Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Good Old Days

The weeks roll by and I barely know what month it even is, let alone what day it is. It's confusing when people from home are talking baseball, and gardens blossoming, when it's going into winter here. Believe me, it's a tough thing to grasp, it's like trying to write with your left hand, or being in a time warp!  But that's besides the point.  It was a quiet Friday, the winds were still, the kids at school aren't fighting, there was even water in the village after not having it for a few days.  All was great--I sat enjoying the stillness, listening to the sweet murmurs of the village, and just spacing out!  But even in the quiet of the day, it never fails that just when I think nothing will disturb my peace of mind, something inevitably pops up to catch my attention. Today, though, it was a good disturbance, it wasn't about a kid, a dog, the stars, or anybody I've ever met. It was, however, about an email I received from a guy, we'll call him Kevin, who had been a PCV in Mmathethe in the early 90's, and I believe there hasn't been one here since then until now. Somehow, searching the net, he found out I was here, was curious enough to write, and told me a little about what he did, and about Mmathethe back in the day. Mmathethe was a quarter of the size it is now. The middle school only had 240 kids compared to 780 now, there was no internet access, no paved road to get in and out of, and the hubbub towns like Kanye were not like they are now.  Kevin taught Math here, but what struck me, is that Mmathethe must have touched him like it's touching me, because he's come back to visit on two occasions to wander the paths that he walked before.

I was really moved to hear from Kevin for many reasons--- but most of all because the Peace Corps becomes a family, ties that may never break, whether you've met the person or not, and the villages we live in become our tribes.  We're the only ones that know what we go through, we get together and talk about our bucket fiasco's, or how much we cried because it can get so lonely for some, or we laugh hysterically at the things we can only attempt to convey to those not living it, and we pass around all the books we're reading because the books can often be our best friends. The list goes on and on!  But when I thought about Kevin's email, I looked back on my own life, and remembered wandering around my own home town in New Jersey years after leaving it. The woods where I used to play in are barely there anymore, the house where I grew up doesn't even look familiar, neighbors are long gone, and wham--all my memories seemed non-existent. So I closed my eyes today and remembered what I wanted to, I remembered my woods, crossing the stick bridges of a stream, jumping in the leaves, building forts, sleigh riding down our hill, and my family being young---Ah, those were the good old days!  I also closed my eyes and tried to imagine this village 20 or so years ago, and what it will be like in another 20 years. My host mom has told me many stories of growing up in Mmathethe, so I can almost see in my minds eye, the Mmathethe that Kevin served in. God, I hope Kevin never ran into Grandma!

Everyone wants to remember the Good Old Days, but things change, even in Africa! We're teaching life skills rather than math, and the kids here and I are gonna have our own stories to tell about Mmathethe.  But in the years to come, I hope, like Kevin, that I can come back to Mmathethe to feel this village again, hear the voices of kids calling my name, get dirt all over me, and maybe even see Keoki again. One thing I do know though, is that this village may change, may grow, but Africa is Africa----the other day I'm in a store and finally--they're playing XMAS music--in May--or is it December?  

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