AFTER spending three weeks away; two weeks in Zimbabwe and one week in Namibia, I am back in the UK.
The 16-hour flight (two hours from Zimbabwe to South Africa, seven hours from Johannesburg to Doha and another seven hours from Doha to Manchester) leaves me very tired.
As we land at Manchester Airport it is very cloudy and the weather is also slightly cold, gloomy.
It is grey compared to the clear skies of Harare.
I am back to gloomy Britain!
People walk past you with stern faces and if they smile at you it is expressionless.
I cannot help but make a sharp comparison with Harare, where people smile at each other despite the social and economic problems they may be experiencing.
In Harare wherever I went or offices I visited I was always greeted with warm smiles.
I met people who enquired after each other’s welfare.
Ndicho chivanhu chedu.
The contrast with the people in the UK is very big.
Here there is a lot of individualism and each man fends for himself.
I struggle with my three bags and go through immigration and customs.
One of my suitcases is filled with ZANU PF regalia to share with aspiring new party supporters.
I silently pray that I go through customs with no hassle. And I do.
I wait for my coach to Coventry, which finally arrives after one-and-a-half hours.
The coach driver does not allow me to take my mbira instrument on the coach because ‘the keys are dangerous, they can be used as a weapon’, he says.
I don’t argue. He takes it to the baggage cabin together with my suitcases. I pray that the shell (dende/demhe) does not break during the three-hour trip to Coventry.
I know the importance of security in this country.
But I also think that his reason for banning the mbira on the bus is too farfetched; because I was able to carry that instrument with me as hand luggage on both South African and Qatar Airlines.
I get home and suddenly realise that my terraced house is very small, in fact very small that I feel like I am entering into a cave and not a three-bed house!
I suddenly realise that the front garden is too small.
My kitchen too looks so tiny than before.
Everything is small.
The bedrooms, the toilet and bathroom.
I compare my lounge in the UK with the bedroom I slept at my brother’s place in Mandara.
I realise that even that spare bedroom he reserves for visitors is much bigger than my lounge!
I suddenly realise that the sofas in my lounge are too big for the place.
It is cramped. It is smelling. A smell of damp clothes.
I never smelt dampness before because in the nearly 14 years that I have lived here, I had become so accustomed to damp smell.
My son is drying clothes on central heaters and doors.
This is what we do. People dry their clothes indoors especially when it is cold.
You either use a dryer to dry them but at a cost (electricity bill).
There are damp clothes everywhere; on doors, heaters and every little space where they can be hanged.
The situation is depressing.
I want to run away, to go back to Zimbabwe and live a normal life.
But what is normal? Normal to many people in the UK, especially immigrants like me, is living in tiny and cramped terraced houses and flats, so tiny that if all the three rooms downstairs (kitchen, lounge and scullery) are combined, they are even smaller than an ordinary lounge in most houses in Harare.
Normal is bringing up my children in council estates, where there is prostitution and drug sales.
Yet the media here make our children (and their children) believe that they are better than children in Africa.
My kids ask me if houses in Africa (they refer to Africa as a homogeneous country) have electricity and water.
I tell them that many houses in Harare have swimming pools and sporting facilities but they don’t believe me because they are conditioned (from younger age) to believe that Africans are barbaric and backward.
The Western media captures those parts of Africa that are poor, war-torn countries where they put their cameras on the faces of impoverished children with mucus and flies on their faces!
This is the depiction of Africa in the West.
Our governments allow African children to be filmed in that state, with eyes budging because of the fear of cameras, yet we do nothing about it because we want donor money.
I tell my children that Africa is very beautiful.
I show them my photos taken at my brother’s place and they look confused.
I realise that as Africans we have a duty to promote the images of our countries to these lost souls in the West.
We should not leave it to the BBC or Sky News to do it for us, because they have very little positive things to report about Africa to justify any method of intervention (be it war or international aid).
And in some cases they are even assisted by our own people to visit poor areas to film for their news clips.
In Zimbabwe I have come to realise that there is a particular block of flats in Mbare they always capture on news as if it represents the whole of Harare or the country!
Normal for us immigrants is living in poor and dilapidated countries, working 18 hours every day and eating buy-one-get-one free food.
Normal is also painting a picture of glory about the UK to people back home and pretending that we live in paradise.
In Zimbabwe I found myself struggling to explain to people that life in Britain is very difficult.
One guy asked me why many Diasporans are able to build or buy houses in Zimbabwe if life was so difficult.
I did not tell him that most people earn the money through untold means.
We have people practising prostitution, both male and females.
I know of people who have become gays or lesbians for survival.
I know of people who took loans from banks that they never repaid.
I also know of people (both men and women) who steal people’s credit cards, in fact these are the majority.
And I also know of some Zimbabweans who deliberately get involved in road accidents in order to claim whiplash money from insurers.
Imagine if a family of five (mother, father, three children) get involved in an ‘accident’ and all successfully claim up to £3 000 each for whiplash! The family becomes £15 000 richer.
I know I will get used to my confined place very quickly and resume my ‘normal’ life, but I really miss Zimbabwe!