To my husband, my calm, my anchor…

Dear B’kho Thothe,

I hope this finds you well. I am well, thank you. Although, I can’t sleep tonight and I catch myself thinking about how much of an amazing husband you are – and even interestingly, how different we are.

You’re organised and calm, I am disorganised and loud, almost too spontaneous. You calculate and are cautious, a realist; while my my optimism is sometimes ill informed.

You like a quiet home, with just your wife and kids, I live for hosting and entertaining.

I see time as abundant, you view it as scarce, not enough. Hence you leave for work, quite early, while I stagger behind. As such our children prefer you over me for morning school runs.

I am a night crawler, you retire early. You are an early bird, I want to wake up at 11am.

What else?

Our children prefer to ask for favours from you, they believe I always say ‘no’. But I have read Shonda’s, ‘Year of Yes’. Ha ha ha!

I never feel safe when you’re away, when I am home alone with the kids. And to help ease the tension, I leave all the lights, in all the rooms, on. I am sorry for this waste. But otherwise I just can’t sleep even with all the security gadgets flicking all around the house.

You’re my stability.

We are home safe when you’re home. And home is worth coming back to, after a day’s work, when you’re there.

You don’t know what it means to me, when I arrive and your car is already parked.

He is home and I relax already.

Thank you husband and love. Thank you that you are in the house with me and not up in the roof.

Thanks for allowing me to follow my heart, to start all that I started, some remaining at ‘start’ and never really going anywhere. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to explore my talents and hobbies.

I love you

I miss you

You see where this spontaneous behaviour has gotten me? I had Tanzanian coffee too late, now I am here looking at the clock ticking away, zero sleep.

Wena ruri,

Mosadi wa gago,

Oesi.

 

My thrilling trip to Dar es Salaam

I like the way Tanzanians pronounce Dar es Salaam.  It is organic and respectful, almost sacred, probably like how I would say my grandfather’s first name, when he is in an adjacent room, reverent whisper in awe of his greatness. They say it like their tongues were first immersed in oil, slithering out unperturbed.

It maybe be the tenderness of the Swahili language that makes a speaker sound like a poet reciting intimate narratives, while also conscious of the delicate text.

Swahili must be a language cooked in love. If languages were tangible commercial commodities, displayed in designer shops, Swahili would be wrapped in white silk, sealed in dark purple ribbons. It would be packaged in chocolate brown wood, scented in Egyptian oils. Swahili has the authenticity, only real wood can symbolise. It is validity wrapped in delicacy.

The people I met in Dar es Salaam are just as tender, soft spoken with the tendency to speak in a near whisper. I can’t recall the number of times I asked them to ‘please speak louder’, in those two weeks. One of our drivers attributes their calmness to the frustrating traffic. He says the time they spend in the cars is a boot camp. They have thus given up on being angry and anxious, he says.

Tanzania is a big country of about 57 million people, and about 4 million of them live in Dar es Salaam. It is a busy city, with people everywhere, selling, lifting and balancing heavy loads on their heads, vending hot coffees on street corners. They have abundant food, you encounter informal eating places on every street, grilling fish on open fire. Their fish will most likely be served with Ugali, a type of maize porridge from East and Central Africa that is similar but not as refined as Southern Africa maize meal, and this would be washed down with Coconut water.

received_307293530103990-01.jpeg

received_2202950733093869-01.jpeg

The people fill up all the public spaces, they are there, living their lives, making a living.  They are tough, kind people, walking to their commercial stalls somewhere along the road, or calling out to a passers-by, from their makeshift shop. They citizens are busy, doing one thing or the other, they don’t seem to worry about what the next person would say or think. There is life to make, families to feed and clothe, children to educate and aging parents to nurse.

You arrive here and it suddenly feels like the end of our world is nearer than you had thought. It is an urgent place. The people are focused, busy negotiating businesses, convincing passers-by to buy from them, against other competitors, with similar products. Every other person seems alert to either the imminent end of the world, or the reality of their mortality. They seem too mindful of their responsibility to leave an inheritance for their children. The city centre is a big market place, people are calling out to each, whistling, cars and boda-bodas blowing horns. In fact, I have not been anywhere, where people use a horn like they do in Dar es Salaam. And this makes it one of the noisiest places I have ever been to.

Dar es Salaam does not to sleep. It is probably the African version of a ‘city that never sleeps’. Vendors seem to work on shifts, when some retire to bed, others take up the stall for the overnight shift.

Dar es Salaam surprised and thrilled me.

The people who visited her before me, and had tried to create a picture of the place, missed it. But I understand, it is a city that needs to be experienced, it cannot be visualised in absentia. Even as I write, I feel inadequate to capture Dar es Salaam. In retrospect, I understand their struggle in helping visualise the place. It is hard, even now, to find words, in my vocabulary, succinct enough to do justice to the place.

received_2063897460335109-01.jpeg

And since my return home, my answer to ‘how is Tanzania’, has been short; ‘it is different, amazingly different’.

received_499621467216924-01.jpeg

To my father, on his 83rd birthday…

When I got married in 2002, my father sent a message, to my in-laws. I heard it for the first time, at my husband’s home village, Makuta, when my grandmother, MmaThata presented it to a packed marque. We had gathered for the last part of our two-part wedding celebration.

“Oesi’s father, Etshabile Tiro Sebusang sent me here. He had preferred to have been the one addressing you, on this issue, very close to his heart. But as you are probably aware, our culture prevented him from attending”.

Where I come from, part of central Botswana, the bride’s parents do not attend their daughter’s wedding, at the groom’s home. I do not know what happens with sons.

“Oesi’s father says I should tell you that she is still a child. That although she is getting married today, to her mother and father, she is a young girl and his father requests that you treat her as such, a child still needing parental guidance. Please protect her; love her as your own. She has indeed become your child too. Please take care of Oesi because if you don’t, she will come back home. And because her marriage doesn’t make her any less my child, he says, we will indeed be happy to welcome her back home.  Please take care of my daughter”.

I cried at the tenderness of those words. Memories of my father taking my side when I refused to play in just my panty, ‘like other children’ came flooding back. He always insisted that I be left to be. “She does not want to undress. Just leave her’, he would say.

I love you, father.

A week earlier, he had walked me to the altar, breaking the marriage ground, setting the foundation. I would catch my father shed a tear as the pastor declared me married. I had seen him, years earlier, drop a tear, when my older siblings got married.

I have a good father.

God bless your kind generosity. You are my hero.

I don’t remember my father whipping any of us, his children. But he was a strict disciplinarian. He talked once and we would know not to commit the same sin again. But like all normal children, we erred many times but he decided, in his wisdom, to spare the rod.

I grew up sheltered maybe overly protected.

My father did not allow us to play with kids from families fond of insulting words. The tricky part though was, all the neighbourhood children gathered at the same playground and there was no way we could ask those children to stay away. We thus resorted to dashing back into the yard at the first sound of an approaching ‘Datsun’. Our ears were trained to hear it while there was still time to reach home.

My father, in many ways, became my lifeline, my measure, he became the barometer with which I gauged life.

One of the most vivid and his most regular encouragement, especially after reading our school reports was, “I educate you so you will have a life when I am gone. Your mother and I are not doing this for you to support us when you start working, no! We educate you for yourselves so that you do not struggle when we are no more. Getting an education is for you, for your future. We will not be here forever to provide, so please work hard”.

I celebrate this man, who loves me unconditionally. A man who still worries when I don’t look as lively as he knows. I celebrate a father who can pick minor changes on me “Oesi you look darker than usual. What is wrong?”

I celebrate a contented man. A man without the benefit of high education but confidently engages with intellectuals. The man who used to say, “I hear of children committing and attempting suicide because their parents reprimanded them for bad behaviour. I’ll rather remain childless”.

He talked tough and loved even harder.

I celebrate a man who ensured I never lacked. He ensured we had decent clothes and proper shelter over my head. My parents bought us new clothes every independence and Christmas days. The latter, until I finished university.

I am celebrating a village hero. My father serves everybody.

My father and mother would visit us at boarding school, on their way from the farm, bringing fresh cow milk, wild berries, watermelons and many other farm produce. They checked us often to be sure we were coping.

I learnt to love from my father. I learnt early, that love protects and provides. I knew during my formative years that men love their daughters and groom their sons. I was shown that husbands play with their wives. My father did.

My father refused to segregate chores across genders. We all did everything

My father is neat, he is picky.

I cannot finish my father’s story in one sitting. This is to celebrate my baseline. My start. I am grateful you lived to see my children. To meet my husband. I know you worried I was young. You said you had wanted me to stay home with you and not marry. You wanted to protect me forever.

But I am well, father. I cry as I write this. Because I am truly well. I am safe. I know you know. Your smile, when you visit, assures me that you can see, your baby is happy and well.

I love you Ntate. Happy birthday.

A conversation about cheating couples

I allow myself to be fascinated by the things that I have never met or experienced. So once in a while I ask friends and colleagues about their lived experiences, because, you know, avoiding issues doesn’t make them disappear neither does it make me any wiser.

One such days we talked about cheating;

Me: Have you ever met a man or woman who has settled for a life of cheating with another’s spouse?

Colleague: Yes. A respectable woman I must say. They have an arrangement with this married man on meeting days and times. They respect that the man is married and loves his wife – they do not intend on disrespecting the wife and kids.

Isn’t cheating in itself disrespecting the wife?
Not really. Let me say they do not see it as such. They see it as meeting each other’s needs in a home set up. But still keeping the man’s family intact.

Intact?
Yes. They don’t, for example, exchange messages or talk on the phone after hours, when the man is at home with his family. There have set boundaries.

You don’t seem to find anything wrong with this arrangement 
I don’t. She is a reasonable woman. She doesn’t demand much from this man. Just attention and a few hours a week on agreed days. No financial support or any of the things young women would demand.

Why doesn’t she look for a bachelor?
She says those are a headache. They are unstable and never seem settled. They are always either pursuing another woman or thinking about it. They often think they have too much liberty. They have no restraint. She prefers a solid and established married man.

Was she ever married?
No
Is it something she is considering?
I don’t know. But her life seems to revolve around her career, business and time with this man. At least that’s what we talk about.

How long have you been friends?
About 3 years now

How old is their relationship?
Going to 5 years.

And the wife never complained about it? Never suspected?
If she has, she kept it to herself. The woman said they ensure life at home remains as normal as possible.

How does that happen? Doesn’t he come home late on the days he meets the woman?
Not later than normal.

This seems so structured and regimental. Is there any fun, emotional high and all the other excitement of a romantic relationship?

She is very happy. She talks about him with a twinkle. Kana these are mature people. Ga se bana ba ba itumedisiwang ke dilonyana (they are not young lovers that get excited over small things).

I see…

A letter to my daughter, Sesi.

Sesi,

I hope you enjoyed the photo shoot at school today and not worried about your hair like you were, when you called last night. I love you.

On this day of the girl child, remember baby girl that the world is a better place because of you. Your tender heart and calm spirit, your soft and bold character, make us a better people. Your calmness reminds us to slow down.

Thank you nana.

Papa and I are obsessed with making our home peaceful, a place we long to come back to, after school and work. We desire to see you and your brothers yearning for the calmness of home. For its ability to allow you the freedom to be yourselves, an oasis to calm the noise and pressures of the world outside world.

We love you.

You were born here, Gaborone, Botswana. A country with a long history of peace. You were born in a country where your parents, grandparents and their parents before them, do not have living memories of war.

But I want you to always remember that, while we never knew war, or serious civil unrest, we, like all people everywhere, have differed many times, sometimes radically and strongly. Our views don’t always follow a linear and homogeneous pattern.  We differ, we argue, we allow ourselves the freedom to hold diverse views But never to the point of feeling the need to go to war over them. This has only enriched our relationship as a nation.

We inherited a culture that subscribes to unity, that while we may hold strong opposing views, it should not create animosity between us. Our forebears, passed to us a tradition, that embraces all contributions as worthy and permissible. Everybody is allowed to share their views so we can, in the end, choose the most agreeable.

This practise kept us away from wars and guns.

You live with people who don’t often agree with you, girlfriends you sometimes disagree with, it is normal. People disagree because they are different. We have different taste and likes. We were formed from different moulds, shaped through unique DNAs.

Never beat yourself too hard over a relationship gone sour. Some will rebound, others never. It’s life.

Also learn Sesi, that to differ with your friends shouldn’t mean the end of it. In life, friends, even family, disagree.

You inherited peace, guard it. You are an heir of great grand mothers and fathers, who protected this nation jealously. The baton is in your hand. You owe it to your mates to spread the peace. One is never too young to. Talk with your friends, help fighting friends reconcile, for example. Assist to ease tensions around you. Make this, a more peaceful world.

Seek peace all your days. Start where you are, with your heart. Continue embracing a peaceful and calm spirit. You can only give from what you have. Cultivate gratitude my baby. Be thankful even for the mundane, the air you breathe, for what God gave us freely, life.

Many girls in many countries did not live to your age. They died too early. Many who live, suffer unimaginable atrocities. Many are less fortunate and do not enjoy the luxuries you do.

Pause each day and silently thank God. In that moment also plead for the safety of girls around the world. Pray for the war to end and for violence on girls to stop.

Make peace with your surroundings, your siblings and when you can, talk about the importance of a peaceful world. Share your dreams on what a peaceful world would mean to girls your age.

Lastly baby girl, the world can be rough, for girls. You need to know these truths. We talk about them sometimes. You’ve asked questions about the violence on girls and women. Unfortunately, the world can be violent on girls. But we can change this if we all pull together, if we encourage and cultivate a non-violent culture. Because it takes those with an unwavering commitment, those who can go an extra mile. And when you can, where you are, choose to spread happiness. Choose love. The world needs it.

Mummy loves you a lot. I love mothering you. It’s such a pleasure. Thank you for your tender and soft spirit, it helps all of to slow down and be at peace. You are an amazing child.

Love,

Mum.

My war with spinning.

My relationship with bicycles has always been rocky. I mean from years
back; during the formative years when all the kids my age learnt cycling;
when the older siblings and parents would help you ascend and then
hold on to the bike while you practiced coordination and balance, under
the caring eyes of family.

I still did not trust.

This is despite multiple invitations and requests to try make it work,
encouragements that trying never killed anyone. I have resisted and
maintained my distance. Until my boned hardened and my brain
solidified. Until my body grew in generosity.

My thoughts refused to surrender to an object that was never meant to
accommodate my generous body; an object modelled after somebody
many times smaller than a ‘normal’; sized woman. An act of injustice,
intended to alienate me.

Who fits into this thing?

I tried it a few times, but was never able to go the entire lap. It was just
tough to find a comfortable sitting position.

“You sit like this, not like that. Make yourself comfortable”, the gym
instructor would say.

“The saddle should be up to your hips. Let your bikers snuggle
comfortably on the paddles…”

‘Yeah right, if you had my kind of body you’d know there cannot be a
comfortable sitting position on this thing’, I am thinking.

Do bicycle manufacturers think car builders missed the mark when they
catered for all shapes and sizes? Why do they want to marginalise us?
I’d then spin with a drag, never really keeping the pace with the rest of
the team.

I can’t be spinning on an instrument of injustice, of marginalisation, of
violence on my body. An instrument that conjures up images of brutality.
Yah I know, I’ve gone extreme. But think about it, clothes have sizes, car seats are much wider to cater for an average weight. Did you just think, I
am probably more than average? But these seats are too small.

The two times I brought the cushion for the seat, it didn’t matter how
much I fastened, it would still slide off, and would be left negotiating
sitting positions.

I have read stories of man becoming impotent from years of cycling.
They say the prolonged friction on that particular body part can lead to
numbness and resultant impotence. I’m not a man, but sometimes these
stories run through my mind as I ascend this body of metal.

Why is a bicycles seat, a one size fits all? What about the voluminous
woman. What do we do with the parts of our bodies that cannot find
space on this metal machine? Should they dangle, unsupported, on the
sides? That’s the unfair part. If other humans have bodies that fit inside
this thing. Then surely there has to be sizes for all of us.

Anyway I have given up the struggle. I couldn’t fight for ever. Even in
politics the opposing camp sometimes surrenders their armoury and
warms up to the ruling. So today I’m spinning in vengeance. Like a
wounded buffalo, I’ll ride this thing.

Humans are all good

People are generally good. They thus often aim for good, doing the right and acceptable things. Normal people don’t usually veer off to deliberately do evil, to hurt and destroy their kind.

But humans are just that, humans, they find themselves on the roads they never imagined walking on. Most retrace their footsteps and look for where they lost the road, re-join and go back home.

But some walk on, deciding to see how far the road would take them – and excited about the prospects of new experiences. They stay on the wrong road with reasons and justifications, convincing themselves they would return after the next stop? The next stop become the next village “how can I drive such a long distance and return before seeing a few places”.

Before they know it, they are at the most alluring, enticing, all-things-provided-for resort. There is so much going to think about anything, but fun.

Days turn into months, months into years.

What happened to me? How did I end up here?

They decide to live here for good and only visit their home once in a while. They are, however, convinced that everything here is wrong, the place, the people, the fun. But they have gone way too deep? Home is too dry, too routine, too backwards.

But when the curtains are drawn and the house falls silent, fear over powers them. They fear being found out, they fear that this life, at the wrong place, might just collapse. What would they become?

The inevitable arises. “Why didn’t I return earlier?”