In one of my last classes before the Easter break I decided to use the 40-minute period as a culture exchange. I asked the students how Basotho celebrate Easter and the simple answer, well the only answer, was “church.”
I prodded for more information but, at 8 a.m., they weren’t in the mood. Or maybe they didn’t have the language to go beyond that. Either way, their side of the conversation stopped there.
So to explain a holiday that is the foundation of a very complex, disputed religion I started with the death on the cross and the rise of Christian. As devote Christians, most knew the story and shook their heads in understanding.
Then I moved on to the commercial side of Easter. I used the word “rabbit,” which they didn’t understand so I drew one on the black board. “Ahh,” they exclaimed at my creature with floppy years and a round belly. Not an exact replica, but good enough to move on. The little ones, I said making the Basotho hand gesture for young children (arm extended down with thumb pressed to the four fingers), believe that a rabbit – the Easter Bunny – will come to their house at night.
“Whaaa?” they said with puzzled looks.
“Yes. He. Comes. To. Their. House. At. Night. And. Leaves. Them. Eggs.” I said speaking in what we PCVs call box-talk, a very annunciated, slow English.
They stared at me with horror. But when you look at it the way they did, without the big fluffy bunny, pastel colors and Hallmark glam, a rabbit coming to your house in the middle of the night is pretty terrifying.
Their reactions softened when I explained these weren’t the normal mahe that you buy at the shop. They were special and filled with chocolate.
“Ooooooh,” they said in unison and smiled at one another. See, this Easter Bunny thing isn’t so creepy when chocolate is involved, right?
I also broke down the ins and outs of a proper Easter Egg hunt. They really liked the idea of sweets scattered in the grass and the death fight that comes when trying to collect as much as you can.
My students were never more engaged in a lesson. They love learning about the crazy practices of Americans. To them, the toughest thing to swallow was that not everyone celebrates Easter because not all believe in Jesus Christ as the savior. I poorly introduced them to Islam, Buddhism and Judaism and they shook their heads in disbelief when I described atheism.
To finish the lesson I asked them to journal about their favorite Basotho tradition, which may appear strange to the outsider. I am not sure I will ever understand the belief in witchcraft or what really happens at initiation schools (I’ll blog about these things later). And, with just five months country, some things are no longer unusual too me. The other day I tweeted about posting a photo of some of my students in traditional dress, which exposes the breast, and one of my sweet followers reminded me that Facebook would take those photos down and there are legal implications for something like that in the U.S. That never occurred to me because it really isn’t a big deal here.
If you’ve ever read David Sedaris, this lesson was not unlike his essay, Jesus Shaves, where he describes discussing “the rabbit of Easter” and other culture practices of the holiday in simple nouns and verbs. The exchange is innocent and sweet, just like mine.
I love being able to share my culture and traditions with my students, especially when it encourages them to share theirs with me. It brings us closer together, building that bridge between cultures and creating a wider foundation of understanding. And, no matter how weird a rabbit visiting you in the middle of the night is, we share the joy of a savior risen and that is pretty special.