I just spent a couple hours outside in the morning sun (natura tanning) sweeping my massive driveway. And yes, I said sweeping and I said massive.
If you've been following my blog you know that i have a minor obsession with my yard. The first thing I noticed when i arrived in Botswana was everyone else's obsession with their yards. Every morning, it is the eldest daughter's duty to sweep the entire compound with a straw broom. (Traditional brooms here have no handles, so women are bent over double doing this, sometimes with a child on her back. Ouch). So, I made it one of my 2 year goals to maintain my own yard, as a gesture of integration. It's good for the body, good for the spirit, and, as an added bonus, not attractive to the little ones. Though oddly, whenever Botswana men find me doing yardwork, they tend to think that I'm open for "hitting on." I think that visions of domestic bliss dance through their heads.
So far, it's worked pretty well. I've met many people by spending time outside sweeping and weeding. I've gotten a lot of comments (my favorite being, "you're not afraid to work hard!") including one this morning from a guy who taught me the setswana word for sweeping the yard. I dutifully repeated the word and promptly forgot it. Nodded and smiled, and continued my sweeping. I think it started with a "T..."
It took hours and I think I disturbed a beetle nest, as around 30 large (about 1") yellow reddish cockroach-like beetles swarmed my broom at some point. But, despite the inevitable temptation to think of this work as a little bit pointless (C'mon, sweeping Sand? in a Desert?!), I persevered as part of my new "healthy body healthy mind" Peace Corps attitude. (Plus, I had a brownie this morning and felt like earning some extra calorie-burning points.) I felt like a cross between a batswana housewife and Will Smith's son from the Karate Kid. Wax on, wax off. I did Tai Chi with my broom. Sweep Sweep Swoosh Swoosh. I was Avatar, the last wind bender. I was Poe, the Panda. I was Jackie Chan in his younger films when he was the Tom Cruise of Asian Actors (before white people turned him into a cartoon character). I evicted plants, thorns, dust, and dirt from my yard with a single blow from my fearless broom. Kachow.
Sweeping Time is definitely a good time to think about life. It's almost like a meditation (except it can be slightly painful if you're not paying attention because of all the spikey plants). Not claiming that sweeping leads to enlightenment, but after watching the entire Avatar Series and Kung Fu Panda this week, and having a bit of a confrontation with some of my inner demons, I began to think a little about my family's heritage, my own cultural identity and psychology. Peace Corps service definitely shits on your image of yourself. It takes all of your insecurities and, in 2 years, tweezes out each thread of pain in your life and wrings it like a wet towel. I'm not sure if I'll come out of this a better person, whatever "better" means, but I'm pretty sure I'll come out alive. And much changed.
One definitive conclusion I came to today, those who hard on themselves are often hard on others.