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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Lelapa Lesu

I have won the Peace Corps jackpot when it comes to host families....twice.

In training, I had a pretty great host family. They helped me learn Sesotho quickly, they challenged me, they were patient with me. There were a few times when they frustrated me, but as I heard stories from other trainees, I counted my blessings to be living with my Me, Ntate, and two sisters.

As I said in Officially a PCV, I was devastated when training ended and I had to leave that host family. Then, after a few days with them again for Phase III training, I had to fight back tears again when saying goodbye on Thanksgiving. 

My family in my village is absolutely wonderful in completely different ways. Here, I have a host mother and three younger brothers. There is a fourth brother, the oldest, but he is married and living in Maseru. We met when I visited in July, but he had moved back to the capital before I moved here in August. As someone who has previously only had sisters and has spent three decades collecting adopted brothers everywhere she goes, it is a new thing to be the only girl in the family.

My host mother, Me Masekila, is an incredibly hard worker. She became a widow in 2006 and now sells snacks at a school to bring in money. When she is not working out of the house, she is working hard at the house, cooking for my brothers, cleaning, and so on. She usually only speaks Sesotho to me, however, when I get stuck and say something to her in English, she is able to understand and tell me the word I need in Sesotho. Me Masekila is a devout Catholic. She also loves to sing, a passion which she has passed on to my brothers.

Thabo with me after GRS Training
My brother Thabo is the oldest one at home. He enjoys comparing my family of four girls in America with his family of four boys in Lesotho, particularly because like my sister Kathy, he is the second child and much taller than his older brother. Thabo is in high school and has to travel quite a distance to and from school, so there are times I go days without seeing him, however, he always has a smile for me. As secondary school is taught in English, he is nearly fluent. He will speak English with me, but he also likes to challenge me with Sesotho.

As the oldest at home, Thabo has many responsibilities. Unlike his brothers, he always does his own laundry. He also is responsible for any maintenance that has to happen in the family's house or my own, whether it be painting, building fences, or moving furniture. He loves soccer and plays on the men's team in our village.

When I needed a counterpart to join me for PC Skillz Grassroot Soccer Training, Thabo was the perfect partner. Not only does he love to play, but he also wants to become a nurse, so teaching youth about HIV/AIDS is a great start towards health education. 

Thabo and Mokhesuoe with the remnants of a rainbow.
Next is Mokhesuoe. He just finished his exams for primary school, which goes through grade seven. When he had his exams, he began knocking on my door, asking me to help study. As he was previously the shyest with me, I particularly enjoyed helping him study for his English and Maths exams. Thankfully, I can do Standard 7 maths! Three times we studied together, twice until well after sunset. Until we studied together, I was uncertain as to how much English Mokhesuoe actually knew as he usually only interacts with me in Sesotho. He surprised me with the depth of his knowledge when we studied, although I think English for him is similar to Sesotho for me...he must think a lot to understand or speak.

Once Standard 7 finishes their national exams, they are done with school for the year, five weeks before their peers. As a result, Mokhesuoe now has time to pursue his passions of farming, drawing, singing, and playing ball. He has been busy tilling and planting what was left of our backyard for maize, pumpkin, and beans. He also started building a second keyhole garden. When I noted this, he smiled and said it was for me. I offered to help, but he turned me down. He and I enjoy working in the same space while listening to a South African radio station.

Polao and friends playing with my mini Uno cards. Polao is the
one lounging on the right.
My youngest brother is Polao. Polao is only nine and lucky enough to get to spend much of his free time playing. He was the first family member I felt I bonded with, thanks to the Uno cards my sister had sent me. We played for many of my early days here, joined by other children that live nearby. Thankfully, numbers and colors were things I learned in training, because Polao and other children his age do not understand my English at all.

My brothers and mother take incredible care of me without actually being intrusive on personal space or time. My mother has shown me multiple tricks connected to living in this village, such as how to use the local spring to my advantage when doing laundry. My brothers regularly fetch my water when getting water for the family. They water my garden for me before I get a chance to in the mornings. They even did the physical parts of prepping my garden plot for me before I could ask to borrow their shovel. The whole family always has smiles for me.

There is a fourth brother, the eldest, is Ntate Sekila. He is married and has an infant son. He is currently working in South Africa, as many Basotho do. As a result, I have not seen him since my visit to the village in July. 

My mother is originally from one of the other villages I work with. Her father, mother, and siblings all attend the church that I go to. Every time I see my host grandfather, he beams at me and asks when I am coming to visit them. One week, her sister-in-law sat next to me and enunciated songs to me so I could learn them faster. As Me Masekila's daughter, I am considered family to them too.

I am so grateful to have such a great family away from family!

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