So many times on this blog and in conversations with other PCVs and people at home I mention small moments. These are the silver linings next to poverty, HIV, failing students and other problems beyond me. These are times that keep me from calling PC to declare early intention. These small moments that will ultimately define my service.
At 2:30 p.m., I’d been traveling for close to 24 hours with still the long ride back to my village. I just said goodbye to yet another member of my group who has decided to end her service early (I do completely respect her decision and am happy for her). My foot still hurt from an encounter with glass, my sun-red skin prevented from me from moving and my bag was so heavy with groceries which I spent too much on that I could barely lift it. The taxi was far from full and all I wanted was to be at home in my bed.
To escape the heat, I found a shady curb in the rank not too far from my taxi. Men with long tack boards of sunglasses and earrings and vendors of plastic bags of peach and guava ice drink dodged around me while women with babies tied to their backs with blankets hustled by to find their transport. Some looked at me, but others were caught in the A to B.
“’M’e’ Keneuoe,” a small, but familiar voice said. It was Rethobolie, the daughter of the pastor in my village, and, although only 11 and in primary school, she speaks better English than many of my students seven years. Her father once told me that she “is very clever,” which means intelligent in Basotho English.
She plopped down next to me and showed me the white chocolate bar she just purchased along with two candy suckers for her younger sisters. As she broke off a piece for herself and me, she told me that she was on her way back to the village after visiting her grandmother’s house in the northern district. I then lifted up my skirt to show her my sunburn, which made her cringe.
With another piece of chocolate she told me about school. She attends school in Maseru, which explains her good English, and that she was excited for the upcoming year. She is now in Standard 7 and will have to take the national exam before promotion to secondary school so she plans to take winter classes in preparation for the test. The trip to her grandmother’s was for uniform money and new school shoes. She was very excited about her Grasshopper shoes, black soft-sole shoes that are equivalent to Nikes when I was her age, although they look like something my Grandma Grenz wore after her stroke.
Rethobolie then paused our conversation to buy an orange drink, which she also shared with me, and she told me that that day she had run into her dear friend at the grocery store. She talked about her friend and I imagined they would be the pair of schoolgirls to have BFF necklaces if such a thing was available to them.
The bus started to move so we both took our seats. It was a hot ride home, full on interesting smells, and I was so relieved to crawl into my bed.
When I looked back on the day, however, all I could think about was Rethobolie and that 10 minutes we had together. They were nothing special, maybe unworthy of a blog post, but that time with her was so precious to me. She made me smile on a rough day and at the same time gave me a new memory to store away when these small moments are gone. Mostly, she let me know that I have a friend when I needed it the most.