It was my first time being away from home for so long. I tried to convince myself that I would get used to living alone on campus, but even after two months, every time I thought of home I got a lump in my throat. I missed my family so much.
Back home in Zimbabwe, I lived in a small quiet town compared to Johannesburg where I now was. Life was slow. Sometimes too slow. A vast contrast to the highways, the traffic, the malls, the cinemas, the fast food places in South Africa. These were all foreign to me.
On Saturdays my sister and I would walk around our little town and explore familiar streets we already knew so well, looking for good bargains in Chinese shops. There were always things you never knew you needed until you saw. If we were in a hurry we could walk from one end of the city centre to the next in 20 minutes.
Lazy Sunday afternoons, after church, were for relaxing and eating lunch with family and occassionally with friends on the porch till the sun refused its light. And even then, we would usually only be forced back indoors by ravenous mosquitos.
I couldnt be more prepared to leave for university in February 2010. I had waited a year before I could start my tertiary education. Plans to move in with my relatives in Canada and study there had failed dismally when I was denied a visa. We had been preparing that visa application for so long and when it failed I had no contingency plan to fall back on and very little options left. Monash University was one of the last universities still accepting applications, so in haste, we began to prepare for me to leave for South Africa instead. We had no idea what God had in store for us there.
Monash was a prestigious university and it didn't come cheap. I knew my family would be making a lot of sacrifices for me to be there and I really didn't want to let them down. I promised myself I would work like never before, to get a scholarship. My eye was on the prize. Scholarships to study on the Australian campus of the university were on offer to those who could maintain consistently high grades during the year. I wanted it so bad. I always had grades I was proud of and I was determined to push myself to the limit. I would get it.
I knew it would make dad imensly proud of me. I also knew the family business wasn't doing so well. Zimbabwe had just gone through a cripling economic crisis that left no-one unaffected. It was a Zimbabwean Great Depression. If I got a scholarship dad and mum would have a considerable burden lifted.
We had lived in Bulawayo for 11 years. My sister and I didn't grow up with any relatives our age and so developed such a strong bond over the years. Mum's brother had lived with us for as long as I can remember and when he moved out and got married, we were overjoyed to have someone to call an aunt in the country. Eventually the family tree grew by an extra two cousins and because of the large age difference, mum took on the role of grandma and we became their "aunts". By that time Claudia and I were inseparable.
We used to laugh about how she was my shadow and roles reversed, how I was her shadow too. We used to laugh an awful lot. We did everything together. When we washed dishes after meals we would make up our own vocal ochestra- base, soprano and alto just the two of us. We would sing at the top of our voices and laugh even louder at the ridiculous words to our spontaneous melodies. But there were always the favorites, and we didn't get tired of singing those time after time.
"When I get to heaven, gonna walk all over God's heaven..."
And when mum would join in we could sing for hours.
"And when we get to heaven, gonna sing all over God's heaven..."
The kitchen table would then be used as a drum to set the rythmn and the whole house would come alive with the steady beat of happiness.
That was what I was longing for as I sifted through the mounds of assignments on my desk. My campus room was small but well furnished. I especially liked the glass sliding door that led to my own balcony outside. I would usually sit there and look up at the sky wondering what Claudia was up to at home without me. There was always that star, brighter than the others. My sister and I would always gaze up at it when we fed our dogs at night. There it shone brighter at times, when the electricity would go out. The frequent and usual blackouts common in Zimbabwe let the night sky twinkle like a canvas of diamonds. But here, the stars struggled against the campus lights. And the nights were tainted by the constant thudding of music from the campus nightclub. The heartbeat of the university.
My gap year before going to South Africa had been a time of reflection. I saw almost everyone in my high school class moving on to university. My plans had failed. It was during this time that I made a conscious decision to live my life to please the Lord. Although I had been baptised in the name of Jesus when I was 15 years old, it is only after the ups and downs and struggles of later teenage years that I decided to commit my life to God- wholeheartedly. In 2009 I received the Holy Spirit and vowed to God I would serve Him ever after.
I remember earnestly praying,
"Lord, if you're looking down on this world... and looking for a young girl who's living your Word, Lord may it be me. Use me as a vessel for your work, here I am."
I will never forget the day. I was alone at home. Claudia was at school and dad and mum at work. It was raining heavily. I was on my knees crying in prayer.
"Lord. please, give me your Holy Spirit. You said ask and you shall receive... Lord here I am begging..."
The louder the pounding of the rain on the house got, the louder I prayed and sang,
"How great thou art, how great thou art!"
I remember feeling a tingling sensation from the top of my head and being engulfed to my feet. I stopped praying. I had received it.
"Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord."
In tears I opened my Bible randomly seeking confirmation that I had indeed received the Holy Spirit. My Bible fell open to ........., it read:
'I who speak to you, I am He.'
That was the beginning of my experiences with Jesus.
My first impression on arriving to campus was surprise. It was so much more beautiful than the pictures in the undergraduate brochures had shown. I was immediately drawn to the rolling valleys and mountains behind the campus. A few kilometres away from Johanesburg, the air felt crisper and unpolluted. A flock of new students and their parents were being ushered to a reception area. Mum had made the bus trip with me from Bulawayo and we pushed my bulging suitcases to the hall. I remember when we arrived in the country, we had bought some groceries that I would need for a few weeks and mum had insisted on buying a mop too. Armed with all this luggage we also had to balance a box of eggs. It relieved me to see the others similarly loaded, except I was the only one with a box of eggs and a mop. I was dreading the time when mum would say goodbye and leave. The bus to Bulawayo would be leaving in a few minutes.
I forced myself to look happy although I wanted to fall in her arms and cry. Someone showed us to my room.
"I want to see you unpack so I can see what your room will look like before I leave" mum said.
I remember standing at the university gates and watching her taxi drive away. She took back the new mop with her. My room already had one.
"Please don't cry mum, or else you'll make me cry."
As the taxi dissappeared behind a curve, I knew she was crying.
I went back to my room and unpacked for the rest of the day. I didn't know anyone on campus and I felt incredibly lonely. The mop in my room was dark with mud.