Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Who surrounds you?


I know I wrote about late South African rapper, Jabulani Tsambo aka HHP before. While I didn’t count myself among his biggest fans, I found him to be very profound and sure-footed. It came as a shock to realise he had such serious personal battles that ended up taking his life. I used to pay attention when he spoke, and following his passing, I’ve also listened to what other people say about him.
Jabulani Tsambo aka HHP
I came across a video on YouTube where Kabomo, a South African artist, was speaking at HHP’s memorial service. He said many wonderful things about the late rapper who lost his life to suicide, but what touched my heart most was when he said HHP was a king, who in his dark times did not have enough people reminding him that he was a king. He asked, “Who surrounds you to remind you of your magic when you don’t remember that you’ve got some?” That blew me away.
Sometimes life deals us very huge blows. Blows that make us wonder if we will ever smile again. During such times, it helps to have someone in your corner. However, more often than not, we never really tell those close to us how much we are struggling. If we ever do, we downplay our agony and no-one really gets to know how heavy our burdens are. During our dark days, we are likely to focus more on the things that have gone wrong in our lives without paying attention to those that could make us smile and get us excited about life again. If we can’t remember how to be excited about anything, then that might be the time for our friends to chip in.
My experiences in life have taught me to take care of Number 1 before anyone else. My children are my world, and one would probably wonder why I don’t choose to place their needs before mine. The concept is pretty much similar to the instructions we get during flights. Wear your oxygen mask first before attempting to assist a weaker person. I cannot be a good mom to my children if I’m not in the right space emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, even physically. You have to be fully functional if you are to be effective. That brings me to how to the point of how to stay functional. We need to be careful about the people who surround us and whose voices we listen to with regards to our lives. The wrong people can drain the life out of you until you have no idea whether you are coming or going. They can make you feel you are a smithereen in the bigger scheme of things, most likely because they work hard to break you into one. The wrong voices in our ears can kill your zest for life and stun you into ineptitude.  It’s usually people with small personalities that feel their candles shine brighter when they blow out other people’s. Unfortunately, in our moments of vulnerability, even the weak seeking validity by trying to make others (us) look smaller start to sound very sensible.
We need to trust our own voices, believe in ourselves so that we don’t seek validation from other people. Not everyone has your best interest at heart. I have a friend that always says to me, “Take care of your heart.” I’m passing the same message to you. Look around you; Who surrounds you? Never underestimate the power of negative energy around you. Whose voice do you listen to regarding how important you are to the universe? Do they say things that make you praise God for their presence in your life? If not, step away! There is only one you.


14th Anniversary Conversation with a stranger

As I was shopping for a dress for myself and gift for my husband on the event of our 14th wedding anniversary, I bumped into this woman at Pick ‘n Pay Clothing. We started chatting about the dresses available, until I eventually told her why I needed a new dress.
She asked, “Do you and your husband get along, or you’re just commemorating because it has to be done?”

She went on to tell me how, for many years, she pretended to celebrate her own anniversary with her now ex-husband. “Thirty-two years!” she said. This woman said stayed that long in the marriage because of cultural considerations. She is of Portuguese/Brazilian descent and said divorce is very much frowned upon. Her husband was a philanderer of note and would spend thousands of Rand wining and dining other women, while spending none on his wife. “I don’t remember him ever taking me on a date. He was emotionally, psychologically and physically abusive. 
One day he threw all her clothes outside the house and told her to leave. She sat outside the house as she waited for her sister to come and pick her. As soon as the sister arrived, the man sprinted towards them, pointed a gun to his sister-in-law’s head, and told her to drive back to her house and not interfere in other people’s relationships. She had no option but to drive off without her sister. The man with the gun has the final say. He then turned the gun on his wife, told her to pick up all her clothes from the yard and go back inside the house like a good wife. She complied.
She endured more years of abuse until her grown daughter sat her down and said, “Mum, I’m very ashamed of you. You are nothing but a doormat. Where is your pride as a woman and as a human being to allow yourself to be treated this way?” That was all the talk she needed to pack up and leave this man for good. She moved to a different suburb and got a peace order on him when he started threatening her life. Left all to himself with no-one to bully, the man just crumbled to pieces. His life just spiralled downwards until he decided to leave South Africa for Brazil. His ex-wife’s relatives in Brazil say he has fallen on hard times and is nothing but a shadow of his former self. Initially the family blamed her for the collapse of her marriage and thought she should have been more resilient. Now that they are closer to the man and see him for the loser he really is, they can’t pat her on the back enough for mustering the courage to leave him.
I couldn’t help marvelling at how almost similar our backgrounds are in terms of views on marriage and divorce, despite the racial difference. She told me she has had a very peaceful and enriching life since leaving him, her only regret being that she was hesitant to leave for far too long. She has been able to socialise and come and go as she pleases, which she couldn’t do under his thumb. He believed he was the only one in the union entitled to happiness, and hers was just to remember to keep her tail tucked neatly between her legs around him. When that power to dictate was taken away from him, he could not survive. We give abusers the power they think they have, and when we disallow it, we expose them for the cowards they really are. This probably applies to everybody that believes they are in positions of authority, such as political leaders, bosses in the workplace, and of course, abusive spouses. No-one can bully you without your acquiescence.
We had such an intense discussion on marriage, particularly the abusive side of it.  So intense that at the end of it all, we parted ways without having exchanged numbers, let alone names. We probably stood there talking for close to an hour. Pick ‘n Pay staff must have wondered what we were still doing there.
Of course, some will claim I didn’t get the husband’s side of the story, but I choose to believe everything she told me. It’s a story I’ve heard one time too many. I really wish I had taken her number so we could chat again. My 14th anniversary celebrations were great, but I think I’ll remember the day for the conversation I had with this lady.  That is why I have decided to share it. 

Friday, 26 October 2018

SILENT BATTLES


Jabulani Tsambo AKA HHP
We are skeptical about pain we don’t physically see. We are doubting Thomases that only believe after seeing a visible scar.    

The death of South African Hip Hop artist, Jabulani Tsambo, whose stage name was HHP has broken the hearts of many South Africans and people from other parts of the world whose lives he touched. HHP was on record for disclosing that he had attempted to die by his own hand thrice in 2015. When he disclosed that, not many people took him seriously. As with most depression cases, people thought that he was attention-seeking or just exaggerating. In fact, one radio DJ came under fire for asking on air, “Why would someone that famous want to commit suicide?” The fire was not necessary. It was a question on many people’s minds. HHP was a delight to listen to when he spoke.  I’d actually sit down and listen to him. He appeared to be happy and very much in touch with himself and one would think he had it all – talent, respect in the industry, a huge fan base, and maybe enough money to keep him comfortable. Getting a breakthrough in the entertainment industry is not easy for many, but he was up there being counted among the best. There was just this aura of positivity and someone who was comfortable in his own skin about him. He appeared to be working his way out of the woods, but I guess the darkness that engulfed him eventually overcame the light.  In light of what has happened now, can it be concluded that all that was just a farce? Was he really positive one moment and then the darkness would engulf him the next?

The question comes back again, why would someone like that want to die and not enjoy life? Why would someone like that not count his many blessings? There are many paupers on the streets, people living wretched lives yet they don’t take themselves out, why would someone who seemingly had it all want to end it all? Those are the questions many would ask. I used to ask that question too, but I’m slowly trying to learn what I can about depression and how this horrible, horrible condition afflicts people and takes the joy out of life. This post by a writer who suffers from depression, Stirling Gardner helped me put things into perspective a whole lot more on the subject. It is not just ‘losers’ or poor people that take their own lives. Famous and seemingly well-to-do people also do. They have their own serious issues to deal with, regardless of outwardly looking like everything is honky dory. Think of America comedian Robin Williams, wildly popular musician Avicii, renowned artist Vincent van Gogh, HHP’s compatriots pioneering cardiologist Professor Bongani Mayosi, actress Shoki Mokgapa, actor Christopher Kubheka, and many others. What this means is, even your strong friends or those that seem to have it together also need looking out for.My fear, though, with big stars taking their own lives is that it brings so much disillusionment to the ordinary person suffering from depression. It could make one feel, "If people like HHP could not cope, there is absolutely no hope for someone like me." Yet HHP was just a human being like the rest. After getting off the stage, he would go back home to face his own demons and struggles.

Many a time we have thrown that word around  as if it is something very light, like, Oh my goodness! Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have broken up! Now I'm seriously depressed." That is not depression. It is quite a heavy subject, especially on the souls of those it afflicts, more so because it has no visible tell-tale signs. If you have a broken arm, people will drive you around, help with carrying your groceries, and make the right sounds to make you feel they care and they see your pain. It is a different ball game when it is something inside your head that is broken. People can’t see it. When it does show up, it usually manifests in very negative ways that probably further distances people from the sufferer.

I believe the black community needs a lot of assistance in understanding depression and its grave, excuse the pun, consequences. I was one of those people that thought depressed people must just make an effort to save their own lives, not allow themselves to sink. They could just take a walk, go and watch a movie, or listen to their favourite music, and feel better. Now I know better. A severely depressed person can't even bring himself get out of bed, let alone put one foot in front of the other to take a walk. There isn’t even a word for depression in most African languages, including my own, Shona. Any disease of the mind is just described as madness. It doesn’t matter if it’s autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or anything in-between. If your brain is not functioning as it should, you’re definitely mad. The result is a huge stigma attached to all those with diseases of the mind, and many just clam up to avoid getting labelled. Also with the poverty levels in most black African communities, it only makes sense to go for medical attention when you are suffering from physical pain of some sort – headache, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, and the like. People are just walking around with no diagnoses, oblivious to the fact that they are depressed and in desperate need of medical attention. We need help explaining how to tell when your mind is hurting, because it does. What are the symptoms, where do you go for help? There is a big gap when it comes to addressing mental illnesses. 
 It is a phenomenon that intrigues and terrifies me. It hurts families, and people believe people who commit suicide are selfish. Experts say the signs are usually there, but most people do not see them for what they are. It’s just usually seen as acting out, until it’s too late. An example is that of the late Rhodes University student, Khensani Maseko, who committed suicide after allegedly getting raped by her boyfriend. She posted her birth and death dates, as well as other tell-tale signs that she was not coping psychologically on Twitter. People only started paying serious attention after she had already died.
Images Khensani Maseko posted on her Instagram before taking her own life

It really is time for that serious conversation, as black people, about how the mind, like any other body parts, also gets sick. When that happens, it needs to be treated and support is needed for people struggling internally. It is not a shameful thing when your mind fails to cope with life’s stressors. It’s not a laughable matter. It is a very serious issue that can cost lives when it goes untreated. It is costing lives, many, many lives, and one life lost to suicide is one life too many. Some suicides can definitely be avoided. 

I have written about suicide and how it is viewed in the African context, as well as mental health issues in general. Please visit the links below.


Thursday, 25 October 2018

Bad till operators


About 2 weeks ago I attended the Service Excellence Awards at a local hotel.  The MC spoke about how every  person on the premises, from the security guard at the gate right to the office cleaner, has a role a role to play in customer retention. 
Everyday we are confronted by bad customer services by people who should actually be bending over backwards to treat us well so that we stay faithful to their brands. 
I wonder how much training is devoted to till operators in retail outlets. Close to my  house is Bhunu Mall, where Shoprite and other shops such as Clicks, Milady's, Woolworths and others are located. I'd pick it over nearer standalone shops because there's ample parking. Manzini is congested and one has a torrid time trying to secure parking,  which is something I have no patience with. Shoprite till operators are among the worst I've seen. When customers arrive at their till points, they mostly don't even greet them. They proceed to ringing your items and throwing them disrespectfully out of the way. On a recent visit, a till operator and a packer were having a very loud conversation about something and laughed their heads off. Customers, including myself, would arrive at the till and no-one would even look at them. The two just continued yapping away, and the only time the till operator acknowledged a customer was when she stretched her hand for the money. That's all she cared about. 
If I weren't the cheapskate that I am, I doubt I'd ever set foot in Shoprite. Their prices are usually great even though their staff isn't. I guess every rose had its thorns. Pick 'n Pay staff at The Hub and at Riverstone are very warm and helpful .
The one that took the cake, however, was a Moneni Spar till operator whose path I crossed this week. The supermarket had a special on Ingrams body creams, and I've liked the Ingrams brand a lot for many years. I hadn't visited this particular shop for many months and actually felt bad because it had been my favourite before the road construction around the shop started. It was like coming back home when i got into the store, until I met this till operator. She had a very sour look about her, one that made me feel quite tense and short of apologising for disturbing her day by my presence in the shop.  I honestly felt like a fly in her milk.
I'd picked 3 varieties of Ingrams body creams, and only one indicated the reduced price. The others were E13 more expensive than the flyer advertised. She said, "Only this one is working. The other ones are not on special." I told her that couldn't be possible because the advert said 'assorted', not just one type. She just glared at me as if to say, "Make a decision.  Are you going to take these creams at this price or you're going to leave them?" I  didn't want those options; I wanted the creams at the discounted price, so I just stood there perplexed at her rude attitude. I asked, "Can't you ask someone about this?" Another glare, and she dragged herself off the ottoman she was sitting on and dragged her feet towards the manager's desk. No hurry in Africa! The problem was promptly fixed and all the creams priced correctly. I gave her my bank card, she inserted it into the terminal the looked at me sourly and nodded towards the terminal to indicate I should insert my PIN. I did and went straight to the manager to complain. The manager said she would sort her out, and I hope she does. I know people have issues, but that's no excuse to treat other people badly, especially if you're in the retail industry where every customer that comes is there to ensure you get a salary at the end of the month. The manager apologised profusely for the till operator's behaviour, but I don't see myself going back there. That one will spit in my face for telling on her!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

How do you tell a younger child about her sibling's autism?


It has been a long hiatus. I’m even ashamed to start explaining or finding excuses. Life was happening, as it sometimes does. My life has been congested with both the good and the bad, but my blog is always on my mind. I feel like a bad mom that has neglected her child, but all is well that ends well. I’m back! I have so many issues floating around in my head and will do my utmost best to transfer them from the head to here. I just need to create time to do that. I think my major problem is that I overthink things, to a point where I overthink them to death, literally. They eventually just disappear off the radar because I’m not putting them down on paper or on laptop rather. Some of the things are those that need some research to be done so that I’m more confident about them. But the issue I’m writing about today is a no-brainer to me. It doesn’t need research because I live it every day. It’s called autism. Even if I have lived with this condition under my roof for the past 12 years, going on 13, I’ll never be an expert because new challenges keep presenting themselves. I’ll never have things figured out at any point.

My regular readers would have read about other posts I have written about autism and how it affects my life. In some of them I was rational, and in others I was just lashing out, depending on my frame of mind at those times. If you haven’t read them before, please find them below:

 
I also have a separate blog where I write about disability issues. Most of them were published in The Observer on Sunday sometime back when I used to write a column for them, and some of them will have copies on this blog. Do visit it. It might open your eyes some to the issues that parents whose children have special needs go through daily – their challenges, fears, and small triumphs. Today I had an issue that moved me, or pierced my heart.
Broken Heart Emoji
There was a newspaper with the broken heart emoji. My 4-year-old, who is fairly mature for her age, pointed at it and said, “It’s a broken heart. It means no-one loves him.” I have no idea why she thought the broken heart belonged to a man. I took the opportunity to talk to her about love and asked who she loved. She said she loved her friends Seka, Khanyi, and Summer. Then I asked if she knew anyone who loved her, and she said Khanyi and Seka loved her. Her dad said, “Mummy, Daddy, and Victor love you too.” She said, “No. Not Victor. He’s always running away from me.” He does move away from her a lot when she tries to play with him or sit too close to him.

Victor has autism and sometimes dislikes physical contact, unless if it’s initiated by him. Just yesterday we went to Spur for lunch and he didn’t want to sit next to me. He ended up sitting at the very corner of the seat with one bum to be as far away from me as possible. We went to the movies recently to watch Johnnie English Strikes Again on his request and, as is the norm, were allocated seats. Upon getting to our seats, he didn’t want to sit next to any of us, so he skipped one seat and took the next one. He just didn’t get that it belonged to someone else, regardless of how much I tried to explain. Then this boy came and said, “That’s my seat,” and Victor said, “No!” He was determined not to budge until I told him security would throw him out.

Getting back to today’s situation, or Rudairo’s interpretation of Victor’s poor social skills, I had no idea that was how she felt about it. There have been moments when I’ve seen her cry because her brother was running away from her or refused to join her in a game she wanted to play. My reaction has always been, “Leave him alone. You can’t force people to play with you if they don’t want to!” I realised today that that might not have been the best way to handle the issue. We need to have a proper conversation with Rudairo and explain to her that her brother is different. I have no clue why, but I’m crying now 😭. How do you even start explaining autism to a 4-year-old sibling of a child with autism? Where do you start? It’s not any easier explaining it to adults that think your child is a spoilt brat when he has a meltdown, or that he is dumb because he fails to understand what should be very simple concepts like being aware of dangerous situation such as crossing the road with caution, or understand that the order of things can be changed. There is not much, if any, support for the autism community in Swaziland, and I know there are other families struggling with issues that a little support would have assisted with. Today the father tried, dismally, to explain to Rudairo that Victor does not run away because he doesn’t love her. I say dismally because I doubt that Rudairo is any wiser (just like the rest of us) about the reasons why big brother doesn’t want to have his space invaded. Here is how the conversation went:

            Dad: Victor doesn’t run away because he doesn’t love you. He loves you.
            Rudairo: So why does he run away?
            Dad: He runs away because that’s how God made him?
            Rudairo: Did God make Victor run away?
            Dad: (No answer)

I then swooped in like Mother Hen and said, “Victor, do you hear what your sister is saying? She says you run away from her because you don’t love her,” whereupon Victor said, “Yes!” with a giggle. I asked Rudairo to go and hug her brother, and told Victor to tell his sister he loved her, and he did. She said, “I love you too!” Cute, huh? But he will run away from her again tomorrow. And we will still not know how to explain that to his 4-year-old sibling.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Daddies' girls and mummies' boys


I have been quiet for too long and am even embarrassed to be back. There are so many things happening in my life, good thingsJ, that I’m struggling to keep my head above water. I shall be writing all about these things, but need a little more research and a little more time to put them together. What got me to write at this very moment is my nagging cousin. She follows this blog (I’m grateful that she does), and is frustrated at my long hiatus. Trust me cousin, it frustrated me too!
The topic for today was motivated by a conversation I just had with some friends regarding children and how sometimes they tend to favour one parent over the other. When I was a child, well I’m still my parents’ child so let me say as a younger child, I can’t say I really favoured one parent over the other. I, however, somehow chose one parent over the other depending on what I wanted from them. If I wanted a good conversation, I’d go to my father who has amazing story-telling skills. I hope he can still write his first book at close to 69 years of age. If I wanted money, I’d go to my mother. She didn’t tell too many stories because she was busy thinking about making money or just being practical with her crafts. I even helped her with her crafts, and that’s one of the things that bonded us. When I look back at my childhood, I remember conversations I had with my father, and things I did with my mother. I think Rudairo will craft too because she always asks me to teach her. I’ll post my crafts here someday soon.
Back to the events that led to this post. I allowed my 4-year-old daughter to buy a can of Coca Cola (coke), against my better judgment. We never buy soft drinks for home because my children have enough sugar in their system to last them a lifetime; they don’t need to add more. Since it’s a weekend, coupled with the fact that she hasn’t had a soft drink since Christmas, I indulged her.  She slept all afternoon, and when she woke up around 5pm, she wanted to drink her coke. I told her she could only drink it tomorrow because supper was almost ready. Around 8 she drank her coke. Because she was high on the coke, she couldn’t go to sleep, even though her system was telling her it’s past bed time. I made coffee to help me stay awake and do some work. I used my cup (everyone has their own cup here). My daughter said, “Mum, you must never use daddy’s cup. You should always use your own.” I don’t know why she had to say that because I was using mine anyway. I said, “I’ll use your daddy’s cup if I want to.” Immediately the floodgates opened. She wailed loudly and continued remonstrating   about how I shouldn’t use her dad’s cup. When she got tired of crying, she went to sleep.  At some point tonight I had to snap at her after she cut my conversation with her dad short saying, “Mom, you need to be quiet when I’m talking to dad!” The audacity! If I had said that to my mom, she would have slapped that smart mouth.
As a small baby of about 6 months, she would come to me for milk, cuddles and to dance to Trace Urban beats. When the father came home, she suddenly became this chatterbox she never was in the absence of her dad. She would blabber away for several minutes without stopping until I started to feel sorry for her, thinking gosh her little lungs must be struggling with that long speech.
I was chatting to some friends about how my 12-year-old son is more attached to me rather than his dad. It was during that conversation that I began to appreciate just how affectionate he is. When I’m in the kitchen cooking, he comes to sit there and keep me company. Because he has autism, he struggles to come up with interesting topics for discussion, but he will be present, repeating the same stories he has told me before and rerunning plans for his April, August and December holidays for the umpteenth time. Even when I’m in the bathroom, he sits just outside the door, or he’ll go to the window outside so that we can continue our conversations. When I was pregnant with the sister, I had severe morning sickness and would throw up every morning without fail. As soon as I woke up, I’d go and sit in the bathroom until the bout was over. Victor would sit with me without ever getting revolted by the throwing up business. The father would quickly make himself scarce to avoid even hearing me vomit. Victor would even look in the bowl and say, “Mummy there’s a green vegetable that just came out.”
Rudairo loves trinkets, she is a very girly girl. Each time I buy her something, the first thing she says after the thank yous is, "Daddy is going to be so happy for me."
When I have to travel for some time, my son gets quite miserable while my daughter really couldn’t care less. She only starts to cry when I actually depart, but Victor worries as soon as he hears I shall leave at some point. I thought daughters were supposed to be mums’ best friends. That hasn’t been witnessed here! She has her moments when she’s extremely affectionate to me, but that’s usually when the dad isn’t around or when she just feels girls should do things together. I’m quite fascinated by that. I’m particularly thrilled when she goes to the bathroom for Number 2. She always shouts, “Daddy, come and wipe me!” that always somehow happens during meal times. The dad, at those moments, doesn’t look so proud to be the chosen one. And at those moments, my cheeks hurt from smiling.  But when she has a nightmare or needs food, she calls me. So essentially I’m the beast of burden as far as she is concerned.
I’m sure if one went to my parents, they would separately have things to say about how I related with them as a small child, maybe even now. One day someone repeated slander about me, and the first person I thought of calling was my father. Maybe my daughter takes after me after all.
So what do you think your parents would say, or would have said (if they are no longer with us)? How do you feel you related with them as a kid?

Friday, 20 October 2017

My experiences with domestic workers

Finding the right domestic worker is very hard.  I’ve had about 7 between 2006 and now. I have seen it all! It’s not easy to just take a stranger that you know nothing about into your home and live with them. I guess it’s also not easy on helpers to just find themselves in the middle of strangers and trying to fit in. My first helper seemed to be OK and we were together for about two years. When she left that’s when I realised how generous she was to neighbours with details of our lives, most of them fake.  She almost died in the house while aborting and we had to part ways. Then I decided it was safer to find an older woman because older women are reputed to be more stable and caring. Bad mistake! That woman was scary! She just fell short of spanking me and sending me to run errands for her. She was always angry and every time I was around her, I felt like apologising for something.  She would refuse to sit on the couch, preferring the floor, and slept on the floor as well. It was scary to leave her with my baby.  We parted ways again, and I was even terrified to tell her not to come back. After that I said no, I should get a very young girl I can manage, and my mother-in-law found one for me. She would go to her room and sit in the dark. I asked her why, and she said ndinoona zvekuona zviye murima (my sight is perfect in the dark!) I started getting scared again. Every time she ironed, she burned something. One day a glass lid broke into the relish and she just cooked the meat with the glass. We parted ways again. I started wondering if I was a bad person. The rest weren’t that bad but just didn’t last. And when my lifestyle allowed, I just did everything by myself.
The one that I have now has been with us since July 2014, that’s 3 years, 3 months and counting. That’s the longest I’ve stayed with a helper. People either say oh you’re lucky you got a perfect one, or you must be very patient! I don’t think you ever get a perfect helper. No one is perfect. I think I’ve grown from my experiences with helpers. My helper can’t cook to save her life. I do all the cooking every day! She can’t even clean very well and half the time I end up redoing chores behind her back because I know she would really have tried. Despite all her shortcomings, she has a heart of gold. She looks after my children like they are her own. With the little money we can afford to pay her, she buys chips for the kids when she’s coming home from the weekend. Twice she’s bought earrings for Rudairo; she’s like her personal doll and she loves dressing her up. She knows I love avocados and lemons, so when she finds people selling, she buys for me and when I try to refund, she says no, it’s a present (my eyes are welling up now). When I’m stressed about something, she gets stressed too, even though she doesn’t say much because we have a language barrier. I buy or bake cake for her birthday too as we do for all family members. You can’t treat someone who has been under your roof for three years as an outsider. One day a child scratched Rudairo badly at school. When we got home, Rudairo ran to hug her and cried. She saw the ugly scratch and cried too.  Earlier this month she lost her father. We sat, wept together, and she even asked me to help her choose a coffin. It was a little chilling but it had to be done. Burial here usually happens a week or more after death, so she had to be away for more than a week. She asked to come during that week to help with laundry. I said I would manage but I was actually really struggling and she knew too; my hands are always full. Laundry day I only managed to do it halfway before I had to go out for my other obligations. I came back to find her hanging the clothes after finishing up the washing. After that, she went back to her home.

I’m just very grateful that we found each other. She’s 4 years younger than me, and is exactly 2 weeks younger than my sister Susan, so she’s like a young sister to me. She’s the only aunt my children really know since I’m far from my three sisters. Every Sunday around 5pm my children will just be lurking at the gate, waiting for her. If she’s late, I see them getting stressed. Her work isn’t perfect, but whose is? I struggle with meeting my deadlines too. If you look past the imperfections, and she has quite a few, there’s usually a gem somewhere in everybody.   I always worry what will happen to her should we leave Swaziland, will she be ok? Will we be OK?