IT’S been close to four months since I got to England, and I feel guilty that apart from that one phone call I made to you in my first week, I haven’t updated you on what happened or has been happening.
Well, like I told you, I had no problems going through immigration, and I was welcomed at the airport by our relatives as per our plan.
We then proceeded to Nuneaton, a small town close to Coventry, and that’s where I settled with maiguru and baba mukuru and their two children. But mom, what our dear relatives neglected to tell us was that their flat is two bed-roomed, and that in addition to their small family population, they are also accommodating an aunt from South Africa, and the son of a friend (pavaimbo renta kuzimbabwe).
So I found myself sharing the living room at night with the kids, a rather uncomfortable arrangement, but what can I say, it’s not like I had a choice. The morning after I got here, maiguru asked me what we were having for breakfast, which I found rather strange given that I was a visitor in their house. But I caught the drift and we went to a supermarket called Aldi in Nuneaton.
I was so excited mama. There was food everywhere! Shop yanga yakaita kuzhara kuti tii! Mashelves aya aitadza kufema nezvhinhu! Given the state of TM Newlands, the last week I was home, you can imagine what a pleasant shock to my system this was. So, nekamari kandakauya nako, ndakaitira maiguru rino zigroccery rekufa! Ndakati nyama, mapotatoes, mafuta ekubikisa zvese ne ekuzhora. Ndikoti rice, kuzoti masipaghetti aya, hautaure chinhu! Kucheuka kudai, kuona bakery inechingwa chekuti heyi! So ndakazadza trolley! Maiguru was pleased.
It cost me a whooping £60 pounds. Again, I was amazed because £60 pounds kuichinja kumba that would give me US$120 which wouldn’t buy much in Zimbabwe because let’s face it, US$100 yafumuka. Munhu wese anayo and the buying power has diminished drastically!
So anyway, we went back kumba, and I knew that by buying groceries, I had paid my ‘rent’ for the time being.
The next morning, I lost no time in consulting baba mukuru on the workings of the country particularly on how one secures a job, given that mapepa angu were in order. That’s when I learnt and understood words like National Insurance Number and Jobcentre Plus, Employment Agency and CRB.
Three weeks later, after having applied to every applicable newspaper advert and after having registered with every possible agency that did recruitment for banking, there was still nothing in the form of employment.
I then learnt more new words.
Shrinking job market.
Those words were not at all alarming. Until one morning I woke up to be introduced to some seriously unpleasant ones.
Gas and Electricity.
Talk of shock and awe!
Ini dhoooo kufunga. Apa graft harisi kubaikika chinhu. The irony of my situation was that before I came to England mama, some mates of mine had promised kuti paunongo svika chete give me a call and I will hook you up. These characters were not as scarce as the back head of a nurse! Apa maiguru was pressing for my share of the bills. I then learnt a brand new word.
Mama, do you remember sekuru Mathias, the one who worked kuGraniteside muIndustry the one with chapped hands? Do you remember mkoma Chale, the one who worked in Workington, loading boxes into a truck? Do you remember Tendekai, the one who was kuUnilever (before it closed), the one whom we used to laugh at because his job was to screw-on tops to Vaseline bottles? Remember mom, how they were automatically relegated to the lower echelons of the family structure because of the jobs they did, how at funerals their wives were the ones who cooked by the fire while every one else was inside the house? Yes, them!
That, mother, was the job that I, the daughter you painstakingly sent to school on a limited budget, the one who used to work in a bank, driving my cream 306, having my hair done by Jackie at Crown Plaza, and my nails done by Alice… that was the job that I was doing. The stuff to make your CV as competitive as that of bin Laden for a job in the Obama administration!
Job Description: Warehouse Operative.
Duties: Box packing. Box Closing. Box Packing.
Repeat everyday until you get really mad.
Which is why mother, when you sent a text saying that you had found a residential stand in Chishawa, I didn’t respond. When your brother sent a text saying that his car needed a new radiator, I didn’t respond. When you complained that mwana waMai Maponga had bought her a commuter omnibus, I didn’t respond. When you said that all the other Mai Elders were paying out their love offering at church in forex, while you were paying yours in Zim dollars, I kept my silence.
I believe, mom, and I know I am not alone in this, that after a month of warehouse work, the excitement of working in the Diaspora wears off and reality settles in.
I should be saying goodbye now, but something fundamentally changed, thanks to the internet social networking website called Facebook, I linked up with an old friend from high school. She told me kuti siyana nema agencies. Apply straight to the banks and institutions. ‘Do it yourself,’ she advised! She gave me certain pointers. And that is why mom, as we speak, I am writing to you from behind my desk at one of the large public service institutions, where I have just signed a contract of employment.
I guess the past three months had left me disillusioned. There were times I often pondered the wisdom of my decision. Then I got asking:
What makes a father of three, get up and leave his wife and children, to live in a land so far away from home?
What makes a professional hang up his tools of trade and resign himself to doing menial jobs in the cold climes in the land of Albion?
What makes a teacher drop his chalk and board a plane to an unknown country with all the attendant uncertainties?
What makes a doctor flee his country of birth and choose to treat people with whom he is not related – not by history, not by destiny?
What makes a nurse leave her husband to take care of the children while she nurses so far away?
Mom, we are all bound by one common cause — the desire to improve the quality of our lives, the lives of our children, the lives of our families and those close to us.
Do I regret the path I took? No mother, I don’t.
I was working in the warehouse, yet you were able to get your monthly medication for hypertension.
I was in the warehouse, but on was able to attend a good pre-school which would prepare him for his future.
I toiled in the warehouse, yet my sister managed to get her new spectacles which were no longer covered by CIMAS.
Because of that same warehouse, Mainini Kudzi has a decent burial.
So yes mother, I may not be able to buy you a commuter omnibus, or build you a house in Chishawasha just yet, but I have no regrets. No, mommy, I don’t.
I have also learnt, in my short time here, that it does not pay to subscribe to the common thought that in Arcadia, all the guys are backyard mechanics and all the girls are receptionists. In the same vein, it does not mean that coming the UK means care work; waitressing, call centre, and industry (known by those who have travelled the path as Indunda). Everyone’s circumstances are different, and never ever think kuti ‘takafanana’,
Having said that, I salute the true heros of this country. The ‘illegal’ immigrant doing menial jobs. Ndivo vapinza vana zvikoro. Ndivo vatenga mushonga yevarwere. Ndivo vaviga hama kunhamo. Ndivo vatengera vabereki zvighayo.
I am proud to be Zimbabwean, and prouder of my countrymen and women who are making the best of a terrible situation that we are caught in home and away.
Your loving daughter,