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The other side

September 28, 2011

Death is popular in South Africa. Funeral homes cheerily keep their lines open 24 hours a day so your friends and loved ones can be buried the next convenient Saturday morning. It’s not a very restful affair, all things considered. When there’s a death in the family, people from all over the neighborhood will come and bring gifts or simply sit in your front yard. They also say a few prayers at some point.

This happened to me during training. My host mother died after lingering in the hospital, and the Peace Corps moved me out the next day. Their concern was for my safety because they knew I could expect a ton of visitors who might not respect my personal property the same way the PC host families are taught to.

When I arrived at my permanent site, my next door neighbors were busy cooking for a funeral. I had the honor of seeing it all the next day. We walked in a procession to the cemetery, then stood around the grave. I couldn’t see very well what was going on because the men were downhill and the women were uphill, but it looked like men were taking turns shoveling on the finishing touches to the grave.

Afterwards there was a big reception at the deceased’s house, with food and singing and dancing. In fact, no one seemed sad at all, although if I met the family of the deceased I didn’t recognize them. It seems death is a very social thing. I expect to have more funerals to attend in the future.

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One Comment
  1. JoAnn Linke permalink

    Zach – I am really enjoying your adventures (probably more so than you in some cases) ie: bats in the latrine!

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