I attended the funeral of the former village chief this morning. It put me in a very reflective mood. Botswana has an interesting and beautiful custom of allowing everyone to help fill in the their graves. Mostly men will take turns and fill in the grave until its properly covered, and then they will place the burial covering. It always is the most emotional part of the proceeding. As a proper rite of passage, it marks the end of liminality, and it is time to move on. My friend remarked as the men were diligently burying the casket, that every funeral she goes to reminds her of every other funeral she has ever been to, those of her sister, uncles, cousins. The list is long. Last time I was at a funeral was in February, for a good friend of mine from the village who passed away in a car accident. My mind flashed back to the various scenes of the week after his death and the vivid memory of his funeral came pulsating. I remember watching as friends and family took turns burying him. And I look intently at a familiar coworker as he carefully worked to bury the man who was his good friend. I worked with this colleague daily but had never seen so much love in him. And as I watched, I clutched onto the two girls that had become my friends during those first months in Nata. We held each other with no words to express the sadness we felt, just the look of understanding. We had never had so much in common as we had on that day. Nothing in my experience in Botswana seems as real as that funeral was. And while heartbreaking in its sadness, I have not ever felt so close to Batswana. I was bonded to the people in my community, to the people of Botswana. And that is beautiful and precious. I believe that through life’s challenges we have an opportunity to grow, as individuals and as a community.
As I look back at the past six months since that particular event, I see it as changing point in my service. I’m not sure if I can describe it… I feel comfortable and at home. While there are small things everyday that remind me that I am not from here, I still live here. And for the next ten months, it will continue to be my home.
My heart fills with gratitude as I think of the many opportunities I have had since being here and think of the good experiences and good people. And especially grateful to live outside of myself.