I can’t drive to America, but hell, I’ll write of it!

By Nollen Mhondera

I’m 43, a married father of three in Harare, Zimbabwe. I’m learning to be a certified lorry driver because I want to travel 9000 miles to drive haulage trucks overseas in America. I can’t now drive to America instantly but my writing will drive to it instead.

“Zimbabwean lorry drivers are in demand in America and are being recruited heavily to work there,” a flood of messages like these have dominated WhatsApp chat boards in my country Zimbabwe.

It’s a race to America – in the minds of thousands of underpaid lorry drivers here, but the reality is only a dozen or so drivers from Zimbabwe will ever reach America.

Reading and writing on WhatsApp, which is the the most affordable form of community writing here in Zimbabwe, I have aimed my short at the so-called ‘American Dream.’ In reality it’s the dream to be a lorry driver in America. (LOL).

For ten years, I have held a small car driver’s license. It was enough for me to be a messenger driver in Zimbabwe and neighboring South Africa delivering everything from letter parcels to neighborhood vegetable orders. But as soon as the pandemic hit in 2020 March, and social media chat boards were filled with gossip about agents recruiting drivers from Zimbabwe to fill shortages in America, I was sold. I quickly upgraded my small truck driver’s license to a heavy tractor license and realized – I was not ‘enough’ for America. Apart from a huger lorry driver’s license qualification, I needed verifiable experience as a tractor lorry driver. I’m in a rush now to get the experience.

My American ‘driver dream’, sounds laughable because the American dream is usually about people with prestigious-sounding jobs (scientist, banker, doctor) moving from Africa or Asia to America for a ‘better life’ not a driver. But I’m proud of my ‘low-quality’ dream to be achieve the ‘American Dream’ by being a lorry driver in America because the struggle to qualify and emigrate as a driver has taught me so much about WhatsApp which has become the media here in Zimbabwe by which we write our dreams across borders.

On WhatsApp chat boards my weekly writing is along the lines of demanding answers from my young brother in the US, bombarding him with questions like,

“Does America only recruit drivers who drive on the right?”

“Shit! You’re are left-handed,” my young brother texts back.

“Does America driver recruiting agents hire people newly qualified lorry drivers like me?”

“Get 2 years’ experience first!” my younger brother types back with memes of WhatsApp memes, which is his way of saying – get off, I can’t be bothered.

“Do foreign drivers in America get deported after contract is over?”

“Google the various US visas!” my young brother types back. His short informal texts indicate that he, in New York, 6 hours behind my time zone, sees my efforts to chat him up as torture.

My ‘American Dream’ to be a lorry driver in America someday has shown me that us in Africa, just as we jumped the era of fixed telephone to cellphone, we have jumped the era of big libraries, books and pens, and postal office straight to WhatsApp writing. Whats app is our new post office, literature bureau, internet writing board. We largely missed the early 2000s era of email as a communication channel here in Africa because email means buying price laptops and heavy home internet packages. Unlike people abroad in countries like Canada or Israel or Japan where almost everyone has email communication starting in the late 1990s, here in countries like Zimbabwe, mobile email took root around 2009, and today email is still largely associated with employed, office-class professional people. That doesn’t mean the common people here we are not writing electronically. We are, using WhatsApp. WhatsApp has been our saving grace and has truly ushered us into electronic writing this side of the world. American visitors I meet here in Zimbabwe always tell me that they are amused that writing communications via Whats app is more popular in Africa and India than the US.

They’re right those Americans – we are writing on WhatsApp. The email era, the post office communications era, jumped us here in Africa and my country, Zimbabwe to be specific. But Whats app chat-boards as a form of human-communication and daily writing, is our time to lay a stake in electronic writing.

As my WhatsApp message written and conveyed across the Atlantic to my young brother in America this morning shows – “Are foreign drivers in America required to take an HIV test before getting a visa?”

I wrote! He hasn’t replied – he’s too annoyed 6 hours in New York time zone – to reply to my WhatsApp waffling.




26 October, 2022