings of smoke into the sky and slowly approached Sheila waving his skinny long finger cautioned her that she was getting too “happy” and that she should not mistake his silence for foolishness. His voice was half convincing and half assured. This only spurred Sheila on, who with much gusto began such a voracious volley of verbal vermin.
“You dog of a man!” she screamed.
“What do you think you can do to me? Heh! Make me shit, let’s see! Make me shit!”
The scattered men had quickly re-congregated but had now paired up with their feminine, where muffled under-the-collar jeers and hums were exchanged. The unhinged also drew closer together and gaped at this unfolding scene. Charged with the eyes of the eager crowd Sheila began rippling the air with her arms wildly, skipping from one foot to the other. Her hands had balled into sizeable fists that none would welcome a collision with.
Sheila flipped her sandals into the air one foot after the other and beckoned Bruce on. Brian who was in the crowd remembered imagining that had she been in a skirt she would have tucked it well into her undergarments by now. All the while Sheila’s mouth had not stopped. The terrible rumpus had disquieted this seemingly reserved neighbourhood. A few curtains began to draw and a few faces picked in the shadows while a dog barked wildly over the fence. Before the crowd was unfolding a scene only now dreamt about but very real in the nineties of Zimbabwe.
Many men unashamedly felt like briskly rubbing their hands together in gleeful anticipation. The atmosphere was pregnant and the challenge was on. Brian’s good friend Bruce, not known for shying away from these immortal combats, waded closer to Sheila still waiving his finger.
But this was a different brawl. Not the usual intoxicated scuffles. Sheila took off at a full speed charge and at drawing her arm back, discharged a thunderous clout that landed squarely below Bruces’ exposed ear. Bruce reared momentarily and was soon lying flummoxed on the concrete floor with eyes rolling in.
“Yohwee!”"amai! “The women squealed. The men gulped, nearly chocking on their brown nectar. This was followed by a brief morose silence as all eyes fixed on the lifeless figure on the floor. Even Sheila halted on her vituperation. Sheila had been equally jolted by her own strength as she stood shaking with rage over Bruce lying lifeless on the concrete floor. However, as soon as she realised she had stopped delivering the virulent vermin, she promptly resumed screaming “ I will kill you” at her limp-limbed husband beneath her straddled legs. As fateful seconds passed by, the men began an earnest plea (more from saving poor Bruce’s life or some further embarrassment on him, Brian suspected) for Sheila to desist from this belligerent stance. Some clapped their hands together and hung their heads to their sides in entreaty.
No one dared to venture within arm’s length of this woman though, who was now fully rabid, still straddling the body. The women surprisingly remained rather reluctant to halt anything. Some covered their mouths in horror while others were already on their adept gadgets sharing this momentous occasion.
Some women had begun skipping around in panic as they watched Bruce lying expiring on the floor in some apoplexy. His body shuddered briefly before remaining cold still with eyes rolled in. Some ingenious individual suggested pouring water on Bruce’s face to drown him back to life. Thankfully no one subscribed to this as people began to detect some semblance of life before poor Bruce was abundantly hydrated. He emitted a low guttural howl before painfully embarking on collecting his wits through his searching eyes. He did not need to search long. The sight of the strapping Sheila above him instantly brought all preceding events to recollection.
Bruce moved to shield himself from any more likely onslaught from his intrepid aggressor but Sheila only skipped over him to depart still hurling threats and abuse. The men that were pleading for Bruce’s life moved in quickly to help him off the floor as soon as the danger eased. Thankfully Bruce had only suffered nothing more than a bruised ego and a sore head.
Posted in Short Story adventures | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment