If you were having coffee with me, we would chat with a lady whose remarks about waking up to bake scones at 3 am went viral on the internet sparking all sorts of conversations.
For context, this was during the time when electricity load-shedding was at a record peak with scheduled power outages from 5am to 11pm. Since lockdown begun the power situation has been stable and that era feels like the dark ages (pun not intended)
Brenda is working on a book and or memoirs on #ZESADIARIES which catalogue some of the electricity blues and life. Brenda loves a good cup of coffee and so join us and get comfy, she has a lot to say…
1. My first question is usually tea or coffee… but in your case I already know, so instead will ask when is the ideal time to have coffee.
B: I love coffee so any time is coffee time for me, and it must always be Jacobs coffee to be precise. I drink now about eight mugs of coffee per day. That is two mugs before I leave my bed, two again at breakfast, two more around lunch time and the last two before I go to bed. My hubby thinks I drink too much coffee though but then what’s life without a good cup of coffee?
2. From twitter I know you have been keeping track of how long it’s been since the last electricity load-shedding, have you adjusted to having electricity all the time or you keep expecting the electricity blues to start… I know a part of me is kind of braced for it.
B: The psychological trauma of living without power has completely damaged my mind. I think I am still suffering from PTSD. I am never completely confident to just let go. The worry that ZESA may go off again at any minute is always at the back of my mind especially when I have a tray of scones baking in the oven. I think it is going to take a very long time for me to get over this trauma. Remember it took us over 11 months of 18 hour power outages. Who can ever completely get over that?
3. I think 3am scones is a sort of metaphor literal and figurative what does/did waking up at 3am to bake mean to you..
B: Yes, 3am in a way is a metaphor. I wanted the world to know the amount of stress and inconveniences that I and other people especially women were going through because of the long hours of power outages.
After all its ZESA’s job to make sure that we have enough electricity everyday and every hour. So why should we have to suffer like this? I had to speak out about this and that was my way of doing that cos by now we should be talking of having huge solar farms to give us power for all our needs and not to rely sorely on hydroelectric power. It has been many years now of us having these never ending power outages so there is a great need for new energy sources. The world is changing because of climate change and if we have another season of low rainfall we may find ourselves back again to those long power outages.
I used to wake up at 3am to do my baking because my husband does not like bread. I rarely buy bread so I do a lot of baking of cupcakes, scones and chocolate cakes which are his favourite. So the only time that I could bake without any power interruptions was 3 am so I had to force myself to wake up at that ungodly hour to bake. I used to call that time “the witches hour” you know in our African culture we grew up believing that witches go about their nefarious deeds at that hour.
ZESA power outages practically turned me into a nocturnal animal. I really felt I was one of the witches and with time I became used to waking up at 3 am just to tinker around the kitchen. I would roast beef or chicken, iron a few clothes here and there and then watch a bit of TV too. I swear there were days I felt that extraterrestrial beings were watching me at that hour. Maybe some one in MARS was doing an experiment on us, maybe they wanted to see how far we would go during these unusual hard times of power outages, sort of testing our resilience you know. So tweeting about it was my way of letting the world know that somewhere in Africa, Zimbabwe a woman was awake baking.
I felt that if ZESA was efficiently run I wouldn’t have to wake up at that hour to do my household chores.
Haha hah! Mind you I was not the only woman who was waking up at that witches hour to do their household chores. A lot of women were also waking up to cook some meals in advance, prepare breakfast and lunch boxes for for their school going kids as well. In fact women were all like the moving dead, they were operating like zombies during the day due to exhaustion. I am lucky because I could take a nap during the day. Imagine the stress those women were going through, especially those who had to rush to an office job after having woken up at midnight to do their housework. Jeesus! So many women suffered a lot.
Due to patriarchy I think most Zimbabwean men were not really directly affected by the power outages. The full brunt of the power outages was borne by women. Men would still expect to get a hot meal, hot water to bath, nicely ironed clothes etc.. and they would never pitch in to help their overworked exhausted wives. I bet very few men took part in all these nightly duties of waking up at midnight to do the household chores. I would leave my bed to do all my baking and some of the household chores at night whilst my hubby was blissfully turning and snoring in bed.
Before the power outages I used to like my bed linen nicely ironed but with time I stopped stressing my self ever so much so I eventually got used to just washing the bedsheets and then just spreading them on the bed without ironing them. At first I really would cringe at the thought of sleeping in a bed whose bed linen was not ironed. It was hard, believe me but with time I got used to that. Sometimes I do think I am a bit borderline OCD. Now looking back I wonder why I used to worry so much? Imagine I would even iron my dish clothes too! Now I don’t mind, ZESA power outages have made me do some things that I never thought I would do. My standards of housekeeping have actually plummeted. I have turned a corner and am beginning to feel comfortable sleeping in a bed with bed linen that has not been ironed. Something I never really imagined I would be capable of ever doing. My friends liked to call me Mrs Bucket due to my reputation of wanting to keep very high standards of cleanliness, remember that sitcom Keeping up Appearances?
4. If someone would be apprenticed to learn from you, what would you teach them?
B: Well, it depends on what they really want to learn from me. I have been through a lot in my life. I have worked for the UN for over 15 years prior to that I had worked in a bank for a few years. I also worked for the Government of National Unity, right in the corridors of power imagine! But, that’s another story for another day but I could teach them to be whatever they want to be. It not about one’s upbringing, the most important thing is finding a way of improving oneself.
I grew up in the village and worked in fields, fetched firewood and walked miles just to get to the nearest water point. I had to leave the village due to the raging war with only a few clothes in an OK supermarket plastic bag. I worked hard on improving my educational qualifications, went to University when I was much older, got my degree and here I am.
My advice, especially to young girls, is to have your own money. Develop a career, get a good education and do not depend on a man for money and best of all be kind to yourself. Don’t allow old rich men to abuse your body in return for trinkets, enjoy life, be happy and help others who are less fortunate than yourself.
5. How is the writing going, any titbits on what you are working on…
I am actually almost finalising my first novel. Am still battling with a few edits here and there. I have not really finalised the title yet but the story is about the louding voices of the Rokishini Vendors. The #Zesadiaries continues to be a work in progress though. I am also yet to decide on the format and get some one to do the illustrations for me.
Here is the brief unedited synopsis of my novel.
The louding voices of the Rokishini Vendors is a dramatic and lyrical story of the struggles, the dreams and the joys of a young couple living in Zimbabwe.
The Novel’s protagonist Maidei is a young woman who was once married to a polygamist back in the village. She finds herself thrown into the arms of Joe a widower by some strange stroke of fate. Their journey through life takes them to the high density suburb in the city of Harare. There they live in the Rokishini of Highfields where they experience the hardships, the brutalities, the political upheavals and all the vulgarities that life in the Rokishini carries in its womb. Joe finds work as a general labourer at a Paper Mill but soon loses his job as the company folds down due to the economic meltdown. He then tries vending, selling Mopani worms but all that eventually fails. They eventually cross the border and leave all that behind them as they seek a new life around the calm seas and the serene mountains of Hermanus in Cape Town.
Because I loved every single word of this coffee chat and yet wanted to keep the word count fairly manageable haha I have split it into two parts click the next post to catch Brenda’s thoughts on entanglements, gene editing and the ideal world…
…in the meantime follow Brenda on twitter handle @boldcolours, or just google #Zesadiaries to read about her rants on the state of ZESA and its impact on our daily lives. She is also on LinkedIn Brenda Dube
**Interesting note at the time of this coffee chat, we had almost forgotten about load-shedding but apparently it hasn’t forgotten about us…