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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...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Reunions

Family Photo-Mme Masekila, Abuti Mokhesuoe, Abuti
Thabo, Abuti Polau, and me. We are only missing
Abuti Sekila and my replacement, Ausi Mosa.
People often say you can’t go home again. In December, I stared at the familiar Boston skyline as my plane landed and agreed. After being gone for the last two and half years, people felt like home, but America did not.

Friday, however, I disagreed profoundly. The moment I got out of a car in Botha Bothe, a man greeted me by name. As I shopped for food, people did double-takes, exclaiming when they realized it was, in fact, me.

Once I finally made it to my village—after a three-hour wait for a taxi—the homecoming really began. Within twenty minutes, I had seen my supervisor and another woman I worked with, two of my best friends and my mother. Everyone greeted me with joy, hugs (These are not typical, which only made them even better), and celebration. As my mother and I walked home, people stopped us to comment on my return and to be sure I remembered them after my four and half months away.

I spent the entirety of the weekend wandering the village and visiting people. It was a more perfect reunion than I could have imagined. Between being in America and feeling disconnected in my new community, coming home was exactly what I did not realize I desperately needed. Seeing what has stayed the same and what has changed served as a reminder that life is dynamic and we are all moving forward.

A few weeks after my move, the long-awaited chickens finally arrived. The women and my replacement have already overcome a few big challenges, but now things seem to be going smoothly and their eggs are in high enough demand that there was a shortage the night before I arrived!

After dancing, we just had to pose.
Saturday morning, I learned my neighbor was having a feast. After making rounds in the village, I almost let shyness get the best of me, hesitating to arrive alone. It was foolishness because the second I crossed the gate into their yard, the host ululated with her hands up as if I were the guest of honor arriving. I ate a plate of meat and papa amidst greetings from numerous villagers. Then, like she had at the last party, the host insisted I go in the room with the other women for dancing. This time, however, I was not allowed to only watch. I too had to dance the traditional women’s dance: litolobonya. I am sure I did not do as well as
the women who have been practicing since childhood, but they assured me that I am Mosotho, so I must have been acceptable.

After dancing, I truly became a Mosotho woman at a party, helping to dish up meat and papa for the latecomers. Somehow, I was never allowed to work at parties when I lived here, but now I am permitted to help out.

Enjoying early morning coffee and photos
with the best.
This was the first time in over six months that my brother Thabo and I were in the village at the same time. Although we were all busy—Sekila with work, Mokhesuoe and Polau with soccer tournaments, Mme ‘Masekila with overnight church for Easter, and Thabo and I catching up with friends and family—we spent our evenings together laughing, talking, and watching James Bond movies (Thankfully, we have finally made it to the 90s, I prefer Pierce Brosnan to the earlier Bonds).

Although I mourned when Abuti Thabo left school to go to work in South Africa, I am even more proud of him now. He clearly takes pride in providing his family with much needed income. His income has even allowed Abuti Polau to commute to a better school, which has dramatically improved his English. Also, Abuti Thabo immediately enrolled in the mine’s educational program. He is a year from completing the program. This program will allow him to apply to any university in South Africa without having to do bridging courses. South African universities require Lesotho students holding the Form E certificate to do additional bridging coursework before they can even apply, so he is actually ending up better than he would have had he written his exams last October.

Construction and Growth
Abuti Sama's house is two small steps
from completion and looking great!
Walking through the village highlighted a million minor changes. Some of my favorite infants transitioned into children. Paths changed as a result of the summer rains. Houses that had begun being built before I left are closer to completion; others sprung up where previously there had been empty land.

As my reunion weekend drew to a close, I found myself struggling once again to say goodbye. Although it was a bit easier than when I departed in November, it was still surprisingly difficult. Abuti Thabo and I traveled to Maputsoe together, allowing us to put off the impossible inevitability. As I said each and every difficult goodbye, I promised I would see the person again; reminding myself how grateful I am to still be in Lesotho and how much more challenging this will be when I finally depart this incredible place. 

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