She heard her mother calling from a distance. It couldn’t have been morning already. She had only
slept for a few minutes, or so it seemed. She turned on her mat and slept again. Her mother’s voice
“Yewo! Yewo! Wake up!! There is a lot that needs to be done,” said her mother who seemed to
have been furious at her.
Yewo had had one of those dreams in which she had been awake and had actually carried out her
chores for that morning. For a brief moment, she did not understand which chores her mother
wanted her to do again. She looked around the hut only to find that her cousins had already woken
- They probably did not attempt to wake her, but rather mused that informing her mother would
be entertaining. She was not surprised. No one understood her love for studying. She had faced much opposition from her family ever since she explicitly expressed her desire to go to the city one day.
To them, once you were born in the village, you were destined to live and die there.
She woke up and peeped outside the window. Despite being it dark, everyone seemed busy and it
looked like they had been up for a while. She now understood why her mother was angry with her.
She got dressed quickly in her usual black top, and wrapped her favorite green chitenje around her
waist. She strode out of her hut and went to the kitchen where her mother was.
“Amama…” Yewo called out to Nyajere who, then, turned around and gawked at her.
“Young girl. You spent most of your night studying again, didn’t you? Even after I had told you
that harvesting the maize would start today?” Her mother probed.
“Amama, I am sorry. I didn’t think I would wake up this late”. Yewo answered apologetically.
“How many times do I have to tell you that studying is not going to get you to the city, Yewo? My daughter, the city is for the privileged. The chosen. Your grandfather chose
your father’s brother to go to the city. Your father was kept here to look after the crops. We weren’t
chosen for the city, Yewo. The sooner you let go of that dream, the better you start to feel about
yourself. Now go fetch water with your cousins! These pots are not going to clean themselves,”
commanded NyaJere. Yewo’s mother liked to bark orders so early in the morning. Yewo did as
was instructed and left.
No sooner had she left than NyaJere turned to her sister, who was preparing tea by the fire-place. She began to voice her concern, “My daughter worries me some times. Every time her Uncle Chiwemi visits from the city, he always tells Yewo how amazing Blantyre is; about the tall buildings and about water with oranges and sugar called Fantala. He usually leaves me with the job of piecing back her together after he leaves.” She was usually right about this although Yewo would protest.
She continued, “And just when things get back to normal, he comes back and refuels her dreams.
With each visit, my Yewo’s dreams become bigger and it gets harder to control her. She doesn’t
understand that these are just dreams, a far-cry from reality. She would rather study than help out
around here. I have been told that in a few days, Chiwemi will visit with his daughters. I am
nervous about that.”
“NyaJere, I understand your fears. I can talk to her on your behalf if you like. I think you are too
easy on her. That girl needs some sense to be knocked into her head, the African way,” said her
“Thank you. Please talk to her”, said NyaJere.
Yewo met up with her cousins, Towani and Kutowa, who had been waiting for her. Together they
walked to fetch water at the river.
Towani broke the silence, “Eh Yewo, you woke up late again today. If I were your mother, I would
have beaten you to a pulp. What kind of a woman wakes up this late? Your husband will surely leave you. You know we will all be getting married in a few years, what kind of a wife will you be?”
Yewo stared at Towani in disbelief. A sudden rush to defend herself swept in. “Towani, you speak
too much. What do you even know about marriage?” She queried. “Besides, Uncle Chiwemi
promised me a job in the city; he is coming in a few days to pick me up. I will not marry any man
from around here. They all don’t know what life is.” Yewo finished. She felt good and sure about
“Ah such lies! Your mother will not let you go with Uncle Chiwemi,” said Towani.
“You will see. Let’s just fetch water and go back home,” responded Yewo.
The girls fetched the water and washed the pots as they were told when they returned. After that,
they served the men, who were harvesting, some breakfast. The rest of the day was dedicated to
the monotonous activity of shelling maize cobs with her cousins. Yewo needed some time to
ponder over her desire to go to the city and to think about her cousin’s remarks so this activity
posed as the perfect place for her to disappear deep into her head-space.
Evening came by too quickly. Yewo and her cousins prepared supper. They ate with the rest of the
family and washed the dishes. Soon after this, Yewo went back to her hut. She made herself
comfortable on her mat and started practising mathematics, her favourite subject. Her cousins were
laughing and sharing stories about their expectations on marriage. They were interrupted by their
aunt who walked in without any warning.
“All of you except Yewo get out,” She demanded. Both her cousins rushed outside. Ankhazi was
not someone you argue with. If she told you something once, the second time invited slaps and
“Yewo, this has to stop! You are always studying even during school breaks. Your mother is
worried about you,” her aunt began to say, “You know she needs help around here even more so
after your sister got married.”
“Please understand me Ankhazi, I just want to go to the city,” Yewo pleaded.
Before Yewo could start another sentence, a hard smack from her aunt landed on her left cheek.
And another slap was launched to her right cheek. Ankhazi would qualify to be a boxer with the
speed those slaps flew within seconds. It really stung like a bee and Yewo cried out loudly. She
tried to run outside but her aunt followed and whipped her. Yewo’s mother came rushing to the
“What is going on here?” She enquired.
“Amama! Ankhazi is trying to kill me!” Yewo screamed between sobs. Yewo’s mother said
nothing. Instead, she joined in on the beating. It was like a tag team match on one poor soul.
“If you continue, this will be your daily dose before bed,” said her aunt as they disappeared into
their huts. Yewo, covered in dust, went straight to her hut and cried herself to sleep.
The following morning and week, Yewo did not study. She resolved to be the first person to get
up every morning. She did all her assigned duties but did not speak to her mother. Finally, Uncle
Chiwemi came to visit with his two daughters Emma and Janet. Everyone made fun of their
English names and treated them like outcasts even more so because their Tumbuka was poor.
Yewo, on the other hand, was drawn to them. In fact, she was fascinated by them. She wanted to
know more about the city. Uncle Chiwemi told Yewo’s father that he had found a job for her in the
city. He convinced him that his daughter would do well there. He agreed, but convincing Yewo’s
mother proved to be a mountain to climb. Eventually, she agreed. As Yewo was packing in her
hut, her mother walked in.
“My daughter,” her mother spoke, “you have finally got what you wanted. Please take care of
yourself in the city. May God Almighty protect you, my child,” she cried.
Yewo knelt down before her mother and promised to be good, to work hard and return to build her
a big house. NyaJere smiled. It was very hard for her to watch her youngest daughter go but with
the blessing Yewo got from her father, there was no way she could intervene and stop her from
The city was as Uncle Chiwemi had described it—amazing. Uncle Chiwemi’s house was beautiful,
they even had water in the house. That meant no early mornings for Yewo and she found this to
be exciting. Her aunt, Uncle Chiwemi’s wife was very accommodating. She even taught Yewo
how to flush the toilet. A week after she had settled in, Uncle Chiwemi took Yewo to her new job.
She was introduced to her new madam who seemed nice. She was kind and showed Yewo how
things were to be done around her house. Yewo proved to be a fast learner and her madam
constantly told her how she was a good house help.
From nowhere, that kindness quickly turned into bitterness. Her madam beat her up and shouted at her daily. This city life was even harder than
the village life. Yewo often wanted to give up. In her weakest moments, she prayed and cried out
to God. Surely, God didn’t bring her this far to suffer.
One day, her madam got a visit from her friend. Yewo was very polite and the guest was impressed.
“Your new house help is very polite. And look at how clean this house is! And the food was well
Prepared,” said the madam’s friend.
“Thank you but that girl is lazy, she has no manners and she can’t get anything done properly. In
fact, I am thinking of sending her back to the village this week,” said Yewo’s madam.
Her friend could not believe what she was hearing. And indeed, Yewo’s madam fired her. Yewo
was heartbroken. It felt like things had turned from bad to worse. She was worried that Uncle
Chiweni would be very disappointed and that she would be the joke of the village when she was
sent back. She cried as she made her way to Uncle Chiwemi’s house. As she was walking, a white
car stopped beside her and the driver’s window was rolled down.
“Yewo, I am your madam’s friend, remember me?” Said the familiar face in the car.
“I remember you, madam,” said Yewo.
“Good, get into the car. I want to talk to you.” She said. Hesitantly, Yewo got into the car. The
lady asked her about what had happened at her previous job and where she was going. Yewo
answered all questions honestly and politely. This impressed the lady some more. She took Yewo
to her house and offered her a job as a house help. She accepted. The lady immediately called
Uncle Chiwemi to explain to him what had happened. Uncle Chiwemi knew the lady and he
allowed Yewo to work at her house. Week after week, the lady noticed that Yewo was
intelligent and a hard worker. So she offered to sponsor Yewo through her secondary education as
long as she continued to work for her. Yewo was thrilled.
Yewo worked hard around the house and even harder at school. There were days when she was so
tired but giving up was not an option. She got 8 points in her MSCE exams and was selected to
study Social Science at the University of Malawi. The lady gave Yewo her blessing and allowed her to go to the University.
Yewo took student loans to support her through university. She worked so hard and eventually
graduated with a credit. Since she could no longer stay on campus, she moved back to Uncle
Chiwemi’s house and applied for several jobs. She eventually landed a good job at a reputable
bank in Blantyre. A month later, she moved to her own house. She paid her former madam, the
lady, a visit bearing a bag of groceries and money. The lady was overwhelmed and happy for
Yewo. They had a long chat about campus life. Evening came and the lady bid Yewo goodbye and
gave her her blessings.
A month later, Yewo went back to the village. She made sure that she brought her family Fanta,
not Fantala as she previously thought, and other gifts. Her parents were very excited to see her.
Her mother was overwhelmed that her Yewo had made something of herself in the city. Yewo
explained to her mother about all her hardships and despite all of that, God had led her to her oasis.
Next on Yewo’s list, to save enough money to build her parents a bigger house as she had