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20 December 2010

They Call It African Science

I once told someone that eternal hellfire is a myth. He looked at me kind of funny like I had a screw loose in my head. At another time, I told the same person that Christmas is also a myth. For him that clinched it: I was definitely nuts. Sigh ~ disillusioning people, it seems, is a messy business. I never thought I would want to keep on doing it.

Then the rainy season kicked in with all its thunder and lightning and weird ‘campfire’ stories and I couldn’t help it - the disillusioning gene cannot be suppressed. This time, I am giving Christendom a break and going after the ‘African Science’ community. By that term, I’m talking witchcraft, black magic, voodoo, dark arts or whatever you call it in your part of the world. I’ll just call all of them witches for simplicity. There are 4 common myths:-

Myth 1: There is black magic…and there’s also white magic
‘White magic’ is an oxymoron, much like saying ‘pretty ugly’, ‘unbiased opinion’ or ‘awfully nice’. The phrase simply shouldn’t exist because all magic is evil EVEN when one supposedly uses it to do something ‘good’. Some call it African Science down here in Zimbabwe. Yeah, right. Sorry Harry Potter fans: no matter how cute he might look flying around with his round rimmed glasses and over sized magician’s gown, he is still evil.

Myth 2: Witches fly to China at night
….in the sense of surfing the internet, maybe, or if they have a private jet in the back yard. They do not leave their bodies at night to attend secret meetings in China, Dubai, India, underwater, or wherever your local witch tells you they are spending their evenings these days. Even if they could (in the same way that Santa Claus, complete with sledge and reindeer, could), why bother leave a warm bed when you can conveniently Skype?

Myth 3: Witches Control Lightning
….and lightning conductors freak them out real bad, right? Otherwise lightning strikes wouldn’t have decreased since Benjamin Franklin got inspired. Check any honest report these days about lightning strikes to see where the victim was at the time of the incident: herding cattle out in the plain, fixing his satellite dish on the rooftop…etc. Lightning mostly strikes a high and positively charged point and if you are it during a storm, then you are…err… toast. No flesh and blood creature has the power to manipulate this powerful force of nature.
Think someone can control this?

Myth 4: Witches can morph into animals
Oh, come on! I didn’t even fall for this one back when I was in Grade 2 watching Visionaries on telly. Its like someone coming over and trying to convince me that Santa exists after all! People do not turn into animals; that would be like making a mockery of the Genesis account (to the Swedes, that’s a story found in the Bible).

Ok, before you go out and start fooling around with things you don’t understand, let me make one thing clear. Magic practitioners do exist, a pretty nasty lot if you’ll ever find one. However, their main power lies in deceit: trying to make themselves look much more powerful than they really are.

So there, I’ve done my part.

P.S: Please ignore the Google ads on this particular post ('love spells', 'voodoo spells', 'gifted psychic'?....purleeeease!)

23 November 2010

A Puzzling Pentecostal Experience

I wont pretend I know why a lot of people do the things they do in their churches. Funny enough, it seems as though lot of people themselves are not sure why they do the things they do in their own churches either.

This thought came to me when I remembered, for no apparent reason, a certain quirky experience I had on one particular Pentecostal All Night Prayer meeting. How I ended up in there is a long story; involving heated debates, a round of church tours and a dog eared paperback Bible – I might tell you about it someday.

The fact remains that on this chilly night, at around at around 11 p.m, I found myself seated in a rented lecture theatre, trying my best to listen to what a pastor down on the podium was saying.
Then, I started feeling drowsy. Once or twice, I jerked my head up in the comical manner of one fighting a losing battle against sleep. I did try concentrating on the sermon, but I guess I tried too hard…because the next thing I knew, after the briefest of blackouts, was the pastor pointing in my direction and everyone in the hall looking at me. He was calling me up front.

Let me make it clear at this point that I had attended this event strictly as an observer. Earlier during the night, I had seen this pastor guy do a lot of alarming stuff on the stage; like getting into screaming matches with troubled souls to scare the hell…I mean demons out of them, going around praying and granting instant salvation to anyone who felt they needed saving, and slaying a lot of people down with…um…the Holy Spirit.

For one good hour, people all over had been swooning, gracefully falling into the waiting hands of the assistants. Others screamed and writhed on the ground as demons were yanked out of them, and still yet, others erupted into an ecstatic chattering of some exotic, but vocabulary limited new language that only I, and few other individuals, seemed to be ignorant of.

It was all very entertaining…but only from a distance. I had absolutely no intention of becoming part of it. So when the pastor called me up front, I stubbornly stayed seated.

Obviously, the kind and considerate Christian brothers around me couldn’t just stand by and watch a dear lost soul remain unsaved. I was given encouraging glances by the people in the crowd. I did try to ignore them, but then one of the pastor’s assistants actually came over to usher me down to the stage. Being an awfully bashful guy, I decided to end the awkward stand off and go along.

I braced myself for the unexpected as the pastor put a hand on my forehead and started praying over me, probably with the intention of driving out the demon of sleep that had so shamelessly taken me over at such a pious event. Or maybe he simply wanted to give me a healthy wallop of the Holy Spirit, strong enough to topple me over and have me end up talking funny. Given the choice, I’d take option B.

As my type of luck would have it, there was an option C I hadn’t accounted for.

See, the hand on my forehead started pushing me. To prevent myself from overbalancing and falling, I naturally started stepping backwards. The insistent pastor would have none of it so he kept pushing my head back. My sense of equilibrium would have none of it either, so it kept moving me backward to keep me from falling.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed two of the pastor’s assistants expectantly hovering near me (waiting for the point I would head for the ground, of course).

It must have been a comical sight to the honest on looker: the pastor, hand on my head, shouting and hurling insults ‘in the name of Jesus’ at whatever he wanted to come out of me….and me stubbornly retreating backwards as if I was desperate to have what was in me stay in me. I could imagine those in the crowd pitifully shaking their heads and saying to each other, ‘Strong demon, that.’

The circus came to a climax when the back of my feet came to the stairs. Therein I faced another dilemma: should I continue my backward retreat by climbing the stairs, or should I finally give up and let the pastor push me over into the waiting hands of the attendants?

I took option two, closed my eyes and was gingerly but swiftly lowered to the ground by expert hands. I felt the team around me move away then, having finished with me. A job very well done.

Ok: So there I was, sprawled on the ground, supposedly in a semi-conscious state, after having a particularly strong demon ousted out of me. The problem with this scenario was that I was fully conscious, feeling as fine as I was before the show, definitely not feeling as if something had been removed from or imparted to me…and left with two concurrent lines of thought running through my mind.
No, thats not me. Just a similar event.

The first line of thought, oddly enough, was that I was getting my jacket dirty. See, I had recently gave it a good scrubbing over the past weekend, now the white stripes were all going to get mucked up. I was worried that I might have to wash it a second time before I could put it on again. Why this thought seemed important to me at the time still puzzles me.

The second line of thought presented a more immediate problem to be dealt with. How the hell was I supposed to know how long I should stay down there? If I got up too early, everybody, including the pastor might think that the dose he gave me fell short of being sufficient, and might decide to add a little more. Now, I didn't want any more of whatever he had done to me. At the same time, I didn’t want to spend too much time down on the floor either….I mean…ever tried pretending you are unconscious on a cold hard dirty floor in your favorite clean jacket in a room full of curious peering faces? Darn uncomfortable.

Fortunately, I started hearing some commotion in another part of the hall. With the hope that everyone’s attention had surely shifted from me to there, I silently got up and returned to my seat.
Ten minutes later, after deciding the all night should be a half night for me, I was tucked in my warm soft clean blankets and dreamily wondering what that had been all about. Not just my experience, of course, but the whole screaming and falling and chaotic speaking in Guatemalean and the deliberate pushing me over to make me fall.
I did ask a lot of people about it afterwards, but I got conflicting answers, a general lack of conviction and glaring holes in the explanations given to me. This led me to my own conclusion which I still maintain today: that an awfully lot of people don’t have an inkling as to why they do the things they do in their own churches.

11 November 2010

My Random Ramblings on Zimbabwean Sport

I am a Zimbabwean guy who doesn’t like sport. A lot of Zimbabweans would see at least two things wrong with that simple statement. First of all I am a guy: I should love sport. Second of all, I am Zimbabwean: I should love sport.

Myspace Radha-Krishna Graphics Krishna-Radha Clipart
A friend of mine says this guy
 looks familiar - I mean c'mon!
Zimbabwe is a sporting nation. It loves its soccer, its cricket, its tennis…and the like. I have come to notice, however, that any other sport that is not soccer gains an audience only as a means of whiling up the time until the next big match arrives. Whenever there is something huge going on in the game of soccer, the nation kind o’ goes somewhere in-between fanatical and outright nuts.

And it doesn’t have to be local soccer either. Some individuals know the welfare of international soccer teams better than their own families.

A guy can, for instance, name the whole line up of a team in the Spanish Premier league, plus the players on the bench, the players out on injury, as well as the name of the guy who got dropped out of the final lineup because he was found the night before in a compromising position.

I find that scary, and that is one good reason I do not go for soccer. Everyone is an expert and I could never keep up. This usually left me feeling all ignorant and stupid. So I came up with a simple mantra: if you can’t join them, ignore them. If I show complete disinterest, then nobody would expect me to know anything. Perfect.

I have nothing against tennis though. Infact, I love it! For one thing, Zimbabwe has a very colorful tennis history. From way back in the 1950’s, this country’s been making waves on the international scene up until a couple of years ago.

For another, I had a chance to learn how to play it a little: it was a breeze! All I had to do was concentrate on not losing the ball in the bushes some 100 meters away from the court. Any idiot could do that. Later on, I could manage to make the ball mostly go where I wanted it to go (that is, any place over the net and hopefully not over the court fence). For a little while I actually thought I could be the next black Black.

And there is one more reason I love this game: the only tennis injury I know is harmlessly called ‘Pulling a Hamstring’. I don’t know what or where a hamstring is, or how you can pull it, but it doesn’t sound all that bad. Soccer has a much wider, and a much more uncomfortable vocabulary to describe injuries.

I do have a lot against the game of cricket. Actually, I don’t even think it should be called a sport. See, a solemn event taking a dozen or so men dressed entirely in white a number of days to play, complete with tea and lunch breaks, should be re-categorized as a religious festival….along the lines of Easter, Ramadan and Hanukkah.

I find test cricket long and boring. I guess a lot of people did too, which is why they must have introduced One Day Internationals back in 1971. Still, the game insisted on being boring so they introduced 20/20 cricket in 2003, which lasts a much more humane 3 and a half hours.

I suggest they further cut that down to just about an hour – then you’ll see some real action! And maybe, just maybe players can actually lose weight whilst playing the game.

I am a Zimbabwean guy who doesn’t like sport. I don’t care how many things you see wrong with that statement, but I’m quite cool with it. True, I might miss out on all the ‘thrills’ fans supposedly experience during games, but I also plainly remember being the only one with a hefty appetite, and a good night’s sleep after some not too fascinating sporting events!

09 November 2010

Getting a Pet? Get Creative!

Zimbabweans might be a very creative people but when it comes to the issue of choosing pets, the creativity grinds to a halt and makes a quick getaway out the window. I mean seriously, just how many households have anything else other than the same light brown mangy (whatever species it’s called) kind of dog in their yard?

I am not an animal expert, but I sure as hell know there are a whole lot more options out there that can easily replace the darn dog. I have two suggestions:

A personal favorite is the cat. This might not go down well with lot of Zimbos who choose to associate the cat with the dark elements of the world. A cat, especially when black, screams ‘witchcraft!’ To me though, a cat screams ‘Supercool!’

The essence of cool
I love this guy for a number of reasons. First of all, you do not own a cat: he owns you. Now this is not as bad as it sounds: it simply means that you will need him more than he will need you. He owns the house: weaving through the rooms, sleeping on the sofa, chilling on the roof. He can sleep all day and stay out late.

This dude pretty much takes care of himself.You are expected to feed him, but if you don’t, he survives anyway. He's also smart enough to maintain a strict routine on personal hygiene (something even some humans cant manage to do).  Oh, he also catches mice, and his nine lives can come in handy when you don’t want to worry about any living creature falling off the roof or something.

Contrast this coolness with the dog. The dog is like one big baby. He constantly wants your attention even when you really want to just chill out and be left alone. He even makes you feel guilty for going out the yard to throw out the trash when you leave him inside. Ignore him, and he sulks. He spends a good part of the day running around, or wanting to run around, and chasing around his own tail. I mean, how cool can you be if you find entertainment in sticking your head out the window of a moving car, sticking out your tongue out, and proceeding to grin sheepishly?

The second animal is the cow. I’m not joking, and don’t look at me with that strange questioning stare until I argue my case. First of all, I am not the only one who thinks this a great idea. Let me just give you three fans for this viewpoint:-

Bill Bryson: "To my mind, the only possible pet is a cow. Cows love you. They will listen to your problems and never ask a thing in return. They will be your friends forever. And when you get tired of them, you can kill and eat them. Perfect."

The Hindus: Get into India and you will see 30% of the world’s cows in this place. These guys exchange cows as gifts, build bull shrines and generally love to have them around. In fact, there are more cows in India than America has dogs and cats combined. The only problem is that the Hindus leave out the killing and eating part, which I consider to be the most fun part of keeping a cow.
Isn't she just cute?

The Maasai Tribe: These guys are from somewhere in East Africa. They love cows so much that their tradition has a simple rule that neatly takes care of any cow procurement complexities – ‘All Cows on Earth Belong to the Maasai Tribe as God Given Property.’ Now that’s cow obsession!

If all these guys think the cow can be a great pet, well, why not us? Of course you will need a shovel to deal with all the dung on your verandah, flower bed and lawn. But let it not deter you, because all that dung can be used as bio fuel such that you never have to worry about ZESA woes again. Perfect.

So guys, give the poor light brown mangy (whatever species it’s called) dog a break and try out the alternatives. Well, you don’t necessarily have to take my suggestions (though I consider them to be pretty good and creative), you can try out your own as long as you dont resort to the poor brown mutt.

06 November 2010

Saved From the Snares of the Internet!

A research I read recently found out that the average teenager now spends some 7 hours glued to digital devices; through iMacs and iPods and iPhones and iPads in the great North iAmerica.

Just after reading that article, I came across a story on Yahoo News about a mother who violently shook her baby because the infant’s crying was disturbing her session on Facebook. She was playing Farmville, and apparently concluded that tending to digital sheep, cows and cabbages was more important than taking care of the baby. The baby died.

Just...memories, now.
As you can see, the darn western world’s gone nuts because of the internet, and the rest of the world is quickly following in its footsteps.

It is in view of this sobering fact that our trusty monopolistic telecoms provider, Econet Wireless, decided to step in and protect us from these shocking world developments. Their method is simple: hiking internet tariffs so much as to make any decent internet surfing impractical.

For instance, a 5 Megabyte bundle of data will cost you $2, and expires the same day you purchase it; 100MB will cost you $30; 200MB costs $50 and 1Gigabyte will cost you an arm and a leg.

A friend of mine went for the $30 package for his data line; four days later, the system was crying out for more…and he hadn’t even changed his Facebook photo yet, let alone actually download anything.

Funny thing: this same company kept promising a while back that the messy digging they did all over our nice roads to lay cables would bring a faster and much cheaper internet to the ordinary Zimbabwean.

I guess they were just saying.

This kind of reminds me of the ‘Big Bang Theory’…you know, big company acting all inefficient and arrogant especially because there is no competition to keep the bully in check.

I’ve heard of two companies called Africom and Powertel, but it seems their coverage is still too minuscule to speak of. Then there is Telecel which seemed very promising (since it’s backed by a giant Egyptian company) – that is, until they postponed their 3G introduction from September 2010 (that’s last month!) to sometime next year. As for NetOne….NetOne…well, I don’t know anything about NetOne. Info, anybody?

So fellow Zimbabweans, I am pleased to announce that you are relatively safe from the corrupting influence of the internet, unless you have an awfully lot of cash to burn. There is no way you are going to be spending 7+ hours killing all of your social life through internet addiction.

You are not going to be killing your babies anytime soon either.

Postscript: Econet  has slashed its mobile internet prices. 5Mb now costs a dollar, 100Mb $20 and 200Mb is now $40. A gig will still cost you an arm and a leg though. Looking forward to more price slashes and moral corruption as the competition heats up!

01 November 2010

Of Elusive Shona Words: Kudada

Is your use of Shona vocabulary myopic?
Then take the following free advice!
I have grown to hate that word: Kudada. I used to understand it way back when it used to mean what it’s supposed to mean: arrogant, pompous, proudcontemptuous, bigheaded...etc. But somehow, the uses of the word seem to have glided to mean some other things too: things like forgetful, rich, misunderstood, shy…etc.

Shona (my mother tongue. Also my father’s tongue) is a beautifully diverse language. Nothing is quite as beautiful as hearing someone skillfully bring rich words together to form a well expressed statement. Leonard Zhakata used to do that. Most people these days don’t. They have lost the art of the language; they just compromise it.

I won’t delve into the details of how the language has been compromised (that would need a website the size of Wikipedia and a pride of professionals manning it). I’ll just focus on one word: Kudada (also known as kuvhaira in other parts of the country).

I grew up with the word: thanks to my being myopic (literally). Before I started wearing glasses, the whole word was one huge colorful blur. People didn’t have faces: I’d try to distinguish them through voices, posture and the clothes they wore. Sometimes through smell.

Now imagine one blur coming over to you and saying something like: ‘We met 5 years ago at Mai Nga’s wedding and we talked for like 10 whole minutes, remember me?’ Of course I don’t, you were a blur then, you are still a blur now. The disappointed stranger shakes his head: ‘Inga waa Kudada.’

This experience also frequently happens to those with a short memory. It is a crime not to remember some one who remembers you. All those people with a good memory take it for granted so much that they assume everybody has a photographic mind. Forget someone, and you are immediately branded as some one ariKudada. Simple.

And suppose you are shy, you know, a particularly bashful person. Most people dread having to stand up on a stage and address a crowd. Now, for this type of shy person, his or her whole life is a stage. The simple social etiquette of, say, entering a room full of relatives and greeting each and every person with the correct titles (such as tete, sekuru, mainini) is a torturous experience. People don’t know such introverts exist, so if you are one and you stumble in, or try to avoid, such a situation, they simply dismiss you with 'ariKudada'.

Another scenario: suppose you get lucky and become rich. Now, there is nothing wrong with having money in itself: but rest assured, that also means you are going to come across this word in reference to you quite a lot.

For instance, when you are driving around in your brand new wheels, you are supposed to spot each and every person you have ever known on the road, and depending on the situation, do at least one of the following: hoot and wave; stop the car for a chat; kusiya mari yedrink or; offer the person a ride. Failure to do so: uriKudada.

I used to have this friend of mine who was not too familiar with the Shona culture. He came across a friend of a friend, a lady. Now, they had never seen each other before, just a casual chat on the phone, so he didn’t give her the warm greeting she must have expected. She carelessly commented: Indava Kudada? As soon as she turned a corner, he totally flipped. He thought he statement was the Shona equivalent of someone saying to your face: ‘You are freaking arrogant!’ Poor guy, especially considering the extreme lengths he would go to exercise great humility.

My free advice: fix any mental myopia you might have and stop throwing this word, and other equivalents, all over the place. You’re only traumatizing individuals who might already be battling to fit in into this crazy world. Instead, reserve it for the arrogant, pompous, proud, contemptuous and bigheaded bastards who truly deserve it!

30 October 2010

What You Should Really Be Reading These Days (Part 2)

 This is a sequel. I split one article into two beacause I know scrolling down a page a long time kind of gets boring when you are surfing the internet. And African Movies split one movie into four installments so this is no big deal. 

To all those who didnt get to read the previous installment, I just decided to answer one of life's great questions: what you should really be reading these days. The answer (...drumrolls...) is Humor. Of course it is.

Oh, I am not putting this down because these authors paid me to do so (I wish!) but because these guys really rock.

Mary Roach
Any lady that can make me laugh deserves my outmost respect. This lady makes me roll on the ground silly. She takes everyday situations and spins them into brilliant anectodes. In her owns words: “Mary finds humor in strange places. Also, her car keys.” Ed is her husband, by the way. The quotes:-

“Ed is the most levelheaded person I know. You could take one of the carpenter's levels from Aisle 5 and place it on his head and the little bubble will always be right there in the middle.”
“Ed decreed we were to buy only free-range organic chickens. Ed would put them in the shopping cart. I'd look at the price and take them out. ‘Are we eating them, or putting them through college?’”
“My waist, I realized one day in a dressing room, has completely disappeared beneath my rib cage, which now rests directly on my hips. I'm exhibiting continental drift in reverse.”

“A married couple can best be defined as a unit of people whose sleep habits are carefully engineered to keep each other awake.”
My eye bags, I noticed the other day while shopping with my friend, had ceased to be an anatomical feature and were approaching the status of an actual piece of luggage.
“My father was English, so gardening, I've long assumed, is in my blood, along with gin and fryer grease and a fondness for long, tedious war movies.”
“A family is a collection of people who share the same genes but can't agree on a place to pull over for lunch.”
“The French kiss each other twice, perhaps because no one else will.”
“I watch sports the way a dog will watch TV: I'm attracted by the motion and color, but no actual comprehension is taking place.
“A word about Valentine's Day. This was originally a holiday for a god who protected shepherds' flocks from the wolves outside Rome. I don't know how we got from livestock surveillance to romantic love, but if I had to tender a guess I'd say it had something to do with the Hallmark company. We really have to watch these guys, because soon we're going to find ourselves sending cards for Plumbers and Steamfitters Day ("You bring a special kind of caring to our water-serviced area ...")." 
Mike Gayle
Then there is Mike Gayle. This guy is fantastic: he writes about the things you always experience and always think about but didn’t know you experience or think about until you read it from him. Best of all, he doesn’t write space science, he does romance…and not the out of this world 'knight in shining armor and damsel in distress' kind of romance. No, only the kind of romance you are most likely to be familiar with. Try this:-

“Sometimes I really felt sorry for Mel—her life would've been so much better if she'd fallen in love with someone normal.
Instead she fell in love with me and had been paying for that mistake ever since.”

"I'm fine, Mum, honest." It was nice to be fussed over like this. To know that there was someone in the world who, no matter whether you were a convicted homicidal maniac, a porn baron or crack addict, would love you unconditionally.”
"'Am I your boyfriend?' is the kind of question a nine-year-old asks another nine-year-old. It had no place in a sophisticated relationship. I knew the rules -- I was meant to be cool and relaxed, laid-back and casual. At first maybe we'd 'see' each other (which meant that she'd still 'see' other people), then maybe we'd date (which would mean that she wouldn't see other people even though she might want to), and then finally we'd be boyfriend and girlfriend (by which time she wouldn't want to see other people because she'd be happy with me)."
"I wondered what I'd done to deserve her and after a number of minutes concluded that I'd done nothing whatsoever. She was in my life without reason. She was there in spite of myself. Good things could happen to not-so-bad people."
"Deep down, I always liked to believe that I knew things wouldn't work out between us. Nothing could have been that perfect unless it had its premiere on terrestrial television."
“Being seduced was a nice idea, but she really had no need to go to all this effort. When it came to Mel—who was beautiful in a wonderfully understated kind of way —Easy was indeed my first, last and middle name”.
“I love toast. I really do. Toast is just about the best food there is. You take a slice of humble white bread (never brown) and you put it in a toaster (What is it? It's a toaster! What does it do? It makes toast!) and a few minutes later you have a hot nutritious meal. You can put any foodstuff handy from the fridge on top of it and it will pretty much always taste fan-bloody-tastic. Toast, I thought, as two slices popped up, makes a whole lot more sense than chocolate bars.”
“At that moment, sitting there in my flat, with the will to do anything at all almost crushed out of my body, I realised that I'd finally found out what it was like to be bored.”
“She got over me straight away, which really hurt. She got on with her life as if I was a minor interruption.”

Awesome stuff. You know, these guys didn’t just write quotes, they also wrote a whole lot of books as well (Oh, hold, these quotes came from the books. Silly me). If you can get your hands on these books, I guarantee you will find them unputdownable. 

When you eventually do get tired of humor and you are in need of more serious stuff, grab yourself the Bible. Just don’t do politics.

13 October 2010

You Are Turning Into Your Dad, And There Is Nothing You Can Do to Stop It

Ever watched The Matrix? Well, in this movie, there is this guy who has gotten tired of living in the real world and fighting AI machines. He wants to get back into the fake world created by the machines, where people happily live without knowing there is a war against machines going on. One thing this guy said at the end of a conversation caught my attention: ‘Ignorance is bliss.’
A scene from The Matrix. Taking the Blue Pill meant choosing
to stay ignorant, Red Pill meant getting enlightened.
If you read on this article,  you are taking the Red Pill.

He was right. Living in ignorance can be nice: it allows you to hide from the nasty things in life and blissfully pretend they don’t exist.

Sadly, disillusioning people from their ignorant state is sometimes necessary for human development to take place, which is why I felt it necessary to inform all unsuspecting youths out there that they are turning into their parents…and there’s absolutely nothing they can do to stop it.

This piece of enlightenment came to me this other lazy Sunday afternoon. I was playing one of Zimbabwe’s greatest musicians. Leonard “Musorowenyoka’ Dembo. The expertise of the music itself, spiced with a little bit of nostalgia, made me end up blissfully vocalizing Wapindwa Nei in full and carefree earnestness.

I was doing it exactly the way my dad used to do it.

Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with turning into something like your dad, or mom if you are a girl…unless of course he or she is a convicted dangerous criminal, a pedophile, or makes African Movies for a living.

A lot of people would object though. They got this impression that their parents are totally unhip. I wont argue that case, my point is that no matter how ‘unhip’ they might be, you are going to end up mostly like them.

LEONARD DEMBO - Admit it, this guy was great!
It’s a biological law, as certain as the fact that I am a perfectly ordinary blogger living in Zimbabwe. This transformation comes around early adulthood where you go through a gentle morphing into the very parents you do not want to become but with little resistance to the process mostly because you chose to ignore that it is happening, you do not know it is happening, or you are indifferent to its happening and prefer to ride the wave.

You behavioral traits start to change. You don’t go out partying with friends as much as you used to. Suddenly, there are less urban grooves in your playlist, and the number of Mtukudzi tracks starts becoming suspiciously bigger. Akon tracks are being replaced by Luther Vandross, the 20 Seconds to Mars tracks by Rascal Flatts. The teenage years of screaming for attention start fading away: your clothes become less baggy (if you are a guy) and less tight (if you are a girl).

This is the indication that the Becoming Your Parents syndrome is taking over. You can chose to fight it (and inevitably lose), or you can chose to embrace it or ignore it and just ride the wave. The second option is less stressful. I think Leonard Dembo was one hell of a singer.

The Bee Question and Why I Am Glad to be Zimbabwean

We don’t believe in evolution in Zimbabwe…well, most of us anyway. Zimbabwe prides itself in being a Christian nation on Sunday (The jury is still out on whether this status applies to the other days of the week).

Since we are taught a little bit of man of how man used to be ape in Form 1, and the fact that I read around a lot, I am aware that there are a lot of people who still believe in evolution out there. If you are one such person, I need you to answer for me the Bee Question.

I came up with this question at church when the guy giving the talk was explaining how bees gather nectar and unwittingly pollinate flowers in the process. He was saying this proves that God is mighty intelligent to make things work like that.

You see, bees travel from flower to flower collecting nectar so they can make honey with it. The bee might think itself actually clever, getting all this nectar for free and not having to pay anything for it. Little does it know that the flower has the last laugh: it's actually using the hairy body of the bee to transport pollen to other flowers so that cross-pollination occurs, and propagation of the species continues.

Now there is one hell of a dilemma for the atheistic evolutionist. What made the bee grow all hairy so that it could collect nectar? Did the bee wish it upon itself so that it could keep the flowers around? Kind of ridiculous, the bee has a brain the size of a …well…of a bee so it doesn’t give a damn. It doesn’t even know how to and how not to give a damn. And even if it could give a damn, it could hardly wish hair to grow on itself much in the same way you can’t wish to sprout wings and have your kid’s kid’s kid’s kid eventually skipping the kombi to actually fly to school.

Maybe the flower made the bee grow hairs to ensure its own survival. That could make sense: the flower makes nectar and makes itself all colourful to attract the bee. Then it makes hairs grow on the bee so that the bee collects pollen to leave on the next plant it goes to.

Oh wait…a flower doesn’t have a brain.

There is one more option I hadn’t mentioned which evolutionists seem to use to solve all their problems – blind chance. A series of mindless accidents over a long period of time eventually created the intricate bee-flower relationship. Let me quote Douglas Adams:

‘There's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they've worked out.’

That’s much more likely to happen.

Thank heavens I'm Zimbabwean - I don't have to answer the Bee Question. We are a Christian nation. I just wish this Christianity was evident on more days than Sunday though.

12 October 2010

What You Should Really Be Reading These Days

No, not politics. Its too depressing, and nothing ever seems to change in that arena. Not scientific breakthroughs either, everything's always changing. In a few years time, there is going to be scientific  breakthroughs to disprove today's scientific breakthroughs.

You should be reading humour instead. There are certain authors who always lift me up no matter how rainy the day gets. This article has two of them.

I can only give you a few quotes, otherwise I'd get sued.

Douglas Adams
Now this guy was just plain nuts. He died in 2001, and the normal thing the family should have done was donate the whole of his grey mass to scientists. They probably didn’t (which is just as well, I guess, because they probably wouldn’t have figured out what made him tick anyway). My favourite Douglas Adams quotes:

"I'm so great even I get tongue-tied talking to myself."

"I am so amazingly cool you could keep a side of meat in me for a month. I am so hip I have difficulty seeing over my pelvis."
Marvin, my favourite character in some of Douglas Adams books
"To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem."
"The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss." 
"Ford, there's an infinite number of monkeys outside and they want to discuss this script for 'Hamlet' they've worked out." 
"His mouth started to speak, but his brain decided it hadn't got anything to say yet and shut it again. His brain then started to contend with the problem of what his eyes told it they were looking at, but in doing so relinquished control of the mouth which promptly fell open again. Once more gathering up the jaw, his brain lost control of his left hand which then wandered around in an aimless fashion. For a second or so the brain tried to catch the left hand without letting go of the mouth and simultaneously tried to think about what was buried in the ice, which is probably why the legs went and Arthur dropped restfully to the ground." 
"It all sounds rather naive and sentimental to be talking about children laughing and dancing and singing together when we all know perfectly well that what children do in real life is snarl and take drugs." 
"He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." 
"Shee, you guys are so unhip it's a wonder your bums don't fall off." 
"For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen." 
"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons." 
"I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer"

Bill Bryson
My first encounter with this guy was a book called Mother Tongue. It talked about the history of the English language and some other crazy stuff about the English language, and it was funny. I don't think any else can talk about the history of the English language and some other stuff about English and still be funny. Excerpts from his numerous works:-

"Of all the things I am not very good at, living in the real world is perhaps the most outstanding." 
"To my mind, the only possible pet is a cow. Cows love you. They will listen to your problems and never ask a thing in return. They will be your friends forever. And when you get tired of them, you can kill and eat them. Perfect." 
"I was heading to Nebraska. Now there's a sentence you don't want to say too often if you can possibly help it." 
"There seemed to be a mystifying universal conspiracy among textbook authors to make certain the material they dealt with never strayed too near the realm of the mildly interesting and was always at least a long-distance phone cacll from the frankly interesting." 
"If you can imagine a man having a vasectomy without anesthetic to the sound of frantic sitar-playing, you will have some idea of what popular Turkish music is like." 
"In office buildings and retail premises in which entry is through double doors and one of those doors is locked for no reason, the door must bear a large sign saying: ‘This Door Is Locked for No Reason’." 

"At a conference of sociologists in America in 1977, love was defined as "the cognitive-affective state characterized by intrusive and obsessive fantasizing concerning reciprocity of amorant feelings by the object of the amorance." That is jargon - the practice of never calling a spade a spade when you might instead call it a manual earth-restructuring implement - and it is one of the great curses of modern English."
"in my day the principal concerns of university students were sex,smoking dope,rioting and learning.Learning was something you did only when the first three weren't available."
I had to split this post into two articles: being well aware of how short the attention span of the internet surfer really is. For the other two authors who really know how to tickle my funnybone, come along with me to What You Should Really Be Reading These Days (Part 2).

04 October 2010

In Search of the Facebook Killer!

Once upon a time I got tired of Facebook. I would log on into my account; find absolutely nothing to do, then log out. This would happen like 5 times a day, and I erroneously concluded that despite having 500 million addicts out there, Facebook had become boring.

With this mindset on, and brimming with optimism, I decided to hunt on the internet for another social networking site to waste away my days on: a Facebook killer!

I landed on MySpace, probably because it’s very popular in the US and it’s existed long before Facebook was launched. I loved it at first because it lived up to its name. I could personalize my page a lot and really turn it into…well…my space.

Then it started getting all boring and lonely out there because try as I could, I couldn’t locate any of my friends to connect with. Even sending invitations didn’t seem to help. It seemed nobody else wanted to jump ship like I did. So, I left.

Round about this time, I came across Perfspot. Now these guys seemed to address my problem beautifully. Although I couldn’t find any of my friends there, I could easily make a dozen new friends from all over the world! Flattering, indeed.
Until I discovered I had been a bit to hasty into calling these people friends. Before long, some of these ‘friends’ started displaying some very…um…questionable characteristics. Being your average conservative Zimbabwean, I couldn’t stomach some of the things they had started talking about. I wanted out.

Funny enough, Pefspot wouldn’t let me. It seems as if there is no way to deactivate a Perfspot account even after searching high and low on the internet for any answers. It seems they are so desperate for a high membership base that once they get you, they won’t let you go. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

I stumbled upon Mjoy: a mobile social networking platform originating from Germany. It also doubles up as a free texting service. I was pleasantly surprised to see an awful lot of Zimbos interacting on that platform: which helps to explain why the country’s relatively infant 3G network got congested pretty quickly.

The phone might be ugly, but the mjoy interface is nice!
Mjoy is a lot of fun…mostly because you get to txt for free to any number you like…and there aren’t a lot of things you get for free these days. Ok, there is a catch: you only txt if you have credits, and you accumulate credits by clicking through ads. Well, fair enough: as long as I don’t get to pay anything.

The problem with this site is that it is only accessible on your phone – you can’t access it from your PC. And I still don’t get why this site is overwhelmingly dominated by Nigerians. I don’t hate Nigerians, even if they are the ones who came up with the ‘African Movie’, but they do make posts in a funny, and sometimes hard to understand, type of English.

My social network search also allowed me a brief flirtation with Twitter. Twitter is very popular and I created an account with very high hopes - but it wasn’t that much fun. The whole concept of this site is to ‘follow’ certain people (get to see their Twitter updates) and to be followed by others. I couldn’t decide who to follow, and those I got to follow proved not to be all that engaging. I guess I like getting real information from my friends, and not ‘short bursts of inconsequential information’, which is what Twitter really means.

I think Twitter is for fanatics. I mean, who else would like to get trivial messages like ‘Getting out the house, hot day!’, ‘At work, boring’ or ‘Just had a hefty lunch’ on their account from anyone. I wouldn’t, even if it’s Justin Bieber I’m following. That’s just too much information.

Doubtless, I didn’t exhaust the social networking sites out there…actually, I think I didn’t even scratch the surface. But after having gotten around the world in search of the Facebook killer, I am back where I started: stuck with Facebook.

I still log on to the site, post something completely irrelevant, like a Douglas Adam quote for instance, and then log out….about 2 times a day. It does help to make the hours speed up to 5 o’clock.

30 September 2010

The So Typically Zim Concise Guide to Zimbabwe: Situations never to let yourself get into

I noticed that this blog is getting a fair amount of visitors from outside the continent. This gave me an idea: why don’t I act as a tour guide to this beautiful country? With that spirit, I took the liberty of compiling a short list of the situations you should do your best to avoid when you get into Zimbabwe.

Being in an over crowded kombi on a long distance trip between two…um…strong women: one who just won’t stop indulging in every purchasable food item at all stops along the journey, and another with a restless, noisy child on her lap who screams for all the food items the first lady eats. By the time you get to your destination, you are drowning in bananas, Cascades, oranges, infant screams, mealies, $1 for two creamed biscuits…and the like.

In a queue at the bank right on teacher's pay day. This is the perfect time to start reciting the months of the year in Shona. By the time you get it right, the queue could be noticeably shorter. If you are based in a major city though, you might want to count down from 100 to 1 instead, also in Shona.

Seated on the couch in the evening: happily skipping through TV channels (or alternatively, skipping the long boring extended parts of an ‘African movie’ to get to the crazy exciting parts). Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, the thing is, just when you get to your favourite programme, this is just about the time ZESA  decides to pull a fast one on you and leave you in total, electricity-less and extremely frustrated darkness, wishing you hadn't turned on the darn TV in the first place.

Get caught between two rival political parties without a membership card of either. That could be a deadly situation. Now this is a dilemma for people who prefer to remain apolitical for a number of reasons: which might be religious reasons, moral or just the simple use of common sense.

Riding a train. If you a romantic, you might have thought this is a novel way to explore the country. Don’t. The average Zimbabwean railway carriage is older than the ages of all the Zimbabwean cricket team members added up together. You will get to your destination, you just won’t know when.

Attend a soccer match where the home team is bound to get a good whacking…and the team tops the league table….and you are supporting the away team. If you do insist though, then make sure you sit yourself near the exist, and you are fit enough to be able to run very fast.

That concludes my list: which is short enough to prove this is a great country to be in. If you are able to avoid these situations, then guaranteed, you will definitely enjoy your stay in this beautiful country. See you when you get here!

23 September 2010

Unwelcome Food For My Thoughts

I stared at the glass of water in my hand, placed in front of me by the waiter, and contemplated my dilemma. I wasn’t supposed to drink that water, that’s according to scientists whom I used to trust enough to know they would only say something like that for my own good.

I am sure everybody knows water is good for you, but apparently not all the time: so say those scientists. I put the glass down. Nutritionists say that drinking cold liquids after or during a meal disturbs digestion.

I don’t consider myself a fussy eater. However, years of going through newspaper articles, internet articles and People Magazine have subconsciously turned me into a paranoiac consumer. They are never short of latest nutritional breakthroughs and ‘expert’ scientific advice on food do’s and donts. I hate scientists for doing that. 

It all started way back when I was little when scientists attacked one favourite delicacy of mine: ishwa. (Would you believe it: in English they call them flying termites: an unimaginative name for food, if you ask me. Way better to call them ‘tasty flying wriggly fatty thingies’ if they couldn’t come up with a proper name). Anyway, after years of being told that they contain healthy proteins, they had to go round and start talking about them being covered with ‘chitin’ which is supposed to give the stomach a hard time during digestion. Now everytime I eat ishwa, I feel the chitin scrapping my tongue, scrapping my throat and scrapping my stomach lining.

I wish these food experts could just make up their minds. For instance, we’ve always been told that chocolate makes you fat. Now this was a good piece of information. All the males of the world could potentially use it to avoid the impromptu dispensing of cash in a supermarket queue to gratify the whining better half. Sadly, researchers had to poke into this brown gooey sweet stuff to discover that it’s not that bad for you after all. It fights heart disease, fights aging, reduces high blood pressure and lowers your cholesterol.

This reminds me of the issue of fats. Since time immemorial, the general consensus has been that fats are nasty. But wait, new research says that there are actually good types that are very healthy for you…as long as you go for whole foods rather than extracted oils. In fact, 20-35% of your calorie intake should come from fats.

Then there is fruits. You can’t possibly go wrong with fruits, right? That’s what I thought until a Manica Post article told me that you shouldn’t have fruit for dessert. I researched the matter further (No, not because I don’t trust this paper of high integrity, but because I wanted to learn more). Additional information revealed that fruits should be taken on an empty stomach, or 20 minutes before another meal. Bothersome info, if you ask me.

Proven: scientists are crazy. They cant come up with lasting nutritional facts. Little wonder most of them still believe that man used to be ape. My advice to avoid Food Statistics and Facts Related Stress Disorder: just eat everything, and eat anything in moderation.

There is a light side to these scientific flip flops however. Not too long ago, I used to hear a lot about the dangers of tea consumption, especially its dehydrating effects. Being a self proclaimed champion tea drinker, I was recently delighted to discover that lots of tea is actually healthy! In fact, a BBC online article actually went as far as out rightly declaring that it’s healthier than your glass of water. It comes with disease fighting flavanoids and teeth cleaning fluoride. And yes, it actually re-hydrates your body, not the other way round.

I sighed, grabbed the cool glass of refreshing water and downed it in one thirsty appreciative gulp. The science can wait for the meantime: I wanted the water. Anyway, a few years from now someone is going to discover that a cold glass of water after a meal actually reduces negative butylated hydroxyanisole molecules, or whatever.

16 September 2010

ZESA Scores a Point for the Evolutionists

ZESA stands for the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority. These guys mainly do two things in this country: one function being the digging up of trenches around the city of Mutare in a month, changing their minds, and then filling up the trenches again the next month. During a particularly uneventful month, they would re-visit the filled up trenches and dig them up again. This pastime is so enthralling that other companies like Econet have decided to join in the fun and started digging up trenches all over the country too.

The second function of Zesa is to switch off electricity during your waking hours, and then switching it back on just after you have entered the coma like state of deep R.E.M sleep.

It is this second function that has made a contribution to the theory of evolution.

As you probably learnt in your first year of high school, man used to be ape. Now this process is said to have come about through micro-evolution; small adaptations over short periods of time, adaptations which eventually accumulated into huge changes over much longer periods of time. Environmental changes trigger a species into undergoing micro evolutionary adaptations in order to secure its own survival. Got it?

In simple terms: when the environment changes, we have to change along with it if we want to survive.

That is where Zesa comes in: it is acting as the environmental trigger.

Take for example the fact that some habits of the general populace in Zimbabwe have turned nocturnal. You can’t count on there being any electricity during the day, so some companies are now depending entirely on the night shift: sleep during the day, work at night.

If you are lucky enough not to need electricity at work or you use a generator instead, don’t worry, you will not lag behind on evolution’s path of change. Zesa makes sure that when you get home during the early evening, you have no choice but to sleep. See, the television has become the centre of every household: whether it is watching African (read ‘Nigerian’) movies, playing Mai Nga on DVD or simply watching pirated digital broadcasts of foreign TV channels. Without Zesa, and the art of family conversation having been lost a century ago, you sleep and maybe wake up around 1am to catch up on some Sky News. A perfect example of microevolution.

Charles Darwin
I got another example. Have you ever noticed how Zimbabweans have micro evolved in an effort to provide themselves with energy? Cooking used to be a simple primitive matter of turning on the stove and laying the pot on the hot plate. Now the whole matter requires some ingenuity when there is no electricity. One method that is gaining popularity in firewood scarce cities is the use of sawdust to cook meals. Don’t ask me for details: just know that apparatus includes a tin, sawdust (not too fine), some matches and of course cookware which you wont mind scrubbing soot off of after the messy process is done. Another perfect example of microevolution.

The whole point is that Zimbabweans have adapted to the absence of electricity in seemingly ingenious ways to ensure that life goes on. Yeah, pathetic, but judging from the development of affairs, we should get used to this kind of living because it doesn’t seem to be nearing its end yet.

The bigger point is that Charles Darwin’s modern counterparts may take these trends to indicate that their theory of evolution was right after all! If adaptations can take place in such a small space of time, what of a million years? If the world were to survive till then, maybe this country could be inhabited by big eyed hibernating owl like creatures.

This article was about the theory of evolution. Anyone who read anything else in it should have their heads examined.

Addendum: I found an interesting piece on the circus they call evolution this other day. Everyone should read it...or most of it anyway (its a bit longer than what can be managed by the attention span of the average internet surfer).

11 September 2010

Whats Making You Laugh on Zim TV These Days?

Thanks to a free to air decoder, which snaps up any un-encrypted signal onto my TV screen, it has been a while since I did Zim TV. I got a little lost when a lot of people started talking about the new TV sensation, Kapfupi: his acting, his music and a whole load of other stuff. One day I heard this guy compare him to my all time Zimbabwean TV favourite, Gringo, and then I really started to feel like I was missing out on something.

A friend lent me the DVD; I sprawled on the sofa and got ready to be entertained. I don’t remember the title, but I do remember it all started with Kapfupi and his trusty sidekick, Marabha, climbing over a gate to get to a house in an effort to look for employment at this residence. That elicited a smile out of me, and raised in me an expectation of a wild and hilarious adventure ahead.

After a little while, my smile turned to uneasiness…then slowly into disappointment and a little bit of disbelief. The show was over-acted, over improvised, poorly edited and the sound quality was terrible. In one scene, I actually spotted one of the cameramen uncomfortably crouching in the bushes.

I wondered if this was the current prime of Zimbabwean video production. It was as if the whole crew and cast came to the scene without a clue as to what they were about to do, entirely depending on the whims of the lead actors:

“What do you feel like doing today?” the director would ask.

“I don’t know,” Kapfupi would answer, “I wanted to record a song when I woke up this morning but it seems like a perfectly sunny day. Let’s act.”

“Ok. Um…what do you wanna act about?”

“Oh I don’t know,” Kapfupi would answer, “Just start the cameras rolling, I’ll think of something along the way.”

Maybe it’s a new way of making dramas in Zimbabwe: the impromptu approach. It kind of reminds me of an article that explained how they make African (read ‘Nigerian’) movies. The total number of cast members and crew would be about ten; extras are taken from whatever location the filming is taking place. Filming is done using hand held camcorders: which explains why an earthquake occurs every time the camera has to follow someone around.

It takes about a week to shoot a Nigerian movie and one director actually boasted that he could make a movie in three days flat. Considering the quality of their products, I believe him. I also believe that if our own Kapfupi decided to do a full length feature movie, he could lay that Nigerian director’s claim to shame by doing it in a day without a script.

I wonder whatever happened to the creative days of Paraffini, Mukadota and the actor I best remember for on-screen improvisation, Mutirowafanza. Those names invoke warm funny moments of the whole family gathered up before the TV during prime time to laugh away the evening and share the humor first thing tomorrow morning at school, at work or with the neighbor hanging out the laundry next door.

I think the peak quality production in comedy drama was reached with Gringo. Gringo’s cast was memorable, the storyline well thought out and the improvisations by the main actor, Lazarus Boora, could barely be identified as such. After that, the industry decided on a downward spiral and never looked back.

Granted, it is very brave of Kapfupi to make this bold undertaking to revive the genre. I tried him, but I don’t think him good enough yet. For the meantime, I’m going back to my Everybody Hates Chris and George Lopez on neighboring countries’ TV until we get someone who doesn’t throw a half baked idea onto our screens.

06 September 2010

Chronicles of a Kombi Crew

When I still in crèche, I wanted to be a bus conductor. The thought of spending the whole of my working life riding up and down the country thrilled me, especially considering these guys never had their moms screaming at them to sit down when the bus started moving. Of course, I changed my mind ages ago. In Primary School I decide to aim higher - I wanted to pilot a plane.

I hardly think today’s kids ever dream of being conductors or drivers. They all want to be Akons and Shakiras (you should attend any kindergarten party to see the type of music they are ‘whining’ to). Apparently, this profession has lost appeal even in the feeblest of minds.

However, a recent discussion I heard in a kombi made me spare a thought for the people in this industry. It was invoked by a woman who tactlessly cared to comment that this profession, compared to a number of other jobs, wasn’t all that hard to do. The kombi conductor and driver didn’t take this lying down: they decided to defend their livelihoods with only two, but well articulated points.

The first point brought forward was that the most difficult jobs in the world involved dealing with the public…and a kombi crew is high up there in the customer service sector. You get to be yelled at by a number of people letting off steam from their own personal problems, and you get to do an awfully lot of yelling back at people who fail to perform the basics of riding on a kombi.

Take, for example, the guy who gets into a kombi, pulls down an ‘aisle seat’ before the back seat gets filled and sits there. I’ve seen it happening myself and I got to say, it doesn’t make any sense unless you intend to pay for all the empty spaces behind you. Then there is the guy that gets in, waits for the kombi to fill up, pulls out his brand new G-tide and starts playing music full blast, impairing other passengers' attempts at conversation, and even drowning out the car radio. Wouldn’t that just give you a headache?

The second point involves the long hours put in by most kombi crews. This particular kombi crew stated that they wake up at around 4.a.m and usually drop of the last customer close to 9.p.m after an exhausting day…and we are talking 7 days a week. The conductor probably gets the worst of it since he has to awkwardly hang at the door for the duration of the journey. This can be particularly torturous in a small kombi and is probably going to create a new health disorder,  ‘Curved Back Syndrome’ or something.

The long working hours also mean these guys have no social life. The conductor stressed this by saying that he doesn’t even drink anymore since he would simply doze off on the bar counter before the first drink. He woefully added, “This other day, I held my 8 month old child and she cried, she didn’t know who I was.” Tragic, really.

Just a glimpse into the day of a kombi crew. I am not saying you should start teaching your children to want to be kombi drivers and conductors when they grow up. I am just encouraging you all to spare a thought for the humble kombi crew next time you are commuting.

The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory states that the universe started off with one huge explosion from an infinitesimally small point called a singularity. Right now, it is rapidly expanding in all directions as evidenced by galaxies all around spinning away from each other. Sounds fun, but the theory also goes on to say that if this expansion doesn’t slow down soon, the whole universe is going to end up all cold and dark, all the energy having been spent in expansion.

This interesting piece on astronomy came to mind when I spent nearly a week unable to make any calls, txt, or even sent a Call Me Back using my Econet line. It seems as if the network became congested with calls just after they introduced per second billing. Per second billing is still a cool new feature in Zimbabwe and it seems everybody’s keen on finding out how it works, and whether it would really save them a couple of cents…hence the network overload.

Econet is by far the country’s largest network. It started in 1999 and now possesses over 75% of the market share…a large and undoubtedly unfair chunk of the pie if you ask me. Think four million Zimbabweans all experimenting with making multiple calls in an effort to stretch the humble dollar. Not good.

My possibly alarmist question is: did this company bite off more than it can chew? I have absolutely nothing wrong with a company expanding, but shouldn’t this expansion be supported by infrastructure on the ground? Doing it any other way can only lead to gross inefficiencies. Try calling the Econet helpline, for instance, and you will reach the inevitable conclusion that they are the ones who need a lot of help in customer service provision.

I can’t help thinking about Microsoft at this juncture. Everyone knows that these guys own the PC operating system world (For all we know this side of the equator, Mac OS and Linux could be the latest hybrid offerings from Toyota). However, everybody also knows that it is most unwise to be the first to get the latest operating system package from them. A gross period should be allowed: a period characterized by bug fixes and the release of ‘improved’ versions of the same product.

Now I am scared of and for companies that are big but haven’t done much wrong yet. Think Facebook with its recently reached membership of 500 million people. It makes me more than a bit uneasy that Wikipedia has separate page dedicated to Facebook criticisms. Some of the privacy issues in this article could make you squirm.

While ‘Facebook owns social networking, Google owns everything else’…that’s according to a Cnet article I recently came across. I cant argue with that, seeing  Google now seems to rule the internet. Picture this: if you spent your day on the internet, you might start your day by launching the Google Chrome browser, then search on Google to access your Gmail, blog with Blogger, network with Buzz, watch videos on YouTube, manage digital photos on Picasa, find places with Earth…need I go on? And the company is only 13 years old.
Little wonder, in 2006, the word ‘google’ was added as a verb in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary. But what if Google gets so big that it becomes blatantly inefficient? Or (should I say it?) what if this giant actually collapses? I am sure such an event would immediately kick start the long aforetold biblical great tribulation.

 Becoming big, no doubt, is nice. A recent IPC Consultancy survey rates Econet Wireless as the most admired employer in Zimbabwe; Google, according to a Universum survey, has gained the best employer status globally (closely followed by Microsoft). Everybody’s falling over each other to work for them big companies.

 But being big should be managed. Expansion without proper management can only lead to gross disappointments. It would be like following the bad footsteps that, according to astronomers, the universe has laid out from the very beginning. Tragically, a couple of billion years from now we are all going to be sitting in the dark, all cold and gloomy,  wondering why the universe couldn’t just slow down when it was growing up.

02 September 2010

Zimbabwean Wedding Guide: How to Make Yours a Success

I was eavesdropping on a conversation this other day taking place between two women. One of them (I’ll call her Mai T) had just attended a wedding and the other (lets call her Mai Nga) wanted to know all about it. 

The talk was a chatter of rapidly fired excited questions and answers, but I managed to grab the main ideas. These ideas led me to a conclusion: weddings in this country follow a few basic rules which, when followed, will eventually lead to the success of that event. Let me share bits of this animated talk with you:

Mai Nga: Muchato wanga uri sei?
Mai T    : Muchato wanga uri right zvisingaiti, ende takadya!

That is the first rule: lots of food. If you want to make your Zimbabwean guest happy, pile lots and lots of food in front of him - more that he knows what to do with. Don't worry about having food left over afterwards - as unlikely as that might be considering the gastronomical capability of the populace. Actually, having leftovers could raise the feast up a notch on the success scale. 
By the waylots of food means I mean lots of beef, lots of chicken and lots of rice. This is not the best time to serve your favourite dish (shaquille stuffed shells grilled with teriyaki sauce or whatever). Variety and uniqueness is nice but at the end of the day, quantity will determine how the vote will be cast. Just don’t forget to throw in at least two coke bottles per guest.

01 September 2010

The Death of Shona As We (Should) Know It

This serves to mourn the death of Shona in Zimbabwe. The everyday language being spoken these days does not deserve to be called Shona. It doesn’t really make any sense anymore.

Ok. Before you all go all crazy and start shouting about unpatriotism and ignorance and hate speech, let me make a few points clear before I proceed. First point: I love Shona, otherwise I wouldn’t use it to talk. In fact, this very post proves I am a Shona lover, as you shall see. Second point: I believe that all languages have their peculiarities and none is superior to another (off the record though, German sucks, French rocks, nothing personal). Third point: the only language I really know is Shona, so by default, it’s the only language I am qualified to comment on.

And I say it doesn’t really make any sense anymore. Case in point:

Archie walks up to Tatenda and asks, “Uri kutambira nhamba ani?”

Tatenda looks back with a blank stare for a split second before smiling back and answering, “Ndiri kuDefense.”

Archie nodded, seemingly in understanding, and comments, “MaOne.”

If you are the type that is always up to date with the latest trends in the world of conversations, you might have no trouble understanding the interchange above. I, on the other hand, am one of the conservative types and when I heard it, I found it kind of puzzling; especially considering none of the participants above ever walked a soccer pitch in their lives.

Shona is getting chaotic by the day. Slang used to form only a small fraction of the whole language, but it now seems to rule. Proper words have all been morphed up into abbreviated and twisted substitutes that lack the beauty of the original form and sound. Contrast the nice sounding baba (father) with the modern blunt form mdhara. You got to admit, the original sounds beautiful and the modern is ugly.  The other relations have not been spared this brutality, such that we have a whole ugly line up: blaz, sistren, ninez, gulez, kulez

The beautiful vocabulary of expressive words has probably suffered the most. For instance, just one word bears the mammoth task of summarizing just any emotion, or concluding any sentence under the Zimbabwean sun. It doesn’t matter if someone has asked you how you are feeling, how the party you attended was like, or how business is these days. You simply answer: MaOne. Given the economic circumstances in the country, some might add, or substitute with the gloomier zvakadhakwa.

Just a few examples, but I hope they have proven my point.

 I blame the kombi guys for this trend. See, these are the people that seize the latest and juiciest phrases and start throwing them all around until they find their way into ordinary respectable conversation. A huge portion of the Zimbabwean population commutes using the kombis so the language easily spreads around. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear, a couple of years from now, a preacher in church sternly advising the congregation: “Hama neshamwari munaKristo, nekudhakwa kwaita upenyu musasatambire defense kunaMwari.”

I got to ask Tatenda, much later on, what the whole conversation with Archie was supposed to mean. The answer I got? “I have no idea, I just played along.”

Well, at least it proves I’m not the only one lagging behind.