Some months back I took a trip to my home country, Zimbabwe. I had last been there a few years prior to this visit. As we neared landing, I couldn’t help but remember watching a documentary about some country where there was war, people dying, some eating tree bark and all the other scary stuff that comes with a country in such a state. I felt sorry for the people of this unfortunate country. I was ready to change the channel when the presenter referred to this country as Zimbabwe. My country? My Zimbabwe? I thought of this and despite knowing how the media sometimes sensationalises, I became a little apprehensive.

As my mother and I drove from the airport I realised something about my beloved country. It has the most cautious drivers in the world. No, I’m not bragging, it’s the truth. No one exceeds 60km an hour; drivers are very alert and observant. You would be too if you had to dodge potholes at every turn! As we drove I lost count of how many we had passed. It was interesting to see my mother slowing down, or should I say slowing down further, every time we approached one. She knew where all of them would be. She explained to me that people now drive mainly on roads they are familiar with. What about at night I asked her, she turned to me and said “anyone who drives at night or when it’s raining might as well get a gun and shoot themselves”.

The first and second day that I was home, there was no running water. Finally I understood why Garnier has a 48-hour deodorant. I’ve seen the adverts numerous times and wondered why anyone would need a 48-hour deodorant. Well if anyone from Garnier is reading this, 48 hours is no longer enough, because two days turned into three, three into four and so on until I left two weeks later. Let me state at this point that my mother – as many in Zimbabwe have been doing – was resourceful enough to get a water tank. I wondered what would happen when the tank ran dry. When that day came, I informed my mother, who promptly ordered $25 worth of water to be delivered. And for sure, in a few hours it arrived. Is it just me, or is the idea of buying bathing and washing water just preposterous?

I remember those unbearable few weeks when Eskom dumped load shedding on the unsuspecting South African populace. At the time people could talk of nothing else, how could such a situation have been allowed to occur? What were we to do with ourselves when we couldn’t play video games or watch television, how would we know whether Ridge chose Taylor or Brooke? Such a trying time!

I thought of this as I sat through another dark evening at home, only this experience was somewhat different. Soon after the lights went out, the candles that were already on the table were lit, this was no rare occurrence. My grandmother took it upon herself to entertain us and wowed us with stories from her past. She told us how the people in the village believed my late grandfather had met Jesus Christ. He would tell them that he used to be friends with Him and how they used to drink together all the time. Oh ignorance is bliss! He’d say that he still could not believe what those Romans had done to Him! She also told us that when she was younger and attended a Catholic school, one of her teachers had been fired and none of the students understood why. Why would they take away the beloved Mrs Dube when she was such a joy and always made them sing interesting songs such as “Allah is King, there is no other God but Allah”. As we sat laughing our lungs out, my grandmother, without warning got up and started singing and dancing, for a moment we just looked at her, then we joined her. As we twirled around the candle-lit coffee table, singing and dancing, I thought to myself, who needs to know whether Dineo gets back together with Kenneth!

Grocery shopping at home is also a little different. The US dollar is now the main currency. After spending some time trying to convert everything into rands for every item I bought, I finally went to pay. It came up to $28. I gave the teller $30. She asked me whether I’d like a box of matches or some sweets. I was a little confused and informed her that I’d bought everything I needed. As though she hadn’t heard me she repeated herself, only this time in a rather irritated tone. I thought okay maybe there was some promotion taking place, maybe I was shopper number one hundred and got to choose between free sweets and a box of matches so I said I’d take the sweets. She handed them to me and said “next”. I realised she had yet to give me my change and pointed this out to her, where upon she threw her hands in the air in exasperation and said: “Lady you took the sweets didn’t you?” My family laughed at me, they told me I should be glad to have been given a choice!

Being at home gave me the chance to visit some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. As I sat catching up with one of my friends, admiring her baby, she told me something that shocked me. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. She related how a few days before another friend had visited her and while holding her baby, looked into the baby’s eyes and said to her: “Shame my dear, It’s not your fault you were born into poverty.” What? What was she smoking?

As I left home, a strong gush of sadness overwhelmed me. With tears pouring from my eyes I responded to the greeting from the person next to me as he sat down. I dried my eyes and introduced myself. He did the same, without drying his eyes of course! He took pride in his tears he said … okay fine, I just added that last bit. But what did get me was his name. Comedy! As Comedy introduced himself, the tears came again, only for a different reason this time. Comedy looked at me sadly and said: “Don’t worry, you’ll be back soon.” Where I got the strength to refrain from bursting into laughter baffles me, to this day. I realised being away from home had spoilt me. In the past a name like Comedy would not faze me. I grew up with the likes of Pretty, Liberty, Magistrate, to mention a few. Such names are very common in Zimbabwe, they are a part of life, it’s all the English words our parents heard during the struggle. How can anyone blame them? What gets me are the Millenniums who are only about ten years old. Seriously, what goes through these parents’ minds? You have to admit though, such flamboyant names are sure to get some reaction out of you, unlike Tom or Harry (the one I left out might get some reaction). Oh my beloved country. As we took off, I left with tears of laughter, not sorrow.