Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gender-Equality on a Taxi in Lesotho

Last month, I made sure to arrive in Mt Moorosi as early as possible so I could claim the front seat of the taxi to Ha Makoae. I always want the front seat because then I'm able to roll down the window and my legs don't go numb during my 2 1/2 hour taxi ride to site. I arrived at 11am for the taxi that leaves anywhere from 1pm -5pm. I was the first person there so I put my bag in the passenger seat. An hour later, a man put his bag in the middle-front seat next to me. Then the taxi continued filling up. My host mother even boarded the taxi! At 3pm, we were ready to go. So the man who put his bag next to mine told me in Sesotho that I must move to the middle. In Sesotho, I asked him why. He told me that 'women sit in the middle and men sit by the window'. I told him that I didn't understand this because I am taller than him and I arrived an hour earlier. We began a friendly argument in Sesotho where I was trying (and failing) to talk to him about gender-equality. Luckily, my host mother, who is used to my broken Sesotho, jumped in the conversation and explained my reasoning to him. He laughed loudly and got in the middle-front seat of the taxi. During the taxi ride, the man's friend kept asking people why I was in the front seat. People responded by saying "'M'e Palesa understands you so you can't talk about her". We were all laughing; including the man who I made sit in the middle.

An hour into our drive we saw a monitor lizard. The taxi driver stopped and all the men in the taxi got out to catch and kill the lizard. They failed. When they boarded the taxi, they asked me if I was scared of the lizard. I accidentally said 'ha e tsotsi' (it is not a criminal) instead of 'ha e kotsi' (it is not dangerous). Everybody agreed with me and after replaying my response in my head, I laughed at myself for mixing up my Sesotho words.

This ride to Ha Makoae confirmed how integrated I've become since first arriving in Lesotho. Two years ago, I was an American stranger on the taxis to Ha Makoae and now I can laugh and communicate with my community members.