Friday, November 26, 2010

November 25, 2010…Thanksgiving Day in Lesotho

There is no Thanksgiving Day in Lesotho…at least not as we know it in the United States. Today was a regular work day for me…but…some people came from America to see what a “good working library” is like in this country. They chose to visit my primary school, Mopeli because I’m always bragging about how fine it is! This is why I am so thankful today: After showing off Mopeli (very successfully, I must say,) I asked the visiters if they would like to visit another one of my schools…one without a library. After they said yes, I explained why it is still impossible for me to get a library for this school…(extremely poor facilities…roof caving in, other roofs leaking, no space, etc.). Then I brought them to Lepholisa Primary School. It was a trip worth taking because someone finally saw why these children are without a library. Maybe…if we’re really lucky…someone will donate large plastic bins so I can at least make small libraries in each classroom. I am thankful to have been able to share this problem with some people who might make a difference.

I thought of all of you today; I am so thankful to have you as family and friends. I am thankful to have been brought up in a country that has so much to offer us as Americans. I am thankful for such a wonderful family…thankful to be blessed with two of the most incredible grandchildren an nkhono could ever want!!! I am thankful for my good health and the good health of all those I love.

Most of all, I am thankful that I have been chosen to show others how beautiful our world is…every flower, leaf, stream, creature. Life is good; it’s especially good for us in the U.S.A. I shall never stop being thankful for every living creature that shares this planet with us. Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Girls' Initiation School

November 17, 2010
I had a most interesting experience on my way home from school today...I walked right smack into a group of young girls who were a part of the traditional bale (girls' "coming of age" ceremony). This is usually held way up in the mountains...a very secretive ceremony...rarely seen by outsiders...especially non-Basotho!
I asked my ntate about the ceremony, and he gave me the following information:
1. It's definitely a secret tradition, so I was lucky to witness the small part of it that I did.
2. Usually girls who do not do well in traditional school drop out and join this group. Ntate says the girls are quite often non-readers/writers.
3. The girls, just like the young boys in similar initiation groups, are circumcised...yes, even today.

My pictures are a bit unclear because I didn't want to stand too close with my camera! I was later told that camera men have been beaten and their cameras destroyed. These girls, however, did very obviously stop to perform for me and some other on-lookers, so I really doubt that anyone would have harmed my camera!

Their outfits were fascinating. They wore grass-like skirts which looked as though they might have been made from shredded plastic bags, very strange socks, wide, rubber-like belts around their waists, nothing above their waists and the strangest looking beaded masks. The upper parts of their bodies were covered in smeared gray clay. They all seemed very serious about what they were performing. They all also carried thin spear-like sticks, carved to a point at the tips.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rain, rain and more rain! November 9, 2010

We were very lucky yesterday. The rains stopped enough to allow a huge liquanyana (kindergarten) graduation at Mopeli Primary School. The celebration involved four different nursery schools from our district and went on from 8 A.M. until 5 P.M. Boy, do the Basotho know how to celebrate!!! There was feasting, singing, dancing, speeches and more feasting. A good time was had by all.
In order to properly prepare (get rid of dangers), Mopeli burned all the grass on its property in hopes that the puff adder would find a new home.
That was done last week; of course the children claim they saw the snake near the toilets the next day...who knows? So, people who came to the celebration were greeted with parched black ground all around!!
As soon as I got back to my rondavel, the rains started; it rained all night and is still raining now at 9:30 A.M. I'm at Renekeng today, sitting in a classroom filled with soaking wet kids trying to keep warm; at least we're all out of the rain...kind of...I'm counting at least six puddles on the floor of this fairly new classroom.
Keith Harrington, I must add to the last message; it seems that the daughter of one of your co-workers at the nursery works at Mopeli Primary School. Her mama was so proud to tell that she knew you way back when...!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November 1, 2010

I missed not celebrating Halloween; its not celebrated in Lesotho…kind of, you see, every day might be Halloween here with all the legends, superstitions and witches’ tales that the Basotho believe. For example: Last week there were two encounters with poisonous snakes here in Tabola. The first one was with a puff adder at one of my schools. The second was with a cobra at my compound. Okay, the fact that two poisonous snakes were seen in the vicinity within a week is bad enough, but the rumors that are flying around about their presence are even worse!!! It is being said, in town, that one young man followed the adder to the hole to which it was scurrying, and the adder quickly turned in the hole and stared into the eyes of the boy. After their eyes met, the boy went home not feeling well. He’s now in the hospital because he can’t seem to recover his health or strength!! I am told that he is to “be operated on” while in the hospital. Upon asking what the operation would be for, I was told, “to take care of whatever poison the snake has mysteriously administered to the boy through the eye staring!
No, I did not see either snake…wish I had! I brought up pictures of the black mamba, the puff adder and the cobra for people to see, and just looking at the photos nearly put a lot of Basotho into shock!
Keith Harrington, I hope you’re reading this!!!! (Keith is a former Peace Corps volunteer who sent me a letter back in August. He was stationed in Peka from 1986-1989.) Last week I went to visit the nursery you started when you were here! It was wonderful to visit with your former friends; they all remembered you and proudly showed me your pictures that are still hanging on the wall of the nursery building. The nursery is doing quite well. In fact, I bought a young pear tree to plant in my Ntate’s compound. The women with whom you worked remember you fondly!!
I was unable to gather much information about Peka High School; I know that it’s still in existence. A secretary at St Rose High School is a former student of your wife. She was in Form A at the time; her name is ‘Mamphiri Tsenekela…now Mathora Rathebe. I hope you received my snail mail letter asking for your email…I think that I may have forgotten to give you mine. Please just snail mail yours back to me and I’ll respond. I hope that you enjoy the pictures of my excursion to your nursery. You should feel very proud that you started a sustainable business for our Basotho friends. The picture you sent to me…standing in front of a sign, which said Peka Supermarket, was interesting. That building is now empty; there are a few small businesses in Peka, but, for the most part, Peka remains poor, with many unemployed hanging around the posong or spending their days drinking themselves into oblivion. No, the people do not use a slang version of “buy a donkey” to say thank you; they do, however, use the Afrikaans “tanki” to say thanks.
Unfortunately, Aid’s is running rampant here. Many young children are parentless, and being brought up by grandparents or other relatives. The country is still in denial about this devastating disease, but the Minister of Education is making a valiant effort to educate the young learners about abstinence and self-protection. People still do not list Aid’s as a cause of death on death certificates…anything but that. There are so many orphans and double orphans in the country now that they surpass the number of children with both parents. I’m sorry to paint such a dark picture of the state of health in Lesotho, but it’s a reality. The Basotho people are wonderful…still full of song, dance and laughter…they’re just not accepting, yet, of their grim future if they don’t do something about this epidemic.
On Friday, Mopeli Primary School took its grade seven students into Maseru for a special graduation picnic. We walked them over to a mall and WOW…THEY WERE JUST AWE STRUCK!! Most of these children have never been out of the village of Tabola…they’ve NEVER seen a city before…stoplights…elevators…escalators!!! They were so in awe of everything, that they didn’t utter a word in the mall. It was so wonderful to be a part of their discoveries! I love these children and wish I could bring every one of them home to see a bit of life in America.
And…. I was so thrilled to find out that Patti Murtha and Damian Lemak have gotten married and are living in Denver…yea!!! I realize that I have not sent pictures of the field trips to Katse Dam and Thaba Bosio; I’ll try to get them posted this week. I miss you all; stay warm and healthy! Love, Rusty

Here's a picture of one of my prize projects...gender equality...the BOYS are cooking the meat for lunch!

Here I'm riding a "horse" at the park and 'M'e Mathabo (the princiipal) is standing beside, giving the horse orders.

This is a picture of the Mopeli teachers when we took the seventh graders on a picnic in Maseru

Here's a picture of me and the teachers from Lepholisa.

This is a picture of the statue of King Meshoeshoe I, taken when we went to Maseru for the seventh grade picnic

That's a picture of Katse Dam taken from one of the winding roads.

1. This is the sign to read as you first travel up the path at Thaba Bosiu.

Thaba Bosiu (Mountain of the Night or Black Mountain) , is the famous mountain where King Meshoeshoe I protected the Basotho from all enemies...In these pictures you'll also see the famous mountain which prompted the design of the Basotho hat. Its name is Qiloane, pronounced with the famous African "click", and can be seen from Thaba Bosiu.

2. This is a shot of Qiloane Mountain, as seen from Thaba Bosiu.

3. A picture of the Renekeng teachers.

4. This is when we took the children into the parliament building, after Thaba Bosiu.

5. Just a mountain I saw from the bus; it looks like a lion to me.

6. This is the new Setsoto soccer stadium in Maseru.

7. when a camel smiled at me after I fed it some grass!!

Love you all, Mom