I had one and only one objective when I moved to Zimbabwe in 2009: overcoming my murunguness; being less visible than a jacaranda tree; becoming more Zimbabwean than Zimbabweans themselves.
My posture has generated a lot of existential questions. This column intends to deal with some of them. In spite of all this heavy soul-searching, I have never given up my strategy: When in Harare, do as Hararians do . . .
Zimbabweans tend to be quite welcoming and, as good hosts, are always eager to learn more from their guests. They inevitably ask me (1) where I am from, (2) how long I have been in Zimbabwe and how long I intend to stay, and (3) which church I attend.
The latest question can be quite controversial. I had always thought that God was omnipresent and had never really wondered about church-going.
I actually already feel quite impregnated with spirituality as it is. If you think about it, Harare does look like a big open-air church.
On my way to work, I drive under a gigantic Econet sign quoting some Bible verses, as do the airtime cards I buy daily.
The meeting I attend at 10am invariably starts with an opening prayer. Not to mention that our business meetings are sometimes hosted in a church!
During my lunch hour, I am lucky to attend two different church services at once.
Buoyant preachers are competing for the attention of bystanders in Harare Gardens while singing birds are silenced by a massive squeaky sound system.
The radio reminds me whenever I want that “oh-ohohoooh, my God is good-ô”. And finally, on my way back home, I can learn about God (and the perils of unsafe abortion) from intrusive boards nailed on trees.
Fortunately I am Christian. I think it would drive me crazy otherwise. Have you ever been to a bookshop in Harare? It is quite difficult to find Zimbabwean literature but so easy to find Christian-related American books, CDs or diaries.
Even the longed-for Book Fair promotes religious rhetoric more than arts.
I further find the multitude of denominations quite overwhelming and I have not yet figured the prerequisite to attend certain churches.
Does my payslip, the car I drive or the clothes I can afford have something to do with my faith? Does my command of English bring me closer to God?
Do internal debates about Jehovah and Jesus matter?
All the same, when to maintain public order, certain types of social interactions are restricted, only churches and bars can help create communion among people.
So even if going to church does not make me a holier person, it will definitely give me the opportunity to bond with neighbours and friends.
So why not give it a try? But now, which church should I go to?
Expatriado is an expatriate working in Zimbabwe and all views expressed in this column are personal