Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Start

My “yard sale” was really more of a “house sale” since putting things outside would have involved a number of environmental challenges (pecking chickens… hungry dogs… blazing sun… petty theft… sand… bugs…)

So instead I invited the village inside. At first I felt a bit nervous about opening my tiny home to potential throngs of shoppers but after the first few hours I realized I was having fun with it and forgot all about my anxiety. Yes, little things were stolen. A few dishes were broken. Someone stained a shirt. The price tags were jumbled. Sand and dirt and baby drool were scattered all over my floors. Someone left their bra in the t-shirt pile.

But even with all these minor inconveniences it really was just an easy, informal, amusing day. Mostly women came and chit chatted with me for a while and then handed me their babies so they could strip down in the sitting room and try on my clothes. Then there was the ooo-ing and ahhh-ing and butt-slapping and cackling and chattering and laughing while I held the mirror for them.

The kids were equally entertaining – holding up item after item from the One-Pula-Box and saying to me “Ke bo kai?” to which I’d answer “One pula!” and they’d giggle and squeal and fight over who-would-get-to-buy-what-when-mummy-gives-us-a-pula. The American games also caught their attention and led to tiny tornadoes of dice, checkers and jacks being strewn over every available surface. (Travel Yahtzee, as it turns out, is not an easy game to explain in one’s second language)

And my friends came too. With cards and hugs and little presents. With promises to write and visit and open their home to me when I returned. And when would I return? And why exactly was I going? And how long was the trip? And what do you eat on an airplane?

(Air travel is a hot-topic among Batswana… I think they still can’t quite fathom that we’re capable of such a thing. I once invited the Peace Corps African Continent Director to speak with my PACT Club about international health and, instead, the kids grilled him about his airplane trip for 20 minutes. One girl who is nearly 17 even turned to him and asked, in all seriousness: ‘Can you see God from up there?’)

In the end I made less than 100 USD and donated the rest to the village’s orphan center. I also made a little closure—not the deep kind, but a start. The acquaintance-villagers hugging me good-bye. Making little endearments that roughly translated to “it was amusing to watch you for 2 years.”

I also said good-bye to Adlih and Savid today. Two of my closest friends in the village. Adlih traveled an hour from the school she’d been transferred to last month. She hugged me hard and long and laughed at me when my eyes watered.

And Savid. Savid stood in my kitchen and smiled. He was leaving for Zimbabwe on the 12:00 bus. He was buying shirts and games to take home to his children. And he was smiling at me as I broke and broke. So many things I’d wanted to say: Write me. Remember me. Stay safe. Please be safe. But instead I just crumbled all over and into his white t-shirt. And he held me, waiting for it to pass. Tightly. Gently. Pulling me in and in. Right there in my kitchen with the naked women trying on clothes and the teenagers stealing things and the chickens swaking through the door. When it passed he squeezed my arm one last time and flashed his whites and was gone.


It’s hard to feel the significance of a transition while you’re moving through it. It’s hard to know the scope.

But I felt Savid. The depth and the fear. The uncertainty. I felt all of him. And all of this.