I am a woman

I am a woman

I am me

A woman with interests

A warrior with battles

A lover with passion

A leader with goals

A lion with a roar

A human being

with a

 A life to live

A war to fight

A love to give

A past to forget

A future to change

A present to embrace

A mark to leave

 A victory to win

A child to bear

I am a woman

MaNdloDS

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Zimbabwe at 27 years

I hope you don’t mind my posting these poems here. I owe you a PhD update and I will be giving you one soon. Today however like the last two posts I am posting a poem I wrote a few years ago. It forms part of my thesis, so in a way this is PhD related. It is very PhD related however because events happening in my motherland recently have aroused the hope and pain I had long buried and stifled in my heart concerning the land of my birth. I actually found myself distracted and unable to focus on my writing from the anticipation that things could change and the unreal expectation for a miraculous turn of events . We academics have a way to talk about nationhood and nations that  is so far from how I have felt in the last few days. We reason things out with our heads, these are imagined communities and yes they are but there is an emotional dimension to this imagined world that is hard to make sense of.

I wanted to pray for change but all I could do was cry! Cry as I realised that I thought I did not care anymore but I do care. Cry as I let go of the denial and embraced the passion engulfing my heart about Zimbabwe. Then I remembered the 26 year old me who arrived in South Africa and tried to make sense of what it means to be Zimbabwean in South Africa. I have for a long time said to those who ask me, that my national identity is a tag that carries no purchase for me. Instead it boxes me and limits my belonging to that tiny piece of the world. I still think so, but I also carry these feelings of fondness. I carry the pain of my children not experiencing their childhood the way I did mine. So here is a glimpse into the mind of that girl who left and does not want to go back, but wants that to be a choice she makes when she could go back if she wanted to. #thisflag #Zimbabwemustbesaved

 

Is it my independence?

Is it my freedom?

18 April 1980

Victory heralds sounded

The war has been won

Celebrations and ululations

We have conquered the enemy

Have we?

How can this be?

Who shall I turn to?

My brother has risen against me

A father against his own

The future strength of our time

Twenty thousand valiant sons and daughters

Stolen from their time,

From our land, our hands

Is it his independence?

Shall I live on?

Can I carry this burden?

Our nation flourishes and thrives

Education, water, health to the people

The envy of our neighbours

The breast basket of Africa

But who shall heal these wounds?

War veterans?

Who are they?

They fought for freedom

They fought for sovereignty

Fifty thousand Zimbabwean dollars is their asking price

Perpetual damage to the Zimbabwean Dollar

An irreversible descending road for the economy

Is it their independence?

Is it their land?

How is it their land?

I stole their land, I should give back their land

The language they know is of their hands

They beat me up so I can hear

This is their land

I should leave it to them

What shall I do?

Who shall I tell?

My vote is my voice

But how can it be

My vote is stolen from me

The night is a terrifying place

It has hands that beat me up

Hands that make me disappear

Who shall I tell?

How can I speak?

What shall I say?

My voice is taken away from me

My mouth is eternally sealed

AIPPA and POSA

They have cut my tongue

I am damned, silenced from my view

Silenced from my choice

Am I the dirt?

Is my house the dirt?

Murambatsvina like a flood

Destroyed my house

Left me out in the open

Cold and hungry

Where shall I go?

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I want hope

Today I am angry
I am angry and sad
Angry and sad at this world
This world that I grew up in
The world that taught me to fear and hate
Fear and hate myself and be the other
The world that taught me white is better
The world that taught me I am the other

 

Today I am angry
I am angry and afraid
He walks towards me harmlessly
He wields no weapon or shield
His only sin is being seen
The label on his skin
Black, Young and poor
I reason my fear out, this is Johannesburg
What is a woman doing walking alone
How could you become so comfortable
How could you take out your phone
Was that picture so important

 
Today I am angry
I am angry and ashamed
Ashamed at myself for internalizing
The way of the world through fear
Ashamed at the fear I feel as I walk up to him
Ashamed at myself for calling my fear reason
Our eyes meet I see his pain he sees my fear
More pain I inflict with my fear
Why do I need to protect myself
Why am I allowing fear to rule

Today I want hope
I want hope and faith in the future
A world that sees me as enough
Faith that my sons will know
They are in His image
Loved
Wanted
Desired

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Robert Bowen Ndlovu

3 February 1933- 1 July 2015

 

You lived to be 82

Though you spoke about living to a 100

You made a choice stuck to it

As if to life itself

A heritage you left us

Towering above everything you were

Your faith stands testimony

To the choice you made to follow Jesus

Resolute about your faith

Unrelenting about your God

 

Today we honor your life

An amazing father A teacher

A great friend and husband

I will miss how you made her laugh

When I was younger you called

Old men with greying hair boys

Today I get older and see exactly

What you meant

 

You taught us so much

Seeing you read your bible

As if it was the latest thriller

Sharing God’s word and letting us share

A great leader you were to us

 

School was important

Non-negotiable for your children

A heritage I carry with pride

A teacher I am because of you

Lover of knowledge you taught me to be

 

You were here

And now you are there

You are here in our hearts

We carry you in the smile

A twitch to the side

Like the shy man you were

Never waiting for the applause

Always dancing to the beat in your heart

Never following the crowd always

True to the one who made you so

 

You were here

And always will be here

Because traces of your life

Scatter in our lives

Remnants of your love

Taint the fabric of our present

With that perfect hue

A color so perfect

For here and now

A rainbow up in the sky

Says it will all be alright

Because your faith stands tall

Towers over all else

A heritage you leave

The children of your loins

Blessed forevermore by the

Choices you made when you were here!

 

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Goodbye 2015

This has been a bitter sweet year for me and my family. There are great lessons I take away from this year that I want to reflect on in this post.

  1. In 2015 my family and I had great experiences of walking the streets of Copenhagen and secretly whispering prayers that we will one day call that beautiful city home. It remains one of the most beautiful cities in the world, in my world anyway and I’m grateful I got a chance to walk its streets and experience the magic of its open spaces and beautiful gardens. One lesson I draw from our time in Denmark is not necessarily from our time there but from how we got there. I have already blogged about our short stint at living in Denmark here but I want to talk about how wdon27tdisqualifyyourself0adon27tbehasty0aacceptingthatrejectionletter0asometimesweneedtoknock0aalitt-defaulte got to be in Denmark in the first place. I received an email about a visiting fellowship but looking at the requirements I did not qualify. Our family finances where not in a state where we could afford to go as a family, which I needed us to I was still breastfeeding, despite the generous funding that the fellowship offered. I applied anyway and spent three weeks in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Sometimes the odds seem to be against you but you gotta jump in anyway and see where the tide takes you.  Don’t be too quick to disqualify yourself. Do not be hasty at accepting that rejection letter. Sometimes we just need to knock a little harder, wait just a few more minutes longer and the door will open.

2. My sister best described my father’s passing with these words from the Bible “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 2 Samuel 3:38. There is so much I learned from saying goodbye to my father that I could talk about, but the biggest lesson I got was that its true; You never know what you have until its gone. I didn’t experience this truth in a negative sense but saying goodbye to my father in this life as we know it made me realise what a good father I had. I always knew he was good man and appreciated him and was always grateful I had him for a father. At his passing however this truth became even more obvious. As I listened to people speak at his funeral. As I stthechoiceshemade2c0ahislife0amadeitpossible0aformetobewhereiamtoday0a28crown29-defaultood next to my sister as she spoke and I spoke at his funeral I realised how much of who he was made me who I am. He raised strong, courageous and independent women. The lesson I have from all this, is the realisation of how much who I am matters to who my children are. Giving myself and my life and pursuing my dreams is so much more than a selfish pursuit but its defining a path and a life for who my children can and will be. Like I said here, I built my life out of his.
As I looked back at my father’s life I realised the choices he made, the life he lived made it possible for me to be where I am today. I am all the more resolved to live a life as full as possible because my children will reap the benefits and I will enjoy the adventure.

 

3. Lastly as 2015 came to a close I signed up for  #acwrimo again after two failed attempts in previous years. Previously I have done all the cool #acwrimo things such as declaring my goals publicly, signing up on the google goal sheet etc, and tweeting and blogging about my progress as all the cool #acwrimo kids do. My 2015 #acwrimo goal was to finish off three thesis chapters that stood at 50% done. What has tripped me in previous years  is the guilt of failing to reach my goals, failing to update my progress has previously sent me into a dark hole and away from my work and writing. I didn’t have a game plan of how to get over these hurdles this time round but I decided to give it another go anyway. I had many good moments like this one below,

After signing up for #acwrimo sometimes0aguilt0aisagoodthing0a0a28cross29-defaultI got the opportunity to work on a research project which meant that the time I thought I would make lots of progress on my #acwrimo goals was now taken up by a full day of fieldwork. The guilt of yet again failing at #acwrimo pushed me to come up with ways of reaching my goals despite the hurdles. while previous years guilt has derailed all progress and sent me into a deep dark hole this year guilt pushed me to work harder than ever before. What is the lesson from all this, your response is everything and it doesn’t really matter what the world thinks, define your path and make changes as required but remember to keep the main thing, the main thing. I never got to blog about my progress during #acwrimo because I had little time to breathe between the fieldwork and writing. So I chose to drop the non-essentials and focus on the main goal. I didn’t reach all my #acwrimo goals but I made really great progress towards them. I was able to finish two chapters and received great feedback on the one from my supervisor. The third chapter now stands at 75% done. Writing is the main goal of #acwrimo and while I missed out on the social media interactions that make the process fun I am glad I have reason to #PhDance.

What 2015 has taught me is; determination, choices and focus make for a life worth living. Cheers to a bitter sweet year and may 2016 be the year that we sing! 20160atheyearthatwe0asing0a0a28sun29-default

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2015 in review

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, for visiting this blog and reading my ramblings. I am sharing the stats report I received from WordPress with you below. Its been a bitter sweet year so thank you for coming alongside and cheering me on.  When I could hardly see because tears clouded my eyes your cheers kept me going because they told me I was in the right direction.

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 700 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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End of week one of 2015 #acwrimo

This post got lost in the mayhem of things as my November got out of hand. Better late than never I believe, so here are my thoughts at the end of the first week go #acwrimo 2015.

One of the rules of #acwrimo is to discuss what is happening with the writing. So for my first week my undeclared goal was to write the difficult sections that I have found challenging in the methodology chapter in my thesis. I spent a great deal of my work time re-reading books and papers I have read and trying to make sense of what I initially found challenging. Well nothing has changed on that front I still find I am struggling with a lot of the theory but there are bits I am getting better at. So I have decided to just write after all this is all going to a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect I just need to have a document that can show my thought processes and which I can use to sharpen my arguments and finally submit in defence of my work in the not so distant future.

My first week has not been one of flying high and producing a lot of words but it has been a useful though mostly  slow process of writing. I am finding the writing stage of the PhD calls for a lot of emotional resilience and bravado. I have been presenting my work in different forums which itself is a brave thing to do but these have been small snippets of my thought processes. Now that I am writing the thesis I am finding I need, all the more, to clearly show where I stand and take a position. I am finding this requires a lot of bravery because it means opening myself to criticism and I need a willingness to defend my position.

I haven’t been good with participating in #acwrimo conversations on twitter, one thing I definitely know helps in boosting motivation. Perhaps this coming week I will be more intentional about this but only if it is helping me keep to my goals.

Have I found #acwrimo beneficial? I am a fulltime PhD student and should technically have all the time to write my thesis however life gets in the way all the time. Participating in #acwrimo so far has helped keep me focused and mindful of ways to measure my progress and keeping motivated. I have been more strict with myself regarding deadlines that I set for myself and usually end up ignoring. So I am glad I took the challenge despite my initial not so postitive experiences.

 

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Go ahead and do it even if it scares you

 I have talked about conferencing and its benefits before and today I have more to say about that part of the PhD life again. I know I titled this post Do something that scares you because conferencing is one of those scary things I have had to do as part of the PhD. Scary as it may be I have found it very very useful. I attended a conference and presented a paper in the second week of November. This had me even more scared than the other conferences I have participated in.

So what really scares me about conferencing; first I have to stand up and speak in front of a crowd. I know it may only be twenty people it still remains a crowd considering they all will be listening to me. This is actually only a problem before I actually stand up and once I begin to speak about my work, I wonder what all the fear was about. Considering that speaking and telling people about research is an integral part of being an academic I should soon get over this.

The second thing I fear is that my ideas are totally not worth listening to. Again time and again I have had a good response to my work and should really get over this fear. But I think I haven’t done this long enough to get to that place where I am super confident and sure. I actually think this is a good kind of fear if ever there is anything like that. It keeps me searching and wanting to perfect my work. It can only be a good thing when you are constantly aiming at bettering yourself. So maybe fear is not the right word to call this, but until I find a more apt description. Fear it is!

Lastly about this last conference I was presenting at a history conference. I am not a historian and wondered if my work would be acceptable. I figured they accepted my abstract it would be ok. I was  still on edge however because for the first time I was presenting to people who had more background knowledge about the work I am doing. It should really not be a problem but I worried nonetheless.

I have to add another scary thing I did for the conference, I sent out emails to two professors just to say I was looking forward to meeting them at the conference as I was interested in their work. I read this tip from The Professor Is In blog. She advices that you send an email prior to the conference to people whose work you have an interest in and would like to meet. One of the benefits of conferencing is getting to meet people working in fields you have an interest in, in short its called networking. I have never gotten that part about conferencing right. I was usually able to strike up conversations with other PhD candidates like me which is a good thing but its of more value to meet the more established scholars especially when looking at what your future prospects or your next step after the PhD will be.

When I first read this piece of advice it was the missing link to my success in conferencing but I must admit sending out the emails was difficult. I started to think of all the reasons why this was not going to work etc etc. I did it anyway and I am so glad I did. So I sent out the two emails and didn’t get a response. This had me thinking what a terrible idea but when I got to the conference and introduced myself to the professors they remembered me from the email and thanked me for getting in touch. It was a good ice breaker and I certainly had good conversations afterwards.

doone0athing0aeveryday0athatscares0ayou-defaultEleanor Roosevelt may have said this, but recently I saw it posted by Lupita Nyongo on Instagram as words to live by. I think this is a good mantra to live by. If we stayed in our comfort zone we would never really progress and make discoveries.  Its just doing one thing everyday that scares you. @rebeccagelding asks “when was the last time you did something for the first time”. Fear usually holds us captive to the familiar. I challenge you to do something for the first time and do it afraid if need be. 

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Hindsight always has so much wisdom

We always look back at decisions we made in the past with great wisdom. We think I should have  or shouldn’t have done that. I used to look back at the shy teenager I was and wish I had been more outgoing. Think I should have done all the fun things been part of the cool kids club. I am glad however that this does not paralyse me today. Hindsight is an awesome thing if only we don’t let ourselves wallow in the guilt of not having done what we think we should have done now.

 

Sometimes looking back sucks all life out of our present especially when we focus on all the stuff we think we could have, should have, done differently. In the PhD journey I have had loads of opportunities to look back at the naive first generation degree holder and see all the mistakes I have made. I look at the conferences I have attended and the missed opportunities to make lasting connections with people. I have looked at decisions to take up work because well who doesn’t need extra cash and thought I should have spent that time on the PhD. However some of those mistakes are part of the learning process and important lessons too. Now that I know better about how to choose where to send a paper abstract for a conference I can do better. Now that I know how to work the conference as The Professor Is In terms it. I can do better.

So last year I took a year off and had a baby. This has been an awesome thing for us as a family however having a fourteen month old and writing a thesis is not always a fun adventure. So I have had the privilege of looking back at my naive self who got pregnant last year and thinking, I should have first tried to get my writing momentum high before falling pregnant. Hindsight tells me if I were to fall pregnant now, my work wouldn’t be difficult as I have already gained enough momentum to write till the finish line.

There were lots of positives from how things turned out. I don’t think  would have had the same luxury of taking a year off for maternity had I been formally employed. Secondly now I know what to tell all my childless PhD friends thinking about when to start a family. Timing is everything, hindsight allows me to talk about the year I took off to have a baby as if that was the original plan. What I thought would happen was that I would continue PhDing until baby arrived. I hoped I would be celebrating a first draft of my thesis and a baby. As luck would have it however I found it difficult to continue PhDing while pregnant and so I took leave from the PhD.  I figure had I gotten pregnant after having built a good momentum in my writing I could have pushed through the pregnancy fatigue.

It all turned out well though. I had a chance to enjoy the last moments of being a mommy to one. I was able to spend a good amount of time with my parents, sadly this turned out to be a goodbye to my father. When all is said and done perspective is everything. Looking back is good so we can glean all the lessons for the future. Never let it paralyse your present into trying to get it right. Imperfection is our human condition. 825013032-1521681_10151866402183581_1697233341_n

 

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Perspective

Sometimes we all need a perspective check in life. I recently found myself needing one, facing all the pressure of finishing, I was experiencing paralysis and unable to accomplish anything.  I have read articles like this one  and another here ( there is a lot more you can a find with a google search on PhD and perfectionism). I have even  parroted to my colleagues “nobody is ever going to read your thesis. It is probably just your examiners  and maybe, a tiny maybe, just your friends and family will read it too.  So don’t aim for perfection just write”  but I found myself caught in perfectionism. Then I remembered The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.  Matt Might, a professor in Computer Science at the University of Utah, created The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. to explain what a Ph.D. is to new and aspiring graduate students.

I am going to show a summary of it here check out his site for the whole guide. Starting out  with a circle representing all knowledge, the guide brings perspective to what the PhD impact will be.

This is the circle that contains all human knowledge that I imagine my work will to contribute to.

This is the tiny dent my revolutionary work is making to that big circle of human knowledge

BUT this is how the world looks from where I stand

Its always important to remember the bigger picture

[Matt has licensed the guide for sharing with special terms under the Creative Commons license.]

sogotothewildside0awherenopathistrodden0apush0amaketheway0atherearenorules0ayouarethe0apioneer-default

If anything is to bring perspective to PhDing, Matt Might hit it on the head. But of cause it is my life’s work and it pushes at the limits of knowledge.  In a way this is true of all of life. It is not in giant leaps that the world changes but in the small daring steps that may seem inconsequential today, that make tomorrow a better place

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