Audace’s Unshakable Dream

By Ndikumana Jimmy

One our first day at Dzaleka, my father, Gaspar, went to the World Food Program (WFP) compound for food, and he came home later with pigeon peas, or Nandolo as we called them. We cooked the Nandolo immediately because everybody was starving. Soon, the house was filled with disgusting aromas that reminded us of bitter-leaves. Its taste was repulsive. Audace, my older brother, was unable to swallow even one spoon. “Better get used to it,” my father said. “It’s the only type of food they serve here.”

The next day, Audace made lots of friends, and talked about Nandolo with them. They also talked about leaving the camp for South Africa to find work, and this idea must have taken root in Audace’s mind because for the next weeks it was all he talked about.

The food disgusted me too, but I saw the camp differently from my brother. Despite our living conditions, many men of my age looked as strong and tough as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I wanted to be like them. There were opportunities to become stronger everywhere. Without this mindset, I might have also abused drugs and other harmful substances, like many other hopeless young men in the camp. I joined Dzaleka community gymnastic group, and when I returned from the gym for the first time, I was so exhausted that I ate all the Ugali and Nandolo, including the leftovers. Everyone was amazed by my appetite, they even thought maybe I smoked ganja.

Meanwhile, Audace kept talking about South Africa, about its prospects, how he could afford food and drinks there. When our father asked if he was planning to go there, Audace denied it, but I thought he was lying, because he complained constantly, he was starting to become skinny, and because of his new interest in cutting hair, a skill they said was in demand in South Africa. Did he view Dzaleka as a small world tucked inside the real world, I wondered.

“There are no jobs, so how do these other refugees manage to own small businesses?” Audace asked. “And they even make a living, they don’t have to beg, so how can I also own a small shop?”
I was right behind him, and heard everything. “What are you thinking man?” He was surprised to hear my voice. “You’re still new here. If you want to make money, I suppose you go make bricks, fetch water and they’ll pay you! Or wash people’s clothes and then you can spend the money on good food, right?” He ran after me, but I was faster than him.
“You imbecile!” he shouted. “If I work for that money, I can spend it any way I want to!”
I laughed so much because I knew he was too lazy to fetch jerry cans of water.

Every day Audace grew wearier. I still had hopes, even though it can be so difficult to believe in them, but it’s what kept me in the camp till now. Without hopes, I would probably have abandoned my education, and would suffer from stress and anxiety just like Audace.

One night we waited for Audace to come home, but it was in vain.
“All of you go to sleep now!” dad said. “Tomorrow, I’ll tell him not to sleep out without notifying us.”
Early the next morning, Kabibi, Audace’s girlfriend, a tomato business owner, came over. She said that Audace stole five hundred thousand Malawian Kwacha when they were chatting last night.
“He asked me for money, but I told him that the money was for Kirimba and not mine.” Kirimba is a kind of informal rotating saving club between a small group of people. Everybody contributes a certain amount of money to a communal pot. The total is then given to a different member each time. It’s a way to enable people to afford expensive materials, or do execute projects. “He said that there is a small business he wants to –”
“He did not sleep here,” dad interrupted her. “When he comes home, we’ll call you. But why did he steal money which is not even yours? My son doesn’t do these things,” dad roared angrily. He sat on the sunlight waiting for his son to come, but he never came.

Kabibi came later that night asking if Audace had returned. I could see she was stressed. She cried when my dad told her that Audace didn’t return yet.

One week later, we heard that Audace was in South Africa. He never said goodbye to us.
“I knew he wanted to go to South Africa. He must have done whatever he could to get the transport.” I laughed, but I felt sorry for Kabibi. For the whole week, she did not come to ask for Audace, I think she got the news before us, which is why she kept quiet.

Six months after Audace’s departure my mother received a text.
“Hello mother!”
“Hello! Who is this?”
“It is me Audace.”
We all saw the tears in my mother’s eyes. She didn’t know what to say, so I grabbed her phone.
“So, you are in South Africa, huh!”
“Come down dogo! This is poto, we eat chicken every day, we drink to our choices, no more Nandolo.”
“You don’t have a heart! How could you steal your girlfriend money for Kirimba and use it for your transport?
“I will send her seven hundred thousand Malawian Kwacha tomorrow so, and will apologize after she receive the money, so do not worry dogo!”

After five years of working as a barber, Audace returned to Dzaleka with a big capital to start his dream business. He bought a small plot in by the roadside and sold all articles you may find from a beautiful shop. Recently, he also managed to farm several gardens of groundnuts. After harvesting and drying, he sold them and bought a new car – a probox – from the profits to make transportation for his businesses easier. As his family, siblings and parents, we all depended on him. Audace’s unshakeable dream became our family’s redeeming dream.

21 July, 2023