A friend’s father once told me that our school colors originate in an old union of two places. One color represents the city of Greensburg, the other Salem Township. Two generations back, when they merged into one strange gerrymandering of a school district, they merged colors, too: brown and golden yellow. Separately, brown and gold, they are fine. Together, they are nauseating.
I felt nauseated looking at the crinkly, brown wind-pants meant to warm my legs. Beneath them, loudly yellow shorts barely covered my upper thighs. Which color represents me as someone from the township, the flimsy brown or the discordant yellow? Also yellow, a sleeveless jersey probably as old as the district itself draped over my thin torso, and each time a breeze blew in through an open school bus window I shivered. I shivered in part from cold air and in part from anxiety.
This time last year, I moved in with a family in quiet Okahenge, Namibia. I arrived comically; dragging a set of rolling luggage meant for airports through half a foot of shifting sand. Snowshoes would have been more effective than my brown sandals which slid around and gave me the appearance of a newborn calf with unsure legs. I could only laugh at myself and trudge onward.
Most of my host family was inauspiciously absent at my arrival. But, Tatekulu–Grandfather–was found in the center of the homestead. In that structure, there were two plastic lawn chairs and a daybed. Tatekulu sat in one of the chairs and his radio sat in the other. I lowered to one knee as my language trainer had told me to do ahead of time. We clasped hands and I placed my left hand under my right elbow, bowing my head. He thanked me for nothing and everything, and he called me “my son.”