According to Miss Vimbai (Part 1)
Hello everyone and welcome to my brand new canvas! I am excited to share my journeys and experiences with you here in a candid, informative and thought provoking way that will get us to see travel in and around Africa in a brand new light, and hopefully encourage us to take action to make the most of our beloved continent.
My passion for Africa began at a stage of my life where I can say my childish innocence and naivety was monumentally arrested. I grew up in a diplomatic family, and my father was the Ambassador to the Former Yugoslavia at the time and so my brother and I were enrolled into the International School of Belgrade. My time at this school marked several interesting phases and fads in my childhood – for example, I remember when I was in kindergarten and one day my Norwegian friend Tina came to school with a terrible rash all over her body. When we asked what happened to her, she said that they had just discovered that she was allergic to fish and could never eat fish again. Allergies? She was allergic to a certain kind of food, and because of that she never had to eat it again? Now that was music to my hears – hang on, I wasn’t a dark nor sadistic child but I was a very picky eater. However, growing up in a typical African home you learn quickly that your pickiness is your problem – I usually had one of three options: to eat what was there, or to choose between starving and getting a lashing for being ungrateful. So the discovery of allergies was nothing less than a message from above to me.
I happened to detest fish. I didn’t actually have issues with its taste to be honest, but the fear of choking on a bone completely put me off. So I got home that day after school to announce excitedly to my family that a doctor had come to do tests at school and they had discovered that I am allergic to fish. In retrospect, I now realize that my parents simply decided to humour their last born as they obediently exempted me from all fish related meals from that day onwards. What more, they decided to give me my favorite piece of chicken on days that the family would eat fish. Glory!! The irony is that if you fast forward 20 years later – fish is my favorite food. I can’t believe I allowed myself to be deprived from it for so long! I wish my parents had insisted that where we come from, we eat fish! When I ask them now why they allowed me to get away with it, they simply say “we knew you would eventually find yourself”.
Growing up in a foreign country and attending an international school definitely made finding myself a very colourful experience, and it made me eager to explore my roots. It started with discovering allergies, but there were pertinent moments that taught me that being African made me slightly different from the rest of my schoolmates who were predominantly European and American. Like the time a fellow African student told the teacher that he had had “meat” for breakfast, and the teacher quickly responded to him saying “you must mean sausages”. I remember thinking to myself, the young man could have very easily meant meat – not in sausage form. However the difference in culture meant that my Scottish teacher insisted that if meat is a part of breakfast it must be sausages or bacon.
But my journey as a pan African activist began in the 5th Grade when my Serbian classmate called me a monkey. The boy in question had professed his love for me, but I was not allowed to have a boyfriend and was too embarrassed to say so, so I simply told him I didn’t like him. He went into a rage and called me a monkey, and said that my father was a big baboon. Offended and sharp tonged at an early age I responded – you pig!
I had never known race as anything more than a difference in skin pigmentation and hair texture until this very moment in my life. When I got home from school, I quickly told my parents, who were deeply offended and refused to take the matter lightly. The issue was raised with the Parent Teacher Association, and an apology was issued but it taught me some major life lessons at that tender age: being different does not make you inferior, and you should never be afraid to stand up for being different. In this case being different meant being black and being African. From that moment I walked tall and proud of my heritage because my parents had instilled in me that it was worth fighting for, it was something to be proud of.
What does this have to do with sharing my insight into travel with you? In my travels across Africa I see so many different young people, and I ask myself are we still instilling African pride? Do we actually care about Africa beyond the borders of our own countries? Its interesting to watch people stroll by in various international airports, and I have noticed that there is an increasing number of young people who are proud to wear their traditional attire or pieces from their culture. It raises so many questions in me because as a Zimbabwean, we do not have a traditional attire (this was very confusing for me during culture days at school, but that’s a whole other story for another day). Does the lack of attire make us less cultured? All I know is that its up to me to discover what this place called Africa is all about beyond the stereotypes and stigmas that we are accustomed to – I want to show you Africa beyond starvation and safaris. I am here to show the Africa that the media has never shown you. From bungee jumping in South Africa to sand boarding in Namibia – THIS IS AFRICA. Hopefully the world might just be convinced that we are not monkeys, nor are we baboons.