Saturday, June 7, 2008


June 1, 2008

Mma has decided that Scrabble is a waste of time and that I must spend the evening singing Motswana hymns with her. The kids find this highly amusing and giggle through my broken Setswana before finally joining in to drown me out. Nomelihp (17) takes up a gorgeous baritone, Mma is the alto and Naillil (15) soprano. Pillihp (11) is meant to be a tenor but Mma shuts him up after the first verse shouting “Discord, discord… Pillihp is ruining!”

I’ve agreed to do a cultural-exchange program with Denise’s music class back in the States and decide that this is the perfect scene to video for her students. Mma agrees eagerly to the taping and thus proceeds an evening of chaos:

The video goes relatively smoothly (though Pillihp is repeatedly pushed out of the frame).

But when I finish capturing their performance, Mma goes flying into her bedroom, jabbering excitedly in Setswana. She returns with an armful of traditional Motswana dresses that she insists I try on, complete with headscarves and heavy shawls. I hesitate only long enough to realize the decision has been made for me and eight enthusiastic hands are wrapping skirts around my blue jeans and tying scarves against my head.

I sit through 6 wardrobe changes and what feels like nine million photos before shouting “Ke la pi le! Ke feditse!” (I’m tired! I must finish!) Mma obliges and sends me off for my bath.

An hour later I’m crawling into bed and grab my camera for a quick flip through what’s been documented of this bizarre evening. The photographs show my pasty form, swathed in bright German print and surrounded by black faces with broad smiles.

Nomelihp changed into his suit and stuck a plastic flower in the breast pocket before our photo.
Naillil into her best blue jeans and leaned her head against mine.
Mma dressed in her pink wedding suit and struggled to keep her eyes open at the flash.
Pillihp ripped his shirt off to flex skinny muscles for me.

I flip through the photos three times before realizing I’ve become quite sad.

It will never cease to amaze me how love creeps up on you. How people and places bury themselves inside you so easily and stay there for years and sometimes a lifetime. I have been here for 6 weeks and am leaving in just 2. I lie back into a cold little bed and stare at my tin roof and listen to their voices through the thin walls. I memorize them best I can. To keep them fresh. To keep this sense of love and belonging and family.

1 comment:

Jen said...

I cant wait to see those pics!!!