Leading up to the big competition we had small competitions at school on a crude track marked around the soccer field at our school. I should clarify that by ‘athletics’ they mean only running and jumping (long jump, high jump) events. We only practiced for a few weeks, but other schools had been training for months.Leading up to the competition the kids were very excited. The team was about forty kids although some came along but didn’t participate. The events were supposed to start Friday morning, but in true Botswana fashion there were transportation problems. I can imagine what a logistical nightmare it is to transport seventeen schools. When the transportation did come on Friday it ended up being a big truck that looked like was for cattle. We were told it was the only option, so the kids all piled in. I was lucky enough to score a seat in the front, and didn’t have to cram in with the well over fifty kids in the back. I also got to enjoy this nice conversation with a gentleman in the front (these are the highlights):
“Are you married?” – This was the first thing he said to me, after checking out the rings I wear.“Do you have a boyfriend?” – I don’t know why he even bothered asking, because he completely disregarded the answer.
“He is far, maybe he is artificial.” - ?“Why are the Peace Corps here? Are you a spy?” – This was the first time I’ve been asked this, but I’ve been told it’s not an uncommon question. I calmly asked the man why he thought the U.S. government would care what was said in the front of a truck on the way to an athletic event.
“I want to come visit you at your house.” – Classic. When you read this imagine 'visit' in exaggerated air-quotes. I get this a lot; the answer is always no.After this lovely conversation we arrived, and the competition began. I won’t go into the details of each race, but we did fairly well and it was fun cheering them on. The absolute highlight for me was the singing. Most of the cheers took the form of songs; I love Setswana songs so I was thrilled. There were many songs, but the song that became our anthem went like this:
Siruru-bele, siruru-bele sa Kgope School (2x)
A o batla go bona, sirurubele, sirurubele sa Kgope School? (2x)
It means: Butterfly, butterfly of Kgope School
Do you want to see, the butterfly, the butterfly of Kgope School?Saturday when we got back to the school after the day’s events had finished I was dancing with the kids to that song. They always get surprised and happy when they see me dancing, or hear me singing in Setswana.
For the competition they divide the competitors into divisions by age. They couldn’t do it by standards because in each standard the age can range greatly. My friend’s school had a seventeen year-old in standard six. Our school took first in the senior boy’s long-jump and the intermediate boy’s high-jump. We took second in the senior boy’s high-jump, and the intermediate girls 4x4 relay. Overall we came in sixth of the seventeen schools! It was an exhausting weekend, but a lot of fun.
Dirurubele di fofile – the butterflies flew :)