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!


  1. Wow. You have decided to extend. Congrats to you...that is a big move for I know how it feels to finally get to your 27th month! I am Millie Beall, from Steamboat...we have several mutual friends; the closest would be TRay. My husband Ben and I returned Nov 2009 from Bolivia and CR. I have read your blog on and off; you write so well. Good luck on the project..."sustainablility"----it is a tough one!