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El Niño

ZIMBABWE | Saturday, 17 May 2014 | Views [659]


The man next was drenched in the familiar stale hostile smell of cheap alcohol.   Lawidzani had been declared an illegal substance in Zimbabwe after it had been discovered that the alcohol content was close to 70% and not the 14% that was written on the bottle.  It was now being illegally imported from Mozambique through the bush.  The boarders between Zimbabwe and Mozambique had always been porous which made the poverty and desperation porous between the 2 countries.  We had become kin, a kin-ness formed by the similarities in our suffering. Ever since the landmines had been removed in the 90’s people would walk freely bribing the soldiers who manned the boarders with cups of rice and cans of fish.

On our way to my grandmother’s house in Zimunya after the cyclone had ripped the roof off our house, cyclone El Niño they called it.  The landlord had said that he would have the roof fixed within the next 3 days but it had been a week and we decided to go to my grandmother’s house until the roof had been repaired.  I had spent the last week going around looking for plastic bags to take home to cover the little possessions that we had.  I had prayed particularly for our bed, it was the sofa, the chair, the dining table; the everything that we had. 

This bed had been the centre of our belongings for the past 12 years and it hurt me to think that mother nature could easily turn it into a smelly pile of rubbish.  The emotions that I felt just for a bed made me question myself, I felt a deep hollowness and a pervading sense of defeat that made me grieve even though no one had died.  It was forbidden to mourn at random, mourning was strictly reserved for the passing of life.  Even when someone was so ill and you could see the life slip away from them, you had to reserve the mourning for the time they would be declared dead. On most days like this, my faith usually overtakes my grief but today is not one of those days.

 I am resigned to an overwhelming pain that makes me question a lot of things.  I start blaming my father who left us years ago to marry another woman.  I blame their children who I had never met, I blame his wife; someone had to be blamed.  The rain had come all of a sudden accompanied by big bursts of wind.  The corrugated iron sheets that made up the roof of our one roomed cottage were old and rusted.  We heard creaking sounds then a big tearing noise that I will never forget as the iron sheets were torn off the house by the hurricane like wind. My mother had tried to console me but the despair she tried to mask with her counsel is what made me force myself to find strength in the tragedy we both shared.  I was glad that Yolanda had not been there to witness what had just happened.  She was in boarding school and I knew for certain that the roof of their dormitory had not been blown away too.

 My mother and I were huddled in the corner of our beloved bed trying to find warmth from each other as all our blankets had been soaked wet.  Cyclone Elnino, this is what they called it.  This fiendish weather had a name? “I wonder what El Niño” means, I said to my mother. We had always lived from hand to mouth and my mother had taught us how to be content with what we have.  Our poverty was just enough to humanize us and we had not felt bloated by suffering until this El Niño day.  Our one room had been enough and big enough until El Niño showed us that it was so small and could be destroyed in one day.  I am sure El Niño is a man I said to my mother.  He can bring you to your knees the same way my father had brought my mother to her knees begging for her life as he pounded her with a brick in the head.  The blood had flowed from her temples to her floral skirt.  I could no longer see the pink and green flowers that had made it the envy of so many women.  Any reminder of my father had always discomfited my mother, but today I had hoped that she would find solace in blaming him for our suffering the way I had done. 


Tags: desperation, destruction, homelessness, poverty

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