Professional Responsibilities

Thursday, 22 September – the teachers at the primary school typically do not assign their children homework. However, today every child had to complete an important assignment: to bring a stick of wood. I arrive to school, trailed by a horde of children swinging thorny acacia branches. The women are already hard at work, the cast-iron cauldrons, the size of a small bathtub, already bubbling with bogobe and ting, starchy staples to slather in beef stew.
Yesterday Thabo and Keabami, the primary school’s male teachers, headed to town to oversee the slaughter of a cow for the day’s event. Today is an important day: we are officially recognizing the outgoing principal for his 39 years of service as the administrator of the primary school, a milestone that also serves as a great excuse to call off school for the day and throw a big party. As soon as I walk in the gates, one of the gogos (grannies) overseeing the cooking hands me a knife. Working at schools in the United States, my responsibilities included teaching lessons and entering grades. In South Africa, my responsibilities now include finishing the butcher’s work, cutting the hundreds of pounds of meat in front of me into smaller pieces for the stew.
In typically South African fashion, the schedule is created specifically to be ignored. The day’s official events begin three hours late. There are speeches, traditional Tswana dances performed by the students, lots of prayers, plenty of house music, and a dramatic interpretation of the outgoing principal’s management style (written, directed and performed by the students).
When the scheduled events are (finally) over, everyone joins the queue for the meal: people pile their plates high with rice, bogobe, cabbage, beetroot, chicken, and beef. As the afternoon wears on, the students trickle out and Coca-Cola and Fanta are gradually replaced by alcohol. Planning for the event earlier in the week, my colleagues asked me, “Thabo, do you prefer Castle Lite or red wine?”
“I don’t really know…I’m not sure if I feel comfor-“
“What you don’t drink?”
“Well…I mean…I’m just not sure it’s a good id-“
“Go siame. We’ll write you down for whiskey.”
By 19h00, I am exhausted. As I take my leave, my supervisor hollers at me, “Thabo! We have something for you!”
As I turn around, she raises a six-pack of Castle Lite.

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3 responses to “Professional Responsibilities

  1. Fun! You, Thabo, as always are a multi-skilled, exceptionally talented, fabulous HYBT! We miss you tremendously, but please know you are ever present…thank you for being you! Abundant love and hugs from the Cariveau Crew, and a six pack cap flick too! :-)

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