Tweni-tweni: When ‘time stood still’

Someone posted, ‘is 2020 still your year, or you can explain?’ and to say that the post was well-received would be tantamount to perjury.

A few laughed, some rolled their eyes and others responded with undeniable contempt. I do not think he meant to offend anyone but given everything that has happened, it is easy to understand why this would make someone snap.


I remember well the many ‘tweni-tweni (2020) is here (insert dancing emoji)’ posts I read on social media at the start of the year — the excitement was real. As it is every year, many had their goals and resolutions set — weddings, trips overseas, going into business and all of that — but tweni-tweni had other plans. 


In my imagination, as we ushered into the New Year, toasting to ‘new beginnings’ and all the exciting stuff we were going to do this year, tweni-tweni was watching us, with a sad (my money is on sadistic) look on its face that said ‘if you only knew’. 


Tweni-tweni – so far – has mostly seen panic buying (remember the toilet paper?), social distancing, lockdowns, quarantines, washing and sanitising our groceries, elbow-bump greetings, and virtual weddings and funerals, to mention a few. This brings me to the ‘small’ adjustments I’ve had to make.

Personally, I didn’t have any grand plans, but I never imagined there would be a time when I’d need ‘permission’ to leave my own house, or leave when I absolutely had to, let alone become my then 4-year-old’s teacher because, in her words, ‘school was not working’. 

Viewing what she had to learn, it all looked pretty simple, but getting her to focus long enough to actually impart knowledge was like showing a dog some meat and expecting it to remain calm — with luck, she will give you two minutes of her attention, and that’s a lot of time given what I’m working with. So I ‘throw in’ as much as I can before she is distracted by a barking dog outside.

I’ve also noticed that when kids are bored, the fridge becomes their go-to source for entertainment (adults too but that is a conversation for another day). Being an unapologetic foodie, it is not in my blood to worry when people decide to eat, but given the circumstances, I found myself asking how someone can eat three slices of bread instead of two like normal people. 

When lockdown was at its strictest, my oldest daughter would once in a while throw around not-so-subtle statements like ‘I miss burgers’ or ‘I’m craving pizza’. I would casually tell her to leave ‘cravings’ to pregnant women and consider that the Rwf7, 000 for the pizza could buy ‘proper’ food. You know what else tastes good, scrambled eggs on toast, I told her. 

My youngest saw kids swimming on TV and asked, scratch that, demanded that I take her to do the same. She didn’t understand the ‘we are not allowed to do that’ excuse. I am usually a woman of solutions but this time I was stuck. I didn’t think she would appreciate sitting in a big basin with only enough room to slap the water. So I explained that it was not safe and that we could get sick and go to hospital. You’ll not believe the power the word ‘hospital’ has. She told me, and I quote, ‘it is okay mommy, we stay here’ — and went back to dismembering her dolls. All was well, not so much for the poor dolls though.

I also became my own hairdresser; with abilities I only got from watching my salon guy, I embarked on a risky mission to relax my own hair. 10 minutes into applying the chemical, I wanted to ‘abort mission’ but half the head wasn’t done yet, so I took it like a champ and soldiered on, all the while thinking about how often I complained about going to the salon. I have since learned to appreciate it a bit more. 

Listening to other people’s ordeals, and everything that has happened around the world, I realised I need to be more grateful. 

Eight months in and many are wondering if this year can get any worse. There’s been a sequence of wild fires, airplane crashes, the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, social unrest over the killing of George Floyd, the deadly explosion in Beirut, and various natural disasters — all under the veil of Covid-19. Has the world not suffered enough for one year?

I want to believe that there is hope for tweni-tweni? Too many problems, but maybe, just maybe, what is left of it could make a profound U-turn.

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