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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Saturday, April 09, 2016

My New Approach to Proposals

In the last few months, talk of my anticipated departure has monopolized conversations with community members. Although my cohort's scheduled close of service is still more than four months away, people have amusing reactions to the impending date. 

Some people react with shock, amazed like I am that two years can pass so quickly. 

Others, after not seeing me around for a week or so, greet me with relief and joy, thrilled to learn I have not yet departed.

Most tell me I am simply not allowed to return home for a few more years. 

Most surprising, however, is the huge number of people bringing up a topic previously ignored within my home community: my marital status. 

I noted in Love and Marriage that the guys in my village were well prepared for my arrival, the chief making it clear that I was not to be pursued. Similarly, when I first arrived, women would ask about a husband or children in American and then drop the subject when learning I have neither. 

Now, however, my marital status is a hot topic. Everyone wants me to marry. The women I work with insist I need to marry and stay in our community. Uncles, mothers, and grandparents of male friends offer to talk to my family in America to negotiate my bride price, as that is the responsibility of the family here in Lesotho. 

The other day, a man who regularly tells my brother that his in love with me—which has turned into quite the joke between them as Abuti Thabo heckles him whenever we cross his path—asked me if my husband had visited that morning. Although I understood his Sesotho, I was so confused I made him repeat himself, twice.

Apparently, the male driver of the Peace Corps car that had visited that morning is, or should be, my husband.

I can see the growth in my cultural understanding and acceptance. When I arrived, this focus on my husband (or lack thereof) would have frustrated me to no end. I spent my whole first year in Lesotho collecting stories of ridiculous pick up lines and women from outside my community insisting I would marry their son only minutes after telling me their sons all had wives.

When I wrote about my favorite pick up lines (See Love and Marriage, above) from the first year, I fully intended to do a follow up a year later with more gems. Now, I cannot even remember any from the last few weeks! It is not that men have stopped proposing, I simply stopped paying attention when they do. Instead of fixating on how dramatically their proposals and declarations offend my American culture, I have moved into full acceptance of their Basotho culture. I simply laugh and joke with them before moving on to less boring topics.

Similarly, as my community tries to marry me off before I finish my Peace Corps service, I am able to laugh, recognizing that they are not trying to control me or diminish my adventurous spirit. They are simply making it clear that they love me and that I truly belong. They do not want me to leave and the best way to keep me close is to have me settle down with a husband and children.

So I take the compliment with joy and continue to nicely refuse generous offers. 

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