Ramabanta

Cannot access my email, but at least I could reach the blog (after half an hour of trying). Ramabanta is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places on earth. It RAINED, which made everyone ecstatic.

Made these notes in my journal on the morning of Oct. 22: Every moment the light shifts and something new appears: a gash of ochre sandstone, a stone house with a thatched roof, a stream of sheep like a sudden white river, a hillock, a stand of trees. Something is momentarily illumined and then falls back into shadow. Doves, crows, weaver birds coo and chatter, their sounds echoing against rock. Cowbells. Roosters. Chickens. Children shouting, laughing. Human voices in call-and-response. Smells of woodsmoke, of dust, of cow manure and a sudden breeze of jasmine. But always the migrating light, making everything change.

Life rocks on on the rhythms of hundreds of years ago with two odd adjustments: Crocs and cell phones. Otherwise, boys in blankets heft sacks of meal onto donkeys. Women with babies on their backs carry bins of cabbages or vats of water on their heads. Always the labor, unending.

If you live at the edge of survival and you have been hungry all your life except when you stuff yourself so full of food that you hurt (because it might not come again)–if you live at this edge, and everyone in your family, everyone you love, everyone you know, lives at this edge; and you encounter someone who has what seems to you to an endless supply of food or the money to buy food, who will give it to you if you find the right way to ask for it, then how can you ever think of anything but finding the right words so that you get some of what that person has?

That preoccupation enters into every dealing between the people in the mountains and those who have the privilege of visiting as “tourists.” How can it not? The children try a naive and direct approach: “Give me money. Give me sweets. Sweets!” Their elders try a more nuanced approach: “M’e, I have a son…I have a sister…I have many problems, M’e, and if you could just give me school fees for this one…money to take that one to the hospital…a little bit of change….”

One surprising break from that rhythm: a woman who works as a cook and cleaner at the Lodge in Ramabanta, a small, solid, smiling woman, asked me at breakfast, “You are known as Limakatso, and you come from America?” Yes. “I wonder–I wonder if you have ever heard of a book by a Mosotho woman called Singing Away the Hunger ?” Yes, I said, I am the Limakatso who worked with M’e Mpho on that book.

She clapped her hands. “Hai! Hai! Hai! M’e, it is you?” Yes. “I love this book. I have read this book, M’e.”

In Sesotho I ask her, “Is it true? Can you read in English? And have you found this book?”

“Yes, M’e. I learned to read English, and I found this book in the gift shop of this very lodge right here, and I asked can I borrow this book, and they let me. And M’e, I can tell you, I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is my first time to see a story of a person who is like me. In a book. It is a miracle really.”

It was my turn to cry. The book has found the reader M’e Mpho and I dreamed it might find. She is M’e Keneuoe Makakole.  I took a picture of her, and I wept. I thanked her. She thanked me. She even wiped away a few tears.

And then Chris and I returned to Roma, and I taught his class this morning, and six students had the courage to bring forward the poems I had asked them to write–about themselves, about what they love, about what Lesotho means to them, the images, the memories, the stories. And their classmates applauded and praised them. And it has been a very good couple of days.

My apologies that I cannot answer email. I cannot respond to comments. But here I am, with this update. I leave Lesotho Oct. 28 and will return to the USA by late on Oct. 29 Pacific Time. I will write more then. There is so much more to say.

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About Kendall

Aging drama queen (former professor of theatre) writes, takes pictures, and messes about.
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7 Responses to Ramabanta

  1. Ramabanta. That’s a place, I shoud think, not over-run by tourists! Fascinating to follow your travels with the miraculous aid of google-earth, and I hope to hear more when you’re restored to technical efficiency

  2. suenosdeuomi says:

    You have come full circle with the meeting of the reader of your book, you did it, accomplished what you set out, congratulations! Tears are in the corner of my eyes.

  3. leiflife says:

    It is so good to hear you in your rapturous expression, singing your joy over recent experience. Ramabanta! You took us right there, let us see through your eyes. Thank you. And how wonderful to find the woman who had been reached and touched by SINGING AWAY THE HUNGER! I am glad for you in your fulfillment – in your tears – in your joy.

  4. John Guarino says:

    That got to me too.

  5. chaiselongue says:

    This is a wonderful post – first your word pictures of the place, so that there’s no need to upload photos because it’s all there in your writing, and then the heartening, moving story of meeting the reader of M’e Mpho’s book…. magical.

  6. Pat Hathaway says:

    I can only agree with what others have already said. Your writing is so compelling, such a fine mix of observation and emotion, solidly in place and also widening into the world. Finding the reader must have been a joy like no other, so that in one sense you accomplished exactly what you wanted. That one reader for whom you were writing. And to think–you’ll be home today! Sleep, my friend, rest up, and then tell us more.

  7. Keith says:

    As others have already stated, I feel as though I have been to Lesotho, so vividly do you describe the place and your experiences there. I was on the edge of my seat (metaphorically) until you returned from the seaside. Now, I have been treated to a trip to Ramabanta. How lucky I am! And how lucky you were to have found that woman who read your book. For me, and probably for many others, the creative process is primarily about communication and “connecting” with people; and it sounds like you really connected with M’e Keneuoe Makakole, both in your writing and in person. Bravo !!!

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