When you have a moment, reminisce about your journey thus far in this maze you call life. There are some unearthed gems that have shaped the person you are today. The people you once knew, the schools that educated you, th tragedies that occurred and the formidable recoveries that ensued.
This exercise was first instituted in my educational journey during my tertiary English 275 class where I learned the basics of American English. We were tasked to relive and dictate past experiences, good or bad, that made a lasting impact on our young, promising lives.
Dr. Lord Wills got his PhD in English from University of Florida so our paths unexpectedly crossed at Bearcat University, in the Emerald City of Greenwood, SC. At the time it was boring homework, but only now and ten years later, I can conclude that it was one of the most rewarding exercises I appreciated about my college experience in America.
I decided to write a riveting tale related to visa chronicles I experienced during the winter of 2007. It was a retrospective account of what many would call a traumatic experience. Long story short, mistaken identity caused me to be flown between United Kingdom and the United States in a 24 hour period. It was mentally wounding experience that caused a deplorable, self-diagnosed dose of PTSD and paranoia, but looking back, without this experience, I would not have become vigorous, resilient and driven individual I’d like to believe I’ve become.
I’d never understood mistaken identity until it was a guilty sentence for the innocent bystander I was. I wrote about the shame I felt for an offence I had no idea I committed at the time, but was later freed and exonerated upon my reinstatement to continue my studies.
“You escaped exhile!” as my Zulu friend and fellow camp counselor, Thabo, when I recounted the story. I was later inspired to graduate with honors and become an auditor in the financial services industry. I later learned a list called OFAC which in my case, contained an error resulting in mistaken identity. Perhaps that’s why, today as an auditor I make every effort to ensure mistaken identity doesn’t occur.
When it was all said and done, my gratitude was solely to the folks who administered the Mufuka scholarship at Bearcat University. They fought tooth and nail to get my visa reinstated after working with the Office of South Carolina Senator, Lindsey Graham and the Bureau of African Affairs in Washington DC.
To take nothing for granted was the major lesson after this twisted experience. Life, education, health and safety are invaluable gifts we mortals often take for granted. I learned to appreciate the simplicity of the invaluable gifts we attain everyday.
I hope to pen a piece called “Alien” in the coming months to share and recount how this experience shaped me and how it might help your journey.
So as I digress a little, let me return to the whole point of this post.
Once upon a time my so-called trail blazing exploits took me to Dorchester Avenue in Mabelreign, Harare, Zimbabwe. Mabelrighn was our middle class neighborhood for 5 years and one of the many reasons I am extremely proud of my Zimbabwean identity. Mabelreign wasn’t the suburbs, and neither was it the high density urban area. It was a community of hardworking middle class folks mostly self made and raising close-knit families. My father planted his tribe there after transitioning industries and this is where the adventure began for my brother RazzleDazzle and I. Read about him in my Little-Big-Brother post here.
Mabelreign or affectionately known as Mebhazz is in the northwest part of Harare, Zimbabwe. Harare Drive and Sherwood Drive meandered through the middle-class, sweaty streets of Cotswold Hills, Sentosa, Ashdown Park, Haig Park which were all boroughs of the Mabelrighn district.
Alfred Beit primary school, Haig Park primary, Mabelreighn Girls high, Ellis Robbins high (Fush) are some of the schools in the area. Ma’shops’ were the local conurbation where Indian or Greek owned shops rested. If you’ve been to Mebhazz on a Harare-Ashdown-Park bound combi, mashops is where your journey to and from the city began.
Folks from this neighborhood were not flimsy but tough, streetwise characters constantly searching for their next opportunity in Harare, the sunshine city. Difficult to impress and extremely aware of their surroundings, Mabelreign natives were always conscious of their surroundings, neighborhood folktales and even the local political discourse. We lived on Dorchester Avenue in the Haig Park sector where ten homes were planted on a humble street.
You had to be aware of the neighborhood politics, so consequently you had to know your constituents including your supporters, team members and enemies.
It was seldom violent and relatively safe due to the local neighborhood watch which rotated ever so often. The enemies I write about were just mere rivals in informally organized soccer games, coke soccer tournaments and bastketball games at the community basketball courts. A piece of land was undeveloped for some time, so the city managers erected a basketball court to keep the local youth entertained and out of trouble.
My brother and I regularly recount the dramatic events that occurred ‘kumaCourts’ as we called them. We had self-proclaimed players vying for the provincial and national teams. We supposedy had one talented player called Leo on his way to the “NBA”. Looking back, our creative storytelling and recalling of neighborhood myths really had no limits. At least we believed in any athletic or artistic possibility. While Leo never made it to the NBA, Carlprit or “Rudy” as we called him back then later made it the European top charts sitting on a humble 5 million views on YouTube as of yesterday. Check out his song here:
In my post about my “Little-Big-Brother” you’ll notice I talk about being on a commercial. I can reveal in this post that I was good at basketball and selected for this spot as Flavor Ravor because the Mebbaz basketball playground was where Allen Iverson, Vince Carter and Ray Allen were considered gods while god’s shoes had to be knockoff AND1 or Air Jordans of course.
Our charred rims had no nets or chains. The grim tar paved the court which was last painted the day the court was opened – ten years before. A faded half line court dissected the young and the old. Senior League was a spectacle every evening when hardworking middle-class men returned from work in the heart of the city. When my friends and I completed our curtain-raisers in the junior league we sat on some dusty earth to witness life changing dunks that Dikembe Mutombo himself could not block.
I wonder how the courts are today and if it continues to produce legends like we knew back then.
So hashtag #squadgoals is affectionately used on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook nowadays. My day one friends were and are from Mabelreighn. We were all characters that had young adolescent adventures of climbing trees, hunting doves, and seeing who could land their first kiss from Samantha. Samantha was the fair-skinned slim girl who we only saw when her driver dropped her off at home. The rumor was that her dad was a senior government official. The luck of the draw for horny little Africa adolescents was Sam. Samantha tested the intrigue of smitten little boys just roaming the African urban streets with hopes of catching a glimpse of the neighborhood’s princess.
So who were the characters?
Simba was the annoying little brother who rarely left his house probably due to parental control. His talent was drumming his tins and plastic containers for four hour sessions at a time. His estranged sister, Grace would come home for the Summer. I’d like to believe she liked SonofGuruve, but sadly the distance didn’t make the heart fonder as she was in boarding school in Bulawayo. I bet Simba is a drummer now, for a band somewhere in the diaspora if not, at a Church in Harare picking up where my imagination left off.
Sarikosi University classes were held at number four. Check out the Sarikosi Post here. FatherofGuruve planted his tribe there. He allowed my brother and I to go on limited adventures because of our curfew. Without him we would live a simple, insulated lives without getting to experience the harsh realities Mabelreign could offer.
Looking back, I guess he understood that you couldn’t be part of a community without participating in it. Our participation was more mischief rather than productive, but then again we were just curious characters innocently enjoying our free time before the sunset.
My man Mabasa lived in the house across from ours. “MaJob”, as we called him, was the creator and founder of the coke soccer tournaments I mentioned above.
What is coke soccer?
Take 11 bottle tops, furnish the inside with a uniform kit or pattern using the color of your choice. A ball bearing served as the football while you as the manger, used your index finger to traject the ball, carried inside the bottle top. A flick of the ball would go back and forth, until a goal was scored on a chalk drawn soccer pitch.
The surface was the drainage ledge which was known in my whole Mabelreighn life as a “bridge”. Teenager board meetings and sun bathing discussions were held on the bridge except during the coke soccer tournaments. MaJob was a fan of Gianfrancco Zola, the Chelsea legend who later coached Watford when my favorite goal of all time was scored in a promotion playoff. It’s hilarious that when I see some footage of Zola, it’s MaJob who comes to mind. MaJob was kind enough to make us home-cooked sandwiches and will go down as a coke soccer legend.
Ronald, Timmy and Dhivha where the core of our street football team. Ronald was the first person I ever met in Mabelreighn and I still chuckle to this very day when I realize he misled my family when we were strangers in the neighborhood. Ronald Macheke decided his name was Ronald Williams. I’m sure my Dad wondered, how he’d got his family name Wiliams, because it was incredible. Nonetheless, we later learned his true last name and perhaps he was taught from an early age to never give up his identity to strangers. Timmy , Ronald’s older brother thought he was better than he actually was, but every football team needs that one character. Tommy was always there when a fight erupted so he was always welcome.
Dhivha was our player manager and the oldest one on the block. His management and planning skills led us to beat the Policemen’s kids in a heavily anticipated fixture, I recount regularly. Gabriel who was our left back later played for the best Harare boys team, Prince Edward. Many of you don’t realize he first started playing on our squad, CYD before the glory days at Prince Edward. Chikweshe Young Dodas was our street name and tryouts were hotly contested. We had a green and white kit which resembled the Caps United, a local Harare Ciy team. I anchored the right wing, while my brother was a left mid. Ronnie and Mabasa were defensive stalwarts while Trust was our prized midfielder.
Our winnings were $6.80 Zimbabwe dollars and we bought frozen penny cools and a loaf of bread. In Mebbhaz those were eloquently known as “freezits” that we bought from the Mozambican-owned tuck shop. Thomas, a Mozambican native used the bread knife to split the frozen bricks so the CYD squad could share. Of all the soccer teams I’ve played for in Zimbabwe, England and the United States I can categorically state that CYD was my favorite. We rarely lost because of our raw talent. Who knew where we would’ve ended up if there was more grassroots development and funding in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Warriors. Allow our imagination to roam.
Maybe we just weren’t good enough, but maybe we would have won a city tournament against the kids from other suburbs, counties or countries. One thing for sure is Gabriel and Trust would have become professionals, but sadly it didn’t materialize.
There’s a lot more I could recite including the fact that our home ground was called Ebola, that we built a tree house and the trauma we experienced when Flynn passed away, but this is just a blogpost, right? Rest In Peace Flynn. We live for you. You are part of our journey
I later played football for a boys school in the heart of the city and cannot get over the fact that I missed a simple penalty against Ellis Robbins. Ellis Robbins is located in my beloved Mabelreighn, Harare Zimbabwe. Perhaps it’s good thing I missed the penalty. It would have treasonous had I scored. Maybe I did my neighborhood a favor?
We’ll never know.