Tonight I have something different on my blog. Something that really inspires me and I hope it will inspire some of you too.
I met Taryn and her family when they still lived here in England, a few years back. We haven’t had many chances to hang out in person but anyone who’s been around Taryn for more than 10 minutes cannot help but call her a friend. Relatively soon after we met, her and her husband decided that the family would be moving back to their native Zimbabwe. That’s where they live now with their five children. She regularly (as often as one can afford while looking after and raising up five kids) sends us email updates and I personally always await them eagerly. She writes so beautifully that for a moment I get transported into her african adventure and my heart is bursting with joy and excitement.
After her last email, I asked her if she would write a guest post for my blog and she gladly obliged (where she found the time, I don’t know). So here is a piece of her life story that I hope will touch your heart the same way it did mine. The photos are all from the Robb family archives.
An African Dream
by Taryn Robb
The dream began a long time ago when our adventuring ancestors travelled to this land – a land so enticing and wild and full of possibilities. With blood, sweat and tears they created a home – for themselves and for the generations to come. I was born on the brink of national independence in 1980 and grew up experiencing freedom and peace. It was a wholesome childhood full of love and innocence and playing in the great outdoors. My husband grew up an hour away, yet we only met while studying at university in South Africa. I loved him pretty much instantly and our friendship grew strong over the months and years. When he loved me back, I counted myself the luckiest girl in the world.
To cut a very long story short – Zimbabwe began to struggle and it became a difficult place to live. As students just starting out in the real world, we felt it was not an option for us to return. An opportunity came up in the Middle East and our married life began in the Saudi Arabian desert; living in a flash city, driving a fast car and shopping in the glitziest malls we had ever seen. After several years, bomb scares and a husband feeling stuck in a rut at work, we packed our bags and made the next step of our journey. It was with many more suitcases and a new precious baby boy with big blue eyes, that we made the move.
England was welcoming to us and it felt safe. We thrived there and our family grew some more. We welcomed our beautiful, fiery, red-haired daughter into the world one wintery night and about two years later on an incredible summer’s morning, another handsome son. Living in a London suburb became our norm, but often we would find ourselves homesick for Zimbabwe. We kept telling ourselves it could not be, and then it happened…when we least expected it. We began to sense a shift. Suddenly it seemed that a return to our unstable country actually WAS an option. It was not a sensible train of thought, but it made us come alive in all the deepest parts of our hearts. We packed a whole container worth of worldly goods up this time and juggled our three little ones onto the plane – the most bittersweet move of our journey yet.
It’s been three years now since we returned to the land of our birth. “I’ve been bitten by the African bug” or “Africa is in my blood” are phrases we often hear because no matter if you are born here or not, if your feet touch this soil and your lungs breathe in this air, you are well and truly under a spell. Ruined for living elsewhere completely satisfied, without the occasional return for a fix of the African sun, or in our case – returning indefinitely.
And return we have; not without pangs of great missingness for the first world efficiencies and the friends who became family. Not without a healthy respect for what we were getting ourselves into. We are here; drawn by a dream in our hearts. A dream to live simply. A dream to live abundantly. And this is where we can and must live that dream, at least for today. It’s a matter of destiny. Coming back was a step we took – a leap of faith more like it – to ensure we live without regrets. To be true to ourselves. A brave and exciting step in our partnership with God.
And so, we arrived with our three children and a fourth in the womb. African midwives were there to assist with the birth and I was offered copious amounts of hot, sweet tea following the arrival of our son, making him well and truly our first ‘African born’. Several years later, we find ourselves blessed for the fifth time, with a baby girl. Our family feels full, satisfied, blessed, spoilt. Our house feels tiny. But not in a suffocating way…more in a “happy as pigs in mud” sort of way.
We are a busy, home-educating family. There is never a dull moment. Our days consist of learning and growing and swimming and exploring and running and climbing and hugging and laughing and fighting and making up and cooking and baking and playing sport and painting and planting and writing and reading and playing with toys and using imaginations and talking. We climb mountains and swim in dams and go for walks whenever we can. No day is like any other. Except we eat breakfast together; try squeeze into our double bed most mornings – seven of us ; and we read stories and say prayers every night. Our eldest child makes and fixes things, our daughter dances and writes; our middle boy is a knight in shining armour and our toddler boy would live on his daddy’s shoulders if he could. Our baby girl is a content, chuckling doll of a child, doted on by us all. We are a family, unique as every family is, a great team of different characters, thriving and feeling restored here in Africa.
It’s the countryside we yearn for and escape to, but we live in the city; which is a sort of rambling, spaced out, unkempt, littered, pot-holey, rusted, paint-peeling affair for the most part. There are pockets of glamour and some of the smartest cars in the world, but one cannot but know he is in Africa when here. The taxis are little white buses that disregard every rule of the road. Personal space is an unknown concept and one should never be alarmed or too annoyed by jostling that occurs in a queue. The US dollar notes are worn and torn and smelly. People beg – some genuinely in need, others so clever at taking advantage of the well-meaning. Corruption and bribery are rife. Traffic lights often don’t work…in fact nothing powered by electricity works reliably. Street lights haven’t worked for a decade and thanks to lack of maintenance these objects previously meant for our safety are becoming hazards. The people of Zimbabwe have learned to cope without electricity and we are thrilled when we turn on a tap and water flows out of it. In the midst of this seemingly slow and simple life there is a huge amount of organizing and execution of plan B’s and stress that goes on. It is a tragedy that a land so full of natural resources is in such a state of brokenness.
Let me say though, that this big sun rises and sets with a flourish every day. The seasons ebb and flow with beautiful preciseness. Plants cannot help but grow. Birds sing to wake us. Children spend most of their waking hours outdoors…in mud, water and trees. We stop to drink tea with others often along the way. We eat fruit that drops off trees and vegetables picked from the garden. People trade and share what they have. We are in the right place at the right time and we certainly do live “a full life in the emptiest of places” (Isaiah 58,Message Bible).