By Sarah Jaravaza

I am a people person, and I love talking to and meeting new people. I enjoy quality time spent with the individuals in my life. I am the only daughter in my nuclear family, and I have two younger brothers whom I adore.

One of my earliest memories as a child was the times that my aunts and uncles would visit, especially my mother’s siblings. I know we, the children, would go to bed early and I would fall asleep to the sound of the adults chatting into the night.

Between my father and mother, I have 21 aunts and uncles, although some have passed away. In any given scenario, that is a lot of individuals, but in my context, it means a whole lot more. In our Shona culture, my mother’s sisters are ‘Maiguru’ or ‘Mainini’ which mean big mother and small mother respectively. On my father’s side, his brothers are ‘Babamukuru’ and ‘Babamunini’, which mean big father and small father respectively. In essence, as I was growing up, I had a lot of people to help and support me. In our family, the saying it takes a village to raise a child is very apt.

My childhood was dotted with trips between Harare where my parents stayed or Bulawayo, Gutu (my father’s rural home) and even to neighbouring South Africa to visit relatives. No family is perfect, but my overwhelming memories of these family get-togethers is the joy, the chaos and the fun of spending quality time together, which always ended with the sweet sorrow of parting.

In the last few months, I have really found myself yearning to go back to those days when we would meet up and be a family. Technology has helped a lot, whether it is Facetime or Whatsapp calls. With some of my cousins who live in different time zones, we can send epic voice notes. It has been unfortunate with the three bereavements that have happened in our family, and people have not been able to comfort each other as funerals are strictly controlled under the lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult to travel, but I have been able to find support systems from work colleagues and friends. They have become an extension of my family. Life has a funny way of surprising you. People who I did not know 3 or 4 years ago have been gracious enough to allow me to celebrate marriages, traditional weddings and babies with them. In the same token, I have also been there to grieve with those who have lost loved ones.

With the restricted movement during the lockdown, I have forged a network with my colleagues who stay in the same community. If someone is going to a different part of town, we text in our Whatsapp group if the others need anything. Amid the chaos going on around us, we have managed to forge a close bond in a short space of time.

In another life, I might not have been able to attend some of the Zoom meetings that have been held. It has enabled me to put a face to some of the people I have met through my blogging and ‘Teakisi’. Our family in which we are born into is incredibly important, and for most of us, it is the backbone of our support systems. But in this new era, it has been great to find that I have forged a family in the people around me.

This post is a special shout out and a thank you to all the incredible people I have interacted with during the last few months.