Just doing some @grassrootsoccer and @pcskillz HIV limbo to teach kids the risk of having older sexual partners #GrassrootSoccer #HIV #AIDS
When I first applied to be a PCV, my recruiters, PCV friends, and just about everyone I talked to, told me not to have ANY expectations for my service.
So of course I couldn’t help but have a plethora of things to expect from my lack of amenities, to my site, or even my actual job. One thing I completely blanked on was my host family.
Growing up, I had a fairly rocky relationship with my family back in the states. Just like anyone, there were times when I would be absolutely embarrassed by my parents out in public. And I had the occasional outburst with my brothers. But over the years, and especially during college, I would find myself growing to love all the weirdness that seemed to encompass my family. Before I hopped on that plane to head to staging, I never thought that I would tear up saying my goodbyes. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.
As I gave my mother one last hug, I broke down. To fully grasp the reality that I would not be able to hug my family, to grab lunch with them, to eat my mother’s fantastic home-cooked meals, to binge watch House of Cards with them, or to be face to face with them for an entire 27 months, made everything real. This was the moment my mother was dreading when I first told her two years before that I wanted to apply for Peace Corps. And with that I said my goodbyes and turned away to leave my family for 27 months.
Fast forward to Lesotho
As I arrived into my training village, I was bombard by my new host mother where I would be smothered with love for the next 10 weeks. I was her son and she made everyone in the village know it. I had heard about overbearing mothers, but man oh man; I was not prepared in the slightest. I quickly discovered that in Basotho culture, if a mother yells at her son, it’s a form of endearment. Just like with my folks back in the states, I eventually warmed up to ‘M’e Matumo’s signs of affections. And after the end of the 11 weeks of PST, as I said my goodbye, ‘M’e Matumo told me I would always be Tumo Temahane. I would also be her son.
It’s weird to think that in the short of amount of time that I had spent in Ha Mabekenyane, I had grown and learned so much about myself, Basotho culture, the Sesotho language, and all the life lessons my ‘m’e had taught me. I will always look back on those moments spent drinking a beer watching the Orlando pirates, cooking papa and moroho, late night Sesotho lessons, or our nightly routine of walking to my door and hugging her goodnight.
It’s even weirder to think that I’ve already been living in Ha Mokotoko for almost double the amount of time I spent in my training village. My current host mother is the most relaxed, gentle soul, you would ever meet. Yet when she is working during the day, get out of the way! This woman will be up before the sun rises and will be out in the fields, feeding the chickens, donkey, and bull. She’ll be collecting firewood to have enough fire to boil water for the daily activities. She’ll be sweeping, moping, cleaning until the cows come home (literally)! And she too has taught me things I will never forget. She’ll always be the one who taught me to slaughter chickens, how to plant a thriving garden, how to herd the bull without getting run over, how to bua Sesotho hantle (speak Sesotho well), and how to gain the confidence to go into my community and do my best to integrate.
She always jokes that I am the son she never had. Back in the states, I never had a sister. Now in Lesotho, I have four. Along with my sisters, I have a multitude of nieces, nephews, more cousins than I can count or remember their names. For the next 19 months, to my family, I’ll be known as Teboho Theko, I’ll be known as Uncle T, and they will always be known as lelapa la ka.
When I left America, I only had one family. When I leave Lesotho, I will leave with three.
Just another story in the life of PCV.