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A Day for Two Flags

Laura Sessions Stepp

Every year for the past five or six years, I have watched the Fourth of July parade go down my street, had a barbecue, gone to the fireworks with my friends and all that jazz. Today, instead of celebrating American culture, I celebrated Xhosa culture.

On a tour of a market, at a place selling herbs, we were taught about an herb that chases away bad dreams and another that clears out your system. Then there was an herb that you were supposed to put under your tongue if you were ready to propose to somebody or when you walked by somebody whom you wanted to "get with." On another stop, we learned about apartheid and the history of South Africa; at another, we watched a man scrape all the meat off a cow's head.


After finishing up lunch, Molly Brune, center, visits with two girls from Port Elizabeth on Wednesday. (Alice Keeney for the Washington Post)

The time we didn't spend on the tour was spent learning South African songs, games, and words. One of the girls on the New Brighton City Lads team (whom we played against earlier in the trip) started teaching us different clicks of the tongue, prompting massive poor attempts on our part, an extreme amount of laughing, and an ounce of spit out of every mouth.

Next she taught us a tongue twister. I am proud to say that I am the only one who was able to remember the sentence. The sentence, which means something along the lines of a porcupine was at the edge of a cliff and then rolled over on its back and slit its throat, has, by my counting,10 clicks in it.

Being teenage girls, it didn't take long for us to start asking about name-calling and curse words. Among other things, we are now able to say the words egg, foot, knee, brain, butt, head, and you are not right in the mind.

Originally, I thought we would be spending the Fourth of July explaining to South Africans various American traditions and songs. But then I realized that in South Africa, our culture is already everywhere -- in the music, on television, in the restaurants, in the clothes. We are the ones who need to learn about their culture, from their language to their food and rituals.

It's not like we didn't celebrate. Our coach Ian did remember to buy sparklers and we squawked the national anthem together at one point. But as our cake showing two flags demonstrated, this wasn't a day only for American pride

By Laura Sessions Stepp
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

We expect a full "tongue-clicking" demonstration upon your return! And no teaching my children bad words in other languages! It sounds like you're learning great things. P.S. We thought about you during the fireworks in Chicago, and all the fun times we've had on the 4th inthe past.

Posted by: Mary Nelson | July 4, 2007 09:14 PM

Aw I really miss you! I hope you're having a great time in South Africa and I hope you are learning a lot about the culture. Its unfortunate that we both had to miss the 4th of July parade this year on Maple Ave. but I think that this will be a 4th you never forget. Its great that we both have the chance to travel around the world and experience different cultures. It helps "broaden our horizons" I guess you could say and overall, I think if more people had the chance to experience different cultures, we could solve a lot of problems in this world.
Anyway, I hope you are having an amazing time and I think its great that you are taking the time to learn about a different culture.
I love you lots! Maybe we'll get to talk some time after I get back from down under!
Much love,
Messie Jessie

Posted by: Jessie (your cousin! :'P) | July 5, 2007 01:36 AM

Molly I love you and miss you so much! South Africa sounds incredibly amazing and inspirational, I hope you are remembering every detail so you can spend hours telling me about it when you get back. I can't wait to hear about your journey and your new experiences! P.S. You haven't missed much in Takoma (except the wedding).
Love, em

Posted by: Emily Johnson | July 5, 2007 02:49 PM

I'm so happy that your having so much fun and learning so much! I want to hear all about it when you get back...We really missed you at the wedding, but I'm sure being in SA is totally amazing!

XOXO Rachel

Posted by: Rachel Mulbry | July 11, 2007 08:54 PM

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