The other night we went to Spur, the local burger joint. There are just a couple of restaurants in Maseru, and this one is special because they have a trampoline and balloons. It is covered with terrible cartoons of the American West and American Indians. Still it is the best place for kids.
The manager warned us that the service would not be good that night. Service is usually not to American standards, so it was pretty amazing that she felt the need to say something. Our server’s sister had just died. Not recently, but a couple of minutes ago. Apparently the woman was refusing to leave.
Death is a little different here. Everyone is surrounded by it. Most people are orphans. This woman, maybe 20, lived with her older sister. The parents had passed away. The story was that the sister had been pregnant, but lost the baby at about 7 months. Surgery was performed and considered successful, so the sister did a little shopping. The stitches ripped and she was rushed to the nearest hospital. The nearest hospital is in Bloemfontein, two hours away. The sister died. Just like that, no baby and no sister.
The server had to leave work to collect the body, but didn’t want to go home to the empty house. She didn’t want to lose another family member. She stayed and worked. She did make a lot of mistakes with the order, but really, not much worse than the average service there. We left her 100 rand tip, about 10 times a normal tip, but only $14.
Spencer and I struggled that night, thinking about this woman and so many like her in Lesotho. In the States death is reserved for the elderly, people who have lived a long, rich, and healthy life. That is not the expectation or norm here. There is no person we have met that hasn't lost a brother, sister, parent, or child at a young age. Our perspective is changing.