I've always considered how, over time, we tend to become more like the people we spend time with, and so as time winds down on my service, I find myself wanting to put my energies into the things that have meant most to me in Botswana, one of which is spending time with my host family. I remember how hard it was to leave my life behind me to join the Peace Corps, uncertainty was everywhere, until the moment my host mom's eyes peered deeply into mine, immediately naming me Tshepo, and telling me just to “trust” my service and my two years here. It was a comforting and defining moment in my life.
Yet, I was also keenly aware that every family has it's own lexicon, it's customized style of verbalization, it's secret codes that are not known to the outside world. Even in Botswana, where communication isn't exactly their fortay, there is still a language of families that is bound up in shared experiences—it's the inside joke that lets you know you belong—that this is your tribe. Quickly, I thought being with this family was gonna make for an interesting ride, and that proved to be so true in many ways!
So for the second Sunday in a row, I awoke, taking in a sharp inhale of the icy cold air, being brave enough to slip out of my warm bed, and waiting over an hour in the cold morning for a ride to Kanye. As soon as I felt the hill on which they live, and seeing my mom, and my sister Joy who is home from England for the month, all the icy cold Botswana air disappeared. We spent the days cooking, eating, cutting back her roses, laughing, taking in my mom's words of wisdom, and talking about our old times, however new they really are. My mom had been sick for several weeks with god knows what, and I enjoyed hearing that she took the “Tshepo route,” making alternative concoctions to heal herself. She's learning, and I was pleased. Joy and I then went visiting the Aunts who live in Mmathethe, before ending another wonderful family day.
Over the years many people have influenced me, some subtly and some powerfully, and this is nothing revolutionary. But I am in Africa, not with my natural family and friends, but with a family whom I've shared a cross pollination of ideas, a discovery of each of our cultures, and what lights our fires. The indefinable richness that has come from this unexpected connection, the sudden recognition of the pattern which connects, has left me with an indescribable feeling.
I've looked at the people around me, friends, neighbors, fellow PCV's, and while things can be challenging at times, exploring the connections that rise from our different perspectives, insights, and shared experiences is what this service has been all about for me. And mostly, it is this amazing host family that taught me things about life that I soon won't forget!