Before I left Zimbabwe I did not realise how a lot of people would view me as an African or how little they know about Africa. I did not realise that a lot of people think of Africa as one small place, never mind that it is 55 countries and over a billion people. I have only been to three other countries but you would not know it by the questions I have been asked.
The media often tells the story about different African countries using the same angle all the time and people believe the stories as told. I also think there are people who genuinely believe that a story like Tarzan is real and there are places as depicted in Coming to America. Its not just media and Hollywood, I have noticed that even in church when stories are told about Zimbabwe and other African countries, the stories often lack context. All this leads to people asking me(and other Africans too) things like:
- I was talking to Leo(husband) in Shona and this woman asked us what language we were speaking and where we came from. After telling her Zimbabwe, she asked us if we knew one of her children’s roommates in the US who was from Nigeria. I did not know where to begin with this, perhaps a map.
- Once I was checking out at a supermarket and a woman asked me where I came from. After finding out I was from Zimbabwe, she told me how much she was enjoying the Africa Channel. Then she asked me if the actors from Generations and Isidingo had to go to Britain to film because everything looked so nice and they all spoke such good English. Still I didn’t know where to begin since I was talking to her in English!
- Man: Where are you from?
Man: Oh you mean Rhodesia?
Me: …. (I decide an argument is not worth it and don’t say anything)
Man: How did you get to Bermuda? Did you have to walk to South Africa to get onto a plane?
Me:…(still not worth it plus I want to go to heaven!)
- I speak Shona to Leo as much as I can so that he can learn to speak English as well as Shona. I have been asked so many times if I speak African to him. I often want to ask if it is the same as speaking European.
- Someone I hardly speak to, stopped me to tell me that they had been to Malawi. Let me wondering if I should tell Canadians I have been to the US.
- How come you speak such good English?
- Do you have any schools in Africa?
- During the London Olympics someone asked me if Africans were good in marathons because Africans have to run to school that are far away? Um, no the atheletes have to train like everyone else in the world.
- No, we don’t have elephants and lions freely roaming the cities! Neither is it hot all the time nor is it a jungle!
- Africa is not a country!
I used to get offended by things like this but now its mostly annoying. But seriously don’t ask these questions!