My heritage of growing up overseas: Close encouters of a tropical kind

I actually have a very funny memory of a watermelon. I must have been about 13 years old. We had travelled all day from Beitbridge in the South of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe to our home at that time in Bulawayo. These were bumpy roads and we had bought a juicy, big, ripe watermelon along the way. We had probably bought it for a good price. It was a warm day and the idea of a succulent, juicy watermelon must have been very appealing at the time. Why we did not dig into it straight away remains an unanswered question in my mind.

Image by Fedegrafo Morgue File
When I talk about we, I mean my parents, my brothers and my little sister of 5 years old. We had travelled that day in a land cruiser owned by the NGO (non-governmental organisation) that my father worked for at the time. This land cruiser had taken us along nice, well maintained, tarmac roads but also along bumpy, unpredictable bush roads. Now the watermelon had made this journey along with us too.

On arrival at home all the kids had to join in carrying the luggage into the house, making sure the land cruiser was emptied of all our belongings and returned into its original state. Not sure if that was possible, but anyway. Seeing as we had been away for more than a week there was always a pile of letters awaiting our homecoming. These were put on the kitchen table together with our precious watermelon. Tired from the journey we left our friend the watermelon and the mail on the table for the night.

We were rudely awakened that night. There was the sound of a serious explosion. The stillness of the African night was abruptly interrupted by an enormous amount of noise. The noise was from an unknown source, it was unexpected, unpredicted, and maybe unwelcome. It ended in some kind of “splat!”

Arriving at the scene of the crime, we saw the devastation, we saw the mess. From the ceiling to the floor the ruins were visible. The mail was ruined, sploshed, sticky and gooey. The chairs, the walls, everything was marked by this extreme explosion: the UFO, unidentified flying object. After wiping the sleep out of our eyes, we recognized the remains of our juicy watermelon, glued all over the kitchen. Seeds and juice were everywhere. That what should have brought us pure joy, life, juice, excitement, ecstasy and refreshment, had now become another task, chore, a dirty sticky mess, a disappointment, a disgust and lots of sweat.