My story

I was born to mixed parents in Harare, Zimbabwe where I was raised and educated. I am the youngest of six siblings and so as the youngest, I was constantly being mentored, guided, used as a guinea pig for all sorts of childhood pranks, whilst all the while learning from my siblings as I grew. This is an upbringing that I am very proud of. From an early age, I was taught to appreciate the beauty of being part of a diverse culture. Respect, honesty, humility, integrity and hard work were instilled in me, both at home and at school.

I attended the Dominican Convent High School in Harare and as young girls, we were taught that we could all become strong, successful, independent, confident and inspirational people. We were also taught the value of a good education and that we could become positive role models and contributors to our society, no matter where in the world our journey led us. The disciplines we developed as young students, shaped us into self-driven and motivated individuals. Giving back and paying it forward was always at the forefront of our achievements.

Dominican Convent High School Dominican Convent High School

Something else I'd like to mention is the impact on my life made by a woman with an enormous heart, full of courage, ingenuity, warmth, love, fun and fun-loving, a persevering spirit and with huge FOMO (fear of missing out) - oh, and one of the best cooks ever! She continues to wow and surprise me and has made an indelible mark on who I am today and on who I am becoming. For me, knowing such a woman is truly an honour that is incredibly inspiring, enriching and fulfilling. We should all have someone to look up to, someone who inspires us and someone who takes our breath away! Someone that is an anchor to ground us and a compass for when we lose our way, a hero of sorts. I feel extremely fortunate to have such a positive and inspirational role model in my life and I am super proud to call her my mum and my friend! She is a champion of many and a mother and grandmother figure to many! Her story is absolutely amazing but my mum is so nonchalant that she believes she does just what any other mother or human being would do.

My mum

I sincerely believe that it is from this upbringing and this environment that I became the motivated individual that I am today; passionate with positive values, a strong work ethic and a desire to help others. My quirky personality, underpinned by my grounded upbringing, has made it easy for me to adapt to new environments.

At the age of 20, I left my family in Zimbabwe and set off for the UK, the land of my forefathers on my father’s side. What an adventure that was for a young girl from southern Africa! I settled in London because I was in awe of this beautifully diverse city and all it had to offer me. All of a sudden, my world was exploding with new places to explore, new cultures to experience, new foods to taste, new sounds to take in and best of all, especially being a lover of people, new people from faraway lands I had only dreamt of, to talk to, engage with, learn from and befriend!

North meets south

Zimbabwe and Swedish children books

Over a decade ago, a woman originally from the southern hemisphere and a man who hailed from the icy northern hemisphere, who shared similar values, similar experiences and who just seemed to click, fell in love. This is how Dan (a man from Stockholm) and I met - a story in itself which we shall leave for another day.

The first two years of our relationship were spent going back and forth between London and Stockholm. We had a great time getting to know each of our cities and experiencing new traditions and new cultures. Dan came to love my very large, very warm and extremely loud diverse Zimbabwean family. My mum took great delight when she discovered Dan’s love of cooking so she wasted little time in giving him cooking lessons in some traditional Zimbabwean dishes!

D & D

Not only did I fall in love with Dan but I also fell in love with Sweden, the people, the landscape and yes, even the difficult Swedish words, their pronounciation and grammar! Is it 'tycker att' or 'tror'? Is it 'jag ska' or 'jag kommer att'? I have no idea but I'm in my second year of learning Swedish and I haven't given up yet! I love the food and some of my favourites are Jansson’s frestelse, gravlax, toast skagen, kräftor, gubbröra, wallenbergare, kåldolmar, filmjölksbröd and of course, kanelbullar... the list goes on and on and on. I love the ‘lagom’ lifestyle and the water that surrounds all the islands in Stockholm. I love the warm (or rainy) summers and midsummer - the celebration of light and life and the dancing, singing and drinking snaps! I love Swedish Christmas, ‘Sankta Lucia’ and the aurora borealis! I love the twinkly lights during the dark winter months, dinner by candlelight and warm cosy Friday nights (fredagsmys)! Who doesn’t like sweets on Saturdays (lördagsgodis)! I love the less is more in Swedish design and of course I love ‘fika’ which is the Swedish concept of coffee drinking, taking a pause during your day to spend a moment with colleagues, friends, family or even on your own. I love Swedish nature and the freedom to roam just about anywhere in the countryside as long as you do not disturb or destroy – ‘Allemansrätten’. All this for me is what Sweden is all about and what's not to love about this very special land!

Sweden Sweden Sweden Sweden

Fast forward to the present – I am mother to two beautiful girls, both grown up and forging a life of their own - a bit more from them can be found under 'Inspiring stories'. I now live with my Swedish partner, Dan, splitting our time between London and Stockholm. In August 2021, the universe threw me a curve ball when I was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. My cancer journey was the most difficult challenge of my life. I had incredible support from my partner Dan, The Royal Marsden Hospital and my family unit and after 8 months of a gruelling treatment plan, I survived and I conquered! I beat cancer's butt! I am truly thankful for my life and all (even cancer) that I have had the privilege to experience. I'm filled with humility and gratitude and I feel so fortunate to be able to flit between two countries and I know there is so much more to come…

Kaylene & Mhairi

To read more about my cancer journey please see my blog on how I conquered cancer.