Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Three Ring Circus

Everyone has probably heard the term, “I'm gonna runaway and join the circus.” Well, that's kind of what has happened---the Peace Corps Circus! This past year + has certainly felt like a crazy blessing, and a growing up of sorts. At times, it feels like I've joined the circus, and have been in an act of fire-eating while crossing a tight rope on a unicycle. Most times though, it's like some act of bending space and time to emerge at your destination without ageing and with your humor in tact.  But when you're doing something crazy like this, purpose and opportunities reveals itself. You find things without seeking and there's always this magical child like wonder with each serendipitous discovery that keeps you from getting jaded.

Since my time here has been a web of moments and events growing with the significance as if in a circus, I'd like to take this time now to tell you what I did to get my Mom's for Literacy club fired up. Many of you know I've had this paper necklace club tied into literacy, and though we've not started selling the necklaces yet, we're on the verge---I just need to get these ladies to wash their hands first so the paper doesn't get so dirty, and get them a bit more motivated. They're really, really, trying, but they lack a little circus magic. So, today, one of them looked up at the world map hanging on the wall with the tacts of all the places I've been. They started asking questions about the world, is that an ocean, what does it look like, etc. I took the opportunity to tell them about the circus instead of the places I've been to stir them up a bit.  I told them how families get into caravans to discover new towns, surrounded by many different quirky people, how they live a nomadic lifestyle outside the bounds and rules of society, where there is always new things to explore. Imagine ladies, growing up with a tiger in your backyard, or losing a lion in the town you were just in, or having gypsies tell your fortune, elephants dancing, and maybe your dad has a name like the Great Veno. One lady shook her head, and said, “Tshepo, this is just toooooo much, don't tell me the world is really like that!”

Maybe the world is a little like the circus, with a contrast between the glitz of the show and the grass and muck around them. You have a motley crue, a melting pot of diverse personalities and talent, and whatever happens—the show must go on. Ok, so maybe I went a little over the edge, but I wanted to impart on these women that the circus, much like the Peace Corps, shows how people can dream and build, even from nothing---It's the ultimate purveyor of magic, it's the triumph of human spirit, that ultimate great thing in life—mere mortals doing incredible things. So, I have a motley crue here in Botswana, and I say to them, ladies---let's wash our hands, find the magic, and let the show begin!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Southern Cross greet lame the inspired sky amazed to stumble where God's get lost beneath the Southern Cross.
from the song, Beneath the Southern Cross by Patti Smith

Somehow the things that truly touch me in Africa, like the sky, wind up adding meaning far beyond just the stars. Africa draws you in like a spiritual experience, maybe it's because man originated here that accounts for what happens---I don't know, but it's a definite happening.

As darkness was descending over the entire area like a shroud, my friend Stanley said to me, “look Tshepo.” I looked over to see the full moon lurking low in the sky, orange in color, and seemingly not wanting to move. It kind of stunned me that it was this late and the moon wasn't high in the sky. But then curiously, Stanley asked why I'm always outside at night looking at the sky. Little did he know, he was about to get an lesson in the Southern Hemisphere.

Stopping dead in my tracks, I told him that the sky of South Africa offers some of the best star gazing on the planet. Not that I am any kind of astronomer, but I pointed out the Southern Cross to him, the most famous and distinctive sight in the Southern Hemisphere (yes, I had to explain what the Southern Hemisphere was)---which really, is pushing the limits here, but I did my best, as well as pointing out other stars I was familiar with.  There are many myths about the Southern Cross---the indigenous people of the sub continent were kind of exposed to a cosmic clarity, the Basotho Bushman saw a giraffe with outstretched neck, other bushmen saw a pride of lion, while the Zulu saw the Souther Cross as the Tree of Life. The bushmen believed that the 2 pointers as the male lion were once men, but a magical girl turned them into stars.  It was like telling a little kid a fairy tale story who knew absolutely nothing of the world, even what was magical right above his head.

As the two of us were both immersed in the sight of the Southern Cross, quietly I thought about how sailors used celestial navigation in their long journey's, and I'm wondering what is my Southern Cross as I journey and navigate through life in Africa. What tools do I use to discover the fire within or inner light, and do we not owe it to the process to shine bright for others here, which is sometimes hard to do.  We teach, we lead, but sometimes, like tonight, we just need to stand like a star to guide, without question or judgement---to admire and show others they too can discover.