Khanya was a 17-year- old girl who grew up in the Eastern Cape with a sister who was 2 years older than her, Zuko. Khanya was the quiet type. She had a low self- esteem and was shy.

Maybe it was because of her big-boned body; you’d swear she was older than her age. She’d complain every day that at school she was being laughed at. She hated her life. She’d come back from school and tell her grandmother, who was their guardian as their mother was in Joburg to find a good job. Grandma would tell her, “Umhle Dikela, bayeke benjeya akukho apho ungalungi khona ngalo mzimba.” (You’re beautiful Dikela, let them be.) Khanya would smile and go play outside with others.

She was not confident at all, so much so that she struggled with presentations at school. She loved reading and loved helping others. She was kind and kept her head between her shoulders. She was already in grade 12 at the age of 17, she was smart indeed. She loved the life in the rural areas, the smoke in the evenings, the birds singing, going to the river to fetch water, all the beauty of the quiet village life.

The moment she got her matric results, her mom asked her daughters to go find a better education in the city. Now, life was about to get better for them, but leaving grandma behind was a struggle, but they left eventually. They arrived at Park station on a Monday morning. Their mom was there already and together they went home. The most difficult thing for Khanyai was fitting in while Zuko did not have such difficulty.

They got used to the city life but found difficulties with enrolling at the University. Zukoola got herself a job at Woolworths as a cashier as it was a struggle to enroll at a university for her. Khanya used her saved money to start a business. She wrote poetry, would enlarge them and framed them nicely and hung them in the house; she loved art. People loved it and her work would sell quickly.

Finally, they got a place at UJ and studied Arts and Culture. She loved getting dirty with paint, drawings, the feel of fabrics, music and dance class.

She tried to adjust and loosen up but still, she couldn’t fit in. She met a friend that later became her boyfriend, Sello. He was very nice. He was the cool, calm and collected kind, but was very secretive. He would talk about anything at any time but not his life.

Time went on and on. Things started changing. Sello became abusive and Khanya would get anonymous calls warning her against Sello, but she loved him so much and couldn’t dump him.

Sello would hit her so much that she’d faint and wake up later. Now, she was becoming weaker. She couldn’t look at herself even though she was still beautiful, curvy and well built, it wasn’t about her body, lost teeth, and the bruises anymore, but all that Sello had said without uttering a word, the way he looked at her with eyes that said “you are worthless.

She picked up her pieces, put them together and kept walking, for there was still a long way for her to go.
She was now the talk of Benoni. She was now a 3rd- year student who loved reading and writing, but she specialized in opera. She sang very well with her soprano. Her sister was now working as a manager at Woolworths and was a part- time student. Her mother was still their anchor, Khanya got a scholarship to go and study overseas. She was so excited that things were changing for her, she prepared to go, said her goodbyes to family and friends and left.

She was headed to the USA, where she would struggle with people she had to share a house with. It was a big house with many rooms. They had to share a kitchen and the lounge and they were all from different countries. The house was a bit far from the University of Oxford.

She was the “not- so- serious type” but worked to succeed. She missed home so much and would call almost every day.
Because they were with other students who were not as disciplined as her, they drank, smoked weed and would have parties every day together with the security.

All she wanted was a success, but it wasn’t that easy earning it. She was somehow called a foreigner and to her, that really didn’t matter, but she felt exactly how it felt to be away from home. Still, she tried, by all means, to be strong. She studied hard, and got her degree, and now is a became a professor and she came back home.


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