1982. This is the year the decision was made just after Christmas. Early January, I found myself making my first ever longest bus trip from Magaya village in Mashonaland East, to Shabanie Mine in the Midlands. I had never really left the village, in any meaningful way. I was around 15 years.
My brother Alphonse had just married. He had passed in house training as a miner artisan and was transferred from Mashaba mines to Shabanie. He had come home for Christmas with his new wife, Jennifer. My sister-in law, Jennifer was pregnant and each morning she struggled with “nyong’o”/ nausea. I liked her so much and felt sorry for her. I wanted to help. I scrounge for guavas, lemons, manhanga or just anything I thought would help her.
My sister-in-law was my princess. After a bath, she used Vaseline Intensive Lotion. This was the first time I had really seen this cream, I was used to our ordinary greasy vaseline! It left her glorious, and this fragrance around her was all about the city. Some of us were all smelling of smoke and the heavy garden soil.
I requested her politely if she could name her child after me, if she gives birth to a baby girl. She looked deeply at me, and said “would you like to come to Shabanie Mine and be with the baby all the time. If it’s a girl, I will call her Nyaradzayi?”. I said yes, but I was not sure whether she meant it, or did she simply feel sorry for me with my patched skirts and cracked feet (skirt ye-zvigamba neman’a). I was bright in class and this made my brother happy. I knew he would want me to have a good education. So maybe. Going to Shabanie sounded so remote and I dismissed the thought!
This one evening, after a meal, my brother Alphonse called me in the house and I sat close to my princess Jennifer on the reed-mat. Mother was sitting on the other side, stretched at the far end and boiling some water for the evening tea, with no milk.
My brother cleared his throat, and in the protocol we all know in Murewa, I knew there was something coming…”well, muchembere, ndataura nevaroora venyu ava, and we request that tete Nyara comes to live with us in Shabanie. As you can see, muroora wenyu will need help with the baby, and since tete Nyara is going into form 3, we can enroll her at Mandava“.
I literally stopped breathing! Was this for real? Ininiwo zvangu, Me! Leaving the village. Me, taking the bus and going on that long journey which my brother used to describe. He used to say that it takes a whole day from Magaya village to Mandava bus-terminus in Shabanie. He said, on arrival at Mandava they have to take chirokari/local bus that goes to Niro/Nil, and they would get off at the first stop in Birthday suburbs. He used to describe how our Shiriyekutanga bus-service took him only up to Harare. He had to take another bus and spend the whole day travelling.
I drifted into my own world of dreams. I saw myself in the bus, past Kadoma, Kwekwe, Gweru and Shurugwi. I saw myself at Boterekwa, the beautiful gorge that I had read in our geography class, I saw the bus take me in long stretch past Nhema turn off to Siboza. I had kept each detail etched in my mind as my brother described the long journey to his Shabanie Mine.
Was this for real. I thought it was all a dream. I smiled to myself, as I saw myself early the following morning breaking the news to my friend Veronica Basvi. I was going to meet her kwaMbuya Dhabu where we were weeding for $2.50 each per day (maricho e-muswere). This 29th of December 1982 was the very last day I was do any such maricho.
I will never know all the full conversation between my mother, my brother Alphonse and sister-in-law Jennifer. My mother woke me from the reverie with sharp call “iwe, enda unotora huni panze, ugoteera kwauri kuenda kunogara nemuroora. Mangwana mubva maita washeni, hembe dzerwendo dzigare dzakarongedzwa”/ You go fetch firewood now. I expect you to respect your sister in law when you go stay with her. By the way, tomorrow you should do your laundry so that you are ready for the journey”.
This decision and this day changed my life. A new pathway in my life was opening. I knew that the village had moulded me and will always be part of me. What awaited me was navigating a new life in the peri-urban town. The drama, dynamics and the intrigues of a mining town. I was an innocent adolescent with the whole world in front of me.
© Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, 2014