My favorite view of the village is from my pseudo front porch.
My family’s concession is on a slant, a gradual plunge from the main flat area to the valley. A thin walking path leads pedestrians from the shop to the well and along the way you come to our gate. There is a people entry and a cow entry, although the cows and goats are more likely to walk through the barbwire fence than walk through an unobstructed opening. To get to the houses – mine, my family’s and the one belonging to the herd boys that my ntate hires to care for the animals – you must walk down a grassy, sporadically rocky, hill. Once to my house you must step down twice on stairs made of cement and rock. Between the stairs and my door is a 4-foot by 6-foot slab of polished cement. My porch.
There is a wooden bench that reminds me of the workbenches my maternal grandfather, a skilled carpenter, had in his garage/workshop. Often, I align the bench to a wall, so my back is against the rondavel and my legs are extended out and pointing to the public. I grab a cup of some warm beverage and watch.
The herd boys, their house is to my left, heat up their morning meal over an open fire. They walk back and forth to the well or gardens and always stare and smile. I’ve lived here five months and they still can’t get over my circus appeal. We exchange greetings, but never know what to say to each other beyond that.
The walking path is the highway for busy children and women. They tow empty buckets in rusted wheel barrels to the well, or if it is a return trip, full buckets of water that shimmer in the morning sun on their heads. The women have blankets wrapped around their waists and do not need the extra support of a hand to keep the heavy object in place. They chat with each other in fast Sesotho, giggling at a joke that I long to understand. Or, if alone, they’ll sing for their own entertainment. Occasionally, they will yell down, “Lumela, Ausi Kennie.”
Sidenote: I am not sure if I mentioned this before but my Sesotho name is Kenneuoe (key-nay-way), which means gift. However, many in the village call me Kennie for short, which makes me think I resemble a character similar to the Comic Book Guy on “The Simpsons”. Sorry to any Kennys out there, you probably make a better Kenny than I do.
Depending on the day and the time, herd boys – which can also be herd men – start their journey to the fields. They expertly guide livestock, sometimes as many as fifty in one lot, through the village and avoid running over children or white girls out for a run. The animals tramp by, their bells, which they wear to alert owners of theft, knocking back and forth. They nibble grass along the way, which I find peculiar because they whole idea of taking them to the fields is to feed them. But then again, I pick at the meal before I actually eat too. They offer moos instead of hellos and sometimes I moo back.
My ‘me and bo-ausi walk past my line of sight as they wash, mop, sweep, pick produce out of the garden or do other chores that I don’t understand. It bothers my ‘me that I don’t wax my porch area or don’t sweep it as often as I should, but I don’t let her bother bother me.
The cats and dogs will come to visit me, mostly looking for food. I made the mistake of feeding them once and they keep coming back. The cats – who I lovingly named Dakota and Hassia for my home state and Niger – are the worst; they are very needy and beat me to the door when I arrive home from school. One in particular lingers near me whenever I am home and likes to rub his body along my legs. Sometimes it’s cute; sometimes it’s annoying. I don’t think I am cut out to be a cat lady because they neediness is irritating, which doesn’t bear well for my ability to mother humans.
Because of the position of my rondavel on the hill, I look up to view the world. It’s calming to watch the village happenings and listen to the Sesotho songs and soft musings of nature. Although these sounds on their own are loud, they come together softly. On a clear day, I take deep slow breaths as a physical attempt to take in all that is around me. I sip whatever is in my ceramic mug and think how this view ranks right up there with oceans, city skylines and mountains. It’s peaceful and reassuring. And, for the next 20 months, it’s home.