I am so excited to introduce one of my favorite tiny humans to you. Meet Omphile: my five-year-old host brother and an absolute character! He’s the grandson of my ‘M’e, and she is raising him in my village because his mother is working in another district.
When I first got to site in December, Omphile and I weren’t sure what to think of each other. I’d never had a brother before. He’d just spent a year living with a different host sister, so he was shy at first. My Sesotho wasn’t good enough to communicate well with him, and he got frustrated when I didn’t understand. He spent a lot of time silently staring through my window, and no matter what I said to him in English or Sesotho, he responded with only one whispered word: “yes.”
I think Omphile was also going through a “tough phase” when I first arrived – there were quite a few temper tantrums when he had to fetch water. It’s hard to be five!
Lately, we’ve been developing quite the friendship, and it all started with coloring. Omphile loves ho kalata (to color), and we’ve spent many an afternoon sitting in the sun together and having fun with colored pencils. He’s a creative kid – he also makes likoloi (cars) out of cans, wire, matchboxes, milk cartons, and anything else he finds laying around. After our coloring sessions, it’s not uncommon to find us crawling around on our hands and knees, pushing cars around the compound.
Since we broke the ice, Omphile and I have been spending quite a lot of time together. He comes with me to the tap and to the shop. We play with my puppy together. I share treats with him when I bake. He instigates, and usually wins, very intense games of tag.
Omphile attends the preschool in my village, where he runs with the most adorable crew of bo-abuti (boys). I frequently meet them on my walk home from school – their day ends earlier than mine, but they loiter on the side of the road to postpone their chores.
Last week, Omphile learned the Lord’s Prayer in English, and he is so darn proud of himself. We’ve spent every afternoon since then reciting it together and then dancing around to celebrate his English skills. Next year, he’ll be starting Grade 1 at the primary school where I teach.
It feels great to be getting so close with such a fun, bright, and unique little boy. We even have somewhat of a secret handshake – I taught him how to fist bump, and it’s kind of our thing now. He’s growing like a weed, and I’m sure that I’ll watch him grow up in more ways than one over the next few years.