Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oh the Places We'll Go

Amanda, me and cow hoof, Becki

Later on in life, the one thing I hated most was telling people I was from New Jersey, that I only lived in the shadow of NYC.  But the fact is, even though I was only born in NYC and lived in it until the age of 3,  I only spent weekends in NY with my grandparents and cousins--thus, I am a Jersey girl!  The place does harbor many fond memories though--playing in the snow, trying to get my parents to get over the Catskills schtick, and let's get on to the Jersey shore, wandering through the Jersey woods that are no more, and enjoying the best Italian food on the east coast.  I didn't know then that some of our greatest celebrities grew up in Jersey: Abbot and Costello, Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep, John Travolta, of course Bruce the Boss, Michael Douglas---the list is endless, and this sure makes me feel better about having grown up there too.  Even so, while wandering around the woods as a youngster, I would dream of all the places to go, and of course, the first dream was to go to Liverpool to meet the Beatles.  Now, 50 years later, I find myself not in Liverpool, but in Botswana going on my first adventure in the life of a PCV.
I always feel a certain amount of glee when I travel, I love that the universe is bigger and more complex than we can possibly imagine, and that in order for me to truly understand my place in it, I must let go of old, limited ideas, and embrace the magic and mystery that's found everywhere around me.  For five days we all were dispersed throughout Botswana to shadow another volunteer.  Yup, hands on experience is what we need, along with good advice and wisdom from those that are in the trenches.  So off I go to venture way up north to a village called Gumare with one other volunteer, and a prayer from mum at 4am to keep me safe, and an offering of 20 pula--which, I did not take, but was humbly touched.   Bus rides in Botswana can get a bit hairy, but this day was fairly tame, except they know how to pack 'em in like sardines.  Why they want to be on top of each other in this heat is beyond me.  And on a side note, the Botswana have a superstition about wind, thus, no windows open in 100 degree heat!   Besides being on top of each other, they sure like to chat and inquire about the only white person on a bus or on a street.  Let's take the nice man sitting next to me who turns and says, "I am old."  "Yes rra, I see that, I on the other hand am not as old as you, but I'm sure glad that you told me that."  In a matter of minutes, I am privy to all details of his cattle post.  Good, can I please get off the bus with you and eat some of your cow?   I just keep imagining what this guy would look like with duck tape on his mouth as I start falling asleep!  Yet, it goes on and on for several hours whether my eyes are open or not.

In Gumare, things are no different,  our host volunteer took us to a school to meet with the Principal on a project he's doing.  The man was very nice, though in the course of discussing things over with Todd, he stops mid stream to ask us where we were from---then back to his discussion with Todd---then back to telling us about his trip to Portland, Oregon---back to Todd---then he turns and starts singing to us---back to Todd---then to us about our life skills program---back to Todd---more singing---and finally I run out of there because if we stay here any longer, it will be Christmas and I couldn't bear hearing XMAS carols from a Principal in a school meeting.  Even the dogs in a small town follow you around to talk!  No joke!  Walking home with Todd or Amanda in this little village takes triple time because you have to stop every 10 feet to chat with someone.  It's all great fun when it's 110 degrees in the north!

 Besides all the chatter, and doing our PC chores for the few days, a neighbor was nice enough to take us elephant searching.  We found one that was killed for some reason a few nights ago, and were told that within 30 minutes of hearing of the dead elephant, all the towns people came to carve out the meat for dinner, mmm elephant meat, sounds good after eating cabbage for 4 weeks!  Lucky us got to see the skeleton of the elephant, yet our elephant search ended at that because all the others' went on vacation for fear of getting axed themselves.  We did however witness the most gorgeous sunset that gave way to a spectacular full moon.

 Many great moments were taken in this week, most of all with the children. We did two groups with them, and were taught how to dance the African way.  Our African rhythm was a comedy to all:  then in another group, these bright students told us what they thought of America, and I could write a book on that alone, although the best quote was Americans are a "do this,  do that" nation, and how right they are.   The village kids then came out of the woodwork in 3 seconds flat when I was doing my Tai Chi in the yard---I am now known around town as the Karate Kid!  I loved that one!  Anyway, the other great thing was the hospitality of Todd and Amanda, their humor, their fabulous cooking of a Thai dish, veggie curries, homemade burritos and breads, all on our measly little salary.  It felt so good to eat again!

After reflecting on my days here in Gumare, I wondered if kids ever get tired of explaining life to adults!  These kids have nothing, yet they have great thoughts and ideas, and we really should listen more to them than anyone else, they actually get it!  I love going places and I'm sorry to leave this blessed village where women sit outside making beautiful baskets, but home I must go.  Sitting on the long 10 hour bus home, we share our week with others we picked up on the way, or whoever wants to listen.  Finally, home sweet home!  I walk into my house to hugs, laughter with Kesego, and mom in the kitchen bellowing "Tshepo, Tshepo, Tshepo," telling me she missed calling my name all week, and that I left a vacuum when I left---how heart warming for a weary traveler!  She then told me she has a wonderful dinner ready---great---she learned how to make Thai food while I was gone, but no such luck, back to eating maize and cabbage with my hands!  What a great way to end a perfect week, but maybe I should have tried that elephant meat!

For the Children of Gumare:
"You have brains in your head, You have feet in your shoes, You can steer yourself in any direction you choose." 
Dr. Seuss

1 comment:

  1. As born and raised in Gumare, I would like to thank you very much for the inspiration you give to the people of Gumare. I came across your post when googling.

    My name is olerato salepito, Im the vice secretary at Botswana student network. If you got more picture of Gumare please send me a few i will give creadit whenever i use them.

    Best Regards