It seems as if something about me has changed, almost overnight. I say this because, after months of walking the same paths and standing at the same bus stops and being ignored, laughed at, or harassed (one extreme or the other), today I finally engaged in my first positive and congenial conversations with people that could potentially become friends. Yes, multiple conversations and multiple people.
I could tell that I was greeting people with a little more fervor than usual (in part because I'm happier since things are starting to improve and, in part, because I was on my way to a meeting at the Red Cross in Moshupa that I was very excited about, but mostly because I had just consumed a copious amount of coffee). I recited the customary greetings but, this morning, I took the bait and engaged in continued conversation until I had all but exhausted my usable Setswana. In doing so, I met a handful of really wonderful people, including a man from Kanye (where I did training) who stays in Kumakwane (my village) that used to host Peace Corps Volunteers when PC first returned to Botswana a decade ago. With each person I met (at the bus stops, on my walks, and at the meeting), I could feel a weight lifting off of me and a glimmer of hope that I may actually make friends here. These individuals were engaging, insightful, and extremely sociable.
We were cautioned over and over again during PST to be prudent when meeting people and not to befriend people haphazardly. To this point, I understood the warnings. Meeting people that are genuinely interested in you (and not requesting money or a date or personal belongings) is somewhat of a novelty. (Read: hadn't happened yet.) But today, for whatever reason (be it my change in demeanor or attitude or otherwise), I met a handful of people that showed bona fide character and that I can see myself befriending.
It may seem like a small victory but, to me, it's monumental. Smile on!