Hitch hiking is a part of being in Botswana. Everyone does it, it's easy, it's fast, it's safe! Back in the 60's in the good old USA, hitching used to be cool with long haired hippies sticking their thumbs out, but nowadays it's sadly a dying form of transport. Late today, the hippie spirit in me, hitched a ride to Kanye, and was picked up by a really nice lady coming home from a days work. Of course everyone you meet wants to know what a white woman is doing here, how we like Botswana, and how many kids do you have. Women are respected for having children, and because of the low population in Botswana, even the President encourages women to have lots of babies, whether they are in or out of wedlock. Knowing this, (and being a little sick of women putting me down with their eyes when I tell them I have no children), I tell her I have a respectable 3 kids, Nikko, Simon, and Alex, who are currently living with their Aunt Marilyn. I had 4 children, one of them, Sasha, died a year ago from a bum kidney at the tender age of 14. The woman driving is pleased that I have children, sympathetic about my Sashi, yet doesn't think twice about them living with an aunt. Most children at a certain age here live with a relative due to schooling or other purposes. I am ever so pleased, if not amused, with my fabricated story to save face on this given day. It's actually an innocuous fabrication, she doesn't need to know that my children all have 4 legs and fir!
Inevitably, when talking with an African for any length of time, the American is always questioned about Obama. Some ask questions with confidence---”Do you know Obama?” “Yeah, he lives down the street from me, and Michelle is in my bookclub.” “Oh, isn't she just wonderful?” “Sure is, and don't you just love her hair!” Quizzically, others ask, as this woman did, “How do you think he's doing as President?” “Well, our economy is down the drain, our country is falling apart, and Obama has practiced for 3 years saying to foreign dignitaries “Hi, I'm not George Bush!” Yet others with more puzzled looks in their eyes, almost afraid of an answer, ask, “Do you like him?” “Sure I do, astrologically he's a Leo, and an Ox in Chinese Astrology, I should be a perfect match for him—but did you know he hates mayonaise.” “Huh!” “What sign are you?” “Huh!”
Africans have always had divergent views on Americans, and since Obama has Kenyan heritage, he has changed some of their views on America. Obama holds a special place in their hearts. In fact, this woman says that Obama has a King's status here in Africa, well, even more, he is revered like a God. Whew, that's big! When Obama came to Africa he said, “You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make changes from the bottom up.” These are words they hold onto—this is also, in part, of why Peace Corps is here. When Michelle came to Botswana last April, this woman said she never saw someone so beautiful in her whole life—she is also our role model, our hero as women! Notably, the PCV's got to meet her—I wish I had been there then--what a thrill it was for them! Anyway, we went onto talk about people in Africa idolizing America even more because of the Obama's---she called the USA the land of opportunity with unimaginable wealth—a place where Africans, like herself, can only hope one day to see with their own eyes.
How does one really respond to something like this? Yeah, America is great in many ways, but lady, I left because our abundance is making me crazy, and ruining our children to an extent. Obama did break racial barriers in our country, which is a good thing, but I always thought there would be a woman President before a black President, and he's certainly not held in King or Godly status. You, as Africans, should be happy with your simplicity, embrace it, you are living where humankind began—nothing can strip that away! The Dali Lama would be proud of the simplicity here in Africa---Ok Tshepo, get a grip! As this woman went into a dream-like state and started swirving off the road, I call her back, “hey lady, he isn't that good looking.” Coming back onto the road, she replied, “Oh yes he is—in our eyes, not only is he good looking, he's everything!” I realized then, that Obama, is somehow their string of hope!
As we were approaching the gentle rolling hills of Kanye, she asks my name, asks me if I miss my kids, and thanks me for the conversation. Smiling, she said, “Tshepo, since you know Obama, I won't charge you for the ride.” Wow, this was a great hitch, ke a laboga! Thanks lady! I'll tell Michelle you said hi!
When I got home to my ever level headed mom in Kanye, I told her all about my hitch hiking experience with the nice lady swirving off the road. Agreeing that Obama was/is so popular, she too, couldn't help but jump on the Obama bandwagon, but she's to even keeled to revere him like a God. And so, for the next 2 hours, mom and I cooked my ever so favorite African foods, had a wonderful and heartfelt chat about politics, children, life---and as the bright stars came out over the African sky, mom said the family nightly prayer, asking God to forgive me for my sin today, but with humor, blessed my children anyway!