Friday, May 14, 2010

Once

My village has five wards, eight tuck shops and 11 bars. We have 10 churches and 12 traditional healers. There are two schools, one clinic, a kgotla and a day care center for orphans. The village is flat except for a single, steep hill on the south west side. Thirty precarious minutes will bring you to hill’s peak where you can see all the way to Gaborone in the east and clear to Kanye in the west: a giant green blanket with dips and climbs, like rippled ocean. Beyond this hill there are graveyards and beyond a hundred headstones there is a river dropped into a shallow valley. The river scatters trees and grass and cows along its banks. Local residents avoid this place for fear of snakes and curses. In its abandonment it becomes well suited for picnics and books and solitude.

My village is plain and peaceful. Miles of land dotted with shade. Tiny roudeval huts and make-shift hair salons and a lady selling oranges by the bus stop.


I take endless photographs and spend hours jogging through sunsets, sunrises, dirt roads, people, gardens, children, crops, cattle… trying to hold and articulate some fragment of a place that’s seeped inside of me: now owning little pieces of my history and identity.


You will see me in three weeks and we will catch up and I will fall into rhythm and you will forget that there is another world living inside me. Another home. With shops and churches and schools and rivers and all those people. All that personality. And I will carry them around and you will not be able to see but I will carry them and hope and pray and try to keep them heavy. To feel the weight of these things. Of them. Of once upon a time. When I was here. And this was mine. If only for a space.

3 comments:

caplansinbotswana said...

Dear Jessica,
You will carry that place with you forever and it will inform everything you do henceforth, even when you do not recognize that it is doing so. You will miss your home and you will ache to return to it and you may one day, maybe twenty years later have the opportunity to return and you will find your village unchanged in many ways and completely different in others. You are forever more than you were when you first arrived, you will never look at things as you once did. You will be happy to return to those you loved "before" and you will ache for those you love and left. Being an RPCV is bittersweet. Sala Sentle, Frances, RPCV, Botswana 1988-1990

Aspire2be said...

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

Anonymous said...

congratulations. sometimes even a teaspoon can make a difference in an ocean if the right person's using it. travel safe. and make good choices.