Interactive feedback: Overcoming like Tonny and I

Grace Chirenje

In Zanzibar recently, I met a young man, his name was Tonny. He was the epitome of the indigenous culture and narratives of the people who live around Zanzibar. Tonny told me that he was originally from Dar Es Salaam. The first time I saw him, he was with a friend working out on the beach. I was with a sister of mine taking a walk. I watched with interest and curiosity as the two friends used their body weight to strengthen their bodies. It was encouraging for the gym enthusiast that is in me. I met him the next day and we walked together along the beach. He told and taught me a lot about himself and life in general on the beach. There was one huge barrier, the language, he spoke Swahili and I spoke English. Although we understood each other most of the time, it was not an easy task, it took a lot of patience, sign language, giggles and laughs but, we did strike a conversation. It was quite intriguing to flow in conversation with this huge language barrier.


Each one of us, no matter who or what you are, we have struggles. We live each day in constant conflict of who we are and what we seek to become. With each passing day, we desire an equilibrium of body, mind and soul that ensures that we live somewhat peaceful lives.

At times, it is very easy to achieve this equilibrium and at other times, it is just hectic. For me, it was a language barrier to communicate with another human being. For Zimbabweans it ranges from poor social service delivery, to sexual abuse of young women and girls, it could be lack of financial resources or the shear absence of peace to live a near normal life. Well, it could also just be living in a country whose leaders do not seem to actually care about what our lives are like and then showing very little effort to transform the current narrative. Whatever our struggles, we feel them, we know them and live with them. On Facebook this week, I saw a post by a brother of mine that talked about him being too tired to go on and that he feels like giving up. I am sure, dear reader, we can resonate with this brother —  sometimes this journey called life gets so exhausting and we feel like we can’t continue anymore! Well, that is life, isn’t it? However, we never give up.

As I walked with Tonny and tried hard to understand what he was saying and him trying to also understand me, there were times we stopped a Maasai brother to support us in translating so we could hear each other.

Those moments of frustration felt like the whole damn walk. It was infuriating, it was heartbreaking and we both felt all sorts of constrictions as we tried to communicate and failed. Well, it was indeed difficult. There were many moments of judgement like, how can you not speak my language – it is so simple! We both had moments of struggle during the conversation where we felt like giving up but we soldiered on and like I said even got some interpreters so as to aid the conversation forward. T

That is life, we struggle. it is the nature of life, we struggle. As we walked along, it could have been easy to throw in the towel just like the Facebook brother shared on his post this week. There are so many moments one just wants to drop the ball and run for dear life because it can get exhausting. At times you feel like you have been at it for too long with very little traction.

I know my fellow development practitioner peeps who think that they have put in so much effort in the democratisation process of Zimbabwe with very little progress. Haaaaaa, that is life, we struggle. However, whenever we give up, we keep going and pushing until we witness a tweak of some sort. Any sort. Those who pray say keep pushing until something happens and I guess the invitation holds true for most of us. They do say that a diamond is made under pressure and so as it stays under that pressure, it is formed.

Maybe we too are formed under pressure and do not get me wrong, I am not saying be some bystander and let life happen to you. Not at all! I am saying struggles happen in life but like Tonny and I, let us keep at it even in the face of struggle. My dear, dear reader, sometimes it does take time like the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe recently introduced small gold coins or the freedom of Job Sikhala but guess what, even if the struggles take time, something eventually does materialise!

Victory is imminent

Tonny was trying to tell me that it cost USD150 to get a passport and sometimes other people solicited bribes to expedite the process and that cost USD70. After what felt like eternity, he wrote on the ground the figures and painfully unpacked what he meant. It felt like such a breakthrough when we finally understood each other. Sometimes that is the breakthrough we each need. I have no idea what kind of “language barrier” you are facing but I would love to encourage you to soldier on. Write in the sand, stop your own version of a Maasai brother, use sign language, feel the emotion —   I mean do whatever it takes to experience your breakthrough.

Noone is coming to save us as Zimbabweans, whatever it is that you are facing, you somewhat have the solution to make things flow. It may be difficult but I am super confident that you will breakthrough and experience a high. Just like we figured it all out with Tonny, we too can figure it all out as Zimbabwe. Nothing stays the same forever, they do say that the sun will eventually rise.

We keep contributing to making a difference with each waking day. Until then, we live, laugh and love in a bid to show the world that we were here, becoming better, making our mark, and leaving our footprint as we make the world a better place!

  • Chirenje writes in her personal capacity as a citizen of Zimbabwe. Twitter: @graceruvimbo;

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