Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Coronation

It's in the middle of our 2 month training period, the days are getting blazing hot, nerves are edgy from all the long training days, people are bonding, and we are almost at the point of wanting real food.  I've never exactly been to a political event, nor have I wanted to.  I'd much rather be at Woodstock, or some big time yoga festival in India.  But here we are, getting a huge bite of culture, though I don't think any of us knew exactly what we were in for.

On this warm Friday in October, 35 Peace Corps Trainees were lucky enough to get to witness a Coronation of a King, but really a Chief.  It began at 7:30am at the local Kotla, an attractive place for meetings and gatherings, and not the first time we have been there.  It is a big deal with all the TV cameras, and dignitaries walking down the isle to their seats in the shaded area,---guess who got stuck in the hot sun for over 6 hours--I thought we were dignitaries too!  Then, bigger than the Chief, in walked the President of Botswana.  He reminds me a bit of Obama, thin, handsome, but a little shorter than Barrack.  It was a thrill seeing a President, even if it wasn't your own, yet I sat there imagining, unrealistically, that it was Barrack Obama.  It just felt good to do that!

 Shortly after everyone had their rightful places, and speeches, that we can't understand were underway, a little 3 or 4 year old girl dressed all in pink with a rainbow hat on came and stood right next to where I was seated.  Her eyes seem to light up to me, and then it happened----the dreaded kid sneeze.  It seems when young kids sneeze, it's big, and this was no exception.  The kid obviously had good skills and covered her nose with her hand, which I was grateful for, but then, using her good skills, she wiped her hand on my skirt.  Gee, this is going to fun morning!  So, on we go with watching traditional dancing, hearing African choirs, more speeches, and then the kid strikes again.  She has some wad of something in her mouth, has been leaning on me this entire time, even though I keep gently shoving her off of me, but now the drooling comes on me from the wad of whatever in the mouth.  I hope she doesn't puke on me next!  Don't get me wrong, I love kids, but snot and drool are not my thing on this hot day.  Maybe I was getting heat stroke, but I look over a ways and see Marilyn!  It's easy to spot a white person in this crowd, and there it was, her hair which always sticks out in a crowd, and I thought how nice it was for her to come visit me here in Botswana so soon after I left.  I hope she bought me some falafel sandwich's---I'm starved for something normal!  But no, this was just my imagination again, it was someone else with Marilyn's hair, and she didn't have a falafel sandwich for me.  The sun sure does funny things to ya!

Ok, so back to this odd reality, and the highlight of my day---- the Chief finally comes out, they sit him on the podium, and you just have to imagine this.  We are on the side, but behind him, and his guards are around him, but they look like they are on safari, and some of the armed guards are taking pictures.  You just have to love it!   Could you imagine Barrack's CIA taking photos of him while he was swearing in as President!  Then they wrapped the Chief in a leopard's skin that had been hunted down this year.  I initially laughed to myself at this because it looked like nothing we would ever experience in our own country, except in a commercial starring Tony the Tiger--- and then I remembered I was in Africa, and the Leopard is a strong and mighty animal---a symbol beholding to a Chief!   Between this Chief, the leopard suit, and the sun stroke,  I am also blessed with someone leaning against one cheek, another practically sitting on my head, and the little girl in pink looks like she wants to come back over and pour her water all over me.  With all this physical attention on me, I start having a hot flash, but nobody cares that I am sweating buckets on them, after all, we are one big happy family here in Botswana!  Some of my fellow PC even comment on how well I am handling the conditions.  Thanks guys!  My brain somehow is still able to think even though it is squished in between two women, so I can't help to find some humor and wonder what if Obama wore a Cubs uniform to his swearing in, or better yet a Yankee uniform, the cubs are losers!  Isn't baseball our national past time?  How about putting a skinned bear on Barrack and watching him make his speech with this on.  What would we think?  We would probably think he was doing a Saturday Night Live Act!  I just love being in a foreign land, witnessing foreign rituals---even in the hot sun, it's anything but dull.

Anyway, the festivities closed, the kind ladies finally moved, and the Chief got into his new limo, which is really a pick up truck.  The President, dressed in a suit, deferred any speech for tradition.  But he did pass the Peace Corps section and waved at us howling at him.  I guess in the end it all comes down to cultural differences, which is what we are here to learn.  It doesn't matter that Barrack Obama didn't wear a Cubs Uniform, or that George Bush didn't wear a monkey suit.  It matters that a country is true to its' traditions and it is honored, no matter what it may appear to an outsider.  Their traditions are a gift that has roots, and I for one am glad that some countries still hang on tight to what's true.  It doesn't hurt either that it adds humor----after all, isn't laughter the key to a long life!

1 comment: