Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17, 2010

Ntate Lebohang Patrick Koto has died. He was a wonderful teacher and an even more wonderful friend. Memories of his smile, his voice, his love of music will be in my heart always. May his soul rest in peace, and may his dear wife and two young children find comfort in knowing that he is no longer in pain. May we all find happiness in his memory.

Here Ntate Koto is perfecting the decorations we drew on the chalkboard for his birthday; he was actually quite a good artist.

Here he's blowing out the candle on his birthday cake that I made for him...there are no birthday candles so I used one of my night lights!

This was at one of our sporting events; he was so proud that Reneking won that he held the winner and brought her all the way back to us.

Here he is cheering with the Renekeng kids.

One of my favorite, though not a very good, picture. It was a day that the taxi didn't come for us and we all trudged home...almost a two hour walk in the afternoon...after teaching all day...but we sang and talked with the animals all the way home.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

just a cute picture of Tsoene in his bed

this is the rooster I meant to send last week. He just decided to pay the school (Mopeli) a visit one morning

two donkeys (lidonki, pronounced deedonkee, or liesele, pronounced dee esele. donki is Afrikans and esele esotho. li or ba in front of a nound makes it plural. We met these donkeys on the way to Nkhono's.

this is a baby lamb (konyane) I met on the hike to Nkhono's house

Where do I begin?…perhaps at the point of present thoughts…I hope that this is the worst week I’ll ever have had experienced in the Peace Corps.
That being said, I can now tell you that we here in Lesotho are all survivors; we are strong and share a common bond. Thank goodness!

Let’s go back to last Thursday. That’s when I went to visit a dear friend in Peka. Ntate Koto is a teacher at one of the schools to which I am assigned. I went to visit because he’s quite ill with tuberculosis. It is thought that he contracted it when he was at college during our winter break from school. He thought he had a cold, and when his cough worsened, he had it checked out; that’s when it was discovered that he had tuberculosis. He was put on medication, so all of us were relieved to know that he was on the road to recovery. Last week we were told that he had been taken off his medication because of adverse affects on his liver, so many of us went to pay Ntate Koto a visit after school. Now, you may remember the pictures that were posted of Ntate’s 43rd. birthday. You could see that he was a handsome, young and vibrant man. When I saw him on Thursday, he had aged about thirty years; he was small, frail and curled up on his mattress like an infant; he could barely speak, but he was still so happy to see us.
It was then that I said a silent good-bye to my friend.

The next day, after an awful night’s sleep, I did something to make me feel much better. I went with some Girl Guides (like American Girl Scouts) to help a very old Nkhono in my village.
This is a view of Mopeli from the top of one of the hills we climbed on the way to Nkhono's hut.
These are the girl guides trudging up the road with supplies for Nkhono

Some teachers went with us, so we all pitched in with the dancing, singing and jobs to be done…

This is a picture of Nkhono Alis
We had found out that she had no food, was too weak to wash her clothes and house, and was desperately worried about her seventh grade grandson for whom she was responsible; both of his parents had died.
Nkhono and Sekloholo
Nkhono Alis, Motsoalle and Me 2
The girls were WONDERFUL!!! They sang and danced as they did their chores.

this is a picture of a dunga, a deep, eroded pit, which we passed on the way to Nkhono's place. There are many dungas here because the people haven't quite grasped the concept of soil erosion.
Cow Dung and loam

This is one of the teachers chopping wood with the grandson
This is the mixing of cow dung and soil so that the outside of the hut can be smeared

we smeared the outside of her hut with a mixture of cow dung and soil (part of a Masotho’s spring cleaning).Smearing 2
Then we washed blankets,
Washing Blankets
put tons of donated food away and danced and sang some more!!

some of the girl guides who helped that day. They're sitting in the middle of Nkhono's compound.
I had to leave the “party” early because of another obligation, so I went to say good-bye to Nkhono Alis…but she wouldn’t let me go! She insisted that I wait just one more minute because she had a gift for me. I did, all the while wondering what this woman who owned virtually nothing wanted to give me. Finally Nkhono hobbled out holding two mismatched glasses…kind of like the ones you’d see at a second-hand shop. My heart wanted to break when I saw how proud she was of her gift for me. I wanted to cry, “No, Nkhono, you need those for you and your grandson. Please, please keep them!” But I didn’t because I knew how much it meant to her to be able to give something in return. There was no way I would refuse the gifts and hurt her feelings. When I leave Lesotho I have already decided to leave most of my possessions behind; I still will…with the exception of my two lovely glasses.

the gift
By the way, Nkhono told me that she was born in 1912!!!!! That would make her 98 years old. I asked my ‘M’e who couldn’t confirm Nkhono’s age; but what does that really matter? That day I felt that there was an angel (or maybe a turtle) watching over all of us.

It was an inspiring and wonderful day. It was also the day I found the pen-pal letters from America waiting at the post office for one of my classes!

That same evening I received the tragic news that one of my fellow volunteers had been shot and killed in Maseru. My heart sank when I heard the story of his death. I joined my colleagues the next day and the mourning process began.
Hard, hard, hard.
A memorial service was held for him on Monday. I am back in Tabola now…happy to be back with the Basotho people I call family. They have been wonderfully supportive during this horrendous week.
I worry about my young colleagues. Most of them are having a lot of trouble coping right now. I know that time is a great healer, but I also know that time is slowly passing for all these volunteers. I know that none of us can “fix this mess”…but all of us wish, somehow, we magically could just make it all go away.

I must close by telling you that I am very proud of all the volunteers in Lesotho…especially my Ed. ’10 group (of which Tom Maresco was a part).
We shall survive this.
A special thank you must go out to the Lesotho Peace Corps Staff.
Their incredible work has made this tragedy easier to handle.
They addressed and took care of all the logistics of getting every volunteer safely back to headquarters, feeding us, putting us up in various places for many nights, organizing a profound memorial for Tom Maresco, Jr., who, by the way, was only 24 years old and the only child of Mr. And Mrs. Maresco, and finally, having the foresight to have professional counselors available for all involved.
Thank you, Tabby, for your kind council.
I am still very proud to be a member of the U.S. Peace Corps.

some lovely peach blossoms along the path...they're all over the countryside right now

This is a view of my rondavel and Ntate and 'M'e's house...the peach colored we climbed another hill to Nkhono's place.

I taught the Mamoabis how to make smores one night. This is a picture of Mathabo and Teko roasting marshmallows.