In the years after my husband died, and as my emotions withered away and shriveled in Siberia, I still had to survive. One lesson I learnt very early in life is that this is a man’s world. Like it, don’t like it, it is what it is. The world was designed by men for their benefit. Simple things are hard to do when you are female and single. This is where my obstinacy comes from. I refused to be trampled and told I could not do certain things. I remember in the early days asking a handyman to help me put together my daughters cot and he asked me for stupid money. I went to the store, bought a hammer and nails and nailed the bed together. Take that Mr Handyman! I did basic plumbing in my house, basic electrical faults were fixed, peppered with some electrocution here and there.
My daughters’ school years were hard. Parents day was particularly difficult – where was Daddy? I remember once receiving a pitiful look from a teacher because I said I was single and refused to explain the source of my singlehood. Who cared. Emotions were safely frigid in Siberia and I was alive. But I missed none of her school events. I showed up. Every play, graduation, sports day – I showed up. I was pulling double duty as Mummy and Daddy with a smile. But I was knackered. My child had no male role model. I used to joke that even the pets in my house were female. Eventually, my cousin’s husband took up that role. Bless his heart!
I remember terminating the services of my construction foreman because he could not take instructions from me. I looked like a child and I was female. But he was happy to take the weekly pay from me. His job abruptly came to an end. I was taking none of that nonsense!
It took me a while to realize that what I needed to do to navigate this world was to get smart and go with the flow. Fighting is hard work. So, I started to gather men around me who would serve certain purposes. I got a project manager who deals with all my construction work. He translates my gibberish into beautiful work and the respect is mutual. There is the guy who deals with all my plumbing issues at the farm. Boreholes are temperamental and sometimes need a hard knock on the head from a male figure. That is his purpose. To make sure the borehole and drip lines are doing their job. Then there is the mechanic. Who understands me when I say my car is making noises that sound like “garagaragara”. Somehow, he knows what that means and he fixes it – then laughs at me or teaches me what that sound meant. Either way, it is done. I then acquired a house help who would translate my mumbles into dinner or would find lost jewelry based on loose descriptions along the lines of “you know the earrings I always wear”.
I guess what I am saying is this. Once you have accepted that this is a world of men, and as a single mother you are not a man, then the next best thing is to build a support structure that has men who will navigate this world for you. It is simple, but it is not easy. If you get it right though, everything is suddenly a phone call away and it will be done to perfection. My support structure works. It has kept me going all these years and it continues to serve me well, and I continue to add to it.
Back to matters farming! The eternal optimists we are, we have started preparing for the next planting season. The oxen were hard at work tilling the land and getting it ready for new crops. It’s a time of hope. Hope that the rains will not fail and that the bumper harvests will finally come calling. Hope that this time, the mix of rain and sun will be ideal for all crops. Hope that there will be no fall armyworm outbreak. Every farmer lives on hope – because when all is said and done, there are factors completely beyond our control! So we keep hoping.
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