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…

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.

I was the “cry baby”

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 many 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 loving 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 Rra Ewetse’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 Rra Ewetse 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 Rra Ewetse, 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.

A push towards my memoir

I found out its true. When you are open about what you want to do, people, consciously and not, just somehow propel you to excel 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?”

“Um, 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?”

Ha! Who asks that.

Tractor ride to Masimo (The farm)

The distance from Pilikwe to ‘masimo ko Dikhung’, is about 10km. And on most Saturday mornings, during the ploughing season, we would be in the trailer, heading for the lands. Rre Makhura behind the wheel.

But on one fateful day we met shyness and our lives were changed forever. I don’t know when and how, but I remember, vividly, that following this encounter, we could not drive through the village, sitting upright in the trailer.

Our home is at the mouth of the village, from the side of Palapye (or from ‘7 miles’ turn off, as is popularly called in Pilikwe), and the exit to masimo is at the other end of the village, on the old Radisele road. Thus we had to drive through the village to go to Dikhung. And Before the onset of embarrassments and shynesses, travels in the tractor was normal, probably even fun.

But shynesses hit us.

As soon as we got out of our yard, we would lie down, flat on our bellies and only once in a while peep out to check how far through the village we were. I remember my mother saying “waitse le rata dilo mo go maswe. Le raa le thabiwa ke dithong tsa somang”?

Years later, in retrospect, I still can’t answer the question “le raa le thabiwa ke dithong tsa somang”? Because I didn’t have a boyfriend. Girls with boyfriends always seemed shy when compared to the rest of us. I never knew why. But when the boys or so called boyfriend appeared, these girls would start writing illegible things on the sand, with their toes. Somehow they couldn’t lift their heads and just talk to the boyfriends, eye to eye. Maybe when we were not there.

But here I was, boyfriend – less, in fact afraid of boys, but behaving like girls with boyfriends. Only that I was hiding in a trailer, my mother sitting only a few metres away, holding tightly to the body of the trailer.

Yah that’s probably another thing that embarrassed us. The shaking. It doesn’t matter the tactics you employ, the tractor shakes its occupants.

It’s possible that we were too embarrassed to be seen shaking through the village with pedestrians staring and wondering what was wrong with us. And so we opted to shake, away from the prying eyes.

I used to marvel at how my mother seemed not to mind sitting up alone, while we hid.

Our voice also vibrated from all the shaking. So we had to figure out balancing our bodies and steadying our voices, often shouting because there was competition from the tractor.

A shadow of its former glory,this trailer now just sits here, oblivious to the love hate relationship we had with it. It will probably never move and shake anybody, but for those it shook, there are stories to tell.

Stories about how funny it probably looked to have so few people drive in such a big trailer. It swallowed us up and looked more important than us. We have even more embarrassing stories like when Mr. Makhura would just stop without notice, to give some villagers a lift. Imagine the sheepish look when we would immediately sit up and hope none of them noticed.

Makhura had limited choices. The tractor was far from the trailer, he was therefore not privy to the activities behind. He probably would have warned us,
“Ke emela bangwe ke bale….” , or maybe he did, and his voice died in the distance.

But here we are – survivors from the trailer ride, to tell the story.

My journey to ‘I do’: Part 1

I remember love sneaking into my heart; perhaps in my second year at University. He was in his final year. Yes, I am a laggard in that area. It was only at the university that I became aware that a man could be loved that deep, so indescribable; you want him to sit with you forever, talking and laughing about nothing.

My prayers started, punctuated with “if it is your will Lord” to silence the nagging guilt of ‘praying with one eye open’.

Prayer, it seemed, didn’t do the magic.

He graduated and left for the faraway village, leaving me, secretly in love with him. We were good friends, at least when he was still at the university. But the distance added a difficult twist. Do I call him? And say what? I tried a few times but my heart would skip a bit and would decide ‘girl… restraint’.

Years passed with no activity. Once in a while I would get a call, or he’ll pass by when in town. Our conversations got shorter with time; we hardly had much to talk about. Our once in a while calls continued, although it meant me now rehearsing my lines prior.

“Dumelang. Lekang?” Uummm, does he know it’s me? What do I say next?

“Hello Oesi, how are you?”

I don’t remember much of what went on in those conversations. I however recall that while I often longed to talk to him, I would, at the same time, be anxious, wanting the call to end.

My first job was in an exciting environment of young creators, most of them fresh graduates like me –and most of them single with no children. I immersed myself into it, learning everything I could. When work was done, I would occasionally host colleagues for dinner – after work – during the week. Mine was a tripartite lifestyle; home- work-church. I would arrive home on Friday evening and only emerge on Sunday morning for church. The secret love had left my heart by then, or maybe just hibernated.

But I couldn’t run forever. It sneaked back, unnoticed and different. I was sure I was losing him. During the first installment I had vowed to wait for him; to remain single as long as he was a bachelor- and only throw in the towel the day he walked to the alter with another woman. My ‘one eye open’ prayers resumed but with a lot of doubt – and also emotionally draining. I was not growing young, you know. Neither was I living in an island. Suitors crossed my path, a number of them. But my heart lived in a faraway village.

My biggest fear was agreeing to marry another man only for ‘him’ to appear the next day, ready …

What does a woman do? Society has it etched on stone. She waits.

I started to interrogate my conviction. Doubt crept in, ‘Could it be that I am wasting my time with what might never be?’

Something needed to happen.

I picked the phone… dialed …it rang…I dropped….picked it again…it rang…I dropped…hmm

“Hello, do you have a moment?”

“Hi, how are you? Yes I do.” I was sure I heard some enthusiasm.

“I want us to talk”

Silence…

A gentleman in every way; he took the early Saturday morning bus just so he could hear out this woman – and was at my rented flat that afternoon, straight from the bus rank.

Where do we start? Now I wished I had not called.

“This is difficult, but I really think we should talk”

“What is it Oesi?”

My eyes went all over as if looking for an escape route. I was trying hard to look as calm as was possible, at the same time trying to remember the speech I had stored in my head. Soon after we agreed to meet, I had practiced what I was going to say and how. But his knock erased all my hard work. Beautifully constructed, well thought out sentences flew through the window. I went blank. Should I really go on with this?

The stubborn Oesi was pro-quitting. ‘Don’t embarrass yourself girl. Just let this go. Clear your mind and start afresh. If there was ever going to be anything, it could have been a long time ago’.

‘But we are here’. The kinder, more considerate side, rebutted. ‘This man travelled more than 400 kilometers for this talk. It is too late for some baseless fear. Besides I had wanted to do this for a long time. And for him to come all the way, he sure doesn’t treat this light”. A flicker of hope accompanied this thinking.

“Our friendship, can we talk about it”.

Our conversation was peppered with long moments of silence; of intense emotions and tensions. We struggled to answer many of our questions.

Where was this leading to?

“Oesi, I think we are just very good friends”.

My heart missed a bit. I couldn’t breathe.

Three to four hours later, we hugged and said our good byes. Goodbye sounded more like, that’s it, done. He held my hand a little longer, looked me in the eyes – and was gone.

I joined my colleagues for a braai that evening. My heart was at my rented flat, hanging helplessly to the last moments; the look in the eyes that I thought contradicted his last words “we are just good friends”.

7

Just as I was trying to thaw to the event, my phone beeped.

“Hello Oesi, I wanted to check how you are doing – and to also say goodbye”.

The next morning I was flying to Pasadena, California, just outside Los Angeles. I spent my five weeks holiday visiting gardens, relaxing and thinking about what just happened. I watched open theatre movies in Hollywood; visited age old homes in San Diego; walked on the replica ‘Via Dorolosa’ (way of sorrows) at the Trinity Broadcasting Network Headquarters Studios in Costa Mesa.

8

For a time, I immersed myself into America; bought memorabilia from their dollar shops; visited restaurants and all that could be visited – I walked on the wall of fame. I enjoyed time with my elder sister and her family. I don’t remember whether or not I shared the sad news. But I was slowly getting back to myself.

Five weeks later, end of August, the American Airlines Flight took me back to Africa. A week later September 11 happened, killing 2,996 people and injuring over 6,000 others. American Airlines Flight 11 was one of the flights used in the terrorist attack.

The call came the same week.

“How was America?”

“Do you have a moment?”