I think it was sometime during, “Catching Fire,” that I put my Suzanne Collins book down and thought, “Ntate Kitime should read this.”
Ntate Kitime is a teacher at my school and our friendship has bloomed over American pop culture. He is an aspiring DJ. He used to host a show in college but now mixes beats in between classes because the radio world doesn’t pay much (unless you are 2011 South Dakota Broadcaster of the Year Tony Mangan, of course). I am not an expert, but his mixes are pretty good. He gave me a few and they are on my running playlist.
He also loves movies. When my hard drive was functioning (yes, my 2 TB external hard drive crashed and I lost over 1 TB of data, tears) I would put movies on a flash drive or school computer for him to watch. He started out with the action, violence soaked ones to show my students. Because they can’t understand the English very well – too fast and too much slang – they need something visually stimulating. But it bothered me that all they wanted to watch was people killing each other. I thought they may like Glee for the singing and dancing. Nope. Or something animated. I once put on “Toy Story” and one student told me he was bored, saying, “This is for babies.” OK.
Although I couldn’t convince the students to move off of gore, Ntate Kitime was eager to try other stuff. He scanned my hard drive looking for anything interesting, taking things I didn’t expect, such as “Pirate Radio” and “Valentine’s Day.” After finishing the series, I convinced him to watch “Human Planet” and he loved every episode.
So, when I started the “Hunger Games” series, I carried the three books around me every day, constantly glued to the pages. He was curious about what captivated my attention so I suggested he watch the movie, which I promised to find from another volunteer. Well, apparently he has better connections at the university, and he watched it over a weekend visiting friends.
When I first met Ntate Kitime, I was working on the school library and he mentioned to me that most Basotho do not like to read. I thought that included him. Still, I knew he would enjoy the books after liking the moving so much and they were easy enough for him so I gave them to him. Like me, he was addicted.
We discussed the ideas behind the Games, why President Snow hates Katniss, if District 13 really exists and what will become of the Capital. It was our own little book club.
He finished the first two books in about two weeks, pretty fast for someone who doesn’t read often, and was begging for the third. I had to get it from another volunteer, but he asked me everyday, even though he knew I couldn’t get it unless I went to town and I hadn’t gone to town, until I handed it to him. He is currently reading “The Mockingjay” and promised me he will let me know when has finished.
The second Peace Corps goal is to share American culture with your host country natives. I doubt John F. Kennedy had addictive teen literature in mind when he designed this goal, but it works. These books, a long with other music and movies, is a way for me to bond with Ntate Kitime and other Basotho. I do have to explain that no, I do not know Rihanna, we are not friends, and America in movies is not the real America, but it is fun to share things that I enjoy with them. It makes it seem like we are not so different.
Truthfully, I loved the “Hunger Games” and wanted to tell everyone I know to read the books. Ntate Kitime is someone I know. So I told him. It doesn’t matter that we have different nationalities or views on reading, we can share in enjoying the same story. And that is special.