Thursday, November 24, 2011

Celeb Status in Mmathethe

view from my kitchen window
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a celebrity, even just for a few minutes?  Well, if you have, I encourage you to join the Peace Corps, and ask to be placed in Africa, anywhere in Africa.  I have been to many places in the world, and it seems the people of Africa are the most curious.  So, let me relay some of the ways that curiosity is expressed.

First off, let me tell you about my village of Mmathethe---it is quite rural, though growing, many people are very poor, and in my section of the village, very few have electricity, so out of respect, I am conscious of not turning on too many lights, besides, I don't want to attract even more attention to myself. It is an agriculture community, hence the cows, goats, donkeys, and chickens are as big a part of this community as it's people.   It's a 5 minute walk down a path to my school with a small store across from the school, and all the roads are dirt, with the exception of a paved road that runs through which is a good thing.  Some of my fellow PCV's have no paved road and either have to hitch, get the local ambulance to take them, or hitch on a small plane if they are far out of the way.  On either side of the road is village life with dirt roads, or should I say paths that have been made into roads by donkey carts or cars.  Unfortunately the village is spread out, so it takes me about 20 minutes to walk to the hub of town which consists of a Post Office, clinic, police, and a Kgotla which is where the Chief and the Elders of the village hang out, and where all functions take place, such as the Coronation that I went to here in Kanye. It takes 8 minutes if I hitch on a donkey cart!  Speaking of which, the Leopard Chief was at our swearing in, and still, I have not seen a smile from the man!  He also was not, to my dismay, in his leopard suit at our function!

Ok, back to Mmathethe---everyday I walk down different paths to explore, and some of the houses are incredible because the people have used what is in the bush, and have made art in their gardens and homes.  I absolutely love walking around this village and seeing that, as well as the traditional mud huts, and just how people are working so hard on a daily basis to keep things moving.  The terrain of the village is flat and desert-like, but it has character!  On my daily walks I am constantly greeted, some run up to me wanting to know who I am, some want a hand shake, some come hugging me telling me they are my cousins (mom grew up here and has a huge family), some want to touch my hair, the little kids have a bizillion questions and follow me around, and others just stare.  The people at the Post Office where I use the internet, hover around me, staring, while I check my email, and one has invited me to a baby shower---she talks to me, but mostly stares and smiles.  They all know why I'm living here, but they don't really get it!  Each one will have a story, and I aim to hear every one of them!  As I was walking a few days ago, one stopped and invited me to a wedding on the 17th, and I also have one on the 18th.  Weddings are obviously not by invite only, anyone can show up and be totally accepted.

My house, as you see, is quite big--too big for me, but it is ok.  I have 3 bedrooms (see pics in photo section), a bath, kitchen, dining room, and huge living room.  It's not a well made house, and frankly, given all the mishaps in the house, I would have preferred a romantic mud hut!  I'm not complaining though, I like having running water and the ability to read at night---it's just BIG!  Nightly, I have visitors coming to "check" me.  I am never lonely!  If it's not a cow or a goat, it's a live person---sometimes though I prefer the animals.  A chicken has adopted me, and has taken the liberty of walking in my house whenever he feels like it.  Next thing I know, I'll be giving the chicken my second bedroom---the thing better lay eggs for me at least--I'm starved!  My neighbors to the front are great, and I have a neighbor to the side who is a carpenter, and when I asked about my water problem, he looked at me and said "never saw that before!"  Some help he's gonna be, but he's a good guy!  Other neighbors have been equally great, but I reserve judgement on a few of them.  The best thing of all is the view from my house at sunset---some nights the sky just lights up and it is simply awesome!

Now for the best part, my school and it's kids! I had no idea what to expect when I started school.  I thought it would be like walking into any old school and kids would be kids.  Not in Africa!  I was startled to say the least at the reaction I got from teachers and kids alike.  They form huge circles around me and I couldn't get out if I tried!  They stare, some ask questions about America, they hysterically laugh when I say something, and they are groping to shake my hand or just touch me---simply put, I am a celebrity here!   It's been 2 weeks now, and it hasn't let up...I have shaken 700+ hands on a daily basis--currently, I am teaching them to high five, it's easier.  Individually, they will come running to me to tell me they love me, touch my hair some more, or just want to talk.  Whenever I talk to someone, they go running to the closest friend and start clapping or acting like idiots because they got to talk to me.  Passing a class in session is not an easy task because they all hang out the windows whispering "Mme Tshepo, can I shake your hand later?"  Sure buddy!  A teen club is already started (PACT CLUB), and it's nice because they are starting to get used to me, and are cool when they see me outside of the group now.  I have let some in my home, but the next day it was all that they talked about. The teachers are welcoming, but they too, are curious, and all want to come stay with me in the states for a few weeks!  I tell ya, anyone who wishes to visit here will be in for a real treat because the teachers are determined to show what it's like to really live here for a few days!

can anyone name me please

Besides all the fun, I look into each and everyone's eyes, kids and my neighbors alike, and I see twinkles in some, hardship and despair in others, sadness, as well as hope for a better a world.  My school is a boarding school, so some are locals, some are far from their families, many are orphans desperately wanting to be loved and nurtured.  When I taught some of them how to play Red Rover, Red Rover, you should have seen their excitement.  They rarely get to play and have fun!  They get whipped at school when they are naughty, they are poor, they recognize the issues of HIV, poverty, and Teen-age pregnancy.  When fights start, they are not broken up--sometimes the younger kids are sent home early if they know a fight is going to happen. Many are suffering, and it's hard not to have your heart strings tugged at!  I can only hope at the end of my two years here, I can go up to each and every one of them, and shake their hands in awe because they have been the ones who made the difference and succeeded!

1 comment:

  1. I think the chicken looks like a Patty but Sparky thinks "Apple" would be a nice name!