An estimated four million Zimbabweans live in exile. Guest blogger Spiwe Harper examines the polarity between the Diaspora community and those living in Zimbabwe.
The long distance that separates the people in the Diaspora from our kinsmen back home has, over the years, slowly but surely created a gulf so deep it is becoming difficult to bridge it. We do not speak the same language anymore, both literally and metaphorically. At times the meaning of verbal exchanges is lost in translation in the wavelengths across the oceans when we phone home. This misunderstanding does not emanate only from what is said and what is heard, but from what is conveyed through images and what those back home see, e.g. through social media, with Facebook as the biggest platform. Perhaps we do not listen anymore to what the other says, intent as we are on conveying our own understanding of the situation. Here is how far we have gone down this road.
We say murikurakasha mari dzedu kumusha ikoko, they say not at all, things are expensive and the dollar doesn’t go far, especially with an economy that has not only gone down, but which has brought us to our knees too.
We say we’re coming home on holiday, to visit and spend precious moments with the family. They take it to mean the moneybags are hitting town, and will be sure to end all their problems.
We say we shall be staying at their place. We don’t ask, we just tell them and expect them to put us up and to put up with our demands at short notice. They say buy your own houses and stop inconveniencing us.
Living it up abroad
We say we haven’t managed to buy houses despite years of living and working in the so-called land of plenty because we also take care of their needs. They say liars, So-and-So’s son already has two properties to his name, and a little business on the side.
We say we’re struggling to make ends meet and that the life of an immigrant is hard. They say not true, Facebook doesn’t lie. Your lives of leisure; holidays, posh cars, outings to Nandos, KFC, MacDonalds and to parties are well documented for all to see.
We say we go out only to de-stress, and on Facebook to link up with others. They say you consider a life of free healthcare, free education, clean streets and reliable public transport stressful? We say it is not like that, they say but it is you who boast about these things.
Broken communication lines
We accuse them of not responding with haste to our messages on WhatsApp and on email. They say they cannot afford the luxury of staring at their phones twenty-four-seven. They have to go out and hustle, or else go hungry. In any case there is no electricity with which to power the gadgets.
We tell them we shall be staying at a lodge or hotel in town, they say, in amazement, so you think you’re now too posh to stay in the very same old houses you grew up in?
Buy me this, buy me that
We lament aloud about the expensive flights, they reel out long lists of presents they expect, as if they are ticking freebies off a mail order catalogue.
We buy the presents because we will be going to stay in their homes, they say it’s because we have lots of money to spare.
Spoilt brats raised in exile
We say our children cannot speak a single word of Shona, Ndebele or Kalanga because all our neighbours are English and those language aren’t taught in English schools. They snort and say we are trying to erase all traces of our culture in our foreign born kids.
We allow our children to ask questions. They say well-brought up kids should be seen and not heard.
We raise our kids through reasoning with them. They say we should smack them now and again, for to spare the rod is to spoil the child.
We say we are scared of what social services might do if we come too hard on our kids. They say oh-oh, you are scared of those spoilt brats of yours who throw tantrums, hurl insults at you and shove you in public if you do not give in to their unreasonable demands.
We dress our children in fine clothes. They say when you go, leave this skirt, that t-shirt and those dresses for my little one.
Thoughts of home
We say we now wish to relocate back home. They say oh no, you can’t. Not just yet. Life is hard over here.
We say but you are managing all right. They say we are used to this life of hardship.
They say… we say… the list is endless. Maybe one day we shall wake up living in the same land and singing from the same hymn book. But until then, we shall continue to sing different tunes.
Spiwe Harper is the author of 3 novels: Trials & Tribulations, Echoes In The Shadows and Footprints In The Mist of Time. Connect with her via her Facebook page