my bipedal bros

 

The Gang.

The Gang.

Donning bandanas and leather fringe jackets, we mount our trusty Harleys, toss back our ZZ Top beards, and fly towards the next diner (thinking about the girl from yesterday but always keeping one town ahead of the fuzz). This is exactly what I experience on a daily basis – if you change everything about it. Trade in the bandanas for baseball caps, the leather jackets for threadbare school sweaters, the Harleys for legs, and you’ve got it. I’m part of a group, a throng, a bipedal gang if you will. My crew and I have two 45-minute meetings every weekday and we’re flawlessly successful at keeping things moving and reaching our destination. No road rash or bad rap with the police here, naw; we’re just a bunch of kids walking to and from school in a village.

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Eighteen months ago, when I was just beginning to find my way, both figuratively in my service and literally on the path to school, I remember spying learners timidly hiding behind trees and rocks nearby, curious about my presence but not yet bold enough to walk in the unobstructed ground around me. As with everything Peace Corps (and most

Exploring with my bros, this walk took us high up the mountain.

Exploring with my bros, this walk took us high up the mountain.

things in life worth earning), Time is a necessary constituent, slowly coaxing and shaping something into a success – not so fast that it collapses unsupported, but at just the right pace to make it self-sufficient. About 12 months into my time in the village, I wrote about how comfortable my crew had become: shifting their schedules to walk with me, practicing English, teasing and joking, playing and dancing. Obviously, since I’m writing about it yet again today, you can glean that these walks have become a chapter of my service that really hits home. Actively or just as an observer, I am a part of the learners’ laughter (usually as a source of entertainment), fighting (usually being used as a human shield), and comfort (usually when Thabiso is tired or anxious, he’ll slip his little hand into mine). Though these bi-daily treks have allowed me to witness children growing taller, becoming more confident in English, and developing both socially and within the inevitable clutches of puberty, I’ve begun to notice how these walks are also changing me.

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Though I do have the Peace Corps-issued bicycle, I rarely ride to school anymore. While cycling does provide me exercise and a shorter commute (despite a longer distance on the

When I used to cycle to school & if our timing matched, these cuties would sometimes run alongside me.

When I used to cycle to school & if our timing matched, these cuties would sometimes run alongside me.

actual road), it greatly reduces my ability to commune with people and nature. It’s rewarding to use the form of transport our bodies are designed for ever since we evolved from waterlogged amoebas. I’m starting to leave home earlier in the morning so that I can take my time walking to school, treating the activity less as a fast-paced means to an end but more as an end itself – something of purpose and consequence. These walks have taught me patience and intention. No longer do I gently nudge Thabiso

How could you not stop and smell the roses with these two?

How could you not stop and smell the roses with these two?

home at a pace I alone find agreeable but rather I copy him in his naïve, innocent ways – stopping to watch the orderly tasks of ants, playing hide-and-seek in the tall grasses, trying to find a new way home, or taking a rest under one of the shadowy mimosas. Time spent on the path, as well as in the village community, has altered and fine-tuned my senses quite a bit. It’s been a shock to realise how dulled they had become from my previous lifestyle and I’m compiling a list of examples to share in an upcoming post. In my current stages of both life and service, though it’s sometimes quite aggravating, I’m trying to live more parts of my day with intent – and the past few weeks that practice has revealed itself through my two little white feet.

Lower primary kiddos helping pump the bore hole before school.

Lower primary kiddos helping pump the bore hole before school.

Below are just a fraction of some experiences I had this past term of school and in the community. Some fantastic, some scarring, but, in the end, all experiences:

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Two of the bros relaxing in the yard.

Two of the bros relaxing in the yard.

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  • Having truly substantial, English-dominated conversations with Zweli (now 15 and in grade 7)

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  • Becoming a bit more maternal with the toddler and children at my house; praising and feeding them when need be or feeling comfortable enough to discipline them myself versus handing the problem over to Mama
  • Hearing a learner being hit, cry out, and then the teacher forcing the class to laugh at him
  • Over a looong time, finally earning the trust of a school cook enough that she’ll hold eye contact and joke around with me (I think she first had to allow herself to eliminate fear of me and to bring me down off the historically-induced pedestal – a small but significant example of progress in the race issues here)
  • On a walk home, seeing a learner eat clumps of dirt to have something in her stomach
  • Enjoying the company of my little grade 1 neighbour, Siyanda, who has recently become quite intrigued in me
  • Picking, washing, cutting, cooking, and eating an eggplant with its dirt still on my fingers

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Just the top layer of an amazing package!

Just the top layer of an amazing package!

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  • Receiving amazing and thoughtful packages from family and friends (I promise this is not a sly plug for more, just a thank you!)

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Grade 7s discovering the joys of a pop-up book.

Grade 7s discovering the joys of a pop-up book.

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  • Spending time with all learners in my primary school inside the library, their classrooms, and the playground – and getting about 95% of the BFA books sorted, logged, and shelved!

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Term 2 has just begun so we’ll see where it goes! Until my next update, salani kahle – y’all stay well.

See you tomorrow, girls!

See you tomorrow, girls!

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