Sunday, July 12, 2009


It’s freezing here but every night I sleep with the fan on to drown out the racket.

I literally c r a v e the sounds of a Boston night over this village clatter.

Traffic? Sirens? Car alarms? Drunk neighbors? Melodious compared to the average evening in Newtown Ward of Kumakwane Village.

I keep expecting to get used to it. It’s been 15 months… isn’t there a point of acclimation I’m supposed to reach in all of this?!

It’s 8:32p.m. and I’m exhausted from a cold I’ve been fighting (winter here, remember) but there’s no way I can go to sleep. Why not? Well, allow me to play for you My Lullaby…

There are 7 neighborhood dogs that live within a 50 meter radius of my house. If a goat or chicken happens to wander into one of these dog’s respective territories they go absolutely ballistic. On and on. Barking frantically. Since I arrived my landlord’s dog has had two litters… her 4 remaining puppies bark with just as much zest and hysteria as the older dogs. I have come to loathe the pets in this country.

But not more than roosters. Hell No. My friend Rahj grew up in Gaborone and drives me home to the village now and then. He’s a city boy through and through and when he arrives at noon and hears the rooster he says “Woah… you have roosters here?! Do they crow when the sun rises-- is that actually true?” Uh, yeah. Sun rises at 6:00. Sure, he crows at 6:00. He also crows at 4:00, 3:13, 2:41, 1:56, 1:18… you get the point. Damn bird never stops. Batswana eat just about every species of animal… roosters are an exception. I find this enormously disappointing.

Style. Oh Style. Toothless and drunk Style. He loves to sing. He takes care of my landlady’s gardens and changes my light bulbs now and then. He loves to sing. L o v e s T o S i n g. Style sings all through the night. Competing with roosters and dogs. When he wakes up at 4:00 to heat water on the outdoor fire for the family’s baths… he’s still singing. I prefer his drunken murmurs to the dog’s tirade… but still.

Kumakwane does not have a village newspaper… or any newspaper for that matter. It also does not have a town hall, a radio station, a clerical phone line or a website. The great majority of Kumakwane families do not have cell phones. Parent and grandparent generations have a high illiteracy rate. So how does the kgosi share information with his village residents? Easy: he has a government vehicle drive through the village at 9:00 in the evening (when everyone is safely home from the lands, work, school, etc… a Captive audience) broadcasting important announcements. In the past year I’ve heard this imperious vehicle shrieking about parliament meetings, kgotla gatherings, civilian weddings, community events, court cases and funerals. The loud speakers that broadcast our local “news” can be heard all over the village. It is so phenomenally loud that I honestly believe it could sit in one central spot and be heard by all 3,400 villagers. But, alas, that is not How Things Are Done in Kumakwane. Nope. Instead the vehicle circles the village for hours at a time repeating its announcements in piercing repetition. Sometimes I use this as an opportunity to practice my Setswana listening skills. Sometimes I bury my head under my pillow and curse.

Crickets. They’re nice, right? They remind you of summer. They have that kind of purring, rhythmic sound, right? WRONG. They’re beasts. They breed in my pipes and I swear they’re getting bigger. My house is all hollow cement walls which means one thing: echoes. Such infuriating echoes! Can I justifying spending a heap of money on carpets just to muffle the sound of crickets? I develop sincere empathy for those plagued by the locust in Exodus.

My neighbors in the roundeval hut spend winter nights huddled around their fire. Their fire happens to be a whopping 10 feet from my bedroom window. Family banter is fine. Sometimes they sing and that’s actually lovely. But there are four kids and someone just had a baby. Yup, you guessed it: a Colicky Baby. And so when the baby cries and the toddler whines and the teenagers fight and the mother yells I want to bang on my window and reprimand the whole dysfunctional lot. God, can you image there was a time when all the village families were that transparent?!

Sigh, alright 8:47. Fan time. Ear plug time.

Who’d have ever guessed that of all the things to miss I’m sitting here craving the raucous commotion of a Monday night in Somerville…?

(And here you’d hoped I had something profound to say ;)


four_toed_armenian said...

introduce some silence. you should have let me eat that rooster when I visited last year.

four_toed_armenian said...

p.s. when are we getting the blog post about the hot dog(s) our favorite ex-vegetarian ate on July 4?

Jessica Charles said...

er... not okay to out me to all my blog readers 4-Toe... hot dog details to come...

Jessica Charles said...

er... not okay to out me to all my blog readers 4-Toe... hot dog details to come...

Anonymous said...

porter square and Acadia park misses you as well jess! Can't wait until you're home again!