The novelty of this experience is starting to wear off – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed bucket baths and pit toilets and feeling like a celebrity walking down the street but I will appreciate when I can go back to living in my comfort zone of running water, separate bathroom/kitchen/living/bed rooms and having a touch more anonymity.
The most glaring thing about living the rural life that I’m completely over is coming home to an empty room almost every day. Not just the emptiness but knowing that most of my nights are spent completely alone. I took refuge in it at first – after the constant attention from people all day long, I relished being able to come home and get lost in a book or a movie. I still enjoy this immensely but a few weeks ago I had a moment of utter loneliness. I stood in the centre of my little room on a Thursday night and none of the typical evening options for entertainment were even slightly enticing. Even though I hang out with other volunteers a fair amount, talk to Jason regularly now, and I saw Leigh and others earlier that week (and got a nice night out at a lodge), I was alone at that moment and the months leading up to my COS (close of service) in September just seemed like it would take another lifetime to live through.
That feeling carried over into the next day, which was leap day. The whole day just had this weird haze to it, like it’s not actually supposed to exist so things just seemed off since the moment I woke up. By far the strangest thing was after running around doing work, I went to pick up some mending I had hired a woman to help me with. She is very sweet and has 4 beautiful kids, all who speak English very well, which is not something you find often in the village. I had a lot of bags but was going to walk home anyway when one of the kids said she would help me. Her name turned out to be Lebo, just like me, so we immediately bonded.
During our adventurous walk home, she proceeded to ask tons of questions like what is my favorite sport (mine: ultimate Frisbee but she didn’t exactly know what that was so I settled on rugby – hers: netball), favorite color (mine: purple – hers: yellow, it used to be purple but yellow was a much happier color), favorite pet (mine: dogs – hers: parrots), and why do white people have long hair and black people short hair (I told her black people must be smarter because it’s pretty silly to have such long hair when it’s so freakin’ hot). She also asked me who I stay with and if I stayed in a room by myself. I told her I stay with a family but have my own little house where I actually sleep, cook and do most things. Then out of the blue she asked if I was lonely. I didn’t see it coming and it surprised me that a little 10 year old girl from the village would hone in on that. I told her the truth that it was lonely but that I have friends in the village and my family was really great.
After we got to my house, she parked herself in my room and continued to talk my ear off while I busied myself putting things away. She played some games on my computer, Matome and Masilu came in and we watched CARS and she drew some pictures. After awhile she came with me to visit my other friends in the village. Finally, just before dark it was time to send my new little friend on her way home.
When I got home, I found that she had left drawings for me – a picture of each Lebo under a tree wearing her favorite color. Even though it was another evening by myself, I didn’t feel so sad. Maybe it was the constant chatter of English, maybe it was the friendship this little girl offered to me; either way, I didn’t feel so lonely that night.