“O Mosotho,” is a phrase that fellow PCVs strive to hear throughout their entire service. “He/she is a Mosotho. They’re one of us.” Most of the time, all we hear is “lekhooa” or foreigner. Nothing puts a damper on your perceived level of integration than being called an outsider. However; this is a story of acceptance, affirmation, and welcome.
One day last month, I was taking my usual taxi back to my site. It was nothing out of the ordinary and I was blasting my ipod to suppress the Famu blaring out the khombi’s speakers. After living in my village for almost a year, almost everyone has gotten used to seeing me take a taxi to and from town. I no longer get harassed for money, sweets, or food. They know that I speak Sesotho and that I teach their kids. In fact, most of the time, I am greeted with smiles and the upmost level of respect by the village elders riding the taxis.
Every once in a while, however, there is a wise guy who tries to take advantage of me being a foreigner. This is exactly what happened on said taxi ride home. At first he tries to be all buddy buddy with me, shaking my hand, and is asking me where I’m from (completely in English). It is apparent that he believes that I don’t know any Sesotho and that I’m just some “lekhooa."
He starts asking me for money so that he can buy a few beers. When I refuse he starts getting smart. He begins berating me in Sesotho saying that I’m racist since I won’t give him beer money. I just ignore him as I do with every other person who asks me for things and continue listening to my music. He continues shouting, waving, spitting, and is just fishing for a reaction from me. And this is when the bo'me step in.
The women in this country are my absolute heroes. They have rescued me more times than I can remember and always shower me with kindness and compassion. Whenever a wise guy thinks he’s too tough, these women emasculate him and send him on his merry way. However; this time, something was different. I could understand the conversation that was happening behind me.
Long story short, this one ’m'e calls out the ntate and defends me and my cause here. While I couldn’t understand a few sentences, one thing was clear. "O Mosotho, o dula Ha Makotoko, o Teboho Theko, o mosotho.” He’s from Lesotho, he lives in Ha Makotoko, he’s Teboho Theko, he’s from Lesotho, he’s one of us.
It’s been one year since I arrived to this country. I never thought that with my pale skin and red hair, I could be seen as Mosotho. But according to my village, it doesn’t matter where I come, it matters where my heart is. And at this moment, my heart is in Metolong, Ha Makotoko, and Lesotho.