July 5, 2010

Show Me How Pretty the World Is

Ok, so apparently I’ve shifted from puns to semi-obscure song references for my blog titles…I guess puns are just no longer what I require; what can I say—it moves me, it soothes me, it fills my heart and soul when I groove to rock and roll.  (Awesome Botswana post card for the first person who knows all three of those references.  They were pretty easy if you know my musical tastes at all.  Yes, I have succumbed to bribery to induce comments.  So if you want a post card, the time is now.  You’ve gotta, stand up, stand up.  Use your voice speak out.  Ok, that’s four references.  But, seriously, really easy.)

Anyway, I digress.  (Wow, junior high writer’s club flashback!  Ok, seriously, WILL get on topic now.)  Tonight was a rather monumental night in my Peace Corps experience—I made my first Motswana friend.  To be clear, I have had the pleasure of meeting many, many Batswana, including my work colleagues, all of whom have been incredibly kind and whom I most certainly do consider friends.  But, as I have referenced earlier, the Batswana are a welcoming, inclusive people, so the American role of acquaintance doesn’t really exist here—most people who would fall under that category in America take on the role of friend here. 

But last night, for the first time since I have been here, I felt the sort of connection or bond that is more consistent with my American idea of friendship.  My new friend and I had been planning on going out for a while, but because of conflicting work schedules, we weren’t able to make it happen.  And I’ll admit that last Friday night, she wanted to take me out, and I could have gone, but wussed out.  She told me she wanted to take me to the Pontoon, where she and her friends go in the evenings.  Because I didn’t know her well (as I have mentioned before, people here meet up after merely exchanging greetings), I asked her what the Pontoon was, and she wasn’t really able to explain, so I got a little nervous.  One of the large issues in my community is alcoholism and underage drinking, and because my role as a Peace Corps Volunteer requires me to live by example, I am committed to not visit any of the bars or be seen intoxicated in my community (word travels FAST here, and it is a small town, so everyone knows everyone’s business, especially the white American who sticks out like a sore thumb), so I was concerned that she might be trying to take me somewhere I did not want to go.  But she sensed my nervousness, and later sent me a text letting me know that the Pontoon is just a boat that goes across the delta and back—something that is actually right up my alley. 

So, last night, we met up, and she took me to the river, we took the pontoon, walked around, and talked.  But it wasn’t superficial talk, or talk dominated by cultural exchange—it was legitimate, substantive talk.  And GOOD talk.  You know when you have a conversation with someone, and you have those moments where you really click—“ohmygosh, you do that too?!!!?!” kind of moments?  We had those—a lot of them.  First we bonded over customer service woes (she is a cashier at a grocery store, and as most of you know, I cashiered at Whole Foods for a year), then favorite childhood books (Babysitters Club and Gooesbumps, anyone?), then more broadly about life, boys, music, goals, hobbies, clothes...  She loves nature, as do I, and the part of town she showed me was so beautiful, right on the water, but slightly elevated, so you can actually see quite far; where the birds swoop down from the palm trees, a quiet spot, where she said she often goes to think or get space (and I think I will now be taking advantage of, too.)  She is a bit younger than I, but reminds me a lot of myself a few years ago.  Clearly there are cultural barriers, and there is always a certain amount of awkwardness as a result of differences in communication styles.  But overall, it was amazing.

And just like that, I have a friend.  And suddenly the world feels a lot smaller.  And a little prettier, too.

P.S.  For those of you who do get the title song reference, I am well aware that the song as a whole has nothing to do with the blog, I just like the phrasing of that line.  And that’s just how I roll.

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