Sunday, January 24, 2010

1/23/2009 - Rain

Good morning all...I assume that it will be Saturday morning by the time you get this message; it's a rainy Saturday afternoon here in Tabola. I am sitting with the front door to my cottage wide open, watching the rain...It's about the sixth day of it here. Actually, the scene is pretty cottage is TEEMING with wet, just washed clothes, hanging in every direction possible. I put a line up...tied it from one log to another in the rondaval (at which point pounds of dust and dirt from years and years came tumbling down on me! Luckily, the clean clothes were still in the tub...yes, the same tub I use for bathing.) My friends Mary and Kaye were supposed to visit today. Mary's coming up from Sebetia, a bit south east of me...kind of across from TY (Tayateyaneng). If she made it, she will spend the night with Kaye because Kaye lives in a REAL house on St Rose Mission...flush toilet, running water, four rooms, electricity, a real sink, etc. I haven't heard from them so I am assuming that Mary was not able to get out of Sebetia (dirt roads). Tomorrow I shall go over to Peka, St. Rose, really, to hear the nuns sing their Sunday mass. Kaye says it goes on for hours and is quite lovely....There's a HUGE BLACK COW in my doorway; I think she wants to come in and chat but she's too big for the entrance! The rain is really beautiful...even if everything I own is now brown. No one complains; they just go about their chores holding their western style umbrellas.
Wow...all that and it's still pouring!!!...and still no word from Mary or Kaye. I'm excited to see Kaye because she was in Maseru yesterday and picked up FIVE letters for me.
This morning Ntate Joseph (ever since he told me his Christian name, I can't remember his Sesotho name) and M'e Mamoabi invited me to go with them to Mapothsuae. It was great to be able to ride in a comfortable car!!! We took their 2 year old grandson, Thieko (Tekko) with us; he sat on my lap the entire way and just covered me with lollypop goo...of course I gave him the lolly! Yes, with permission. Tieko lives with us; his father (the son) and his wife live in Maseru. He works there and his wife goes to school in Roma (commutes). Tieko calls M'e Mamoabi M'e instead of Nkhono because he's here so much and doesn't really know his parents. This is very common in Lesotho.
Kaye just called and said that Mary's still not there but I should go over anyway. Talk with you all later.
Love, Rus
Hey, there's a let-up in the rain...I guess I'm meant to go traveling.

1/20/2010 - Hair

Okay, here's the story...
Background: all children in govt. primary schools must shave their heads and keep them shaved during the's a health/cleanlilness thing.
Story: One day last week I was talking with two 5th. or 6th. graders before M'e Mathabo arrived with the keys to the school. They asked me how the children in America wear their hair. I explained that they wear their hair many different ways...that there are styles and fads that go in an out, etc., and that most follow the styles, keeping their hair clean and neat. At the end of the day, as M'e and I sat in the office chatting, the two girls very shyly approached the doorway. M'e invited them in. They stood there and said nothing...just stared at M'e. Finally, M'e got tired of the silence and very sweetly asked if there was something they would like to say to her. Eyes down, almost drilling holes in the floor of the room, they hesitatingly Sesotho..."We don't want to have our hair shaved off." I knew, immediately, what was going on, but stayed silent and allowed M'e to handle the situation. She asked them why they didn't want their hair shaved and then very politely listened while they told of how they were going to wear their hair in many different styles, many different colors...but ALWAYS CLEAN. M'e smiled and asked if they knew why the rule had been made...bugs, dirt, etc. "Yes", they said, still insisting that keeping it in style at the hair salon (non-existent in Tabola) would take care of any health issues. "Oh, and who will pay for this hair salon work?", was M'e's next question. Needless to say, the two girls had no answer for her and so went home. I explained about my earlier conversation with the girls to M'e Mathabo and we both had a good chuckle. Moral of the story...Kids are kids anywhere...clever, creative and manipulating! Of course both of them showed up with clean shaved heads on Monday! I love teaching...I love the fact that the young mind is always exploring...always wanting more. 'night and love you all. Rusty

1/18/2009 - school was fun today

School was fun today...gave a test to all the 6th. and 7th. graders.

1/17/2009 - First Day of School

Okay!!! I am at school and able to get email!!! This is just a quick note...typical first day of's as though the universe knows it's back to school time...rainy, overcast...threatening the end of summer, but still hot and sticky. We had our morning assembly (outside in the rain)...sang the Lesotho national anthem and recited the Lord's Prayer...yup, they're very Christian...even the gov't. schools pray. The children in primary school go free, but they must purchase school uniforms and shave their heads. Remind me later to tell you a cute story about hair. I can't wait to see what lunch is like; that's also given to the students free. There's no electricity in any of the primary schools, so the children are sitting in these gray, dark rooms trying to read from the chalkboards. None of them appeared to have glasses during the morning assembly. I want to go visit each class now. Love and miss you all, Rusty

1/14/2010 - District Meeting

Last night I made lentils on my little stove for our meeting today. It's a district meeting/luncheon for all the volunteers in Berea. Since I'm so close to the Berea camptown, TY, Kaye, who lives in Peka...actually an older volunteer for CHED, invited me to go with her. Cooking was a breeze with my little electric bulb! to set up my bucket bath...

1/3/2010 - Libraries

January 3rd. is a lay-back day here in Maseru, Lesotho. It's kinda nice to have nothing to do. It's been raining for three days, and has cooled off quite a bit...yea!!! Of the three schools to which I've been assigned, one is fairly new (2004). The other two are very old and run down. I think I'd like to work on making libraries for the two poorer schools. There's an organization in the U.S. which works with stateside organizations to build libraries in Lesotho primary schools. One thousand books, ranging from hard cardboard baby books to fourth grade level books constitutes a library. It's so sad to know that these wonderful kids have, for the most part, never even held a book...forget about reading or owning one. The children begin English in Reception (kindergarten) because it's the second language in Lesotho, so any kind of book written in English would be welcome. My new school has a room which they call the library...are you ready for this...the books are all neatly arranged and placed on dusty shelves...never used...because they're such a treasure that the kids are not allowed to hold them...can you believe it? I have my work cut out for me. School begins on January 18th. My first priority in the new school will be to try to convince the principal that the books need to be distributed into EACH of the seven classrooms so that the children can use them!! I plan to develop small classroom libraries with a simple student/librarian in each class to be in charge of loaning and getting back books. i'll have to call a parent meeting first to explain all this so that when the children come home with books, they won't be beaten for stealing!! Think I can do it??? If I can get past the principal, I think I'll be okay.

12/6/2009 - Poems


Words pour out
in droneful tones
Eyes hang heavy...fighting guilt.
Concepts pour and visions spurt,
At the bodies stuck in chairs.

We sigh, we smile, we force our eyes
To stay focused toward the noise.
All well said but too much sound
Heads have reached explosion mode...

No more!

Rusty de Lucia
December 8, 2009


Hurry up and wait
Hurry up and wait,

All things are in order so
Hurry up and wait.

Get it done on time
Get it done on time,

Sort it well, then place and date
Now hurry up and wait.

Walk to meet on time
Hike up to that place,

Get up early; be on time
Then hurry up and wait.

Rusty de Lucia
December 6, 2009

Walk proud, my son;
Go past the holes-in-elbows
And toes peeping
From too-tight shoes,
Randomly catching Lesotho dust.
Show the rhythm of your love for life
In your up-and-rambling stride.

Know that you're the child
Of one who's passed...
Beyond his own life's woes.
Ntate looks from up above...
Watching...guiding the product of his love.
He has taught you well, my child
So, walk proud!

You will go far, my child
Your smile, your pride for self
Will carry you above Lesotho dust.
I love you for your wants...
Your searches for the newest paths...
Your need to be a part of all that's new!

Sing, my child...
Dance forward and lead
Others with your song!

Rusty de Lucia
December 3, 2009

1/5/2010 - Peace Corps swearing in ceremony

...looking forward to swearing in day and wish you could all be here with me. I'll try to get someone to take a picture of me in my seshoeshoe skirt. It's tomorrow at 11:00a.m...a three hour ceremony. We all moaned when we heard the news and were told that that's really short for Lesotho!

Here's a photo from our locked down New Year's Eve festivities:

12/31/2009 - I PASSED!!!!!

I AM so happy that I passed my Sesotho test...the language is lovely and easy grammatically...but quite difficult to speak...the mouth muscles used to make the Sesotho sounds are VERY different from the muscles we use for the English language. It will easily take me two years to be understood by the Basotho people. I love it here and truly hope that I'll be able to help some Basotho youth. The culture is quite laid back; people smile and say "yes" to you, but then do things in their usual ways. It is my hope that I'll touch the minds of some youth concerning sanitation, HIV/AIV's education and nutrition. I'm at the training center in Maseru for another week. I'll be sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer on 1/7 and go to my permanent home in Tabola on 1/9. I've seen my's a thatched roofed rondavel (one room round house) with no electricity or running water; I love it! The water pump is very close to me, but the pump is hard to use; I'm sure I'll have very strong upper arms when I return to the U.S. There's a house very close to me which has electricity; we're going to try to rig an electrical wire from that house to my rondavel when I get back. If it works, I'll be able to recharge and use my computer!!! The pit toilet I'm using is a luxury because it's brand new...built just for my use...with a lock on it.

12/30/2009 - Language Test

Here ye, Here ye...Let it be known that Rusty just took her oral test in Sesotho!!!! It's over, and I feel really good about it!
My language testor was a wonderful old gentleman named Ntate Thobosu who made me feel so comfortable in the testing room. The Sesotho words just came flowing out and we rambled on together for at least ten to fifteen minutes!!! We talked about my job in America, Basotho food, my children in America, etc, etc, etc. and I understood it ALL! I am so happy! Of course I won't find out until much later in the day whether or not I passed the test (after all 29 of us have been tested), but I don't care...I'm just so happy that I was able to keep up with the conversation.
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my family and friends. Life is GOOD! Rusty

12/29/2009 - My new home

In response to your inquiries, yes, there is wireless in Lesotho. The modem that I bought is not part of my cell phone...although, I do have to use my cell phone to reactivate computer minutes for which I pay. It looks like a flash/memory drive which connects to the side of my lap top. I can't get more technical than that 'cause I'm computer challenged!! The electricity here needs an adapter for it to work on things brought from America.

I just got back from my site at Tabola...I'm back in Maseru at the Peace Corps training's kinda like a dorm compound...there's running hot and cold water, electricity, a dining hall, washing machine, dryer and it's in the heart of the capital city, so the "kids"...the other 28 volunteers in training...are in heaven because they can get drunk every night. It's NOTHING like the real world of Lesotho. My village is very poor...hardly any men at all...only those who are sick with AIDs or seniors (by seniors I mean anyone older than 50)...I have a well right in front of my thatched roof rondavel...I am very lucky. Many of the volunteers have to walk quite far to fetch water.

This is my new home; a small, cozy rondavel...which will be nice when I'm trying to heat the place this winter....we had an after dinner meeting to learn how to light our propane heaters.

I'm living at the compound of M'e,(mother), Moabi and Ntate,(father), Ramoabi. This family who has taken me in in Tabola is wonderful. They are a retired couple. They've given me the Lesotho name of Me Neo...(neo means gift). I'm quite honored by the name. I hope I'll be able to live up to their expectations.

I'm living in their first home; they've since built four other buildings on their land...mine is the only rondavel. Their divorced from their son, but their responsibility, is living in their second house. It has electricity. On either side of my rondavel are two tin roofed houses, similar to the one in which I lived in electricity. Herdsmen/boys live in those two houses. The daughter-in-law sent an electric wire from her window through my window so I'd be able to plug in my computer and light a lightbulb at night...but the Peace Corps didn't approve it. They said that all windows must have security locks on them...therefore cannot be left open. I'm back in Maseru until 1/9, so today I bought a 20 meter cord that we'll try to run underground and through the floor of the rondavel. If that works (and the Peace Corps doesn't see it), I'll have electricity!!

My rondavel is a single fact, it's so small that the double bed in it takes up more than half the space! I'll take some inside pictures when I get back. Rondavels vary in size and construction materials. Many are made from thatch and cow dung. I am very lucky that mine was made with stones.

The Peace Corps supplied me with a propane heater which looks like it's ready to fall apart. I tried it, and it works,kinda...I just hope the thatched roof doesn't go up in flames...Ke swa swa....(I'm kidding)! I have no intention of leaving it on when I go to matter how cold it gets. I'm living in the lap of luxury; a brand new pit toilet was built just for's a big hole with a seat over it, some corrugated metal sides, and a corrugated metal slanted roof. It has a wooden door which locks from the outside...great...but when you go in and sit down, there's no way to latch it closed, so when the wind blows it just swings wide open!! Tomorrow I'll venture in to town to see if I can find a latch of some sort to rig up. I'm also lucky in that the water pump is not far from my rondavel...unfortunately, it's the hardest darned thing to pump!! A couple of the village kids jumped up and down on the handle to get some water into my buckets...then the buckets were so heavy that I couldn't manage them back to my rondavel; thank goodness for wonderful, enthusiastic Basotho kids!!! Oh, and have I mentioned Basotho (that's the people of Lesotho) time? It's very's a typical example of how the Basotho deal with time...the principal of the Govt. Primary School (my main school) took me around the town on Sunday; she introduced me to te village chief and brought me to the local police station...showed me the local shop (not much bigger than my was all wonderful, and I was so well received...oh, another sidetrack...My new family renamed me. I am now M'e Neo (the word means gift). At any rate, after a full and lovely day with the principal, she said she would be at my rondavel at 9:00am the next morning to show me the main school...Mopei Primary School. Knowing that Basotho are never on time for anything, I didn't worry when she still wasn't around by 9:30. When 10:00 rolled around, I began to question my Sesotho. I thought I'd misunderstood her and was supposed to meet her at her house. I told my M'e and she had her grandchildren walk me over to the principal's house. When we got there, I proceeded to apologize for my which point the principal, M'e Matobo, smiled and said, you made no mistake...I said I would pick you up at your rondavel. She then proceeded to sit me down in her kitchen, saying, "I'll be right with you." That was at approximately 10:30. At 11:35 she emerged from her room, ready to start the day! This is very, very's not rude in the Basotho culture. One must always be patient and wait. It is, however, EXTREMELY rude for someone who is waiting to get up and leave...even if the wait is over 4 hours. The people are all relaxed and happy; I wrestle with the idea that the Peace Corps would like to change some things that the people really don't want to change! Anyway, enough philosophy for tonight. Well, one final note...if, in my exchanges with Basotho children, I can get one child to think more critically...more in a problem-solving mode, rather than memorization mode, this next two years will have been worthwhile. I love the people I've met...but I'm not sure they are ready for all the "development" that's being offered.
A few more pictures: M'e Neo's house

and a view from the hill in Tabola:

This is the main school at which I'll be working:

This is a typical morning assembly...even during the winter, the morning assembly is outside...I guess it really doesn't make much difference, since there's no heat or electricityin the classrooms anyway.

Here's the bus depot in Maseru:

and an agave:

My eigtht weeks of training have been in intensive Sesotho (language) classes, political, HIV/AIDs, economic, culture and the education system of Lesotho training.

On Thursday at 8:00 a.m., I will take my final exam, an oral assessment test in Sesotho. I am so nervous!!!! It's an individual test; I'm glad I'm going first...get it over with... If I don't pass, they'll keep me here at the training center until I do! I guess that's not really a bad thing, but I'm anxious to move along off these grounds and into Tabola. When I go back (hopefully on the 9th) I'll ask if I can have a dog. If they say yes, I'm going to go back up to Bhuta Bhute and find my Mtatata. I wish tomorrow was over. I guess I'd better get back to studying.

wish me luck. Gotta run to class. ...
Love to all of you, Rusty

12/24/2009 - Merry Christmas - Pictures from Hamebekenyane

Spending Christmas at the Peace Corps training compound in Maseru - thought you'd like to see a few pictures from my training assignment in Hamebekenyane.
This is my Friend Mary, another Peace Corps trainee in my group, standing on a hill - the thaba...(mountain) behind me and Mary, is Thaba Bosui (Mountain of the Night), the mountain depicted on the Lesotho flag and shaped like my traditional Lesotho hat. Thaba-Bosiu is Lesotho's great national monument.

This is a picture of the house I called home while posted in Hamebekenyane:

And here is a picture of M'e and Nthethe, my family in Hamebekenyane:

Merry Christmas,
Love Rusty

12/23/2009 - Back in civilization

I just left my home in Hamebekenyane. It was a one month off base training time....a combination of wonderful and difficult. It was wonderful because I was so happy in my little home, surrounded by cows, horses, chickens, dogs and a mother donkey and her baby. My host family was incredible and I cried all the way back to the training center in Masseru today.

It was so hard to leave today, because I'd become so attached to my host family. soon as I sat in a real toilet...with flushing water, I was glad to be back. The line is "out of the gates" for showers so I've decided to just wait 'til early tomorrow morning. My experience was both incredible and very difficult. It seems that half the people I've met are HIV positive. My village had a funeral every Saturday while I was there. How I wish you could meet the people I've come to love so much; they go through the days always singing...really...every incident, no matter how minor, is a reason to break out in song and/or dance. Today the village threw a huge feast for all the baithaopi (volunteers) to thank them for spending time in the village. Our village had seven baithaopi (pronounced baetoape) and the party was at my compound since my M'e is the chief of the village. We gave her a beautiful Lesotho blanket...and she gave me a traditional Basotho hat...The hat is the symbol you see on the Lesotho's taken from a famous mountain which we went to visit last weekend...Thaba Bosiu...which actually does have the shape of a strange straw hat! I have great pictures of the mountain and will send them along as soon as I get another card. I became very close to a little orphan, Nthethe. He's eleven years old and brilliant. In fact, he skipped from fifth standard to seventh for this next semester which begins after the new year. An orphan in Lesotho is a child with one parent; a child with no parents is called a double orphan. The village does a wonderful job of caring for ALL the children, but it's still a very hard life for Nthethe; he is a herdsboy who works for my M'e. She takes good care of him, but the situation is still sad. His mother has moved to South Africa to find work because the father died last year. Nthethe has a younger sister just going into fifth standard who takes care of his even younger brother all day while he watches the animals. Their grandmother is now their M'e...she fetches water and washes clothes for my M'e...and works in a small village shop. Needless to say, Nthethe got spoiled for Christmas...I bought him a white long sleeved uniforn shirt, 2 pairs of socks, a green uniform sweater and a small backpack. I've taught him to play yahtzee and he loves it. I'm hoping to apply for a Peace Corps grant so that he can go to high school next year. The government does give money, but it's mostly for double orphans. There's just so much to tell...and I haven't even begun my permanent assignment yet!! Anyway, Nthethe is someone I'll not forget for a very long time.
A baby donkey was born while I was in the adorable...he actually let me get close to him this morning for the very first time! I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be sitting here with electricity. I still wouldn't trade this experience for anything...I hope that when I come back I'll be able to help people in America see how much we all very lucky we are to have everything in such abundance...even the poorest of us has so much compared to the Basotho. I guess the most upsetting thing about living conditions here (other than rampant AIDs ) is the ignorance of the country when it comes to the environment...houses are so very clean...even the dirt in front of each house is swept once or twice a day..but the areas between houses has garbage strewn all over. If a Basotho finishes with something, it is just thrown to the ground. There's no garbage collection, so things just get burned on the property...plastic, styrofoam,
metals, etc. And of course the towns all smell because there's only pit toilets for each family. Oh, there's so much to tell and I feel as though I'm just rambling right now...very tired. I wish you all a wonderful holiday. Please know how very much you will be missed tomorrow.

12/14/2009 - Internet by candlelight I am writing by candle light again!! I'm kinda getting used to this....I finally got my wireless email!! I'm sitting in my hut, doing this by candle light!!! My battery only will last for two hours so excuse any fast typing mistakes, please. I haven't read your most recent emails because I want to get this out to you first...I have received my final assignment for January. I'll be working for a small government primary school in the district of Leribe, (A district is like our states) called Tabolo, northeast of Maseru.

I's a small, very poor town. It's extremely hot here because its mid-summer...but it's dry because Maseru is high in the mountains. I'll actually get snow when winter comes!

I'll be a resource teacher for three small government schools in the area of Tabola...that is I'll be helping to train Basotho teachers, most of whom haven't even graduated from high school. Lesotho is a very Catholic country; in fact, there are way more Catholic schools than there are government schools so I really lucked out with my assignment!!

I'll live in a small rondeval with a thatched roof, no electricity or running water!!! I'm thrilled with my new adventure and can't wait to meet all the new kids. School's out for summer break and doesn't start again until January.
...I love and miss my family so much...I do have a wonderful Basotho family here...the chief, his wife, two daughters, two sons and three grandchildren, 2 pigs, many cows, two horses, 3 puppies, 2dogs, many chickens and a mama donkey and her baby in the next field...

Harriet, thanks for the mail; I love hearing about what's going on in Steamboat.

I don't want to push my luck much further, so I'm gong to send this and try to read all your emails before the power runs down.

12/12/2009 - Technology Meltdown

...I am so frustrated with computers!!!!  Anyway, I found out today that my official asssignment will be in a small town in the Leribe district (state)...Tabola...a small govt. primary school 227 children...

Okay...the email just ran out again and I burst out of the kids, [other trainees in my volunteer group] just paid for 15 more minutes for me to send the other email and tell you that I won't send any more emails until I can set up my own computer. I will be living in a water.  Must send this.

This is the third time I'm trying to contact all of you and I'm about ready to give up...I just lost an entire email about my new I'm just going to call Audry and tell her.  I miss all of you like crazy...but know that this is where I am supposed to be on this incredible life journey.  I guess I'll have to write it all by hand and save it for two years.  Please write...Love, Rusty

11/23/2009 - 12/10/2009 Peace Corps Training off-sites

November 23, 2009
Training is intense and exciting!!!  I am at an off base training session in Butha Buthe
 in Northern Lesotho.  I'm staying with another volunteer in a round house with a thatched roof, no electricity and a pit least it's her own pit toilet!  This morning we (all three of the volunteers staying with her) learned how to take "cup/tub" showers without wasting too much water.  After we'd cleaned up a bit, began our hour long walk to Muela Primary School to visit with some of Meg's (the trainer) students and student teachers.  On the way we were stopped by a nice young man on the road who offered us a lift.  It turns out that he's an administrator with the Lesotho Highlands Development organization working on dams and tunnels to carry water to other areas of Lesotho and South Africa.  We made a side trip and visited the Khotso Dam and many tunnels connected under a huge was so exciting to see such new work being done in this lovely country!!  Anyway, when we finally got to school (many hours
later) we taught the first graders three songs and they taught us one in Sesotho.  We walked home about halfway after that and then picked up a "4 in 1"  a taxi...just for the fun of it.  It was crowded, smelly and fun!!!  Gotta be continued.

In two days I'll be heading off to a three week training site!! I'll get a chance to live alone in a rondavel, teach at a local village school, observe and guide local teachers, cook for myself of all...have some quiet-alone time. The pressure of learning Besotho has been GREAT...not good great but intense. I find myself staggering over words and phrases, misspelling, mispronouncing, etc, etc, etc. The “young ones” pick it up so quickly!! Oh well, the tortoise did get there, huh! Looking at the mountains takes much of my loneliness away, but it is still there; I watch the “young ones” chumming up, partnering, bragging about their love exploits and their drug and alcohol wild times, etc, and I realize that I am alone. There are birds, however, that remind me that I am never really alone...and other animals too. I love the donkeys! When I'm on the road and I pass a group of herd-boys with their cows, sheep or goats, I find myself talking with the animals and it calms me!
There's so much poverty here...the average Masotho doesn't eat more than two meals daily...if he's lucky. Papas, a kind of rough corn meal is served every meal...sometimes with cabbage, sometimes with beans...most of the time it's plain papas. The dogs, cows and oxen are just skin and bones, and there are no cats to be found, anywhere. Taxis and buses are over-filled with smelly, happy people, always singing, always with a sway to their tired bodies. If a me (mama) comes on board and stands in the aisle with her baby, it goes without question that she will hand the baby to a sitting person to hold! (It's actually a kind of neat thing to see...everyone going out of his or her way to help another.) . I want so badly to be able to communicate in Sesotho; I need to learn to be more patient with myself...I really need to learn to slow down. The AIDS epidemic is so much worse than is imagined in America. Schools are filled with orphans...every family has taken in someone else's family member or members...ten year olds go to school and then go home to a parentless house where they take care of younger siblings...yet everyone sings...everyone is grateful for what he or she has.
One of the most important lessons I've learned in the past two weeks is to make all around me aware that I am NOT Afrikaner..a white from South Africa. Apparently, the Afrikaans are hated by the Besotho because they have been so mistreated for so long...There is no racial tension between Besotho and Americans, so I've learned to immediately speak the little Sesotho I know as soon as I enter someplace, to show that I am not Afrikaner.
I cannot wait until I have my own place to live; I've found a nine month old puppy I'd like to adopt...I'll only do it, though, if I'll be able to bring it home with me. His name is Matata; it means trouble in Sesotho. I have so much to tell you, but my eyes and brain are now overworked!!! ( I think my heart is too, at the moment)...wouldn't it be nice if we could just wave a magic wand and make the world Heaven!!!

11/21/2009 - more notes home

November 21, 2009 6:15 A.M.
Good morning. It's been raining for a week now and we're all wet, cold and dirty! Oh well! Classes have ranged from fabulous to totally boring!!...especially the education classes...ugh. Our Sesotho classes are intense; we're learning conversational Besotho and are expected to speak it constantly...that's a lot of “brain power” every day. We plop into our bed glad for the silence. Yesterday we were taken out of the compound and (in groups of three and a trainer) we had to find a taxi, tell them where we wanted to go, get out, explore a bit, find another taxi and get home. My head was pounding by the time we returned!! But it was fun. The market to which we drove was loud, crowded and very dirty. The people were wonderful...very patient with our “baby-talk”. We still have not been out on our own, so we've been unable to buy phones or find some internet time in a local cafe. Tomorrow we are off on a three day jaunt to live with another Peace Corps Trainer. We'll be going to school with that person and possibly teaching. I'm so looking forward to getting out of here!
We've been given many lectures on safe sex because of the horribly high HIV rate in the country. Every day we're shown graphic pictures of infected people/families/communities. Saturdays (today) are regularly scheduled funeral days because of all the deaths, so shops are closed. I find myself talking with staff members within the compound (about twenty-five of them) and then walking away wondering how he/she has been affected ; it has touched every single person in this country...just awful.
Corporal punishment...what can I say? It does exist here. Children are beaten every day in school. We are told that it is part of the culture. We are advised to not interfere, but rather set an example of alternatives to be used when disciplining students. Volunteers have told us awful things they've witnessed in the entire classes being whipped when one child isn't able to answer a question. We are allowed to refuse to use corporal punishment ourselves, and, if this doesn't sit well with the principal, we are allowed to report the situation back to Peace Corps headquarters. There is a lot that is hard to digest (I haven't the stomach to tell you about the treatment of animals). But, I am here to make a difference, positively, even just a little difference...and that's just what I shall try to do. Again, I miss everyone terribly but am glad I am here, helping the Besotho. I love you all, Rusty

11/15/2009 - notes home on my first days in Lesotho...

Sunday, November 15, 2009
Lesotho's first call to me was filled with the music and rhythm of “The Mountain Kingdom”...a well deserved nickname for this country (It's also called “Kingdom in the Sky) . Everything around was...and is...pulsing with constant song. The people sing all the time, swaying their bodies to their own words as they greet one another. EVERYTHING is a reason to sing; our first language class was taught completely in Sesotho and body language...incredible! Where do I begin? I know that this will be a changing, comparative, give/take experience for me...I already wonder how I lived so long without constant song in my ears...maybe I didn't; maybe it's just coming to the “conscious” now but has always been resting in my soul.
Mornings...4A.M. is sunrise.... at the Peace Corps compound are filled with the happy voices of the morning doves. I jump up and shower at 5 A.M. It's not that I'm such an early riser...things just start sooner here because of the sun. There's a truck right near my bedroom window which leaves at 4:30 every morning...must be someone heading off to work for the day.
So far our days have been filled with school visits, language, safety, geography and culture classes ,and the taking in of wonderful cooking...well seasoned vegetables, papas (a kind of corn meal), rice, delicious fruits, fresh salads, chicken and a very tough meat...I think mutton. The seasoned Peace Corps workers tell us to enjoy it all in the next nine weeks...especially the showers...because most of us will be living much more austerely once we're sworn in. I must tell you about the children. We've visited three schools so far. In each place we were greeted like presidents or royalty!! Assemblies were given and the children sang and danced like we were the most important people to ever have crossed their paths. The children, although quite poor, are all so happy...and very proud of their uniforms (all Besotho children wear uniforms to school, and even the poorest manage to have at least a part of a uniform to wear.).Uniform colors designate to which school the children belong. We visited a high school where the students were fascinated with the pictures I took of them...then an early childhood center where the toddlers danced and sang traditional Besotho dances and songs, wiggling their little butts (diapers and all) in such a smooth, happy rhythm. Our last visit was to a Roman Catholic primary school where there were many orphans and double orphans (the Besotho distinguish between children who've lost one or both parents). The classrooms in all places were crude and sometimes primitive. Class sizes could go up to seventy students at some of the places. Most rooms had electricity but no heat (which is why there is a month's vacation in June...Lesotho's winter); the students usually sit three to a desk, all facing forward and copy work from a blackboard. Corporal punishment is used in all schools; the teachers, for the most part, walk around carrying sticks. This is tradition, not cruelty. In fact, most of the teachers to whom I spoke seemed so lovely and genuinely concerned about their charges. English is the second language in Lesotho, so I had no problem communicating within the academic setting. The Roman Catholic school tries to serve at least one meal a day, to help the orphans and double orphans. The students' latrines in all of the schools (if they have some) are just pits. In one of the classrooms, I glanced out the window and saw a farmer plowing the field with his oxen; it was a lovely picture, but the most impressive part of all this is how very happy all the children are!
The Peace Corps safety lectures told us of muggings, sexual harassment, robberies, kidnappings, etc., necessary awareness lectures, but I still feel relatively safe here. Maseru, the capital of Lesotho is very small. This morning we were allowed to walk to town, where I shopped at Shop-rite, of all places! Most of us haven't changed any currency yet, so we can't buy much. I picked up some shampoo, envelopes and laundry detergent...yup, there's a washing machine at the compound!
The days are relatively long since the sun doesn't really go down until about 7 P.M. The evenings are cool, but not at all uncomfortable; a light fleece is all that's needed. We (the Peace Corps Trainees and I) spend evenings outside, either playing cards or singing...we've got a small band going, guitar, harmonica, drums (a plastic bucket), ukelele and violin. We've also got a Hearts competition starting tomorrow; we've just had practice games so far!
Today is our first free's nice! I miss all of you...I'm glad I'm here, but I miss all of you, and wish we could talk. Rusty

11/22/2009 - I'm alive and in Lesotho

Hi all my loved ones...yes, I am alive and happy in Lesotho.  We have not had access to internet or cell phone service until today.  Next Wednesday (if we're lucky) we will be able to buy cell phones.  This weekend I am at an off-base training sight in Butha-Buthe (up north) and have "snuck in to an internet cafe.  I miss you all so much!!!  Happy Birthday, Golfo!!!  I'm wishing it now because I don't know when I'll be able to communicate again.  Must let somone else have a chance  The bus ride here was just as you've seen it in movies...VERY crowded, loud, long (4 hrs.) and fun.  No mail from home yet; please write

If you want to see where I am, paste these gps coordinates into google maps or whatever program you use and then zoom in: -28° 47' 38.85", +28° 31' 00.77"

11/10/2009 - Goodbye for awhile

Dear Steamboat, West Coast and East Coast families, Well, I've finally made it to the staging of my adventure in Africa. Please know that I shall keep all of you in my heart while I am away. Your support and encouragement has meant the world to me; thank you. Hopefully, my love for all of you will travel the lands and seas I cross and land on your shoulders, stick there and sleepily pop a smiley head up when you need a hug from Rusty! I already miss you, but know this is the path I was destined to take. Stay safe, happy and filled with all that helps make the world warm and cozy!

10/25/2009 - Steamboat Pilot Article

Article about Rusty in the Steamboat Today:

9/1/2009 - More Assignment Details it is...I'm going to a small country on the southern tip of the continent of Africa...Lesotho (pronounced Lesootoo).  My date of U.S orientation in either Philadelphia or Washington D.C. is November 10th.  Two or three days later I will leave for Lesotho.  By the way, Lesotho...if you're trying to find it on a map...lies within the country of South Africa.  Wish me luck!!!  I'll miss you all.

8/29/2009 - Peace Corps Assignment

Hi All...I finally received an assignment from the Peace Corps!!! I'll be training local teachers somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa...approximate departure date is early November. I'm off camping in California right now and will not know more specifics until I get back to Steamboat next week. When I know more, I'll let you know!!