May 17th 2004
My time is coming to a close here in Lesotho. My contract is almost finished after nearly two years. It is a sad point in a way because now I am just getting used to the ways things are here and am getting really comfortable and it is basically time to go. That is the way it goes though. I am not planning on staying around but am definitely coming back. I am a little confused about a lot of things though. Now, at the almost end of a two year contract, I am basically signing myself up for two more years of school, if things go right. I am worried about how I am going to pay for this or that, what kind of job am I going to have to get, how do I get a car, and even if I do get to school, where am I going to live. Right now I am just trying to work out my plane ticket back to the states and worry about a lot of that later. I plan on being back around the mid July time.
There are many things that I would have wanted to do while in Africa that I have not done but maybe I shall try to go to do more of them. One of the things that I did just recently for the first time was go to a funeral.
I have to say that here in Africa people die a lot and that there are funerals every week. It is very possible that I could have gone to at least a couple funerals a month if I wanted but I was avoiding them in part because I had heard bad things about them. I had just gone to one before but it was for only a few minutes but this one I went to the whole thing and this is how it went.
Woke up at 6:30 AM because I was told the taxi would pick me up at 7:00 AM. (Most funerals are local so we would normally walk but this one was in a different city so I had to take a taxi) The taxi arrived at 7:30 AM. We drove for about 75 miles to get to our destination. It was about after about an hour and a half until we arrived of what amounted to some degree of punishment because the driver played traditional African music extremely loud which that early in the morning just makes it worse. From 9:00 to 10:30 we visited with others at the deceased’s home of residence, which was also now a stand by for a funeral parlor.
We then had a viewing of the coffin which here all coffins are enclosed in glass so it is kind of even more like the person is on display. By eleven we had the procession to the church. We were about two hundred in number by the time we arrived at the church at 11:30. We stood outside the church for fifteen minutes singing songs and then entered. For the next three hours I set in church and it was a pretty miserable experience. The trend seemed to be one person would get up and speak according to the program and then everyone in the church would sing two songs then another person would speak and all the people again would sing to songs. It seemed like a person from every aspect of this person’s life would get up and talk. One person could come from his family, another from his school as a kid, another from his village, then another from his work, then another that was his friend, then another from his church and so on. It was, like I said, a long drawn out process.
During said process people were constantly coming into the church and sitting down so that in the large church that we original two hundred people, the numbers eventually swelled to well over five hundred by my count. By 2:45 I was off to the burial, which was a relatively nice and short forty five minutes as compared to the previous three hours. After which all five hundred of us had the procession back to the house. It was there that four different food tents were set up and after standing in line for a while I had got my food by 3:30 PM. At 3:35 PM I was finished eating my meal. :-) I then got on the taxi and waited as we were missing a person and a search had to be sent for them. At 4:00 PM we were off. I was emotionally and physically tired for the ride home in which I phased in and out of sleep. At 6:00 PM I got home and thought about how to go to a funeral in America for someone I barely knew would not really ever take eleven hours but that is the way it works here. This is a story not just about funerals but portrays a classic example of why this is third world and not the first because not just funerals are handled in this manner but everything else is. What might take an hour in America will often times take a whole day or longer here.
I am enclosing a picture of me and one of my friends sitting on the doorstep of my house.
Paradox, proactiveness, and positive thoughts, Jeff