Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Ending and a Beginning

I was meaning to post a few light-humored words about the wild creatures that go bump in the night, but instead, I feel I have to interject with a quick and very heartening story that happened today.

Today, I was visited by my advisor from the PC, Lydia Webber. She made it out to my village to just check in and see how everyone was adjusting (myself as well as those I work and live with here in my village). Standard procedure for all new PCVs.

During her visit, she got a chance to speak with some co-workers of mine, one-on-one. I was Lydia’s last one-on-one. While we were chatting about life in my village (I really wish I could disclose the name of my village, but cannot on a public site for security reasons…), she mentioned to me something that someone else had just told her. She recounted a story of me that happened a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago, I attended a funeral for the aunt of a friend of mine. The whole community came (they come to every funeral to show their support and condolences). A typical funeral takes place on a Saturday morning (early morning), which starts at the family’s house, then the walking procession takes us to the cemetery for the burial. All of this starts around 5am and usually ends around 9 or 10 in the morning. At the burial, when it’s time to bury the casket, all of the adult men, dressed in their best suits and shoes, take turns shoveling the dirt back into the grave. It takes quite some time, even with three or four shovels and several men rotating when they tire. All this time, the women and standing men passionately sing song after song until the men are finished shoveling the last of the dirt. I had always watched this happen, being one of the standing men, humming along to the tunes I started becoming familiar with from the several funerals I had been to (I think the count is around 15-20 as a guess so far). This time, something felt different, and I lined up; when the opportunity arose, I stepped into the dirt pile and started shoveling.

After the funeral was over, the day went by and eventually the weeks did, too. I didn’t think much of it, really, since no one had approached me about it. Today, what this person told Lydia is that that particular moment was the turning point in my relationship with my village, where I showed the community that I accepted them and was a part of their community, and that they, too, accepted me into their community. I was told that that was the moment of my new relationship with the people I live with--picking up a shovel and participating with my hands and body to bury a fellow community member.

It wasn’t the morning greetings in the street on my walk to school. It wasn’t the tea that I made for guests to my house. It wasn’t my ability to speak Setswana. It was something that I thoughtlessly stepped into because it just seemed like the right moment. That’s pretty incredible to me. And very  humbling. I just wanted to share that with you. Salang Sentle—Stay Well

1 comment:

  1. Wow, thank you for sharing that Matson. My eyes are filled with tears. What a beautiful experience for you and what a wonderful experience to share with us. All my love to you.