August 27, 2019 | By Given Sandamela
Within an antique farmland dwelled two turtles inside a fallen tree trunk. Temperatures had dropped dramatically and were lower than they had been in the past five years. A very destructive influenza bestowed no compassion by invading Turtle Town, a small community a few kilometers downstream the ominous Marizona Dam. Flu-induced deaths have wiped out almost a third of the turtle population since the outbreak five years ago. The disaster took the lives of innocent young turtles as well as the tired hearts of old folks.
A piercing cry accompanied by un-turtle like coughs shook dozens of ants dozing peacefully in their underground shafts. “Tamala, get water for me from a pond outside,” echoed a voice inside a big fallen tree trunk, which sheltered Miss Timbo and her son for the past five winters. Miss Timbo got flu several weeks ago in town.
Being the obedient and humble son he is, Tamala Timbo hurried outside, avoiding puddles of mud from the heavy rain from last night. He scrambled around in search of a clean pond and found one just three feet away from his mother’s house. He took a gulp of the frigid water and drank it down with a shiver. Tamala looked to his right and there he saw the deadly Marizona Dam. The way in which It was so powerful, the release of the Dam could literally sink their little town in an instant. His mother had forbidden him from going near the river, never telling him why, but nevertheless, it made him want to explore it even more. As he bent down to cup a mouthful for his mother with his mouth, he heard a feeble cry from his mother and immediately he drew back and galloped as fast as he could to assess what was going on.
“I cannot bear losing mother, not now”, he thought to himself. The flu was making his mother weaker every day. Tamala was worried that if his mother passed away he would have no one else left in the world who cares about him. His mother had told him repeatedly that his father had left both of them when he was young, just like other male turtles did when they did not want to take responsibility. Tamala was restricted from asking about his father three years ago by his mother. Tamala’s little feet were burning by the time he reached the opening of the tree trunk. When he entered, his heart seized just for a second. Miss Timbo was lying on the floor, moaning out of aches and fever. Terrified, Tamala shouted, “Mother, what happened? What happened?” His mother did not answer. “Mom, please answer me,” Tamala cried. “Mom!”.
His mom blinked and relief flooded to Tamala.“Tamala, come closer to your mother my boy. Son, ever since I had you, every day I thought, hoped and prayed for my life to be better so I can give you the best that you deserve, but life found ways to work against me,” she paused, swallowed and continued speaking. “I know you think that when I die you will officially be the only member of our family left but I want to tell you a story. Your father left when you were an infant. He told me right after you were born that he can’t provide for us,” sobbed Mrs. Timbo. It’s painful to recall this event as it scratches old wounds.
“Mom, who is my father? What is his name?” Tamala questioned with concern written on his face.
Miss Timbo shook her head, tears falling down her green cheeks, “Your dad is the rich mayor of our town, Mr. Dave Fodder.”
“Are telling me that I live in a decaying shanty while my rich dad is living a good life out there?” Tamala shook his head and exclaimed a “NO!” that shook the small house.
“I am afraid it is true, Tamala,” Tamala’s mother uttered disappointedly.
“If that’s the case, I want to see him. Where does he live, mom?”
Miss Timbo replied, “I am afraid I can not tell you that, son. If your father failed to love and accept you when he had nothing, what makes you think he will accept you now when he is a wealthy man?” She asked.
“He might not,” Tamala said, “But I want to hear his side of the story… About why he left us when he knew that you had nothing, just like he had nothing. I want to know my dad just like any other child wants to know their parent. Now, mother please tell me the truth because your story does not convince me at all.”
At that notion, Miss Timbo began to weep fiercely feeling ashamed of holding the truth from her son about who his father is hoping that he would stop asking questions about him. “Your real father lives across the Marizona Dam! His name is Simba Mela” She spoke. “The truth is that your dad did not leave us because he wanted but because he had or at least was expected to. When you were two weeks old, I and the rest of the turtles lived across the Dam. A civil war waged between us and another group of turtles who wanted to establish a tyranny in Marizona. They thought this would avoid conflict between the different turtle factions. When the war started, women were moved out of Marizona along with their children. Male turtles were forced to stay and fight. After a year, the group of the invading turtles were defeated, and everything went back to normal, or as normal as it could be,” Miss Timbo narrated.
“Mom, if my real father did not bequeath me because he wanted to, then why has he not come back in the last four years to take us back home?” Tamala inquired.
“When the war ended, all the male turtles who survived came out of Marizona to meet and reunite with their families and take them back to Marizona. Nearly all females took their families and went to meet their husbands and sons at the edge of the Dam except for me and a few other mothers who currently live around with us. I have heard rumors that your father came for us and they say he sat all alone waiting, even when all the reunited turtles relocated back to Marizona. Finally, after hours of waiting, he went back to Marizona without a family but with an injured heart and soul.”
“Why did you hide me from my father who obviously loved me? How could you do something as such to your own son?” Tamala asked with a hoarse voice.
“Because,” his mother said, “Because the war showed me how unsafe and unpredictable our world is, so even now that the war has ended, my insecurity and worry has not shrunk. No one, even your father, was present to protect me and you. I am scared of going back to Marizona, and even if we go it will never be the same again.”
“I have lived my whole life within the confinements of this town. I have been kept from seeing my father. I have been told not to go near the Dam but never told why,” Tamala breathed. “I am tired of living with a fear of what I have never experienced.”
“Tamala, forgive me, son. I was trying to protect you.”
“What is done is done. Now it’s time for me to explore, to go beyond my fears with everyone else who is afraid of what Marizona holds in store for us,” Tamala pronounced.
“Don’t believe we do not venture to the Marizona because we are afraid of the unknown. The elders have advised against leaving town for years now. Do you wonder why youngsters like you never try to escape this little box we’re all caged in?”
Tamala was quiet for a moment and then he responded, “Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t know?”
“Exactly Tam. This cage is our reality. It’s where most were born, and where most will rest.”
“What about me, Mom? How can I break this chain for myself, for everyone?” Tamala bagged swallowing a lump of sadness.
“Son, I can only tell you how to break your own chain. Unfortunately, every turtle carries his or her own burdens before they can help others carry their own,” she told him as the sun set on the Timbo’s.
Imagine Scholar is a non-profit organization based in the rural region of Nkomazi in South Africa. Our aim is to empower talented, action-oriented youth through meaningful after-school programming that emphasizes student-centered learning and meta-learning practices. We hope to foster a community of young learners that encourages critical thinking, gratitude, and curiosity, but more so empowers students to be different and extraordinary in their own ways. It is our goal to produce great 30-year olds in this program, believing that by promoting more change-makers in our society, we can create ripples that empower communities or all types and sizes. Our program will soon be coming up on our 10-year anniversary.
Given just finished his Grade 10 year at Lugebhuta Secondary School in Schoemansdal, Nkomazi, a rural region of the Mpumalanga province in South Africa. Given is a mature young man with a vision for a more environmentally friendly future. Starting with his involvement with an environmental club, Given has grown a passion for the conservation of Earth’s many climates. Branching off into his own tree-planting project, Given has recently returned from the Young Yale Global Scholars program based on Sustainable Development and Social Entrepreneurship. Given hopes to pursue a career in Environmental Science and Law, with dreams of one day visiting the Amazon Rainforest. Given will be continuing his secondary education at the United World College in New Mexico, USA this August.