My life was good as a child. We had everything we needed and I never knew scarcity. Fast forward to when I was about 12. Things went downhill. We moved to a two roomed house and life was tough. Briefly, we did not have enough food, no electricity and no running water on our property.
As was the custom in our new neighborhood, my brother and I drew water and collected firewood as that was children did. It was not a problem for us as this was all part of life. In spite of the low income though, my father continued bringing home novels for us to read as he had always done.
I would read about London, Paris and New York in the books and would wonder aloud to my father about how those places looked like and how life was there. Also, was it true that one did not need a piece of cloth to wipe off dust from one’s legs after walking a long distance? My father said life in those cities was great, the buildings were very tall and there was concrete/tarmac everywhere and one’s shoes did not get dusty. I was amazed, to say the least. He would then always tell me to go to school, college, get a job and I would be able to go to those places and see them for myself. My love for travel was thus born from my chats with my father, a man who had never gone beyond Zambia and Zimbabwe. He somehow managed to paint beautiful pictures of the big cities and at the same time emphasize the importance of education.
One day, my mum and I were chatting and she casually asked if I would like to continue fetching firewood from the hills when I was older. Of course, my answer was “no.” She said I should not mess around with boys but pay attention to my education, go to college and get a job. I would then be able to have electricity in my home. A while later, my mother asked whether I liked having to ask someone to escort me outside when I had a running tummy at night. Again, my answer was “no.” She said I should concentrate on my education because then I have a house with a toilet indoors and I could get up at any time of the night and go to the bathroom on my own. I thought this was actually a great idea – going to the bathroom at any time I wanted without having to plead with someone to escort me to the loo outside.
The issue of a toilet indoors made me want to complete school, get a job and have that house with the magical toilet indoors. For some reason, this was what really kept me from messing around with boys in spite of the fact that many girls in my residential area got pregnant at a young age. Some boys said I was proud and thought I was better than them. I told them that I just was not interested in boyfriends – I did not say that the issue ‘standing’ between them and I was having a toilet indoors. What would they have thought? I am happy to report that I have had an indoor loo. It was a goal that I set out to achieve and I got it. It may look like a tiny goal, but you should remember where I came from, so I am very happy about it.
I am very grateful to my father for making me dream of Paris, London and New York – I have been to those cities and many others. I am also very thankful to my mother for making me dream of having a toilet indoors because now I can go to the toilet any time I want to without asking someone to escort me outside.
As shown in my title: To me, education = indoor toilet.