When my family isn’t harvesting their crops or cooking food in the house, they are often sitting on slick slab of concrete outside their upscale (comparably) home.
My host father rests his feet after a long day. My host mother joins him or busies herself with a bucket of soapy water and dirty garments. My sister cleans vegetables freshly picked from the garden that will be cooked for dinner. On hot days, my youngest sister fetches a cold, or cold to us, Coke from the nearby shop. They sit for hours, like I imagine Americans did on their porches before TVs, computers and impossible-to-disrupt schedules.
From this spot, down an incline from the compound’s entrance, they can watch the world go by. As villagers pass by to and from, they shout up greetings with laughter and smiles. The family is well known and well liked so many come for longer chats. Older women sit with my host mother while men chat endlessly with the man of the house. Children love to hang out here and never fuss when asked to run to the shop for sugar or carry branches to the rubbish area. Visitors occasionally grab fruit off their apple and peach trees. Some will even hand over a cell phone and charger and, without fee and understanding their economic dominance over others, they will gladly power it up.
On weeknights, the front porching ends at 6:30 p.m. for Rhythm City, a South African soap opera conducted in mixed Sesotho and English. I hop over for the show and the usually return to my house to cook, read or whatever else I think needs to happen that night. They return to the porch for more chatting until it is too dark and their empty stomachs are too loud.
Some nights, especially in the summer, I join them and take in the sights for myself. I don’t understand the back and forth phrases, but I appreciate the neighborly interaction. I turn toward the west, which over looks a river valley, and marvel at the sky of pinks and oranges as the sun says its nightly goodbye. The moon, when it is clear, pops up and greets us. The crickets begin their anthem and the cool air rewards us after a day of unforgiving blaze.
It’s as if I never truly appreciated a summer night.
In these moments, the world feels simple and just. I don’t need to prove anything or make decisions, I can just be. These are the moments I craved for when I could barely get out of bed to face another busy schedule and set of disappointments. When my mind wanders, as it so often does, I force it back here to cherish this one minute of purity.
It’s in these moments that I truly understand how blessed I am.