Friday, May 22, 2015

Hut-Guests!

Last weekend my house was full and my village was thrilled.

Here in Lesotho, a wonderful part of Pre-Service Training [PST] is HVV or the Host Volunteer Visit. During this four-day experience, the trainees are sent off in small groups to all corners of Lesotho to stay with PCVs.

And so, two trainees, Joni and Katie, joined me in my village for four days. On Saturday, I went to town to meet them. Another PCV had traveled to the training villages the night before to bring them as well as his own guest up to Butha Buthe as traveling via public transportation to a place you have never been to stay with people you have never met can be overwhelming in the first few weeks in a new country while working on limited language skills!

The five of us dined at the favorite Basotho restaurant in town before saying hello to two other PCVs in town and navigating three different shops to get food for the next few days. It was amazing how much more attention we drew walking through Butha Buthe. Most of the shopkeepers and taxi drivers recognize those of us that live in the district, so normally when I am in town they spend their time greeting me-often by name-and asking me where various other PCVs are. Walking with three Americans who are new faces, however, caused far more commotion. Everyone wanted to say hello, taxi drivers immediately assumed we were heading to South Africa, and shouts of “Makhooa!” (white people) filled my ears.

Finally, we were in my taxi and headed home. Having company is the best excuse to cook extravagant meals. We ate like queens throughout their visit: tacos with homemade tortillas, lentil shepherd's pie, banana chocolate chip pancakes with bacon (or what is sold as bacon here...it is more like Canadian bacon), peach cobbler, and veggie fried rice kept us happy and full!

When 'M'e Masechaba told me that my guests would be Joni and Katie, I was excited as I felt we had a lot in common. 'M'e Masechaba laughed and said “Ausi, I know you!” She certainly assigned us well. Despite being firmly in three different decades of life, our professional American lives all share similar cultures. This made our living together incredibly laid back and easy. We shared stories from work and stories from our personal lives. I felt we really got to know one another well in the three nights they were here.

During their visit, we went for multiple walks around the village. My villagers were thrilled to see my company. Greetings became longer and longer as people wanted to know all about my guests. After less than a month in country, both Katie and Joni were able to hold their own for simple greetings and questions. When the Sesotho became too fast or too complex, I stepped in with answers and explanations.

Monday of their visit was Take-Your-Trainees-To-Work-Day. I had a meeting scheduled with my organization. I tried to give them information about the meeting ahead of time, knowing that it would be nearly impossible for them to follow all the Sesotho that would be flying around.

The meeting turned out to be the perfect opportunity for them to see what my real day-to-day work is like. We arrived a little after 10 for the 10:00 meeting. There were a handful of women already present. Finally at 11:30 or so, we went inside and started the meeting with 20 of our 26 members. The meeting lasted over 2 hours and was exclusively in Sesotho. We ran through the details related to our project relatively quickly.

After I stopped leading the part about the project, the women had a lively discussion about CCC and the Support Group. Technically they are two separate groups despite being comprised of almost all the same people. This is a discussion that has been held nearly bimonthly since my arrival. It concluded as the others have, with everyone present apparently agreeing that the groups should unite as they have similar purposes and membership.

From there, smaller things were discussed including fixing my leaky roof (Yahooooooo!!! Hopefully more on that later!)! At some point one of the women shared some roast maize with me, which I in turn shared with my counterpart and guests. As the meeting wound down, I encouraged my counterpart to lead us all in “Hai eo Mathata,” an easy to learn and fun to sing song. Then, we prayed and were on our way home.

Walking home, Joni commented on how passionate everyone was during the meeting. Because she could not understand what was being said, she was much more aware of people's tones as they spoke whereas I am usually spending my efforts on the words they are saying to ensure I understand.

On Tuesday, I took my guests to town and helped them get started on their trip back to the training villages-their first foray into public transportation without a guide.

Despite their departure, their presence is still felt. Most of my villagers are still asking me about them, when they left, where they are now, and when they will return.

Prior to this visit, I have only had a guest or two at a time spend one night at a time. Having three of us sharing my hut for three nights opened my eyes in many ways. By Basotho standards, I am spoiled to have this lovely and large hut to myself (and a double bed too!). With the three of us sharing, there was enough space for us and and their small backpacks of stuff, but the hut would seem profoundly smaller if three of us shared it all the time. It certainly makes sense then that Basotho spend most of their relaxing time sitting outside instead of inside and why children only play outside.

Also, three people eat more and make a lot more dishes that just one. Katie and Joni were amazing guests; always helping with cooking and doing all the dishes for me, but it still impressed me how quickly things piled up. If we did not do the supper dishes before breakfast, I found myself crossing my fingers to ensure we had enough silverware to eat!

I am excited to share that despite my fabulous houseguests for half the week-guests who enjoy drinking copious amounts of water just like I do-my water consumption for the week was still low: only 50L! Considering that the average 8-minuteshower uses 68L, I am pretty impressed with us!  

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You should choose as your life's work whatever feels the most like play.
-Harvey Oxenhorn