Saturday, December 1, 2012

November 24, 2012 - farewells, celebrations and new beginnings

Whew…so much has happened since my last entry: Let’s talk about Mopeli’s Farewell, the class 7 trip to Durban and my new Peace Corps volunteer replacement.
 Mopeli’s farewell, as with Lepholisa’s farewell, was both difficult and wonderful…pretty much the same story as in my previous blog…a lot of tears, presents, singing, dancing and food.
It was a wonderful day and a terrible day because I just don’t like being reminded of the separation that’s upcoming…but I know that all these celebrations are to help prepare me to accept it!  The food was extraordinary, as was the lovely seshoeshoe, tjale, kobo, and hat that were given as gifts. 
I noticed that I was not the only teary-eyed female that day; many of my colleagues held my hands with very puffy eyes;
 It is not the Basotho way to cry in public, and so I know that my metsoali, (friends) were embarrassed about their puffy eyes, but I felt so much less alone!! Thank you metsoali!!
 The trip to Durban was just fun, fun, fun!!…no casualties, no sickness, etc. 
 Most of the children had NEVER seen a city before (a few had seen Maseru on a previous school trip); equally amazing is the fact that NONE of them had ever seen an ocean!! 
 I can’t begin to tell you how much fun we all had jumping the waves of the Indian Ocean together…of course, I fell down at least once!
 This week,  my replacement for Tabola came to spend four days with me.  Her name is Zoe. ‘M’e Mathabo gave me the honor of giving her a Basotho name; we shall be calling her ‘M’e Mastsepo (Mother of Hope).  She’s a lovely young lady who’ll fit in well with the Tabola/Mopeli/Lepholisa communities…that is if she decides to come back here once she’s sworn in as a full Peace Corps volunteer after her training!!  You see, we ran her around so much that I’m afraid we may have overwhelmed her!  The community and all three of my schools reached out to her and welcomed her with open and caring arms.  It’s a comfort  for me to know that I’ll be leaving my position to such a smart and capable young lady! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November 4, 2012 - Lepholisa Farewell

On Friday, November 2, Lepholisa Primary School held a Farewell Feast for ‘M’e Neo… me.  It was intended to be a joyous occasion, filled with memories of my past three years in Lesotho, funny and sad stories, traditional songs and dances, traditional Basotho food and gift giving.

The day was all of this…and more.  It was a tearful day of facing reality for me…the reality that I shall soon be leaving the Basotho people and my beloved second home, Lesotho.

            The ceremony was stressful because I tried to be as strong as a Basotho woman, but failed.  I was unable to control my tears the way the bo ‘m’e do during all their trials and tribulations…but at the same time, I realized that that’s okay!  I was reminded that I am an American woman, strong and capable…capable of showing and sharing these emotions with those who are dear to me. This was a gentle reminder of my origins and my home, America.

            As difficult as the day was for me, I must say that everyone else had a wild and happy time!
   The food:  setampo- creamed maize kernels, papa- a maize like corn bread, likhobe- corn kernels, khoho- chicken, nyekoe- beans and sorghum, lipabe-maize (which has been roasted, ground to a flour–like consistency and mixed with salt and sugar, then put into the palm of the hand to be licked), and motoho- a sour, loose porridge to which sugar is added before drinking.  The feast was scrumptious!!!

            I was also presented with traditional Basotho clothing:  a red seshoeshoe- a dress, a tuku-matching scarf, a tjale- a small blanket that the women wear over their shoulders or around their waists, and a Basotho hat. 
Many other small gifts were presented: a statue of  King Moshoeshoe the first king of Lesotho,  a diary, a clay pot and a small purse made from local mohair!

            There were speeches, speeches and more speeches…all in Sesotho of course; my friend and colleague, Nthabeseng,was kind enough to sit next to me and translate. 
Then the students in each grade performed a traditional song or dance in my honor.

            After all the formalities were finished, the crowd of students, parents, dignitaries, etc. began to feast, drink, dance and sing. 
The highlight of the dancing was when many of the ntate (fathers) formed a circle around me and began to dance and sing…it was lovely! 
We all finally went home, exhausted, full and happy.  
Lepholisa, I shall never forget you!

            Ah, tomorrow there’s another farewell at Mopeli School.  Maybe I won’t cry!!!

October 19, 2012 - Tanzania and Zanzibar

This boat can take you to some of the other islands off the coast of Tanzania

My trip to Tanzania and Zanzibar was fantastic…so very different from sub-Saharan Africa, where I live.  Because of its proximity to the Equator, Tanzania’s weather, vegetation, wildlife, etc. are all so different from what I am used to seeing in Lesotho and South Africa.

The last picture is taken on the dock when we waiting for the ferry to take us back to the mainland.

These are some of the Maasai herds men who live on the Serengeti Plains.
First of all, the weather is wonderful…hot and dry on the mainland especially in the towns of Moshi and Arusha, and hot and muggy on the coast and in Zanzibar. 

This is a view of Mt Kilimanjaro from our hotel window.  It's almost always covered in cloud, so we were very lucky to see it that morning.

Mt Kilimanjaro looked awesome from our window at the hotel in Moshi.  We actually never got a much closer look than what you see in the picture…although…Terry did!  Most Tanzanians have never climbed the mountain; they’re too busy trying to survive and raise enough food to keep their families healthy.  However, they are all quite proud of this national, natural treasure!  They are also proud of the Serengeti Plain,
a typical view of the Serengeti Plain.  It's flat, hot and can see long grass dancing in the breeze and acacia trees no matter where you look.  Only the Maasai live on the Serengeti today.  They are a strong, hardy group of people who are able to survive under the most harsh, dry conditions.

Ngorongoro Crater and all the wildlife and abundant fruits of their country.

The Ngorongoro Crater is in the Serengeti National Park.  It's a crater which was formed millions of years ago from a volcano.  Many different forms of wildlife live on the rim and down in the crater.  People are allowed to live along the rim; in fact, the Maasai, a tribe of herds people, live along the rim.  These people still adhere to their traditional and purple cloth used as a light blanket and colorful small beads on their ankles and wrists.  The Maasai are allowed to bring their herds of cattle down into the crater every day to water them., but on one is allowed to stay down there overnight.  It's wonderful wild in the crater!
The animals on the Serengeti Plain and in the Ngorongoro Crater are left completely alone.  Occasionally, a ranger may collar an animal to study its movements, but other than that, they are left completely alone.  They are not fenced in nor fed by man.  As far as I know, the only man-made interference is that hunting the animals is forbidden.
Visiting Zanzibar was like visiting a different continent.  99% of the residents are Muslims; therefore their bodies are almost always covered, no matter how hot it gets.
a taxi on the island of Zanzibar. All of the taxis are open-topped taxis, with flaps that can fold down in case of a heavy rainfall.
A dhow, by the way is a small fishing sailboat.

Stonetown, an ancient town on the island of Zanzibar, is where we stayed…

This is a picture of the hotel we stayed at in Zanzibar.  It was originally a palace for a very wealthy landlord.  It's been remodeled several times since it was first built in 1559, but all remodeling has stayed true to the palace's original architecture.  The hotel was loaded with all sorts of wonderful antiques!

at a wonderful hotel that had first been built in 1559! (Of course it’s been updated throughout its history.)  The antiques at this hotel were fantastic…as was the food. 

This is where we were first introduced to the bongo fruit…an ugly fruit that makes a delicious juice!  

We spent time on the lovely beaches of Zanzibar and explored a spice plantation! 

This is a picture I took from the ferry going back to the mainland from's two islands that are washing away from the bottom up!

This picture is of Maasai bee hives.  The people cut out logs and hang them in trees.  Then the bees take it from there!
As much as I loved being on Zanzibar, I must say that the highlight of my trip was my six-day safari on the Serengeti Plain.  You’d think that by now I’d be sick of looking at animals in the wild…NOT AT ALL!  This safari was every bit as thrilling as my first one.  One fun part was when Barbara and I “roughed it” in a luxury tent at a safari campground…no kidding…

The next is a picture of the tent Barbara and I stayed in at the Safari campground.  It was so much fun...running water, a toilet and a shower, all inside the tent!

it really was a luxury tent…complete with our very own sink, shower and flushing toilet IN THE TENT!  Our two nights tenting were definitely better than the accommodations at the other lodges.

Terry, Barbara and I had an exciting trip; we all came back to Lesotho both tired and refreshed!!

Barbara is standing at the base of a very old baobab tree.

Now, my major work each day is preparing for my return to the United States.  I am beginning to “back off” from many of my daily school activities; it’s difficult to let go, but in order for all the work that’s been done to be sustainable, I must now sit back and watch all my Basotho colleagues and friends take over.  I am not used to sitting!!!! Oh well, there’s a lot of reading to do!

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 8, 2012

Spring has FINALLY come to Lesotho! We’re not quite in short sleeves yet, but the long underwear, double sock layers, scarves and gloves can be packed away for a while. Peach blossoms are dotting the countryside and young animals are being born wherever I travel! It’s wonderful! In two weeks I shall travel with some Peace Corps friends to Tanzania. Terry wants to try his luck climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro so his wife, Barbara, and I shall do some sight seeing and “safari-ing” during his climb. We’re all excited with the prospect of seeing Zanzibar and the ancient city of Stonetown. Sometimes the planning is just as exciting as the actual trip! After such a cold winter, I am confident that we’ll relish the heat of Tanzania! It seems strange that all of you have just enjoyed the Labor Day weekend and are settling down to fall activities while the summer is just beginning for us in Lesotho. Oh how I’m looking forward to the hot hot days of summer!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012 - Windy & Cold

Well, it’s still very cold. The snow has finally stopped, but now we’re dealing with incredibly strong winds! I have to stick a blanket in my door at night to keep out the cold and the dust. We’ve been without Internet service for about a week now…since the last snowstorm. I am not sure if the storm has done something or if my computer is on the blink. Tomorrow I’ll head to Maputsoe to see if they can figure out what’s going on with my email; I am really quite spoiled…one week without hearing from my U.S.A. family and I’m lonely, a bit frantic and almost ready to come home! But I know that there’s still a lot to accomplish in the next four months, so on I’ll go on!

August 7, 2012 - Snow in Lesotho

Today there is snow in Lesotho again…it’s VERY VERY COLD! The people in my village are not used to dealing with the snow; it happens rarely here. Mariha (winter) is playing its usual tricks on us…a few days of pleasant weather, allowing us to believe that Selemo (spring) is just around the corner…then boom! When I came to school this morning, I saw children walking in the cornfields with their uniforms and blankets tightly wrapped around their little bodies. Many of them were not wearing socks…a few were barefooted! How the Basotho are able to survive is amazing! Most of the young ones laughed and sang as they “shivered” their ways to their schools. Since I was the first teacher to arrive at Renekeng Primary School; I slipped into the warm little room where lunch was being prepared for the children; I wanted to see if I might thaw my toes a little bit. Three fires were going so that beans and papa could be cooked. The children will eat as soon as the food is ready and then go right back home to climb into their warm beds and blankets. It’s the only way to stay warm on days like today because most families cannot afford heaters in their huts. As the tiny ones entered the school grounds, they were ushered into the cooking room to warm themselves! It was good to see the cooks so concerned about them! Eventually, those who had managed to make it to school gathered in one classroom. That was wonderful because all the bodies made the room almost comfortable! Now we are all in our respective areas, waiting for the completion of the food preparation. As soon as we eat, we’ll all go home and climb into bed!!! I MUST find a new novel…maybe I’ll just work in my crossword puzzle book. My friend, Andrea, who works at a high school in Buthe Buthe, said she was called this morning and told that her school had been cancelled. We cannot do this at the government primary schools because the lunchtime meal we serve is often the only meal our students get! So, we’ll feed them and then head home…luckily, I shall have the warmth of my little gas heater today (so long as it doesn’t run out of gas!) The roof of my mokhoro is wonderful…it’s been keeping out all the rain and snow that ole Mariha has been throwing at us! However, the windows and door of my little place do NOT keep out the wind and the constant dust of this season; today’s snows should do a lot to lessen the dust in my house tomorrow! Ah, another day in wonderful Lesotho! Radio South Africa claims that this latest storm and cold spell will end on Thursday…but no one really believes that. We shall see what dear old Mother Nature has planned for us. My beloved Basotho continue to sing and smile through all of this; they are truly a blessed people!