Over the holidays, I had the good fortune of hosting Hanukkah for a number of my friends here. People began coming in around the 22nd and continued to arrive throughout the week. As was the usual in Kumakwane, my Kums Kids came a-knockin' and were particularly excited to meet, greet, and play with other Peace Corps Volunteers. My little Bokena and Bofelo were a regular fixture whenever we were sitting around the house.
On that particular Saturday, however, everything changed. Why? Because sitting on my couch was my dear friend Clayton, who just so happened to have grown up in a deaf community and had also studied speech and hearing sciences in college. After explaining to Clayton (and the rest of my visitors) that Bofelo is deaf, Clayton decided to try and "talk" to Bofelo, realizing that sign language in Botswana was probably different than American Sign Language. After some time, Clayton called me outside to "show me something". I came around the corner and the two of them were giving me the "I love you" sign! It turns out that ASL and Setswana Sign are not that different and Clayton was able to talk with him with relative ease! He showed me Bofelo's name sign and they gave me one of my own. After a moment of shyness, Bofelo lit up. He was literally beaming with excitement and his face held a smile that was contagious. This was an exciting moment for me - one that no other could compare to. Here, in front of me, was a boy that I had befriended many months before and had been inviting into my home and cherishing but who I could not converse with. And I now was able, through Clayton, to talk to him and find out what made him tick. Without my friend, this moment would not have been possible.
Since that day, I have been able to "talk" to Bofelo with much more ease. I know now that he can write in english so we write each other notes. He has also helped me learn things in sign language so that I can communicate, even a little bit, that way too. We have grown even closer. It has been truly magical.
A connection started by kindness made even stronger through the kindness of another. The ripple effect - it is such a powerful thing. So I want to make a heart-felt THANK YOU to my friend Clayton, who gave me one of the most precious gifts and one of my happiest moments in Botswana. Thank you.