Can I choose which identity to adopt as and when? Yes

I’m a church girl. I grew up in Lontone before joining my current ‘fire’ church. I am a mother, wife, a friend, a woman, a Motswana, singer, gardener. I also spent a bit of time at school. These and multiple other identities often converge to influence my general perspective of the world.

It’s not often possible to know which identity influenced which view because as you might be aware, I cannot be separated or divided among the zillions of identities for different discussions or whatever.

The church girl is stuck with being a wife and a Motswana woman within a strict partriachal tradition harbouring the idea of a democratic state.

At times though, some of the identities try to dominate others, just as it happens in our society where certain groups assert their identity through a hegemonic relations with others.

Gladly, dealing with the self is not as political as with the outside public. The politics here can be easily contained.

What I’m I on about? Nothing.

A journey to home

Before I had a house in the middle of a naked and dusty patch of land, I didn’t think in plants and bushes. I had lived, previously, in the second floor of a three story complex. Each door and window opened to brown concrete walls; rough and unflinching structures of  multi-residential, multiple floor complexes. These were my definition of ‘view from my room’.

The nakedness of the land, I landed on, its poverty stricken and unkept look, triggered a hunger in me. I was hungry for life, for freedom from suffocating sights of brown  concrete  walls.

I remember spending days, out in the rain, an umbrella in one hand, a garden fork in another, tiling the land, planting and uprooting.

I am on the journey to home.

Home is where all the windows open to a live plant, to something with a semblance of a garden. To some live green and colour.

And until that happens, Home is a journey, a vision.

Gardening was to remain a partner I seek for inspiration; a reminder to be grateful for a piece of land.

I’m tilling the land to home…

And until each window opens into a garden; until we are hidden behind bushes and can pull down and trash our curtains, we can only imagine home. We can only see its shadows.

Tilling the land reminds me that one day, I’ll be home.

At home our curtains are bushes.

We hide sanitary pads, did you know?

You, dear friends, who do not have the honour to shed blood every month, don’t you sometimes wonder why you hardly see us with sanitary pads?

Let’s start here. One of the signs that a young woman has hit puberty, besides breasts and maybe pimples, is the onset of menstruation. And this becomes a monthly occurrence until the dawn of yet another stage in the life cycle, menopause.

Menstruation, in simple terms, is when a woman”s body drops an unfertilised egg(yes we have eggs). The egg breaks and blood gushes out of our bodies. This egg is unsolicited, comes voluntarily, but it cannot be rebuked back into the body. It often only stops dropping when it has been fertilised, when we are pregnant.

So I’m talking about a natural process here. As natural as urinating and the other one.

Don’t you men, especially, sometimes catch yourself thinking “Do my colleagues at work, fellow church members or ladies eveywhere, outside home, have a different body make up from those in my house? What do they use to stay clean, that we never get to see?”

We use the same thigs as those you see at home, dear men and brothers. It’s only that we hide our sanitary pads. We have to appear like what you know happens to the women close to you, doesn’t happen to us you meet at work and other places.

Menstruation has been tucked away into the private and secret spaces. It is a home matter – and outside home, it is a ‘keep-it-concealed -and-invisible’ and hide all its associations from the public eye.

Ask around, for me, if anybody has ever met a lady colleague, carrying a sanitary pad like they would a bottle of water?

Truth is we hide our pads under the armpit, pockets, purses. We carry an entire handbag to the bathroom, just so we can hide, from you, a pad. A pad we use to stay decent, to protect ourselves and our clothes. We have to hide it from you.

I don’t know why, but each time we need to change into a clean pad. Yes we have to change pads throughout the day. They fill up like ‘pampers’. Do you baby’s disposable nappies? You know they get soaked in urine and have to be changed every now and then?
A sanitary pad works the same way.

And just like a disposable nappy, it fills up and will leak and stain clothes, if it is not replaced quick enough.

But do you know what an effort it is to just decide on how to hide it, with each toilet visit. Armpit? What if it drops? You then have to walk in attention mode and remember to not lift that particular arm.

Or should it be a pocket, a handbag? Then you rebuke yourself “Eish the handbag is too big and too obvious”.

So much negotiations you could probably have invested on something more sophisticated. But you are here, stuck in your little space plottimg the best possible, less suspicious, mode of transporting a sanitary pad.

And the capitalist has now created square shaped purses for pads. But pads come sealed, individually, inside a bag, already. Do we really need another bag?

#Can we set the pad free please…

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.

What’s been happening: my time with vets and their fury friends

adorable-animal-blur-406014It was a long break. A lot happened. I went on tummy shrinking ‘boot camp’. Not in a strict sense. I committed to a lifestyle of healthy eating and fitness.

I am happy the tummy listened. The  upper bulge which had different sized protruding ball shaped domes, is gone.  I’m now working hard on my lower abdomen. I had expected it to be easier. Thankfully this was its last Christmas.

2017 I am building muscle.

I also started a feature article on the relationship between Veterinary Doctors and the animals they treat. I approached it from the assumption that Vets elevate animals to the levels of human being or they downgrade humans to where animals are. I am not yet sure of what I mean or where I’ll end with it or even the direction it will adopt.

At the moment I’m reading prohibitively thick scientific books. I have observed  a Vet at work and have had a rare, almost sacred opportunity to watch the doctor remove a cancerous lump from a dog’s breast.

I  was a participant observer; an  emotional participant at that. The dog was under  heavy anesthetics, so it was almost motionless. Sad sight, sad for the dog on the table, sad because of all the memories that overwhelmed me, sad that breast cancer doesn’t differentiate between human and dog.

When did I last do my mammogram? I caught myself thinking

The ‘veterinary doctor and their animals’ is a project I take seriously,  a commissioned project, in a way. I am only sad it is not moving as fast as I had hoped. But it will be a good story.

My fitness journey is an interesting one. The observers remind me in many ways that I should shift focus to other parts of my body. Some are bold enough to tell me why they think so. I must admit though that I am never as  concerned about anything else as I am about the tummy. Not strange, right?

I have met people, for example,  who obsess about shoes and careless about clothes. The first thing they see when you meet is your shoes. Some spent too much time on their hair styles and everything hair and ignore the face – and would probably check your hair before they greet. I tend to see the tummy first.

But I have taken note. I cannot swallow the tummy and allow other members of the body to stay in the old. Fortunately, when done well,  exercises should be able to address my concern and everything else in between. For now I am a happy African woman.

What am I on about?  That I have not written as often as I had hoped.

The body is an obedient structure.  I can testify. It responds to what we do. The journey is on. The benefits are innumerable.