Visiting students

On Sunday afternoons I walk to the community library in Nazareth to meet with an English study group. The group was formed when a few parents in the Nazareth approached my friend Mohau about offering their children some additional instruction in addition to their class work.

When it comes time each week to walk the hour to Nazareth, I tend to dread the group and wish I wouldn’t have committed a chunk of my precious weekend time. However, when I get there, I usually enjoy working with the students, as these are ones who truly enjoy English and want to get better at the language. As most teachers know, you often don’t see that in high concentrations in day-to-day classes.

For some time, one of the students has continually invited me to visit her house. Although I do end up having a pleasing time with students, I am eager to get home for my weekly chat with my parents. Finally, this Sunday, I agreed to go.

After class, she waited at the door for me, with a big smile. She led me through a series of worn paths to her house, which wasn’t far and near the village clinic. Along the way, she told me about her parents, both alive, and her siblings, both younger and in class 1 of secondary school and preschool.

When we arrived, she told me to sit down while she called her mother in the adjoining room. The house seemed to be only those two rooms, but, in true Basotho fashion, well cared for. I sat in the living/dining room. I waited at the kitchen table in the center of the small room, with a glass cupboard of dishes, radio and television. Another cupboard sat opposite it with a table against one wall. Several pots sat on top of and below the table and, when my students returned to the room, she began pulling a few out and slopping their contents on to a plate that she sat in front of me. White rice served with a carrot and tomato sauce and a carrot salad on the side. She dished a bowl for herself and then her mother.

Because I had already been briefed, I greeted her mother using her name and then explained as much as I could about myself. We both agreed that we were happy to know one another. The father came in and then remarked he had seen me running earlier.

Sometimes the hardest part of these situations is the awkward silence. Both parties are terrified of the language gap and so you keep quiet, wondering when it would be appropriate to leave. After I shoved my unfinished plate away, declaring that I was peacefully full, it wasn’t long before my student walked me to the road so I could return home.

Some volunteers are great about embracing these experiences and manifesting them often. I am not one of them. I have a tendency to close myself off sometimes, hiding in my world of memoirs, This American Life and indie music. There are more times, which seem to be more frequent as I realize how limited my time in Lesotho is, I allow myself to be vulnerable to this place. I show my face and, although I am still met with some of the daily annoyances, I find gratitude and love. I make the memories that will be the ones I tell my grandchildren. I find the fondness for this place that will light up my face when I speak of my two years in Lesotho. I find whatever it is that I came here searching for. n

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