Saturday, June 7, 2008

Humble Abode

June 5, 2008

Kumakwane greets me with such a spread of green that it seems a mistake to have called this place a desert. I visit the secondary school and meet a cluster of friendly teachers before heading to my house.

Mme Elistab seems oddly nervous as we turn off the main road and pass the kgotla.

I’ve been told that the Ministry debated between two houses for me and chose the location that was closer to the school and part of a family compound. The choice was made to provide added security and easier community integration and I’m feeling quite comfortable with this reasoning as we open the gate and walk into the yard.

Mme Elistab watches me gape at the bright gardens and stone arches of the main house. And then Mme Elistab points and says “There, Bontle. This one is yours.”

She can’t be pointing to the shed.

Oh my God. She’s pointing to the shed.

I’m sure my mouth has fallen open as I walk across the yard and stand in front of the cement block that is meant to act as my sanctuary for the next 24 months. Every window is broken and there is a vivid absence of doors, frames and walls. Two workmen are lounging across the door frame “dumella”-ing me. Mme Elistab tells me she’s grateful to see the tin roof arrived this morning.

Eventually I come around and make the obligatory optimistic comment to which Mme Elistab pats my shoulder with something that feels an awful lot like sympathy. I brood.

At the main house we meet Telloc and her children, Asomo (6) and Elibitar (9). I make my way to their guest bedroom. New village, new family, same awkwardness. I feel like someone has just reset the clock to April 16.

For the first time in two months I quite seriously consider if this is all a mistake.

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