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Tuesday, May 13th, 2008, started out as an ordinary day in Zimbabwe. I was eight-years-old then, and I awoke unaware of the fact that this Tuesday would be the most devastating day of my life. My parents, my little brother and I lived on a large commercial farm in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. My parents were quite active in the opposition movement to Robert Mugabe’s so-called “land reform” practice of seizing farms from white Zimbabwean owners and “redistributing” the farms to black Zimbabweans. My parents used our farm as a “safe-haven” for local white farmers to shelter themselves and their valuable equipment, a practice that angered the local Mugabe crony politicians and so-called “war veterans.” Unbeknownst to me, tension had been rising between my parents and these groups.
However, for me, it was an average day at Hillcrest Preparatory school. After school, my best friend Michael and I were playing on the school playground when his mother came to pick us up from school. As we were driving home from school we saw heavy, thick, black smoke off into the distance. We didn’t think anything of it and continued to talk about our day at school as Michael’s mother listened in. A few hours later, We were on Michael’s patio enjoying our after school snacks when suddenly Michael’s father rushed into the house with an inexplicable look of sadness and dismay on his face. He called me into the living room and told me that there was an incident on the farm and that the war veterans had burnt down my house. This news completely flipped my world upside down. I remember feeling completely defeated and heartbroken. My family and I lost everything we owned. Every childhood picture, every clothing item, every memory I had was completely gone. For the first time in my life, I saw my parents cry.
There is no greater pain in this world than seeing your own parents cry. Seeing my parents at such a weak and fragile state prompted me to step up and help them get through this crisis. The main house, the guest house and several of the other smaller structures were destroyed by the blaze. The only structure that survived was an old storage hut and a bath/toilet hut, both of which had no electricity or running water. Within hours after the fire swept through our compound, all our friends and neighbors who had heard of the tragedy came to help. They brought with them food, bedding, supplies, furniture, clothing and even a portable generator. By nightfall, they had transformed the old storage hut into a livable space. This abrupt lifestyle change from a six-bedroom home to a two-roomed hut required some adjusting and I knew that I would have to help my parents a lot more. Fearful for the safety of my brother and I my parents decided to send us to live with my Aunt and Uncle in America. For me, this was even more frightening than living in a hut with no electricity or running water. My four-year-old brother and I would have to travel halfway across the world by ourselves.
Coming to a whole new country was challenging. The rapid change of culture threw me into a roller coaster ride of emotions. At first, I was stricken with fear; fear of sticking out, fear of being made fun of, fear of making new friends. Although I was scared, I knew that I had to be brave both for my little brother’s sake and for my parents, who had to remain in Zimbabwe. Life here in America has both contrived and challenged me heavily into the person I am today. Along with my one-way ticket to America, I received a one-way ticket straight into adulthood.
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