11 June 2011

Basetsana Ba Me

Sorry for the hiatus.  Things suddenly got extremely busy, and then I went on holiday to South Africa.  I’ll be sure to post pictures from my trip in the near future.

Being in my village, alone, all weekend can be pretty lonely.  Especially when I know my fellow volunteers that live in large villages or cities have whole networks of people to hang out with, make dinner with, go get drinks with, etc.  My closest friends in my village are either teachers and thus leave every weekend to visit their families, or live kilometers outside of the village at their lands.  After one too many Friday nights alone crying, drinking hot tea, and watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on my laptop forcing myself to laugh, I realized that I did have people to hang out with – the boarders at my school.

Okay, okay, I know that a bunch of 14-year-olds who aren’t allowed to leave campus aren’t going to be my new BFFs.  But visiting the students on the weekends has considerably brightened my life.

When I go, after walking around and saying hello to the various kids playing football (soccer), watching cheesy kung-fu movies sans subtitles, and ironing their uniform in preparation for Monday, I like to hang out with four of my favorite girl students.

From left: Irish, Ofinah, me, Atlanang, Tshireletso

Of course you’re not supposed to play favorites, but I can’t help it.  These girls are extremely bright, friendly, fluent in English, and just dying for any kind of attention.  After years of begging my parents to have another kid, adopt, be foster parents, host a study abroad student, I now finally have “little sisters” that I can laugh with and mentor. 

The first weekend we met, we made friendship bracelets and painted our nails.  I swear, you would’ve thought I brought them to Six Flags with how huge the smiles on their faces were.  Immediately they started chatting (as teenage girls are wont to do) and I just sat back and listened.  In a culture that too often doesn’t allow for a childhood, it was nice to see the girls relaxing, forgetting their worries, and just being kids.

As I tied the bracelet on, I had them make a wish and told them
when the bracelet fell off, the wish would come true. They loved it.

As I said, these girls are boarders, which means at the age of 12 or 13 they moved away from their families and everything they knew to go live on their own and basically be their own parent.  They’ve talked to me about problems they have at school, at home, with family, and with friends.  It breaks my heart that I can’t do more than be an attentive ear and comforting hug to these girls. 

In the next few weekends before the second school term is over, I have a few fun things planned for the girls.  Among them are: writing letters to their “future selves” which I will keep and then mail to them when they graduate, using old magazines to make vision boards, and coloring and painting pictures to decorate their dorm rooms (which, btw, they share with 11 other girls).

It goes to show that I can’t judge my Peace Corps service (nor can anyone judge their livelihood) by the number of projects completed or number of individuals reached.  Oftentimes, for funding or promotions or accolades, we tend to measure success by numbers.  But it is truly in the connection between human beings that happiness and, ultimately, success is found.

This goes out to basetsana ba me, my girls.

1 comment:

  1. you're probably not reading the comments anymore...found your blog on Friday, I think, and have been going through your posts. I've made may comments, only in my mind, of course, but at times I just have to say something...

    Wow, thanks so much for being there for the little girls. I love soooo much your idea of letters to their future selves, especially that you will mail them to them...seriously, that is just so great. I wish someone had done that kind of thing for me. Your kindness to these kids and more will pay you back...