Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Family Affair

I'm back-tracking now to relive my aunties wedding on August 18, 2012. My auntie is named Kolobetso, but people tend to call her Kolo (sounds like  co-low). She was getting married to Moremi, the father of her youngest daughter.

Since my arrival in June, the family had been preparing for the wedding and I got to take part in all of the wedding planning festivities. Trust me when I tell you that weddings in Botswana are a much bigger ordeal than in the United States! It's an entire family affair.

Extended family and friends began arriving in Kang on Thursday and everyone's hands were busy working on one task or another to prepare for the big event on Saturday. Our yard was overflowing new faces, but despite the unfamiliarity, almost everyone was sporting a giant smile and cheerful spirit. I could feel the energy, love, and anticipation building around the ceremony to unite two people in holy matrimony. And can you imagine? People will sleep in the same houses, all in a row, just to stay together as family. I offered my house for people to stay - and still, the idea of cramming people like sardines into sleeping spaces on the floor sounds a bit more ideal. I couldn't argue with the sentimental value behind that…

On Friday morning, two of my Peace Corps volunteer friends arrived to soak in the cultural experience. Along with the rising sun, all the elders met at 6:00 am to have the lebola negotiations. Lebola is known as the bride price and it is usually set around 8 cows, depending on the families. Only married people are allowed to attend the negotiations, and both families will discuss the lebola and who will be receiving cows. I loved seeing the cows outside my yard - and of course, I love them as a vegetarian- and it made me sad they made the long journey to come to my village just for the elders to decide who eats them. Poor things… they had no idea!

Around 9:00, we all headed over to the kgotla (think town hall, but this is where the chief holds meetings) where we were to witness the exchange of rings and signing the marriage contract. Most of this meeting was in Setswana, but I managed to have people translate bits and pieces for me. They also take a vow in front of the kgosi (the village chief) and the remainder of the day is dedicated to preparing all of the last minute things for the ceremony on Saturday.

Everyone woke up bright and early on Saturday to begin cooking and decorating the wedding tent. It is customary for weddings to be held at the place of residence for the bride, and on a separate weekend, it will be held at the place of residence for the groom. These ceremonies occur in their home villages (or home towns) so that loved ones can participate in the ceremony. Wherever the ceremony occurs, a tent is used to hold guests and they can make any tent look quite fancy! Take a look…

As mentioned in a previous post (see Tying the Knot), the wedding party changes their attire several times throughout the ceremony. I still don't understand the importance behind this - because it is very costly- but nonetheless, my home ended up being the dressing room for the wedding party. I had men and women flooding in and out of my house changing, applying make-up, and looking in the mirror. Yes! You look great :o) Everyone is very proud of how well they are dressed on the day of the wedding.

My family had me fitted for a traditional Tswana dress, and oh my goodness gracious, I can't even tell you how excited people in the community were when they saw the lekgoa (foreigner) wearing their typical attire! The tailor didn't finish my dress until the evening of the wedding, but people were still very happy to see the dress make an appearance the day of the wedding. I really love my dress … and the best part? Built in shoulder pads. The 80's live on in Botswana!

The day was a complete success - the bride & groom were captivating, my friends were thoroughly entertained, and I was reminded, yet again, of the beautiful village I am living in. The hearts of the people in this family are overflowing with kindness.

As I'm writing this post, my two sisters are looking over my shoulder to read about our stories. Our lives are becoming so beautifully intertwined - and just as Kolobetso & Moremi had a wedding to celebrate their love - I find myself celebrating my love for the people in my community each and every day.  

Love & Light, 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Home is Where the Heart is

After spending eleven days in Gaborone (the capitol) for In-Service Training (IST), I couldn't have been any happier to get off the bus and step foot in familiar territory. Gabs seems like a BIG CITY to me now in comparison to where I have been living. It isn't even a large city by American standards, but it's funny how much my perspective has changed after living out in the middle of nowhere. The bustling khombis, shopping malls, and unfriendly people overwhelmed me and left me missing home.

Of course, it was incredible to catch up and spend time with my fellow Peace Corps volunteers  at IST, but I was so delighted to see my village at the end of it all. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fully describe my "roller-coaster" ride with the Peace Corps (and really, a roller-coaster sounds too fun and light-hearted to truly capture everything). IST brought light to many different issues in Botswana - ones that I won't go into detail about now - and it left me with a whirl wind of emotions.

Am I here at the right time in my life? Can I truly make a meaningful impact in my service? Am I working as hard as I could be to implement community projects? Does anyone appreciate what I'm giving up in order to be here? And on and on and on and on….
You get the idea.

With all the thoughts floating around in my head on my six hour journey back home, I was positive that I was going to start losing my mind. Or my patience.

As I got off the bus and hauled all my bags along the sandy path, I was greeted by laughing children running to me with open arms. And my smiling grandmother. And my purring kitty-cat. And mail from loved ones back in the states.  And a beautiful African sunset.

It's an incredibly relieving feeling to be sleeping in my own bed again, greeting people in the streets by their first names, and walking everywhere I need to go. I missed my peaceful life without electricity and somehow I wasn't angered by yet another water shortage upon my arrival. I'm happy to be boiling my water again for my baths & I enjoy hearing people speak Sekgalagadi all throughout the village.

Although Kang is  rural, in the middle of the Kgalagadi desert, and isolated from many resources… I can't think of anywhere else in Botswana I'd rather be. Of course, other Peace Corps volunteers see exotic wildlife in their backyards - but I wouldn't trade my donkeys and chickens for any other village. The people in my community make all the difference in the world and their friendship and hospitality have created a large support network for me here.

And as they say, home is where the heart is… and my heart is truly in Kang, Botswana.

It's so good to be home <3

Love & Light,