The night they stole my innocence

I was staying alone. A young single woman, in her mid twenties.

My two bedroomed flat occupied the second floor of the BHC multi residential houses in Phase 2, opposite the CBD. It comprised a small kitchen, a living room and 2 balconies, one outside the kitchen, the other, by my bedroom.

I had deliberately chosen to stay here for its relative safety. My reason being, reaching the second floor would be a lot of effort for would be offenders.

I was wrong.

One night I was sitting on my bed, between 12 and 1 in the wee hours, folding and packing my laundry. I still remember my scrisp clean off-white bed sheet covering the mattresses. The bed cover and all other bed decorations had been put aside, blankets opened, ready for my exhausted body.

Packing done, I dashed to the kitchen for a last cup of water. But then decided against going straight to bed afterwards but instead watched TV for a while, in the lounge, while also quenching the midnight thirst

About 15 minutes later I was at my bedroom door.

And on my crisp clean off white sheet, was a huge shoe print. Close to it was my open wallet and business cards strewn all over the bed.

I ran for the door and knocked on the adjuscent house.

‘Matsieng’ had taken my cell phone and last P20.

My neighbours escorted me as I packed an overnight bag and were also kind enough to let me use their phone to call my sister and the cab.

I lived with her family for a week, to recover and to also allow time for burglars’ bars installation on balconies, doors and every possible high risk spot.

I returned to a prison. But discovered I could not live alone anymore.

I had been violated.

Does one ever return to normalcy?

And then there is us…

The disorganised architects.

We travel the messy and unkept routes to our raw materials. Our desks are covered with things, piles of things; computer desktops are a jumbled up mess.

We are people with beautiful and finished ideas in our head, complete with the wrappings and ribbons. But the journey to holding these perfect products, is not as organised.

We pick what to wear, the morning of the work day. We would be lucky to decide while in the shower. Because on most days we decide inside the closet. And some days the hastily picked dress contradicts the mood. We would then have to replace and maybe only after a few trials settle for something.

You’d probably find, in our wake, a trail of clothes we tried and discarded.

We are adrenaline junkies. We are those you’ll see in traffic, combing their hair, finishing off their makeup. The kind who complete the make up in the office.

This is us, who wish for spotlessly clean cars, but somehow, cars rebel, going against our desire.

We are those you dismiss and harshly judge, not for our looks, but of a disposable object carrying us.

We think and dream then walk the cluttered maze to our creativities. Sometimes we use our feet to move stuff off the way, in pursuit of the perfect.

We are not the sleek and smooth with shiny tables and organised chairs.

We are not as refined on the edges.

We are the ones who stay awake the night before, for a perfect work tomorrow.

The kind who spend the day in pyjamas.

But somehow we have survived the chaos. We have lived through perfect jobs, done on the nick of time. We managed to be in the same, snail paced traffic, with the most organised. With those who sort their work clothes, according to days, months in advance. And often you can’t tell the difference.

We have managed to raise kids. Smart and responsibilities citizens.

We are the kind that decide on what to cook when we already in the kitchen, maybe even when already by the stove.

We would concentrate for a few hours, sweat it out, then take a break and a strall. We need it.

We need to leave the office to either take a walk or do a few hellos before coming back to settle.

We fill our suitcases with clothes and shoes for a day’s trip.

We come in all shapes and sizes, in all the different shades of brown. We have been to school and have produced beautiful academic work. We are farmers producing food for our people. We are mothers and fathers; pastors and singers. We are blue collar and crisp white jobers; employers and employees.

We are still on and continue to muddle through life.

We are abstract; complete yet looking like a draft.

We are the one you’ll see running to the bathrooms, because we waited a little too long. But we are here with those who schedule bathroom visits.
Life is on. Yes looks deceive.

I met death, once upon a time

Thobo was born on the 16th September 2010 at Bokamoso Hospital. The cesarean section was some by Dr. Eishler, the German Gaenacologists, who later, together with his doctor wife, skipped the country under the cover of the night. They remain the best doctors I’ve ever met. All rounded best.

The story started when the anesthetic procedure knocked me out. We had agreed to a bottom half of the body ‘paralysis’. I wanted to participate in the birthing process. I had done that with the previous two.

That was not to be. This time I was out. Dead. Unaware of life.

When I came to, I had moved from the theatre to the hospital room. Thobo was in ICU, under strict observation. I learnt later that he had not cried immediately after birth – and all the usual tactics doctors often engage failed to produce a cry.

They were worried for his health, especially his lungs.

I think I was discharged two days later, pushed in a wheelchair. I had a throbbing headache that wouldn’t allow me to stand on my own. And when we got home I had to be supported from the car to the house.

My health deteriorated so fast the next morning I couldn’t see clearly. The world was blurry.

One of my sisters is a medical doctor – and we normally check things with her before seeking medical attention. She was in the US. They called her. She explained what could be the problem.

To ‘paralyse’ me the aesthetician had injected me on the spine, they call it epidural.

So my sister explained, from the US, that the small opening from the injection is supposed to close immediately after. But it would seem, in my case, it had not and as such I was losing pressure needed to keep me intact.

The thumping headache and the near blindness were a result of this pressure loss.

I was losing Cerebral Spinal Fluid and if not attended to, this structure called Oesi would collapse.

So when we rushed back to Bokamoso after the call, we had all the medical jargon and explanations; to the shock of the medical team.

I was quickly wheel-chaired in and drips inserted on every visible vein😛.

The headache had gone violent.

I was not sure whether I was crying or it was my head’s spontaneous response to this brutality. But tears poured uninhibited.

I was to spend the next 4 days in Bokamoso. The headache, the anesthetic doctor explained, needed to be treated with caffeine containing medication. But the ministry of health had not allowed that kind of medication into the country yet.

My near addiction to caffeine started here, I think.

In the four days I was at Bokamoso, the anesthetic doctor instructed that I get a glass of coke with each meal – and he was always by my bedside, ‘for control’, I guess.

What’s growth Oesi?

Growth is allowing your heart to be attracted to what has a semblance of you; to the things that accentuate you;

It is the ability to find yourself in this crowded world.

Growth is the boldness to live within the ‘found self’ in a society that prefers an assimilated being; who thinks, behaves, walks and dresses like the next person. It is being yourself in a culture that often ridicules God’s given distinctiveness; that has normalised conformity; shunning uniqueness.

Growth is being happy, it is sharing happiness.

It is the strength to block the hammer that longs for and delights in knocking you into line.

Growth is respecting your community, celebrating it. It is the ability to navigate, with reverence, the contours and crevices that formed your people, those things that broke and re-constructed them; it is to embrace how your community imagines itself; to locate yourself in this maze of thought – but live.

Growth is living.

It is the rejection of self-hate. It can be violent. It may even mean an aggressive reclaiming of the self; a passionate salvaging of the remnants of your being, lost in years of self-doubt and cynicism.

Growth THEN, is a pilgrimage. It is being and becoming, it is I am home and yet going home.

Growth is preferring the toned over the slim body
It is losing the sweetness of sugar for the authenticity of honey
Growth is ditching trends,
It is when your questions change.
It is the wisdom to choose your battles
It is happy children playing in an un-kept house
It is a happy husband
It is peace

I cried

#I cried through my formative years, past university to the work place.

When they raised their voices at me, I cried – and I cried when I didn’t like my new clothes. I remember crying because my new shoes were too tight, but didn’t want them exchanged.
I cried when dipotsane wouldn’t listen to my pleading for them to stop, so I could take them to the shelter. And when dipotsane and dikonyana chased after me, I would cry. I cried when after milking the goats, one of them, often ‘mmapema’ would spill all my hard labour because I then had to take the ‘longest’ walk from the kraal to segotwana.

The tea pot would probably be boiling by then, how would I explain?

I cried when I thought I had been sent on too mant chores and when the dress I had planned, the whole week, to wear to church, was dirty. I also cried when things decided to hide when I was looking for them.

How I cried was often dependent on the kind of reaction I anticipated. If I expected a strong scolding from my parents, I would groan, painful silent crying that made my throat hurt; often behind the house, alone. Otherwise I would scream.

I was a child who cried.

I cried so much I got used to hearing “ga kere o bata go toga o itsheka dikeledi go ne ha. A ko o emelele”, in instances when I delayed to take up a chore.

Just recently, my elder sister, Oathokwa, was telling me;

“Koore one o lela gotwe oa kamiwa. Gape ha go twe oa
beolwa, oa lela. Ntate o ta-a-bo a omana nako ya kereke
e chaile o gana go kamiwa”.

“Ke sale ke re le beole motho yo”, ntate shouting
at everybody

“Ha gongwe ha o sena go logiwa o taabo o lela ore go
bothoko, hei mma’’, my sister driving it home.

I cried at the sight of a whip. In fact, my body would just stop functioning. Very similar to how I still feel when I see an elephant, logic just flies through the window.

I once cried, at my previous job, in the dignity of a bathroom. A male colleagues, had said to me “ke taa go clapa” (may his soul rest in peace). It was not the thought of the pain from the clap that brought up the tears, but the insult. I felt violated, stripped of my dignity. I was young then, fresh graduate, and first job. I have since taught people how to talk to me. Now I deliberately go out of my to correct offenders;
“Ga ke buisiwe jalo. Ka gore ga nkake ka go buisa. O bata go ikopa maitshwarelo?”
It has been a long time though, since I met those types of offenders.

Too much crying is part of my story.

I matured.

Now I laugh and talk loud. I sing and I am a good public speaker, possibly prepared through years of crying.

I have a father

I told lies. I broke tea cups and dinner plates and denied it. I played beyond the stipulated time and would arrive home late from school, then cook up a story of my delay.

I was a normal child.

I had my moments of sugar eating and condensed milk sucking. But I was never lost to being RraEwetse’s child. Often considering myself his favourite child. Why not? Probably my siblings also did. In fact I still believe I am his favourite.

The point is, although I was probably a naughty child, I never for once thought I didn’t deserve my father’s love. I never imagined him thinking differently of me because of my lying and breaking tea cups. Even when he would have scolded me hard. I never had reason to think he loved me any less.

I have a father, a doting father who had a firm hand on us. A hand that ensured we all turned out right.

My song of the week “He knows my name” got me thinking. If I have such confidence in my natural father; If I never lived with the guilt and condemnation from my faults and naughtiness, where did I learn to feel guilty in relation to God? If I had confidence that RraEwetse forgave and moved on, never to remind me again of my bad past, where did I learn to dwell on my sins, leading to guilt and self condemnation?

My natural father’s readily forgiving nature and abundant love, challenged my relationship with a God in heaven, this week. The God who formed my father.

And I asked God to forgive me for this error. The error of unconsciously trusting that the natural can be more capable than Him, a supernatural being. Maybe not in that overt kind of way. But this often feeling of guilt, I was, in a way saying to myself, I was not worthy because of what I would done or not done.

I refuse that. I will always refuse it. I dealt with guilt and condemnation this week.

Lessons from RraEwetse, fallible as all of us, pointed me to a God who forgives unconditionally. The God who forgets my faults, the God who deals with me on a clean plate each day.

The liberation came in the form of my natural father.

I confessed to never again carry the guilt and never again condemn myself. Not that I have arrived home, but because for those who have believed in God, there should be no condemnation. It’s a done deal.

I’m free from guilt and shame. I have fallen many times and many times I have risen. Still I refuse guilt and condemnation. I choose to rise as many times as I fall. I choose peace over a heavy heart.

I’m loved beyond words. I therefore choose to be found immersed in this sea of love. Surrounded by, filled with and drunk in this love.

Come with me.

Push me

I found out its true. When you are open about what you want to do, people, consciously and not, just somehow propel you to excell in that area. Through words, actions, allowing you time, critiquing and even trashing your point of direction. Others, somehow, fear for you, that you reveal too much, you are muddling the waters. The latter often encourage the old fearful and timid you to rise from the comatose, and cower in the old dark corner. I need them in my life, still. ‘For control’.

I was not a hyper active child, I think, and neither was I among the talkative clan. When I came to, l was not who I have become. I do not plan to return.

I can still vividly hear nkuku Mma Isake as I write this, probably while I was still at lower primary school;

“ngwanyana ke wena the o taa nna maaka”, and only then would I remember I had been asking her a lot of questions.
On other days it was “o botsa dipotso tsa sekae tsone tseo”.

Since deciding to leave the cocoon and share my lived experiences, I have also met another interesting group. Those who ask me uncomfortable personal questions.

My interactions on social media are often quite personal, even publicly intimate, if you would, but a lot of me is still to leave the cocoon. Thus, I still, for example, find personal questions about sex and sexuality uncomfortable. I’m however indebted to those who dared me; pushing me further towards my destination, if there is any.

“If your plan is to write a memoir, go all the way or don’t go at all”. That’s me.

“Oesi you say you married at 29 and your husband is your first boyfriend – and you only dated for a year. What happened before that?”

“Nothing happened? I had said

“You didn’t have boyfriends, no sex, nothing?”

“Yes, no boyfriends, sex and all its accompaniments. Sex was to happen after marriage”.

“How is that possible?”

“Umm. That was the only available choice. I guess that’s why”.

One down.

But I never could have anticipated this one,

“Since you got married, have you had sex with somebody else besides your husband?”

Haaaaa😬. Who asks that.