Zimbabwe – Home is Where the Heart Is – Reflections of a scholarly traveler – by Malvern Madondo. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Zimbabwe – Home is Where the Heart Is – Reflections of a scholarly traveler – by Malvern Madondo. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to see the ways that you yourself have changed.” – Nelson Mandela

It was early December, two weeks before final exams and a week before my long flight back to Zimbabwe. I was going home for the first time since coming to the US to commence my first year studies. I was leaving a week before finals. International flights close to major holidays like Christmas are very expensive; I had booked my flight late enough so that I could take my exams, but early enough so that the prices wouldn’t be exorbitant. Anxiety and stress became me, yet there was the promise of going home. Home.

I remember feeling quite relieved when I submitted my last project and bade farewell to friends gliding in the hallways and tunnels leading to the library, chasing after grades and trying their best to prevent their GPA from nose-diving to a bare minimum. Only a few understood why I would be leaving so soon or why I would be traveling so far. My journey was 3 days long, including multiple stops in 3 different countries. Multiple stops, the ultimate price for a cheap flight.

I can think of several reasons why I needed to go home. To get away from everything. To find myself. To be with company and not feel alone or lonely as I often did at school. To be with family. To find motivation. To … I had been away for 16 months and that might seem too long for those who families live close enough to visit often. It may also seem too short for those who have had to be away for decades. Each person is different and has a different narrative. After 16 months of trying to acclimatize to the US culture, trying to stay afloat and at my best in my academics and other aspects of life, I welcomed the opportunity to go home as the biblical prodigal son was welcomed by his father.

I remember feeling quite overwhelmed when I approached the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The plane was humongous and I was glad I only had one person to my left and a window and the rest of the world to my right. In due time we departed and the airport, at first, became blurry lines of light as the jet sped by, and then became an eclipse of the night and the endless lights surrounding. I will not talk about the rest of my journey, for it might require more space than I have here. However, three days and 2 nights later, I arrived home.

I arrived home weary and smelly-sort-of. Bathing is a luxury on a long flight to a distant corner of the world. I was also missing my entire luggage save my carryon and backpack. Lost in transit, my bags arrived a couple days later, thankfully, and looking like they had survived a massive fight. Never buy a beautiful luggage piece when traveling trans-oceanic, always go for the strongest. There was no welcoming party at the airport when I arrived at noon, on the third day after leaving the US. My brother-in-law was there to pick me up, and I had no strength to explain why I only had a carryon and a backpack. In Zimbabwe, often a lot is expected from one who has been away, especially coming from THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. I felt like a tourist, coming from the airport and passing through the city center, towards home, on the edge of the town. First, I was impressed by the infrastructure and the surroundings that gave one high hopes for better. But my family’s home is far enough to reward one with a sight that will remind you ‘never to judge a book by its cover’ or to trust in first impressions.The wide tarred roads leading from the airport became thinner and by the time we reached home, they had almost disappeared. Street lights dwindled and massive buildings were replaced by shacks that hung on the edge of the road like a leech. But I was home. No assignments, exams, late night studying, club meetings, and whatever was norm in college. I was free!

Part 2

Home sweet home!

The first few days at home were a brutal reminder that life is too short. The house itself looked the same. The people were the same, only a bit older. The neighborhood kids still came out to play on the streets and anywhere else that provided enough space for whatever game the young ones set their young and green minds on. The old friend with stellar grades, who could not go beyond high school because there were no funds to further his education in college, was still there, sitting at the same verandah watching the world fleet by, one day at a time – a slow burning candle life was. The girl next door had gotten married and was living in another country.

The friend across the street was still running his barber shop, and had moved to a different location in the same street after a dispute on rental payments. My father had grown older and less mobile. Sadness. Why had I left? My younger brothers were still mischievous but had acquired some bit of responsibility and ‘wokeness’. My sister still ran the show and was the oil that made this old engine, our house, operational. My older brother was still short of a job and was contracting elsewhere within his trade as an electrician. My older sister was doing quite well, only she had grown a little unhappy with her job in the heart of the town at the Meteorology Department.

There were still water shortages and once or twice a week, my brothers and I had to wander off in search of a borehole to replenish our water supply at home. My brothers knew all the places close by and would often make a couple trips and save me the trouble to meet old friends who often had one too many questions on where I had been for the past year and a half. In a broken society, no one really announces what they have under their sleeve, best for one to mind one’s own business. The week leading to New Year saw me meeting with some friends from high school and some family members. They observed I had gotten lighter and heavier for a kid from the ghetto. What more with my beard and scruffy hair, I looked older! My skin tone had lost the symptoms of one growing up in the high density suburbs of Harare where each day was a struggle and the next meal was a blessing for some and a luxury for others. At Christmas, my family, as per our tradition, all convened at my father’s house and we had a hearty lunch and luckily my luggage had finally made it home on its own and I was able to share the little I had brought along with me from discounts at Kohl’s and Target. Heavenly bliss.

A Christmas meal in the Madondo household.

My family and I stayed up late on the last day of 2016, to welcome the New Year and whatever opportunities and blessings it brought. It did not rain that night, it poured. Despite this, the dark night was constantly made bright by excessive fireworks and the pit-pattering of rain on the asbestos roof was silenced by the celebratory screams and whistles that emanated from various homes and buildings in the area. The following day, at church, smiles were wider than usual and the people, more friendlier than normal. Some were eager to start working on their New Year’s resolutions and those of us who do not take such a tradition seriously due to several failed attempts, looked on in amusement. I only had a couple more weeks at home before I had to return to school. Within a few days, I made the trip to my town of birth to visit my aunt and her family and then onwards to visit my grandfather who lived alone and away from the bright lights and loud noises and general business of town life. Those few days I spent with this part of my family evoked a strong feeling in me that reminded me that nothing compares to home. Seeing my aunt and all that she was doing for her children and family, I was reminded that women are indeed the backbone of the family and I was inspired to do better in all my endeavors. My grandfather, now older and smaller in stature, was a delight to meet and spend the day with. Sadly, because he lived so far out of town and I was commuting to his residence with my brothers, it took longer to get there than the time we spent together. Nonetheless, after he recognized us and had a brief moment of disbelief and to thank his ancestors and God and all those gone before us who had led us to him and granted us to meet once more. It was a sad joyful moment that I think deserves a separate account of its own to justify its worth.

The days following went by pretty fast and I was gearing to say goodbye once more to my family and everything that I had known for a good part of my life. Also, I was getting back to school a few days after class started (remember I left a week before the semester ended). I had enjoyed a full month away from school and the fast-paced Western life. I felt quite empty and remorse for going back. I knew I had to, only part of me wanted to stay. For better or for worse, I was getting back on the Presidential Inauguration day and as expected, I was quite shifty and nervous as I trailed the line (queue) at the airport, waiting for my turn to go through TSA. As the Border Control officer went through my documents, I felt as if I was a criminal waiting conviction and a bit like my life was outside my control. I even feared for the wrinkle at the corner of my I-20!

Finally, I boarded the shuttle headed from the airport to Duluth, the end of the road. This time, my luggage was in place and I had this air of one who has survived a storm. I assured my family I had arrive back safe and that I had the weekend to catch up with a week’s worth of schoolwork. I arrived on a Friday and I had an early morning shift at the Help Desk where I worked. I had also managed to submit an application for a scholarship moments after I landed at the airport and was connected to endless wifi and in sync with the time zone. Home sweet home.

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Eleni Birhane and Matthew Breeze, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

23 Comments

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23 responses to “Zimbabwe – Home is Where the Heart Is – Reflections of a scholarly traveler – by Malvern Madondo. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Greta

    Great article, Malvern! This article can connect to almost all of us at this time of the year as we are all getting ready for finals by study, getting our projects done, and homework. But just in a couple of weeks, we will all be packing up our dorm rooms and leaving CSS which has been our home for the past 8 months. Going home for a long period of time may feel strange but I ‘m sure everyone is excited to be free from school work. Like you said when you went home and things were different, everything will still feel different. Even going home for Easter felt different for me because I just didn’t feel like Easter like I used to feel when I was little girl. But times are changes and we all adapt to those changes! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rachel Reicher

    What a wonderful story! I could not imagine being away from my close-knit family. You seem as if you and your family are dedicated to this long journey you’re involved in. What you are doing sounds like such a journey though. We can travel to many places in this world and the grass is always green and the sky always blue. But there is always that place that remains your home. Those memories you make there never fade in time and you can always rely that it is a place to lean back on when you don’t know where to go next in life. Those choices we make in life that better us for our future is what the future generations look back at as strength. I hope that you and your family are doing well and you continue to make those trips back home and relive wonderful childhood memories while making more. Thank you for sharing your story once again and safe travels on your next journey home.

  3. Thank you Malvern, this was absolutely beautiful! It is one of the best pieces I have ever read. I felt as though I could relate to every word you had written. I had a similar experience going home to Ethiopia last summer after 2 years here. It was quite the thing. I was full confusion and clarity, happiness and despair, determination and guilt. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but here we are. However, I do not think I would have been able to write about it with such eloquence so thank you again for sharing this with us.

  4. Kalahan Larson

    I thought this article showed a lot about how cultures differ across the world. You talked about how your family would expect you to come back with more than what you left with because you can from the states. I feel like even though we often hope for gifts when our friends and family travel, it holds a different meaning to your family. I also think it shows a big difference in the sacrifices people give when they come to school from a different country. I am thankful I only have a two hour drive home, I feel bad for people who have to make the four hour haul, so I cannot imagine being away from my family for more than a few weeks, let alone over a year.

  5. Der Yang

    Hi Malvern,
    First off, thank you for sharing such an amazing and heartfelt experience with the rest of us. Even though my family is only 2 hours and 30 minutes away, I always miss them dearly and wish to see them soon. So, I do not blame you for wanting to go home “too early” or “too late”. I only have a small amount of family who lives overseas, of which I have never visited… I feel guilty for not making the time to go see them and spend quality time with them before it is too late. Therefore I am glad you had gotten the chance and made the time to go visit your family. We have talked about rituals and traditions in Professor Liang’s class and your article is the perfect example of this. You shared many experiences with us about meals, activities, and meeting old people that feels new. Even though it seems that many of us are forgetting about our roots in this generation, thank you for setting an example of staying true to who we are and caring about our origin!

  6. Matthew Breeze

    First off, what lovely writing, I thoroughly enjoyed how well written your piece was and how you express complex and emotional ideas and feelings with such clarity. Thank you for taking the time to write this up and talk about going home and all the emotional turmoil that you have gone through being away from home and returning home. The connection to family and place you express in this article strike me. People become connected to people and family most of all, but we also seem to connect to land and place. When you talk of your home country I can feel the connection. I wonder if I have the same kind of connection to my home, I also wonder if it is possible to think of multiple places as being a person’s home. Thanks again for this.

  7. Kalley Friederichs

    Malvern, awesome post. I have had some classmates over the past few years who are also from Zimbabwe and would every once in awhile say something about their homeland. I sometimes get anxious as well about going home for breaks, so I can only imagine the anxiety and stress you feel before having to go back home to another continent. I think a lot of this just has to do with breaks often go along with hectic times in the school year. I have a lot of respect for those international students and those who chose to go to school far away from home. I only live two hours away from CSS so am able to see my family a decent amount during the school year. It must have been an awesome opportunity that you got to go back home over break! I hope you get another opportunity soon!

  8. Alexa Lee

    Malvern, what a unique post you have given us to read. I especially appreciated your note that 16 months may seem like it’s long, but “It may also seem too short for those who have had to be away for decades. Each person is different and has a different narrative.” I think this is important to underscore because it is really true. I think it exposes the harsh reality of people that decide to leave their home for whatever reason. It’s a difficult decision and being away from one’s family is never easy. I find it interesting that you’ve called both of these places your home. It shows how the world can be so connected and people can manage to find a home in whatever place they’re in. I also think it’s really interesting how you described your hometown – especially how the streetlights and houses changed as you rode down the road. I am sure it must have been hard to leave your family for so long, and that is a pain that I have never had to experience, but I commend you for finding the good in both homes!

  9. Amanda Sullivan

    Thank you for sharing, Malvern. This is a wonderful article! It sounds like your winter break was incredibly busy. I tend to forget the advantage I have living so close to home. I only live two hours away, and find myself complaining about not being able to go home enough. It seems almost unimaginable to have to go over a year without seeing my family or home. Going home is always such a bitter sweet moment. It always seems to make me feel quite nostalgic about my years spent in my hometown. It’s great that you were able to spend that time with your family.

  10. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece Malvern. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be to be so far away from home for such extended periods of time. It is interesting, the draws we have to locations because of the communities we belong to within them. I also find it amazing that people have many places they call home, as you did so within your article (your home at St. Scholastica and your home in Zimbabwe). Your journey came full-circle, from one home to another, each home holding a special place in your heart. Your point about realizing how much you have changed when returning to a place you have been absent from for quite some time was extremely profound. Did you notice the changed that occurred within you during your short time at home over break when you returned back?

    • Hi, thank you for reading and for the message as well! To answer your question, after my trip, I became quite determined to accomplish my goals and to build lasting relationships with people. I also realized I cannot do everything on my own or help everyone, but if I work and collaborate with others, my efforts will bear much fruit. Knowing this strengthen my resolve and gave me much-needed confidence as I juggle between my education, work, friends, and family.

  11. Thanks for sharing, what a great break! I love whe I hear that our international students are getting the chance to get home. I enjoyed how you showed through your writing how you felt while coming back to Duluth. I can’t imagine knowing that you would be leaving your family for such an extended period of time. Thank you for sharing, cheers!

  12. Joel Scheuerlein

    This article was very well written, and quite an enjoyable read. I could relate to this article on a personal level, which made it rather enticing. I lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia for over a year, and never was able to go home or see my family during this time. So as you might have guessed, when I could buy the tickets to fly home and be with my family again, it was overwhelming. It is amazing how distance can make the heart grow fonder of what you once had, and makes you want to go back. No matter what happened before you left, no matter how things were when you left, distance will turn all of those memories into great ones.

  13. McKenna Holman

    Thank you for the honesty in your article! Being away from home for 16 months would be hard for anyone, I think, but I also believe being thousands of miles away, on a whole different continent being separated by an ocean is completely different. I like how you mention that 16 months can feel like a long time to some people, but not to others, I believe it’s important to recognize these things. I also think its interesting how two places at one time can feel like home. Duluth is my home for 9 months out of the year, but for 3 months out of the year its where I grew up, the only place I used to consider home. I find that the longer I stay at school without going home, the easier it becomes to be away from home, even though I of course miss my family and especially my dog! Do you think it’ll be easier to be away from home for longer stretches now?

    • Thank you for the comment and for reading! That’s an interesting question you have brought up. I do not know how it will be if I were to be away for longer stretches. There are many things to consider to really provide a good answer. I suppose time will tell!

  14. Sheila Iteghete

    My roommate is from Zimbabwe and know this statement will resonate with her because we do have those days where we blast music in the apartment where she talks about how this takes her back home. I can so relate to the costliness of the flight back to Zimbabwe because it is close to the same with us from here to Nigeria. That feeling of being a tourist in my homeland is something I want to run away from even though I know it will be inevitable. I can also vividly remember the boreholes where we went to get water and I do appreciate you for sharing your stories because it has made me feel like I know you more than I did before. It has helped me connect to the fact that we may be different in so many ways but we also connect in so many ways that are not drawn to our attention. Although I am not far away from my nuclear family, I am far away from my extended family and it has been eight years since I have seen them so it would feel great to see them again and I hope to feel happy and blessed like you in that fast-paced life.

    • “… we may be different in so many ways but we also connect in so many ways that are not drawn to our attention. ” This is very true! Thanks Sheila! I hope you get to see your family in Nigeria and that it will be a great moment for you as well!

  15. Mariah Koenig

    This was a very well written article, it was very interesting and made me want to keep reading more. First off, all of those plane rides must have been rough, 3 days just to get home! I have never had the feeling of going home and seeing everything so different. The only way I can relate is my going home about once a month and seeing how my family has changed. For example, my younger brother has finally taken up a LITTLE responsibility and is now helping to clear the table after dinner! YAY! I could never imagine being away from home for that long, plus, I don’t think my family would let me get that far. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

  16. Ellen Hansen

    First of all, I love your play with the phrase “home sweet home,” and the way you cited both here and your house in Zimbabwe as your ‘home.’ The way you initially described your home city reminds me of the way people from small town and suburban U.S. describe their own hometowns: a place of nostalgia and warmth, but also timelessness and immobility. There is something comforting about returning home and seeing that everyone and everything is as you left it, but it can also seem almost unsettling when you’re trying to push your own life forward. This being said, going ‘home’ is always an important part of reminding yourself where you come from, and why you live life the way you do. Thank you for sharing!

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