The 36-Hour No Sleep Funeral

November 22, Day 479

I was up until 1 am scrubbing dishes last night.

But hey, that’s how it goes. You’ve got to do dishes when you’ve got water, even if that means staying up at night.

Up at 6 am and hop out of bed because I know we’ve got a busy day ahead. Today we are driving to Bokspits for Catherine’s mother’s funeral.

Sip on iced coffee. Make eggs, take my vitamins. Meditate.

Go outside and water the flower babies.

Start packing my bags. I put on one cute outfit and then pack another cute outfit for tomorrow.

Ride my bike over to Dawgie and feed him and play with him for a bit. I leave a ton of food to make sure he can make it overnight until I get back tomorrow afternoon.

Ride home fast because Goaba is driving both me and Mma Bimbo to Bokspits and she’s on her way over. Just as I walk in the door, she sends me a text telling me what clothes I should bring for the funeral.

Whoops! I packed all the wrong things. Good thing she told me or I would be looking very strange at this funeral.

Change my clothes and repack the bag. Bokspits is about four hours South of my village, and there are no grocery stores there. People in Bokspits travel all the way to my village to buy food.

So, I pack enough food and water for a few days for myself. It’s not really enough food but I’ll survive.

Goaba arrives and we load up the car and drive to Mma Bimbo’s house.

Drive to the fuel station (we don’t call them gas stations here because they don’t put gasoline in cars). Goaba and Mma Bimbo buy big hot dog things. I’m starving but can’t do meat so I opt out.

Suddenly, I realize that I forgot to pack my ear plugs. We all know I’m a cranky lady who needs her ear plugs to sleep and Goaba is kind enough to drive back to my house so I can grab them.

Mma B has an assortment of sodas and juices for the cooler, so we drive around town looking for ice. There’s a guy who apparently sells it out of his backyard. We go and knock on his door, but we are told to buy it from him at the bar next door.

Drive to the bar next door, and the guy says he’ll sell it to us, but he keeps the ice at his house next door 🙄.

Okay. Got the ice.

Stop at Choppies and I get spicy potato wedges and some food for the evening, like a can of beans and simba chips.

We finally hit the road!

We drive and talk the whole way. I love these two ladies and it makes me happy to have both of them in one place.

About an hour later, we stop to pee on the side of the road and break up this monster of an ice block.

Yes, we pee on the side of the road. It’s a thing. There are no bathrooms outside of houses, and even so, not all houses have bathrooms.

I see men peeing on the side of the road no less than 10 times a day. When I first moved to Botswana, I couldn’t figure out why I never saw my host father or brother use the bathroom. Then one day I heard a peeing noise outside of my bedroom window and it clicked in my head.

They pee outside!

The trick for ladies on a road trip in the desert is that you open the passenger door and the door to the backseat of the car. Then you squat between the two open doors and go on the ground.

I’m convinced that about 80% of Botswana is covered in urine. But so is New York City, so who am I to judge just because it’s legal in one place and not the other?

Get back in the car and enjoy the stunning views of sand dunes on our right and a massive dried up riverbed on our left. It feels like we’re on Mars.

We arrive in Bokspits around 4:30 pm. The ladies insist that we must bath and iron our clothes before we go to Catherine’s house.

So, we go to the clinic to see if they know someone who can give us a bathtub, but no one is there. Drive down the road and knock on the door of a random woman and introduce ourselves.

She is a nurse and agrees to give us her bedroom to change into our funeral attire and gives us an iron and use of her bucket for bathing. There’s no running water in the house, so she goes to collect it from the Jojo.

I admit I don’t understand this mentality that women are required to bathe twice a day while men can go days without washing themselves. I think it insinuates shame that the female body is more dirty than males, which it’s not.

But it’s the rules here. Women bucket bath twice a day and you must iron ALL of your clothing.

We go inside and take turns bathing while Mma Bimbo irons all of our dresses for us. Thanks Mma B!

It actually feels GREAT to bath and get all that sticky sunblock off of me.

The woman tells us that the funeral is held at Catherine’s aunt’s house. So, we pack up the car and drive over.

Somehow we make a wrong turn and our car gets stuck in the sand.

Mma Bimbo and I get out of the car in our best dresses and push the car out of the deep sand while Goaba steers.

An old man stands on his front porch watching the whole thing.

We finally push the car out and drive over to the aunt’s house. There’s already a large crowd there and a big tent set up attached to the side of the house.

Catherine greets us and tells us there’s an all-night singing vigil and then the viewing of the body in the morning, followed by the funeral.

The ladies are concerned about where we will bath in the morning, so we walk down the path to the church to look at their public showers outside. They’re not clean or in working condition and we decide not to use them. I tell them I’m perfectly happy to just bathe when I get home tomorrow afternoon anyways.

Next, we walk to the house across the way from the funeral and the owner says we can set up our tent in her yard for the night. We rush to set it up before it gets dark and then walk back to the funeral.

In Tswana culture, typically there is a singing vigil all night long. The body is then brought into the house and placed in the living room while the family sleeps near it on the floor. It is the job typically of the oldest uncle to sit at the head of the coffin and watch over the body all night long without sleeping.

In this case, these are the traditions of the coloreds (I know that’s not a PC term in the US, but it is here) and it appears that the body will stay in a closed casket in the yard overnight while people sing around it.

The body arrives in a glass little trailer that is pulled on the back of a herse van, and is brought into the tent. We all sit down and start singing. Everything is in Afrikaans and I can tell that Mma B and Goaba don’t know what they’re saying. I’m used to not knowing what’s going on ever, so I’m perfectly happy to sing in Afrikaans.

I see Catherine’s daughter sitting in the front and she runs over to me and sits on my lap. She begins to ask me a million questions because that’s what 5 year olds do.

“Why is everyone sad and not happy? They should be happy!”

“What’s that rock on your nose? Did you pierce your nose?”

“Do you like princesses?”

“Why is your hair like that? Oh WOW, YOU HAVE AN ELSA PLAIT!” Anaya yells.

She means that my hair is braided just like Elsa from the movie “Frozen”.

I laugh out loud and tell her to whisper. I love this girl so much.

She asks me 5,000 more questions, drinks water from my water bottle and then runs off.

We sing more songs and around 11 pm we decide to leave because Goaba and Mma B left a few things at the house we bathed at and they want to pick them up.

We are scared of getting stuck in the sand again and watch as the car in front of us gets stuck leaving the driveway.

Uh oh.

A man tells us there’s a gravel road behind the house, so we decide to take the back entrance out.

“It’s okay, if we get stuck again the men will help us push the car out!” Goaba says.

Within three nanoseconds the car gets stuck again in deep sand. The road had a fork and one side has soft and fluffy sand while the other has harder sand. For some reason, ewe chose the fork with the fluffy sand.

I compare driving in the sand to driving in the snow. Usually you’ll get stuck in deep, fluffy snow. The same goes for sand, apparently.

All the men walking by wave but don’t help.

Uh oh.

The car is really stuck this time. Mma B and I are using all of our strength and we can’t get it out! We push and push and push.

Finally, an elderly woman in church clothing stops to help with her friend. She calls over to other people to help and they say no, but I can hear that she yells at them in Afrikaans and they come over reluctantly.

Five women and one man, along with Mma B and myself push and push and push and dig and dig and dig. An hour later, we FINALLY get the car unstuck.

Hooray! We thank them for their help and resume driving to go pick up their stuff. I think it may be their underwear we are collecting because I know women here wash their underwear every time they bathe and maybe it was laying out to dry.

But of course, we make a wrong turn and end up in front of the one bar in the village and it is PACKED. We see the herse that carried the body parked at the bar and the driver is partying inside. We have a good laugh.

Finally, we make it to the nurses house and pick up their things.

I admit it, I’m CRANKY now. Mama needs sleep and I’m done with the adventures of being stuck in the sand and getting lost. I’m also tired of trying to figure out what’s going on around me and constantly asking for someone to tell me. My brain is fried.

We drive back to our tent and park the car in a place it won’t get stuck.

I’m VERY cranky and want to go to bed since we have to get up at 4 am and it’s already 1:15 am. So I choose to stay quiet and the ladies let me do my thing while they wash their feet.

Get changed and we all lay down.

Suddenly there’s a lot of wind outside and the cover to our tent starts to fly off.

Oh come on.

I go outside and fix it.

Crawl back and lay down.

The tent cover flies off again. Then the zipper to the door to the freakin tent breaks so we can’t zip the door.

Okay, now I’m ready to burn the tent down.

Goaba and I crawl back outside and find some really big rocks and weigh down the corners of the tent and then tie it to the fence.

Now I’m serious. I’m going to bed and must sleep my face off. We fall asleep listening to singing in the distance. In a few hours we will be back again singing.

Boroko 🌚

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