Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Sorry for the obscene lack of postage on my part. I'd like to say that I've been to busy to keep up with my own blog, but unfortunately I think laziness has been a root cause. I'll try my best to make up for it starting now.
Here is a piece I wrote about one day after my last entry, and details one of the most memorable days I've had at site so far. So here we go!
I’m writing to celebrate what may have been a milestone day between myself and my family that occurred a few days ago. I arrived back in Mohlarekoma after over one month away from site visiting Machipe, at IST, then parusing the Wild Coast in a lunch box on wheels. Sorry “Joan of Arc”, you served us all well but you were just so tiny! I walked to the office on Wednesday morning only to find the gate locked; silly me for going to work on Madiba’s birthday! Thankful that I at least was provided with the opportunity to strech my legs, I strolled the 45 minutes back home and conceded myself to the task of laundry, cleaning/de-roaching my room, and hitting up the pensioners market that materializes every month in front of my house. I was able to buy a sack of gorgeous avocados, onions apples, bananas and a mammoth tub of atchar for less than $10.00. Yehaw!
But I stray from my point. I woke up yesterday at 6am and went for a jog, deciding by the end of my loop to try for work again. As I walked through the village to my usual trail across the fields that takes you to the tar road, I ran into a coworker headed to the clinic who informed me that once again, there was nobody at the office. Go figure. Dimakatso, another caregiver, would be in later, she informed me, but as I had no business of particular urgency with her, I decided to go home and see if I couldn’t spend some time with my host family. As it turns out, that day in particular was the day in which they would begin to de-kernel the hundreds if not thousands of corncobs that had been baking in the sun soaked courtyard in front of my hut for over one month.
My family has a tendency to laugh every time I offer to help them out with household chores, and today was not by any means an exception. Long story short, and after I’d finished typing up the proposal for our community garden project, I sat down with the gogo who always does my family’s groundwork (and who’s name I admittedly cannot remember) and let her show me how to smack the kernels out of their cobs with a big iron pole.
With kernels flying in every direction we sat together on the ground laughing at our “workout” until many of the cobs were mostly bare, the maroon honeycomb of the interior striking against the golden armor of the kernels. At this point, gogo shoved a medium sized rock in my direction and showed me on her own crumbling cinder block how to grind the cob so as to rid it of any stragglers.
What I had approached initially as an opportune cultural learning experience was suddenly transformed into a daylong bonding affair. The mindless work outside in the sun was both soothing and invigorating. Before I knew it, four hours had passed and we were called inside for lunch. The usual protocol thus far between my family and I is that we eat separately (which I personally dislike but am shy to approach them about) unless the meal is earned. Needless to say today we were definitely earning it! To the table I contributed my bucket of atchar and we all sat around the table (my gogo, my new friend/mentor, myself, and another gogo from down the road who had joined us outside some time earlier).
The moment that stuck with me the most as we said thank you and left the kitchen to continue our work outside was the look in my gogo’s eyes. Usually, she’ll stare at me with what I can only describe as a distant perplexity, as if she’s not entirely sure what I’m about or who I am despite our many conversations and my attempts to make myself present within the household. That afternoon, her eyes lit up when she looked at me and I could sense something resembling a mixture of gratitude and relief passing between the two of us. It was as if it took this gesture of mine;, devoting a day to the tasks of a traditional Sotho woman, for her to judge my true character and not find me wanting. I doubt that she realized my recognition of that moment, or honestly, if it was even a moment for her at all. Whatever it was, it resounded with me on a level that I cannot possibly explain.
We spent the remaining daylight happily chatting and working in the sun, and though I was covered in dust and my hands bleeding by the end (“they will get stronger!” gogo reassured me) there was no place on Earth I would have rather been.