Now he comes to my door, shyly still, but easily and with more confidence every day. One day I opened my door and he was already standing there, one finger in his mouth for security, standing precariously balanced on one foot should he need to swiftly twirl around and run away.
But that first morning he was hesitant, and I was distracted. He gripped my iron burglar bars defiantly, angling the rest of his body towards freedom outside my rondavel. Finally, after about 10 minutes of his intense stare as I boiled my water and sat down to breakfast, the perfect game dawned on me.
I brought out my stone collection and cardboard numbers linking one to one correlation with dots to the number symbol. This kept him captivated at least one hour. I came over to teach or reteach or re re teach periodically, but mostly he practiced by himself.
Then, after some time, he stood up and decided to share something with me, too. He reached in his back pocket, where I hadn't noticed the small bulge there before. Between his tugging fingers, up popped the head of a dead baby chicken.
My expression transformed - I had had on a shiny proud smile mixed with curiosity at this latest development. Now I was covering my mouth and had let out an uncontrollable gasp.
"Eh - eh!" I managed to translate my thoughts into one solid Sesotho 'No!'. His fingers quickly shot the head back down inside his pocket, and he looked at me very worried.
The next day, he came to learn - and it was understood - the bird stays home.