I was nervous.
In my two years in Africa, I had met village chiefs before, and I knew what was expected of me. I was dressed in a long skirt, and though my hair wasn’t covered, I had a scarf to cover my shoulders. I knew how to greet in Xitsonga, though that was pretty much all I could say in this new language.
But I was nervous.
You see, in two years, I hadn’t met village royalty. Yes, I’d met the chief and his family in my old village, but the traditional leadership wasn’t as valued in that culture. And I wasn’t just meeting the chief. I was meeting the Queen.
I was meeting Hosi N’wamitwa II, who was the queen of the Valoyi clan, some several thousand Xitsonga people near Tzaneen. And she also happened to be a member of Parliament. She had fought to retain her title, which was nearly taken from her in the 1990s because she was a woman. After winning that court case and the adoration of her people, she went on to be elected to the national Parliament in Cape Town, where she actively supported education for girls and women.
And I was this strange girl from America who had been hired to work in her organization for a year. And so, I was nervous.
But when she walked in, she walked in with a laugh and was quick to embrace me. I had been worried about honoring her with my modest appearance and Xitsonga words, and she just naturally treated me like a family member. During my few months at that organization, before I was Medevac’d, I met her several times. And each time she honored me by treating me like family.
And I’ll always remember her as an incredibly down-to-earth woman who truly cared for her people, and would always fight for their betterment.
And for that, they loved her.