Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Old Lover

So I left Botswana. For two weeks.

Amazing vacation on the Greek Islands with Kris. Feta cheese and olives and seafood and sunsets and the ocean have never ever tasted so good. I spent a lot of time staring at Europeans with their blonde hair and long cigarettes and fast walking fast talking fast living pace.

I was mildly culture-shocked but mostly with the minor details:
The newspaper is just one giant sad story.
There are no black people in Greece.
Waiters become sincerely distressed when you order red wine with fish.
A cocktail in Greece costs as much as a week’s groceries in Botswana.
Spending an entire day with someone I love brings a forgotten flush of happiness.

The decent into Botswana on Sunday morning was dreary and stale. I looked out the window at that long brown desert and felt the thick of loneliness and solitude and difference rise into my throat. The other passengers filed off and I waited in H3. Preparing. Or maybe just delaying.

I’ve been back for three days. Pushing through sluggish hours. Counting weeks on the calendar. Tolerating small talk with neighbors. Fabricating excuses for solitude.

It is hard to come back to this un-life and un-home that is my life and my home but not. Just not.

Tonight I go out for my run at 5:00. I’ve just returned from a sexual abuse presentation by the Ministry of Health to the students at my school. The presentation adds to my sour mood and I plan interval training at the track with the hope that adrenaline masks my depression.

Eight laps before the footballer villagers take over the track and field. I scowl at them and head toward the bush.

I’m 40 minutes into the run before I lift my head. I don’t realize I’ve been staring at the dirt like that until I see my edges mingling with the air and color and energy that Is Botswana.

At the time I knew I’d never be able to write it but here I am… trying anyway…

A family files out of the bush in one long line. Women carrying firewood on their heads. Children walking barefoot. The father greets me with weathered skin and gentle eyes.

A donkey cart trudges through the sand. (Sometimes Batswana greet with gestures instead of words) The old man swings his whip in a circle over his head. His wife cracks a wrinkle smile at me and pulls her shawl up to her chin.

The sun sets beautiful in Greece but even that glittery ocean and seagull sky cannot compete with a Wednesday night in Botswana.

Botswana is the only place I’ve been on the planet where the entire sky—all 360 degrees of it—holds kaleidoscope color. Every cloud streaks paint. Even the sand turns orange and purple in the fading of a day.

Botswana feels like an old lover who turns his head just so in the light… or laughs with a tone that sparks your nostalgia... and there you are staring at him and feeling a closeness and an urgency you thought you’d lost.

I’ve been back for three days. But tonight I came home.


Anonymous said...

Welcome home Jess!!


Anonymous said...

Good post, i am a motswana living in the USA, and i should confess that i do miss Botswana skies and the rising and setting of the sun.

Jenah said...

So I did a search on Botswana sunsets, to see if what I saw in my head was anything like the real thing. Turns out I was pretty close. But nothing I found gave dimension into the dust kicked up by donkey carts, or tired smile greetings. I couldn't find sunlight subtly fading on wrinkled skin or anything that attempted to communicate the almost- silent existence of barefooted children.
Turns out the best way to see Batswana is through you.