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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Loving & Learning in Lesotho

Lumelang and greetings from Lesotho! It's hard to believe that ten days ago the HY14 group of Trainees arrived after more than thirty hours of travel time.

Lesotho is an absolutely gorgeous country. Before arriving, I skeptically assumed the pictures I had seen were unique vistas, however, these are the sights that now comprise my everyday.

Our training days as long and full. I get up each morning at 6 to light my gas heater and warm water for my bath. As the date (and air) heats up, I "unmake" my bed. This consists of folding the bedding and replacing it with large throw pillows. I tend to putter a bit in the light of the paraffin lamp before my bathwater is warm enough.

Bathing is probably the most different aspect of living here. I use one kettle worth of water to bath. Yes, it is awkward to bath in a small bucket without getting water everywhere. Yes, hair washing is tricky. Yes, it is also effective.

After bathing, the sun is usually up. I get ready for the day, sweep and mop my room, dump the bathwater, and go into my family's space for breakfast. Most days this consists of corn flakes and lesheleshele (le-shelly-shelly) followed by coffee as the Basotho do not drink with meals.

By 7:30, I am in my daily Sesotho lessons. By 9:00, we are on our way to another village for pre - service training. There we cover Peace Corps policies development, medical awareness, safety, and HIV/AIDS education until about 4:30. It's a short ride from the other village back to my own, followed by a shorter walk home.

There is not much daylight left when I make it home, as the sun sets by 6pm this time of year. Sundown is the Peace Corp Trainee curfew, so visiting folks is not really an option. Typically, I spend an hour studying or writing before joining my family for dinner and speaking in Sesotho. My family speaks English pretty well, which we use to help me learn more vocabulary and grammar.

Usually by 8 I am back in my room, preparing for the next day. I can only use my stove when the heater is on (shared gas line), so I boil my drinking water while trying to heat my room to 55°F. I make my bed, gather supplies, and review words or phrase my family has taught me. By 9:15, I am turning off the heater and water (which has to cool overnight before being filtered) and climbing into bed to read on my kindle before going to sleep. When I wake up the next morning, my room will be in the low 40s and I'll be starting all over again.

Some highlights:
*My host family- they are wonderful, supportive, and fun.
*The Pitso- on Thursday, we each had to speak at the community meeting. Our moms dressed us in Basotho blankets (it was so cold and windy! We would have frozen without them) and head coverings. After we each introduced and said a bit about ourselves in Sesotho, the chief gave instructions and the Bo-Mme (women) dork us all in song. I even understood some of the words!
*Learning- I know this makes me a dork, but I am really enjoying learning both Sesotho and the PC curriculum. It is so nice to be a student for a change.
*Peace Corps staff, volunteers, and trainees- it isn't surprising that the people involved in this organization are top notch.
*Charge d'Affaire visit- the US ambassador for Lesotho was called back to the States a while back so the deputy has been serving as Charge d'Affaire for about a year now. Last week, he came for a Q&A and official welcoming to Lesotho. It was fascinating to learn how involved the US embassy is with development and HIV/AIDS efforts in the country. I feel that the American population is unaware of the level to which our foreign embassies help the countries they are located in. I found it illuminating.
*SIM card simplicity- Yesterday we all went to Maseru to get to know Lesotho's capital. A bonus of the trip was that we were able to work on our personal telecommunications too! Despite parking with Verizon's global tech support before arriving, I was still nervous that I would be unable to use my phone with an African SIM card. Instead, I gave the vodacom store 90 minutes and R22.50, and I now have phone/internet. It was exciting to be able to WhatsApp with Mom and Kathy. Plus we got connected in time to say Happy Fathers Day!!


Kathy said...

As I was reading this, all I could think of was, "it's a good thing Beth likes to sleep in the cold!"

Cheryl Freye said...

Sounds like you are having fun. It would be way too cold for me in the am but you have such a wonderful spirit of adventure.

Anonymous said...

So funny to read Kathy's comment, because when I read this, I was seriously thinking the exact same thing! :) Glad things are going well, Beth!

Also, Corrine is pretty fascinated that you're in Africa, so at some point, you can probably expect some questions from her. :)


Clare said...

Sounds awesome, although not sure about the 6am starts (you know me and mornings). You get to be the 'foranger' now, huh? Have a blast, you're going to be awesome!!

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing the details of your day/adventure. Very interesting!!