Mixed up shoes

What a night. Not that I could remember much about it, mind you. But I went home in the early hours of the morning. I wouldn't have done that had it been a lousy night, would I? In any case, I'd been with her again.

No, not the wife. What's wrong with you?

A couple of hours after getting into my matrimonial bed I was violently shaken awake by an angry wife. Apparently, her gentler attempts to wake me up had come to nought. But the localised earthquake did the trick. When the cobwebs had cleared from my head somewhat, it was explained to me that we had to get going.


Man, I hate the morning after, especially when you've to do a 300 km trip to attend some stupid wedding. But for the sake of peace in the house, I rushed to freshen up. Passport size, of course. Didn’t have time for a shower. How could I have found the time with an angry wife glowering at me?

In my condition, there was no way I was going to drive. So the wife drove while I flopped onto the back seat and slept. Midway through the trip I woke up and immediately had a shocker that threw me into a panic. What were her slip-ons doing in the footwell!

Not the wife's. You!

All the after-effects of the night before disappeared, hangover and all. This was a crisis. I looked at the wife and was happy to notice that she was concentrating on the road. So I took one offending shoe, then the other, stole a surreptitious glance at her again just to make sure she wasn’t looking at me, rolled down the window and threw them out.


Just in time as it happened because shortly afterward she turned and looked at me. "You're back to life, eh? Man you can snore."

We talked about this and that. It was nice chatting and laughing with her. You see, it assured me that she was none the wiser about the other woman's shoes.

A few kilometers further along she had us stop at a service station. She wanted to go and buy some sodas.

"Darling, can you please pass me the shoes," she said innocently.

What! You mean those shoes were the wife's and not hers? Damn!

I pretended to look. I had to. "My dear, there are no shoes here."

"But I put them there. I took them off immediately I sat down. You know I feel uncomfortable driving with them on."

"Well, they aren't here. Don’t worry, I’ll go and buy the sodas."

"But my shoes ..."

"My dear, you can check for yourself," I interrupted her and hopped out of the car.

What is in a name ~ By Rachel Jere

What is name? Is it an homage to the past, an acknowledgement of the present, or a prayer for the future?

I don't know.

What I know for a fact however is that I am a child with many names. To my birth father I am Sibongile (a prayer of thanksgiving after years of childlessness, as instructed by his Swazi mother). To my mother I am teasingly NyaLongwe, in homage to her paternal Nkhata Bay roots. To those who question my Malawian heritage I am NyaChirwa (my birth father's surname) born in the clan of Chiozo, also from Nkhata Bay. To my Ngoni relatives, who hail from Mchinji, I am the granddaughter of AnaPhiri, whose father was part Chewa from the Undi clan. To my Danish relatives I am Rakel, the adopted daughter of the late Hans Andersen (no, not the writer of fairy tales, but same name). He in turn would call me Lackie, short for Lakelo, which for the life of him he could never pronounce with the correct Nyanja intonation (I was born in Lusaka). To some high school mates I am remembered as Roach (as an affectionate compliment, if you can believe that). To my kids I am Moooommmmmmm and to my husband I am often "you" or "...er". And to all of you reading this I am probably one mixed up woman.

And you could be right.

However, I am so thankful that someone (I have yet to establish who) had the foresight to give me a biblical name probably as a nod to my mother's and grandmother's Catholic faith. Rachael is a name that readily translates into many languages of the world. And I have deliberately chosen Old Testament names for my children, as well: Lea, Sarah, Hannah and Adam because theirs is also a mixed heritage. Even though for so many years I wanted to "fit in" with my African relatives and friends I knew that I would never gain full acceptance with either, nor would I spend my life in Africa. Yet I left the door open for my kids. The 3 smallest ones have African middle names which they can choose to pursue/use when they are old enough to appreciate that part of their heritage.

I go by the name Rachael because to insist on my African names would, in my opinion, be "begging black". I have grown up in Europe, my world view is definitely more European than African, and I make no apology for it. On some issues Europeans find me more African than your average black immigrant, and I make no apology for that either. I dip in and out of the cultural references at my disposal, and along the way I have woven a tapestry that borrows a strand from all my backgrounds. It is as colourful as it is liberating. I am not ashamed of my African roots, nor do I wear them as a badge (you would have to be blind not see the roots).

On the other hand, I am not a mzungu, but I refuse to "Africanise" my trans-Atlantic accent, give up my penchant for dressing down rather than up and abandon my pasta/bread/rice-heavy diet in order to be labeled African.

I am me. And I like me just the way I my am. A line walker.


Rachael wrote this as her comment to a Facebook discussion on the fact that Africans tend to have European names while it is rare to find an Anglo-Saxon with an African name.