That first night as I sat between my Sesotho only supervisor and my young counterpart, I wondered for the first time since my arrival in Lesotho, "What have I gotten myself into? Am I ready for this?" As the workshop continued, I focused on how much my community has had to do in order to get a volunteer. I became awed by they effort and my own desire to have earned this efforts.
Finally on Tuesday we left the luxury of the hotel and headed to my site. Despite being only thirty minute outside of Butha Buthe, it took us hours as we arrived to an empty taxi and had to wait four hour before leaving. Finally around 1, we arrived in the village. As we walked towards my new home, people began walking with us.
When we arrived at the home, there were more than twenty people there to greet me. I introduced myself in Sesotho and listened to them sing to me before setting foot in the hut that will be my home. After I made it inside, the local chief came to welcome me. He let me know that he is my neighbor and that I am to come to him for anything. As we talked, other came in adding mugs and plates to the collection the villagers had compiled for me.
After everyone cleared out, we went to see the chief at his office to get help completing emergency paperwork for the Peace Corps. Then my counterpart walked me to the shop to buy paraffin. This of course take extra time as we must greet everyone we see along the way. When we returned, some of the village women stopped by. It was time to cook dinner by the time I had a moment alone.
My second day at site was equally busy. We walked from the village to the main road where we caught a taxi to a neighboring village to meet the police. While there, we also met that village's chief. Then, we continued on to another village to meet the chief that oversees the chiefs in this area. Finally we went to Butha Buthe, our regional capital to meet the District Administrator. We were gone from 9 to 5 with no water, food, or breaks! Meeting all of the local leaders is an expectation of the Peace Corps, but having done it, I am grateful for their warm welcomes.
My final full day in the village was a social one. The chief held a pitso or community meeting to introduce me to the community. It lasted about ninety minutes and had over 100 villagers present. The chief spoke, my supervisor spoke, my counterpart spoke, then it was my turn. I started with a song in Sesotho then spoke briefly, you can watch me rock the language in the video below. Then the chief spoke some more, my host may celebrated having her first daughter, the local councilor spoke, and various other villagers spoke. Most spoke to welcome me. Many, especially the chief, spoke to tell the villager to adopt me. Other key moments included telling people to speak Sesotho instead of English and to protect me. My supervisor and counterpart explained my role as a volunteer, that I have no money, and that I will first spend time getting to know the community.
After the pitso, we headed to the community building where I met another 50+ people, all orphans and their caregivers. The community hall is an incredible resource, I feel really blessed to be in a community that is so welcoming and engaged.