I hear the laughter of little boys outside my door. Putting down my book, I go to the open door and find four boys between three and six. They are all carrying sticks. Three are laughing at the one who has just nabbed a peach out of one of the peach trees on my lot.
Culturally, I know that he should have asked before coming into the yard and taking peaches. But, this is my first weekend in my new village and admonishing small children is not the first impression I want to make. Instead, I great the boys and ask them what’s up.
The continue to giggle and start moving towards the road. When it is clear they are not going to speak Sesotho with me and they are moving on, I head back inside.
Twenty minutes later, I pop out again, this time to retrieve my solar lights. I had hidden them in the tall grass two feet from my open window to charge them up. It is Sunday and I do not anticipate being able to charge them again until Saturday as my new job will have me working a forty-hour week at an office.
Instead of three Luci lights, I find only one half eaten peach.
My heart stops. I immediately know what has happened and even know who did it. But I do not want it to be true.
It is clear that despite my speaking to them in Sesotho, these young boys have determined that I am an outsider. Because I am an outsider, it is okay to take my belongings.
|A functional Luci light. |
Photo from www.mpowerd.com
I immediately go to my neighbor’s house. He gets up from an afternoon nap and goes looking for the boys while I go to the security guard at my work’s compound to see if he recognized the young boys.
Sadly, he did not see them, but he reminds me that my next stop needs to be the village Chief’s house. I had been there on Friday for a second introduction, so I know where I am going.
Thanks to travel and jetlag, I have not had more than three consecutive hours of sleep in five days and am using my sunglasses to try and hide my tear-rimmed eyes as I walk the fifteen minutes to the chief’s house.
As I travel, a young man stops me and asks how I am. When he hears my story, he tells four other people before accompanying me to the chief’s house.
At the chief’s, we share my story again and she sends people off to get the villagers who assist with crime prevention. Once they here the story, they escort me home. As we walk, more and more young men join our parade.
My neighbor comes out to greet us and then hands me my three lights…in dozens of pieces. Although it has only been ninety minutes since I spoke to the young boys, they have managed to create confetti out of my lights. My sleep deprived self does not have the emotional reserves to deal with this reality. Despite public tears being uncommon in Basotho culture, despite being surrounded by more than a dozen men I do not really know, I look at the broken lights and lose it.
One of the drunk young men tries to reassure me that everything will be okay as I walk into the sorghum growing tall just behind my house. When I have collected myself enough to return, the village leaders tell me that my neighbor is going to identify the four boys and I can rest in my house, which I do.
|My demolished lights at the feet of the village chief.|
Thirty minutes later, we return to the chief’s house, followed by the parents of the boys. The chief determines the parents will need to pay for replacement lights and lets everyone present know that I am an important member of the village and need to be respected the same way that she is.
As the young men walk me home, they keep reassuring me that my lights will be replaced, the actions of these boys are not the way of the Basotho, and that the boys are troublesome and will be disciplined.
As I reenter my home, I cannot help but think about how this would never have happened in my old village, but at the same time, I realize that I have met and been supported by a number of villagers that I may not have otherwise interacted with.
I am frustrated to realize that my evenings will be dark until my solar lamps are replaced-I have candles by no candle holder and I have the LEDs and battery from one of the busted lights, however, it works more like a very small flashlight now that the other pieces are gone. I am more frustrated by the realization that now I feel less secure in my new community. I am hesitant to leave my door unlocked when going to the back of the lot to use my toilet or to leave the windows open when drawing water; even though I can see my house from the water tap. The sad thing about this simply theft is that it brought more darkness into my home than just the lack of light.