Memoir of the first 12 years of my life.

in #memoir5 years ago

I grew up in a family of many children, about 14 known ones in a lithium mining town called Bikita Minerals. Look forward to a post about lithium in Zimbabwe, being one of the five largest and reliable sources of lithium in the world, I can't skip this one. The mine was set up in the midst of a deep rural and traditional area and we had to reside in a police camp there since my father was a policeman.

There was a vivid mystique about this place. To start with, the police camp was situated on a hilltop overlooking a valley that led up to some grand mountains. As children, this valley, marshy place became our playground as it was rich in different types of exotic fruits at different times throughout the year. This area also used to be a shooting range for(I don't know who) but we would often find live bullets, play with them open them and do art with gunpowder if you are lucky to find the powder and not those 'useless' sticks. I remember one particular day that a boy came up with a clean shiny bullet, which I assumed to be from his dad's private box, not a lucky find as he'd made us believe, and we lit up a fire and climbed up a guava tree. We threw the bullet into the lit fire and waited...within seconds it rocketed in a direction we could neither predict nor follow and we celebrated. Anyone of us could have died that day. Stories of adults and children being blown by landmines were common news so much that at our school we had regular landmine safety classes.

Back to the mystique of this place as I saw it and felt it. Some nights the sky would be filled with bright stars, beautifully complemented by distant drums that would play until late into the night after everyone sleeps. I would keep awake to listen to these rhythms, some of which still play vividly in my memory today. Choosing to sit around the fire and listening to the stories people told was as good as applying for nightmares for that night and several others before its replaced by yet another story about snakes, lions, elephants, witches, unidentified killer things (UKTs) that resided in the forbidden mountains, mountains which would burn for several nights on different portions but actually not burning, a phenomena that was generally alluded evil unseen things with horrifying names and then...hunger!

In 1992, the country was hit by a drought, I began noticing my classmates' bones showing through their skins and their bellies bulging, then trucks coming with the sweetest yellow porridge I've ever tasted and I would queue for the porridge with the hungrier kids even though luckily I was well fed and always had packed lunch. This packed lunch made me friends but mostly enemies who took it personal that they couldn't have a share all the time. I tried to share but too many were hungry until we resorted to hiding our food on the river banks some distance to the school, we'd get to the school trying to look like everybody else. I remember the songs the beggars used to sing as they walked from door to door and the different, even amusing, antics they used to employ so they can get anything from food to clothing.

Then came the diseases, people, cows, donkeys and dogs were dying and the fruits even disappeared too. Very often we had to be injected immunisation this against that. I got sick with chicken pox and all the horror stories got me mentally preparing for my own death at 7 years old. We would walk about 2km to school, via a shortcut with only pathways down the steep hill, along with a dark gorge which I only dared to look into as I got older then passing some rural communities. It's here that I would get a daily glimpse of the situation outside the camp and the school. First, there were funerals, then locked doors and eventually a ghostly hair-raising place with overgrown weeds. We abandoned this route in favour of the long winding one which the cars used. More food trucks.

This route was less scenic and no fruits along the way from school but I liked it more. I treasured seeing both the nice cars and the smartly dressed multi & interracial school kids passing by going in the opposite direction to a 'Group A' school. These kids were generally fatter, more playful and aggressive too, with healthy glowing skins and shoes I wished to wear. After school, I would escape to their world which always had something new & attractive and soon enough I made a friend. Her name was Princess, a coloured(as we used to call interracial kids). I was forced to improve my spoken English immensely as she introduced me to her world, a world which I was soon to discover my own father's second life. There was a social club where the parents of the Group A schools used to meet, play golf and other ball games I had no idea existed. Princess' aunt invited me to join them at the club on a Sunday, somehow nudging me towards learning chess, and just before I could learn the rules I saw my dad in an awkward position with a woman, a pack of Madison cigarettes with a matchbox on top, two glasses of beer and two unopened pints, them in the background too close for my own comfort.

I can say we discovered each other that day with this man I lived with but rarely saw nor talked to. Our conversations were restricted to a fearsome question and answer save for days that he came back home drunk. I would look forward to these days because then he would lift me up, put Mbira traditional music on, watch me dance and throw coins as a reward. For the rest of the days, he was the policeman I call Baba who seemed to be my mom's best friend and worst enemy at the same time. Since that day, as a tacit bribe, he befriended me and began taking me around and beyond with his friends. We went for hunts, parties, aimless missions which I was always grateful for as they fed my curiosity to see life outside the camp. I tried mostly to understand what was going on with the hungry people and where those hungry children who bullied me at school come from. In 1993, the same year which my best friend Stanley died of Cholera whilst we were on holiday at our paternal rural homestead, my dad was transferred to a more urban area and left Bikita.

I was to spend the next four years of my life in another mining town, with a lot of poor but not so hungry people. The drought was over and here people were more industrious. Mashava is a town renowned for stone sculpting in Zimbabwe, I can regard it as the wholesale hub for Zimbabwean sculpture which I will make a separate post about as well. I soon found a pocket money income stream by going to smoothen, wax and shine the stones and listening to the sculptors' stories. After three years, my father was again transferred but to a real urban town and I had to move. My initial excitement died completely when, after moving, we started attending a school within the police camp perhaps less than 300m from our house. It was a 'Group A' school, complete with a sports field, well-equipped gym and acrobatics, music and piano class and healthy looking kids.

Nothing bad happened to me at this school but my soul refused. Perhaps it was the bullying memories, my attachment to the poor kids, or my desire for solitary space as I walk from a school far away from home but I refused to attend this school. When I was forced, I absconded until I offered my parents deal. If they let me return to my old school, which was 40+ kilometres away implying I would walk-commute-walk to and from school getting up as early as 4 am to prepare, I would get the best possible grades and I did just that. I introduced the game of chess to my teachers and fellow students and made friends amongst the poor kids. We shared lunchboxes, I would bring bread with egg, bacon, baked beans, a juice, cake or sandwiches and they would bring mixed backed seeds meals, Mahewu traditionally brewed cornmeal/sorghum drink and dried fruits. I would find weekends and holidays when I would visit them where they live, either a mining workers compound or a rural homestead. I was 12 years old then.


Sweet! Nice biography!

Keep talking about your dreamsb

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