It was mid-summer in Zimbabwe when my uprooting happened. I knew that this was coming, but my 10-year-old mind had not fully grasped what it meant for the future. I didn’t know I was facing one of the biggest changes in my life.
I had just turned 11 when my mother told us that our passports and visas were ready and that we would be boarding a flight in just 2 months. I had never been on a plane before, but we had been separated from our dad for just over a year, so all I knew was that I was excited to see him.
We boarded in the sweltering heat and stepped into the coldest winter I had ever experienced in my life. Our new home.
Everything was different. The air was cold, dense, and sunk its claws into my chest as I inhaled. Going to school was strange. Hardly anyone looked like me or spoke how I spoke. For the first time in my life, I found myself having to explain my existence, and it started with my name. “Is it Rumbuzai? Rumbudzai? that’s such a difficult name”. “Just call me Rumbi” I’d say.
From then on, I spent years explaining my existence and sometimes defending it in the face of racism. “Did you live in huts in Zimbabwe?”, “Is that your real hair?”, “White people are smarter than black people”, “Where are you really from?”, “You’re pretty for a black girl”. The racist remarks grew more sinister as I grew up. As a child in Zimbabwe, I had been outgoing, but the coldness of this country had made me retreat deep within myself. It knocked my confidence.
Before I knew it, 10 years had passed, and I had not seen my grandmother or my sister in person. Although we spoke, it just wasn’t enough. To be separated from our family is not what we would have chosen for ourselves. Although I managed to form and maintain relationships with a few of my extended family members, the distance is still evident.
It was overwhelming to go back and finally feel like I was home. The air welcomed me. The heat, the red soil, the sound of everyone speaking my mother tongue. For the 2 weeks, we were there, a lot of things made sense again.
The thing I battle with now is my sense of belonging, because 18 years and a British accent later, when I go back, although I physically feel at home, I don’t quite fit in anymore. Some of my own people look at me differently, and have their own stereotypes about people like me, just like the people in my adoptive home.
Living away from home doesn’t get easier, you just get used to the separation.
Written by Rumbidzai
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