My business journey

I want to do it with a soul…

My relationship with entrepreneurship is maiden. I had travelled to Tanzania in October – and I was not looking, but would, during free time, allow myself to experience Dar es Salaam. It was during those interactions that it came lurking, the lure of capital wrapped in entrepreneurship.

I remember though, that as my body texture and heart feelings kept adjusting in response to the years of life, I would, occasionally, rebuke myself for allowing the capitalist market gulp all my salary while I got nothing worthwhile, from it. I would argue that if education had any impact on me, it should be the ability to create business outside formal employment, then and only then would I proudly declare that I indeed spent time in school.

My argument is, if I cannot create a small enterprise that can at least pay for utilities and maybe for my children’s school lunch, then either education or me, failed.  It is only wise that while the market sucks life from my wages, I should also make some money from it.

The lingering desire was to start a business that resonates with me; something that would allow me to make money while also pursuing passion. I wanted an extension of my personality, what I would do with a smile, even when woken up in the middle of a cold winter night.

But who do I know myself to be?

I am artistic. I work, effortlessly with and in my surroundings. My beautiful garden bares testimony. The desire to garden happened at the sight of a naked patch of land. I bought tools and went to work. I am now convinced that keeping a garden is a visible expression of gratitude for the piece of bare ground, rented or owned.

I am also a minimalist.  My curtain free-living and negligible interior decorations are my witnesses. I enjoy the feeling and look of an empty room. I want to come back home, after a long and often routine day and not feel like the furniture wants me out; occupying every breathing space, giving me a ‘we don’t want you here’ look.

I love light. I am certain that is why we have windows, to allow light into our homes. And until now, my family and I have embraced the letter and spirit behind the creation of windows and have lived, for years now, in a house without curtains, except for bedrooms.

Tanzania introduced me to beautiful jewellery and tough Masai sandals; colourful beads armoured in leather to create beautiful and hardy sandals. It is the work of the great Masai of Arusha. I fell in love with colour ahead of everything else. The Masai jewellery and sandals, the Tanzanian Chitenge fabric, and others on the way to joining my collection, is what selling from my personality means. Pictures of beautifully adorned women warm my heart. I am especially drawn to those in love with bright and colourful apparel.

I’ll be going to other African cities in pursuit of passion. I am coming to Addis Ababa for her beautiful leather bags, to Ghana for the richness of kente and Gonja cloths.  The Egyptian linen is another big pull, the luring combed softness of your bed sheets. Your linen cloths that demand to stay worn forever. This is how I want to relate with the capitalist market, visiting open markets around Africa, interacting with and submerging into their stories – and bringing home memories, in ink and fabric.

It has been a month now. I am happy I started and am on the way to answering my part of “what do you have in your hand?”, refusing to bury my passion, multiplying what I have, while shaving off bits and pieces from the greedy and ever hoarding capitalist market. I will however, do it with caution, lest I get trapped into its indifferent brutality.

I want to still have a soul…

COME TO MY PARTY! BLOG PARTY!! — Becoming His Tapestry

Hello friends, how are you today? Well guess what happened? We got snow! I mean real snow; you know the kind that has to be plowed and driveways have to be shoveled and schools are closed. Yep! That kind of snow and it is beautiful, I love the snow. Of course it would be wonderful […]

via COME TO MY PARTY! BLOG PARTY!! — Becoming His Tapestry

Why I exercised my right to vote

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This year I had a different relationship with voter registration. It was a chore that needed to be completed. And only I could do it.

It felt something like when your body says, “you need a bathroom”, you can argue about how frequent and tiring the bathroom visits have been, ignore the urge, but eventually you’ll have to run. It’s nature. It leaves you with no choice.

In the previous years, I had attached lavish and rational reasons, thought about candidates’ vision and the political parties harbouring those imaginations. But this year I did it as a responsible citizen, I did it because it was what I had to do, a natural process in a democratic country. I did it because I have a responsibility, a role in what happens with this country. Because just as with the natural calls to the bathroom, my going to vote or not, won’t stop elections, they’ll happen regardless.

Yes, even I decide to ignore nature’s calls, whatever is knocking will come nevertheless. It will come while I am still seated on my sofa or when I’m already walking towards the bathroom. It will happen. And I would not have the confidence to claim responsibility for anything because I would have failed. I would have been a spectator to the urgings of my body.

Registering for elections, which is the only route to voting, can only be done by bodies, constituents of a country going to the polls. Do they have to have reasons for and emotionally attached to the process? Ideally, yes. But in a normal, everyday life, a lot of what we do, we do because it has to be done.

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.

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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.

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

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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…