Sunday, December 4, 2011

December 4th, 5th & 12th - The missing Entries

It’s been a hectic past few weeks!  Schools closed for summer vacation last week…there was a lot of testing, cleaning of rooms, recording of scores, collecting of texts, etc.   All three schools did well on the national final exams, and all three sets of teachers LOVED their Christmas presents of baseball caps with their schools’ names on them.
I was also able to get to Andrea’s house in Butha Buthe and celebrate Thanksgiving with her.  We both are so thankful to live in America and be independent Americans!!! After spending two years in Lesotho, observing the vast cultural differences…especially with family interactions…we are proud to be part of a culture that speaks out freely!  
I am in the process of packing my things and getting ready to move into a different rondavel. My present family needs to have this rondavel for their growing family, especially during the holidays.   There’s always a new adventure just around the corner here!  I shall be on the west coast, [of the United States], for the month of January; I am SO looking forward to coming home!!! If I don’t get a chance to write again before the new year, I wish all of you a wonderful, healthy and happy 2012!

Here are the pictures, finally:
Picture of Ausi Mathabo in her new birtrhday seshoeshoe.
Pictures of the Renekeng teachers wearing their hats.
Picture of the Mopeli teachers wearing their hats.

Picture of the Lepholisa teachers wearing their hats.

December 5th 2011:
Today a couple of the local abuti started to tear the old thatch off the roof of my new rondavel (it's actually not a rondavel...nor is the one I am living in now a rondavel. A rondavel doesn't have a porch; since these both have porches, they are actually limakharo.) Once the thatch is down, it will take about a week to re-roof it...and, of course the rains began today!!! When the roof is finished, they'll cover the dirt floor with cement and then I'll probably tile it. I hope to have the tiling done so I can move in before December 20th.
Two of the photos are not of the makharo; one is of Tsoene, who conveniently decided to fall asleep right on the back of Andrea's legs. The other is of a lovely black and white rooster who lives with the Monyanes ('M'e Mathabo's last name). It's really wonderful to see how the young ones just pitch in and help when asked...and they're working in the rain!

December 12, 2011:
Here I am in my seshoeshoe skirt...the traditional dress of the Basotho. Most of them wear dresses, but I didn't want a dress made because all the dresses have puffy sleeves....oh, and that's Tsoene...the sunscreen bothers his eyes so he's decided to use the alternate method of sun protection.
I wore my seshoeshoe (pronounced seshwayshway) to a recent graduation party. I had a brown seshoeshoe skirt made when I first arrived but I've gotten too fat for it, so had to have another made!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 18, 2011: Road To Mopeli is On-Line!!

WOW!!! My Peace Corps Project was finally accepted in Washington. Please check out the following website for information and donations…every little bit will help, and THANK YOU in advance.

This link represents the first phase of the project; the electricity phase.
Due to the scope of the Road To Mopeli project, the Peace Corps is having us complete it in Phases. This first phase will pay for getting the electricity run to the existing school buildings of Mopeli Government Primary School.

Once we've completed this phase successfully, we will be able to move on to subsequent phases of the project, ultimately putting in the brick road which will facilitate the establishment of evening educational programs, AIDS/HIV education and prevention training and medical assistance for the ~12,000 residents of the ten surrounding villages.

The sooner we reach our fundraising goal for Phase One, the sooner we can complete the phase and move on to the next phase.

Thank you in advance for helping to support this project. Any donation you can make will help us reach our goal.


Monday, November 14, 2011

November 12, 2011

Today is a very special day for me; it’s the day, two years ago, when I arrived in the Mountain kingdom of Lesotho. It is also Tsoene Mathata’s second birthday…and he’s still as feisty as ever! My life is so much richer because of this day…thank you, Universe.

Addendum…it is the morning of November 13th…I have just come from outside where there was a great hu-bub of chaotic sounds and movements…people in my Basotho family, all chasing Tsoene and yelling. It seems that one of Ntate’s baby chicks escaped from its cage and right into the waiting mouth of Tsoene!! He helped himself to his own after-birthday dinner. He is such a mathata!
Ah, things are deteriorating rapidly. Ntate wants me to get rid of Tsoene; he says he’s a wild cat who will eat all the baby chicks. I have said that I cannot get rid of him…he is like my son. The Basotho do not understand this. I have offered to buy better caging to keep the chickens in, but Ntate says, “NO, they should be free; they are only fenced because of your wild cat!” I have offered to move to another place, but Ntate says,”No, the Peace Corps will think that we don’t like you.”
My supervisor, ‘M’e Mathabo is coming by after church, to see if she can help resolve this problem. My cat is truly named Tsoene Mathata. The expression, “Ha ho na mathata” (no problem) is sometimes misleading; in life there ARE problems. Our strength of character lies in how well we handle/solve them. Wish me luck.

Addendum #2
‘M’e Mathabo came and talked with the Ramoabis. Tomorrow after school we will go to the market and buy materials to make a better cage for the wild chickens and their babies.

November 10, 2011

Strange events never cease to amaze me about Renekeng Government Primary School. Today some of the teachers and I visited a little girls who’s been absent from school for well over a month now…because she’d allegedly been poisoned by a classmate Both of the girls are in class 1.
The story goes like this (although nothing’s been proven…even with a police investigation): It seems that a first grader invited her friend into a dunga after school and offered her some hair elixir to eat. (Dungas, by the way, are very deep crevices in the earth, made from water erosion.) The little girl, being hungry after school, ate the elixir, went home and then became violently ill. The girl’s mama immediately picked up the girl, who was convulsing by this time, and jumped into a taxi to get her to the nearest clinic. One of the teachers happened to be riding in that very taxi and, upon seeing how serious the situation was, convinced the mom to go to Maputsoe, the nearest big town, rather than the local clinic in Peka, which is always out of medicine and never has a doctor available.
By the time the three of them reached the bigger clinic in Maputsoe, the little thing was barely breathing. The clinic sent the three of them to a hospital in the camp town of Hlotse. Many rides later, the trio arrived at the hospital, where all the nurses just shook their heads in despair while the mom and teacher stood helplessly and cried with fear. A passing doctor happened to see the now very still child, grabbed her and rushed her away. After staying with her and working on her frail little body all night, the girl began to show some signs of life. She was sent home in three days, but returned because she had turned blind and was shaking constantly.
While all this was going on, the little girl who offered the elixir to her friend was questioned. She repeated the same story over and over: “My grandma told me to bring my friend to the dunga after school. She told me to only bring her and then tell her to eat the elixir. My grandma said I was not to eat it myself.”
The grandmas of both children were then brought in for questioning. (The mother was still at the hospital with her child)…Now, here’s where the story gets even more intriguing: It seems that the mother of the child who was poisoned is a policewoman in the neighboring town of Peka. Not only is she on the police force there, but the previous week she had arrested the son of the grandmother who had allegedly told her grandchild to feed the elixir to her classmate.
Are you following all this??? This still has not been resolved. After several days of questioning and several days of giving the same answer, the little girl who said she’d indeed fed the elixir to her friend came to school with many bruises on her body. She told the school that the grandma, for telling her story, had beaten her. When the grandma was again questioned, this time about the wounds on her granddaughter’s body, she said she had beaten the girl for lying to us.
The little girl, whom we visited today, has regained her sight, but she has a constant shaking in both hands and a problem with her speech. . She seemed quite alert and happy to see all of us; that made us happy and relieved. I am hoping that the family will be able to afford to bring her to a specialist in South Africa.
When we questioned the grandma about her granddaughter’s return to Renekeng, an absolute NO was answered; they are so afraid of more “witchcraft” being set upon the family. Renekeng’s villages are indeed strangely superstitious.
It is my hope that I shall see the little girl in school when it resumes in January, after the summer vacation.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 28, 2011

October 28, 2011
This week I had the honor of hosting two Peace Corps trainees for a few days.  Despite the fact that they both had to share my bed while I slept on the floor, they had (I think) a good experience!
Both Peggy and Katey made themselves quite at home with my bucket bath, pit toilet, spotty electricity and outside water pump.  They’ve been here in Lesotho for a bit more than two weeks and amazed me with how much Sesotho they already speak and understand…they’ll go far!  It was great to find out that both of them are training in the very village where I originally trained, Hamabekenyane.   I think that one of the highlights of their visit was the fact that they loved the steamed Basotho bread that I made for them…yup, we all love to be praised sometimes.
The few days they stayed with me were actually very busy; we visited all three of my schools, where I introduced them to staff and children and had them participate in parts of school lessons.  The comments they made about the schools were interesting.  Katey, who will be working in only one primary school as an English teacher was most concerned with the fact that she might not like her only school.  I tried to reassure her that the experience would be what she made of it.  Peggy, who will be a resource teacher like me, at three schools,  didn’t seem that concerned with her future placement.  I guess she feels that one out of three good schools may be enough to keep her satisfied.
Besides simply shadowing me, we did have some other adventures:  we went to Peka to meet the post-mistress, we visited the local shopping places in Tabola, we rode the crazy taxi, we visited TY and used the internet cafĂ© and we ate at the hotel in TY, where they insisted on buying my lunch.  They are now safe and sound back at their training families’ homes…and probably exhausted! Unfortunately, I was so busy trying to be a good hostess that I forgot to take pictures…sorry.   I hope that I’ll be able to attend their swearing-in ceremony some time in mid-December.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October 7, 2011

Our short trip to Swaziland has helped my three friends and I agree on one certainty about Lesotho…we P.C.V.s in Lesotho are truly getting the real Peace Corps experience. As soon as we crossed the border and saw the lush, green vegetation, the abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables, the smiles on the mellow, easy-going people…and electricity and flush toilets everywhere, we knew that we are lucky to be serving in Lesotho! No, that is not a touch of sarcasm; we really are having a good, tough experience here…one which has changed our lives forever. Our little vacation has reminded us of how hard life really is in Lesotho. .
Let’s step back for just a minute…my three travel companions were Andrea, Kimiko and Sara; we made a wonderful foursome! Although we are all so different, our differences complemented one another and made for great conversations, activities and much laughter!! Sara and I love to shop in the local crafts places; Andrea and Sara love movies and malls; Kimiko and I love nature, animals and photography…and all of us loved getting away and relaxing together. We actually traveled up to Swaziland as a five some, but Katey had other friends in Swaziland and went her own way after our first night in Mbabane, the capital of the country. In fact, Katey is still there! Apparently there were some protests just after we left on Wednesday morning, and Katey had to stay in “lock-down” with some of her Swazi P.C .V . friends; I think she’ll be home on Sunday.
Our trip started at 5 am last Friday. We crossed the border from Maseru Bridge into South Africa in the dark; then we got a combi (van-taxi) to Jo’burg. That was about a five-hour ride. In Jo’burg we battled the hordes of people as we walked from one taxi rank to another…about five blocks of teaming humanity, loud noises, incredible traffic jams, great smells, wonderful outside stalls selling everything from used clothing to razors and staring eyes…all looking at the five Americans brave enough to be taking this walk. When we arrived at the next taxi rank, we were told to give the conductor our passports. Sara said, “uh uh…ain’t giving my passport to anyone”…after which she received a marriage proposal! With a bit of luck we were able to go with the passports to where they had to be registered….and finally, the combi to Swaziland. This was another five hour ride, but we managed to reach our hostel, Bambaso’s, before dark. Needless to say, we all slept well that night.
The next morning we bid farewell to Katey and headed down toward Manzini in the Ezulwina valley. Here we found Lidwala, a wonderful hostel that we stayed at for the next three nights. The owners had a room with three bunk beds for us…perfect! Again, we slept very well until the monkeys running on the tin roof awakened us at dawn.
After making ourselves some breakfast and packing a lunch, we headed toward Manzini and the craft markets. Our travels on the combis were wonderful; all the people in this little kingdom speak incredibly good English, so we were able to have many interesting talks. Most of the people are so very happy here…they love their king and never really want to leave Swaziland. Only once did Kimiko and I hear otherwise. One day she and I took off for a nature reserve. The taxi driver who took us there was totally different from the other Swazis we’d met; he was against the absolute monarchy, wanted a say in the government, wanted unions for all workers and claimed that the only reason all the other people on the combis seemed so happy was because they were afraid to do otherwise. It was an interesting different perspective.
What amazed me most during my short visit was seeing all the primary schools with electricity and running water! That’s a far cry from what we are dealing with in Lesotho. Our day at the nature reserve was indescribable; Kimiko and I walked and took photos all day. Sara and Andrea stayed behind and visited a mall and a movie theatre.
Our most exciting experience at the reserve was when we were standing on a small ledge overlooking a pond with a small island in the middle where two hippos were napping. While shooting the hippos, Kimiko whispered, “Rusty, don’t make any sudden moves but just look down.” There below us was the most tremendous sleeping crocodile I’d ever seen. We’d been standing within “snapping distance of him taking pictures for at least five minutes!!!! We very quickly and quietly backed away…and of course he never even opened an eyelid! Our trip ended all too soon. On Wednesday morning we were on the road again; we got into Lesotho after dark, but were picked up by a Masotho friend of mine who owns a taxi.
Today, Tsoene Mathata (Monkey Trouble), my cat, had his first trip to the doctor. My friend was kind enough to hire his car to us for the day; he drove me, Ausi Mathabo and Tsoene to the veterinarian in TY, where he was “fixed” and received all his necessary shots for coming home to America with me.
Believe it or not, I am glad to be back “home’. I’m refreshed and ready to start work on Monday…of course I’ll not get much done in Tabola; I have a three day classroom management workshop to conduct in Roma next week, and then I am going to the airport in Maseru to greet the new education trainees who are coming in on Friday. Poor Tsoene; I’m always leaving him.
I miss everyone back home. For those of you who might not have received the news, I’ve decided to extend my service so that I can finish my projects in Tabola. I shall be home for one month during Dec/Jan., but will stay only on the west coast to visit all my children. Stay well and always remember that you live in a wonderful country. Treasure your freedom!