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31 August 2010

What we learn from college these days

It is a well known fact the world over that graduates emerge from university as completely different creatures when compared to their counterparts who have never been in these institutions of higher learning. 
Zimbabwe is not an exception. 

Each year, thousands of beings are unleashed out into the country with radically transformed values, views, language, sense of humor…everything, actually. 
This article will discuss just four things university graduates learn these days (I don’t know if its proper to use ‘University’ or ‘College’ interchangeably, but I’m gonna do that in this article. Its fun). 
Let’s start with language.

The average college student is so hard pressed for time that it becomes most inconvenient to fully pronounce frequently used words. As a result, university talk is loaded with cryptic codes and abbreviations that would put a Microsoft programmer to shame. Students do not go ‘surfing on the internet’, for instance, they just ‘google’. So if you here someone talking about ‘Googling the Stratman and FinAc assignment before hitting the D.H’, rest assured, they are not talking space science…its just homework and food.
Thanks to the prevalence of text messaging and emails, abbreviations are now creeping into notebooks and even - God forbid - assignments. Peak into Tendai Dube’s notebook, for instance, and you are going to need the Tendai Dube's Concise Short Hand Dictionary if you want to be able to read those notes.

Now this is the greatest skill that Zimbabwe’s finest learning institutions manage to impart to undergraduates. This process might seem complex and intimidating at first but really, the average student has managed to perfect this art into a few simple steps:

1) Google it
2) Copy it
3) Paste it
4) Edit

Step 1 involves searching for relevant material on the internet whether its for an assignment or a research project. Step 2 and 3 is the part where you select information from a website and paste it to your assignment/project/notes. The final task, Step 4, is supposed to involve weeding out the trash and remain with a polished product. This last step has proven to be optional in most cases.

A friend of mine managed to do his attachment project in less than a week and a half. This is a process that is supposed to take something like 6 to 8 months. He passed.

Face to face conversation went out with the Stone Age. The 21st Century is all about calls ant txtng, emails and of course Facebook. See, the university I attended had wi-fi (I’m not explaining what that is….google it!). Everyone who had a computer, phone or other compatible device could access the internet from almost any point within the university premises. I recall an incident in which two friends of mine, separated by a 10 minute walk, opted to video chat on Skype instead. 

This is nothing, compared to the new social etiquette that allows relationships to be started online; breakups and make ups via txt messages and the like. In some bygone era, breaking up with someone was a long complicated process which involved avoiding the other for a while as a way of insinuating the fading romance; creating a negative and nasty attitude to show dislike; then finally having to make the much dreaded face to face speech usually starting with words ‘I don’t think this is working anymore…’ 

In a university situation, this would obviously take too long. Simply change your Facebook status to single. Optionally, you can then send a txt notification of the recent turn of developments.

12 August 2010

The Very Tricky State of Being a Mukwasha in the Zimbabwean Setting

Mukwasha – the very tricky state of being a son in-law in the Zimbabwean setting.
VanaAmbuya – this refers to a group of women on the in-laws side whose sole purpose is to make life as miserable as possible for the mukwasha.
tsano - Brother-in-law, and probably the best person to befriend amongst a wife's relatives. You get to have the inside scoop on what the family thinks about you.
Hut – In a rural African setting, a rounded shelter usually with dagga walls and a thatched roof.
House – This is a special type of shelter in the rural African setting. It is usually built with proper bricks and roofed using asbestos. Unlike the hut, it has corners, not curves and it is spelt with a capital ‘H’. Modern versions of a House can come with roofing tiles, sofas, electricity and a satellite dish. Respected guests usually stay over in a House.

Kumusha Shops

If there is anything that freaks me out more than anything else about married life is the thought of having to visit my in-laws in the rural areas. No, I’m not married yet but I have heard too many horror stories, and observed too many awkward moments that I have formed a solid opinion on what type of girl I will get to marry: she wont have a strong link with her rural counterparts. This way, I don’t get to visit them so often, if at all.

I have a perfectly good line of reasoning for taking this stance. The thing is that there are just way too many intentional, and sometimes accidental, tests waiting to be thrust on the unsuspecting mukwasha when he gets to visit the in-laws in the rural areas. I will argue my case with just two of them.

I call the first one The Demonstration of Skill Snare which is probably set to find out if you are really man enough to take care of the daughter you were bold enough to marry. This trap is particularly perilous for a city raised mukwasha. It usually manifests itself in the form of a rural manual task such as slaughtering a goat. If this task simply involved plunging a dagger through the heart of the beast and walking away, then the whole matter would be easy and wouldn’t deserve any mention. Unfortunately, the whole thing calls for an intimate knowledge of the internal anatomy of a goat: where to stab, where to cut, how to bleed the animal and the like…something they forgot to teach us in high school. If you want to gauge just how much the in-laws love to see you suffer, take note of the type of animal they give you to kill. A cow is a bad sign. Pray they don’t give you a cow.

There is a possible way to master this situation however. You could try to quickly befriend a bright and capable youngster in the in-laws’ household as soon as you get there. It doesn’t matter if this is a mukomana webasa or a friendly tsano close to your age, what really matters is that this chosen one should be in a position to help you out when the task arises. If, coincidentally, he is sent off on another errand at the critical time, then you are doomed to forever become known as the Mukwasha uya wekutadza kuuraya mbudzi chaiyo.

I call the second test the Which Mukwasha Rules the Roost Snare. This test occurs when the family you are marrying into has a lot of other mukwashas who get invited to family gatherings. This happens mostly on holidays. I could advise any mukwasha to stay away from such a potentially explosive situation by feigning work commitments or even illness, but you can’t hide behind such pretexts all your married life.

You might venture to ask: what is wrong with getting invited by the in-laws together with all the other mukwashas for a holiday of togetherness and fun? Absolutely nothing as long as your financial disposition is favourable. Very favourable. If, on the other hand, you are not the…um…richest son in law, things can get awkward. Allow me to give you a snapshot of the happenings that could sting your ego on the very first day of an event.

On this day you would, of course, dutifully catch the first bus, disembark at the shops and make the long trek to the in-laws’ house. This journey will not be empty handed: a considerable load of groceries will be precariously balanced on your person - and won’t you be mighty glad to finally spot your destination, with vanaAmbuya relaxing outside the house! They welcome you with smiles when you get up to them amid greetings of “titambire mukwasha!”, then they take your bags inside a hut. You locate a seat, a stool maybe, and you chat away the day.

You hear a commotion much later in the afternoon. There are sounds of stampeding, screaming and ululating and you emerge from the shade to find a metallic black beast surrounded by a reverent crowd. Don’t worry; it’s just the other mukwasha who has arrived in his brand new Toyota Vigo, laden with expensive groceries and presents. He is escorted into the House, given a seat, and immediately relieved of his torturous shoes and hot suit jacket. Swiftly, a light meal is presented to him as a means of whiling away the time whilst waiting for the evening meal.

If you are really way down the financial ladder, you might find yourself that night splitting wood at the back of the house for the evening meal, comforting yourself with the fact that at least the other mukwasha’s grocery was only from South Africa and not Dubai.

Ego pierced.

These are just two examples of the pitfalls you might fall in as a result of visiting your rural in-laws. Do you now understand the stance I stated at the onset? I am carefully searching for a partner that doesn’t have very strong ties with…you know…her rural background. I have nothing against them, mind you. I’m just choosing myself a self preservation route.