Monday, April 18, 2011

April 15, 2011

Yesterday Milcah (one of the Renekeng teachers) and I drove to Maseru in her tiny little car to pick up our books…. ALL THIRTY-THREE BOXES!!!!! (Five extra boxes were donated to my third school, Lepholisa, by the volunteer heading the African Library Project in Lesotho, so now I’ll be able to start a small library for that school.)
Of course we couldn’t get all the boxes into Milcah’s Polo, so we left with only nineteen of them. Another volunteer, Shanthi, was heading in today to pick up her books with her school’s truck; she offered to bring the rest of our boxes to Tabola. So there you go…we now have books to begin two more libraries. I know that Lepholisa’s will be small, but it’s a start! I’m so glad that we’ll be able to set up the libraries before the really cold weather sets in; we’ll create a cozy library room for the children to come into during their cold lunch breaks (they eat outside, for the most part.)

April 13, 2011

…it has indeed been a wonderful birthday for me! It began last week with the putting in of tiles on the floor of my rondavel. I now have a clean, waterproof (kind-of) floor in my little home. Ausi Mathabo, ‘M’e Mantsohle and ‘M’e Kebone helped me with the tiling, and a good but messy time was had by all.

On Friday, two volunteers slept at my house, Andrea from Butte Butte and Kimiko from Quthing. We had a lovely evening meal of beans and potatoes, laughed, exchanged Peace Corps stories and generally relaxed.

The next day we headed for Katse Lodge up in the mountains. We spent the day hiking and walking through the dam’s lovely botanical gardens.

At night we “luxuriated” in the hot showers and “vegged” in front of the T.V.!!

We wanted to take a boat ride around the dam, but didn’t get to it…maybe next time. Of course, there’s so much to see in Lesotho that we may not make it back there.
Finally, the best news of all…THE BOOKS HAVE ARRIVED IN MASERU!!! I received a call late last night telling me that they are in and ready to be distributed. Milcah and I will go to Maseru tomorrow to fetch them. It is my hope that there will be some “left-overs” that we can get for Lepholisa
A memorial service will be held next Tuesday for ‘M’e Mapalesa at Renekeng Primary School; her funeral will be next Saturday, April 23rd. at her home in Hlotse. She is so missed at Renekeng. It’s difficult for all of us to enter the teachers’ room without thinking of her or hearing her singing in the distance. Easter break begins next week, and I shall have business to take care of in Maseru, Morija and Bloomfontein. I will do all that I can to insure that I’ll be back in time for Saturday’s funeral. As difficult as this recent tragedy has been, the Renekeng teachers are settling down and beginning to accept her absence.

April 8, 2011…birthdays in Lesotho!

What a nice ending to a stressful week! Thank you to all who sent birthday messages via facebook!! There were so many that I was overwhelmed!…and the messages are still coming today! In fact, I had a surprise birthday phone call from Michael Brumbaugh!!! It was just like we were sitting across from one another, chatting over a cup of tea…or a Bloody Mary.
For all my Peace Corps friends, Mary (Ed.10 now gone home), is now the proud mother of a little girl, Lucia Josefina Avila. I am proud to share a partial name with this new little one! .She weighed in at over nine pounds on March 30th! Mary says that Lucia smiles a lot and has a head full of hair!
Yesterday the teachers at Lepholisa helped me celebrate my 69th year with a Basotho lunch; we had papa (a kind of boiled corn meal), moroho (chopped greens), lihapo (carrots) , khoho (chicken) and motoho (sour porridge). We laughed and sang a lot and then went back to work.When I arrived back home, my family had also prepared a birthday meal for me…pretty much the same thing, with the addition of rice and beetroot (beets). They’d also traveled up to our camptown, Hlotse, to purchase a birthday cake at Shoprite!!!.. How’s that for trying to make me feel at home?
Most Basotho do not celebrate their birthdays, but I have made a point of making a cake for every family member in my compound and every teacher at my three schools for his or her special day. This has excited all of them so much! I think a new tradition is about to come about in Tabola.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

March 30 - April 2, 2011

…where did the month go??? It’s now the second of April and I didn’t get to tell all the things that have happened the past month!
Let’s begin with a very generous lady who has helped Lepholisa Primary School. When Kathy Parker visited us last year, she saw what really bad shape the buildings are in for this school. She donated money so that we could buy plastic bins for library books in each classroom; now we’ll be able to apply to the African Library Project for a new library for this school! While here, she also noticed how badly the roofs on our three humble buildings were leaking…(that’s why we needed plastic bins for library books.) Kathy donated some more money so that we could fix the roofs. Now here’s where the story gets more interesting:
Two or three weeks ago ‘M’e Masello, (the principle of Lepholisa) and I went to buy materials to fix the roofs. We spent an entire day going from shop to shop to get the best prices for what we needed. After a full day of shopping, we bought what we needed with the promise that the materials would be delivered the next day. That did not happen; ‘M’e tried calling the supplier several times that day…no answer…that was a Tuesday. On Wednesday ‘M’e and I went back to the supplier in Maputsoe, only to discover that he had been ambushed in his car and shot. He was still alive, but in the hospital, and no business was being transacted from that store until further notice (still not happening). Well, we went home feeling pretty sorry for our school, and ourselves totally overlooking the fact that that Higher Spirit really does look after those who help themselves and stay positive. We both wallowed in self-pity that night; the next day I was to give a speech at a Peace Corps meeting. I put all thoughts of poor Lepholisa aside and began to concentrate on my short speech in Sesotho…okay, here’s the good part…I got through my speech in Sesotho with relative ease, took a deep breath and began to speak in English. In the course of the rest of my five-minute speech on what my jobs are in Lesotho, I happened to mention our misadventure with the materials purchases of that previous Monday. At the end of my speech, a man…not just any ordinary man, but the head of the District of Leribe, stood up as said, “See me before this meeting is over; I may be able to help you.” It turns out that he had just completed tearing down the old roofing of an entire hospital complex and wanted to get rid of all his waste…perfectly good roofing material!!! He told us he had to rush off to another meeting but would be back after 2:30. He was good for his word…at 2:30 we drove over to the hospital to see what was salvageable, and we couldn’t believe what we saw; there was enough good material to build new roofs for all three buildings and maybe even a new classroom! I guess The Higher Spirit knew just what he was about when the delivery didn’t happen last Tuesday! Tomorrow we will have a meeting with the school parents to see who’s going to do what…I promise to take pictures! and…thank you Kathy Parker. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the gentleman has gotten the students from the technical school in Hlotse to supervise the repairs!! They’ll be directing the parents’ work !

And on a much sadder note, April has already been almost too hard to bear. On April first, a dear friend, another teacher from Renekeng Primary School, passed away. ‘M’e Mapalesa was in a taxi accident on Thursday and died in the hospital in Maseru yesterday. ‘M’e Mapalesa taught at the same school where my good friend, Ntate Koto had taught…he’s the one who died last September. What’s really scary about this incident is that it’s the fourth death of a Renekeng teacher in as many years. A teacher has died here every year since 2008. Many of my friends are afraid to go back to school on Monday. The Basotho culture is a very strange mixture of Christianity and old beliefs of evil spirits who inhabit certain places. They believe that some evil spirit is working its bad will on the teachers of Renekeng Primary School. I found out, just today, when I went to visit the family of ‘M’e Mapalesa, that in 2005, when the land was first given for the building of a government school, some villagers who wanted the fields for grazing murdered the security guard who had been protecting the materials for the new buildings.
So, that’s actually five deaths. I shall be at Renekeng early Monday morning as I promised, and I hope I’ll be of some help when the news is officially told to the children during the morning assembly. ‘M’e Mapalesa taught the first graders. She was forty-seven years old. Her name means mother of a flower. New mothers in Lesotho will often take the name that they’ve given their firstborn, add Ma (meaning mother of) to it, and use that name for the rest of their lives. Yes, ‘M’e Mapalesa’s oldest girl is called Palesa. One more thing…I shall always remember the way ‘M’e would suddenly break out in dance and song when under any kind of stress; she and the other Renekeng teachers have taught me to always have a song in my heart…and I shall.