Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ch Ch Ch Changes

The Peace Corps offers our fundamental patriotic dream redux; the drama of self imposed exile, the promise of a blank slate, a life structured around virtue and independence, an unchartered opportunity to self-aggrandize, and on a deeper level, a chance not to be an asshole anymore. So when I first stepped foot in this village with my slate blank, nightly creatures, both human and animal, were peering into my windows, rattling my doors, scrummaging through my garbage, scaring the daylights out of me, and I knew life here was gonna be just a wee bit challenging. Somehow, I had to win over both the people and the animals that were ever so curious. I also had a sneaking suspicion that if I paid too much attention to kids, that they would be swarming my house, and the peace that I sought would be just a dream.

 Now one would not exactly describe me as walking quietly through life, and because of that I had kids, young and old, swarming my house, my every move, and even when my doors were locked, screams of “Tshepo” would echo through the village. Thinking it was cute at first, it got waring real fast, and I had to put an end to it all, or at least try! So on my walks around town, I would just say hello, mingle with those who had some sense of boundary, push through or ignore the real rascals, and allow just a select few on certain days to enter the white kingdom. It was never totally peaceful though, because they still hovered outside the gate looking, or would climb over the fence, and sit on my porch at 7am on a Sunday morning. It was all to easy to lose patience at times because they just don't take no for answer, and the egg that they see you eating for breakfast becomes headline news around town.

Some days in the Peace Corps are just to crazy for an outsider to understand, but trust me, it's crazy when all you want is for someone to tell you exactly how to get somewhere, and all they know how to say is “over there,” or going to the Post Office to mail a package home gets so confusing that the packages are never sent, or there's no water for days and your hot, sweaty, smelly, and dreaming of anything ice cold to drink but there's no electricity to even cool the water bottle you bought, or it's pouring rain and lightning outside and inside your house, and one spends all winter wearing a sleeping bag around the house like a full body condom,---yeah, it can surely make ya think if being that asshole at home is better than this!

But time has it's way of healing, it has a way of making things right, it has a way of changing things when you don't even know it.  After having one of these nutty days that only Seinfeld can appreciate, I walked around my village, played ball with a bunch of kids who now know when I say stop, things stop; I talked to some others who never ask me for money or food anymore; I got a big hug from a neighbor whom I brought her son home from Gabs today because they had no money to get him back from his aunts house in Gabs; I received a bucket of water and a bowl of peaches right off the tree from other neighbors that don't seem to give a damn about anybody; I got crawled on like a horse from another group of kids who have been at the cattlepost for the holidays and just returned very excited to see me; people on donkey carts are yelling to say hi because they too have returned; this one guy, he must be about 18 or so, who's always singing loudly and freely throughout the village, and who has always referred to me as “cousin,” serenaded me on my porch, and as he was leaving, yelps out---”see ya tomorrow cousin;” and then Keoki was herding the cows out of the yard, and one cow went flying over the fence---I never knew cows can jump like that, but the thing was---I was sorry the cow left, they are part of my life now!

When all finally quieted down, I sat on my porch with a glass of South African wine, Keoki at my feet, listening to the reverberating sounds of the village kids, hearing my cousin singing in the distance, watching Stanley dancing in the yard because he's so happy to finally be home, and while looking up at an African sky filled with such bright stars, I thought to myself---as much as I hate the struggles and Botswana sometimes, things have changed---no animal or human peer in to scare me at night anymore, the kids who I thought were little rascals are little darlings now, people here totally embrace my existence, the kombie driver puts me up front so I don't kill someone sitting on top of me in the sweltering heat.  I've grown to love my dirt paths that lead to somewhere, I've grown to love watching the kids this time of year hanging from trees, watching people shuffling their feet in the dirt with their wheel barrels to collect water, and I've grown to love the feeling of just being!

So, am I less of an asshole?  Who knows, but PC service surely puts you in your place, and for the times where I've felt isolate, angered, or starved for something healthy, there are dozens more times when I feel peace running through me like the rays of the African sun.  And as most PCV's will attest, although you join the PC to serve others, your the one who comes away from the experience as though you received the greatest service!

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