Tuesday

Bongoana (Childhood)

Bongoana is usually, well, lovely, no matter what the circumstances. It seems to me that we almost always remember it with fondness and a certain longing. But a longing for what? I remember driving from Maseru to Moyeni along the dusty, southbound and bumpy road. Lesotho can be so dry! Along the way we'd actually stop here and there while my parents visited with friends or family. By the time we got to Moyeni we would be stuffed silly with food. Everybody just wanted to feed us, pinch our cheeks, and exclaim on how much we'd grown since the previous year.

Sometimes, after school, we'd concoct games or organise a fast football match. We usually played football barefooted, so as not to destroy our shoes, and we often played with a tennis ball. Tennis balls were white at the time. Immense ball-control skills come from playing football with a tennis ball, or a squished tin-can, or a stuffed stocking, or even an imaginary ball that one juggles from one point to another, weaving around pedestrians and lamp-posts.

Any breeze or gust almost always lifted the sandy, powdery ground top and turned it into a twister. A small twister, to be sure, but one that we could run around and after, peals of laughter filling the veldt and anybody, I'm sure, old enough to have understood. And shortly afterwards the skies would often gather and it would suddenly pour.

As city kids we didn't know half of what village kids knew and endured. We were driven to school when they drove cattle toward distant pastures. I had a taste of that kind of life when my father was thrown in jail in 1970. Our existence changed and we lost most priviledges we had come to take for granted. In order to survive, under an openly hostile government, 'mè struck deals with people who had fields. She provided the seed and the fertilizer, I think, and they provided the land. We shared the harvest. I can remember winter dinners of papa (corn bread) and canned peaches. Of course 'mè canned them herself. She also ran a grocery store which hardly made any profit, since it was also the family food-stock and we, the children, pillaged it mercilessly.

We had by that time left the city, which is how I was able to go with other boys to look after cattle and other animals. I learnt a lot more than I had bargained for. There's an awful lot of edible roots, and edible leaves and flowers, that botanists may not know about. I suppose I must postpone the rest of this until I can post again about my experiences as a molisana, or a herdboy. But are these the things that we invariably long for once we're adults? They're definitely part of what I long for in bongoana in a big way.