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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...

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Day with Bo-'M'e*

The chicken project is finally starting. In reality, the project started over a year ago, as mentioned in Workshop Woe and CheckingOut Chickens. But, as of this week, there is visible and financial proof that things are happening.
Coming soon to this spot: MCCC's Egg-Laying Chicken House!
Construction begins July 2016!
Monday, we met with two representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, who simply wanted to make sure that we had everything lined up. Then, on Tuesday morning, I trotted off to town with my counterpart, Ausi Mareisi, and two of the leaders in our group, ‘M’e ‘Matokelo and ‘M’e ‘Majustice.

Our first stop was the bank, where I withdrew half of the fund from our Peace Corps grant. Then, we headed to the store. Although we had our original quote, we had a few things to add to the shopping list so it took a few hours to complete our purchase. During the many long waiting times, we joked and laughed together while sitting on comfortable couches in the cold store.

Once we had paid and had the smaller items, we headed down to the loading area. Boloka was nice enough to give us free transport of our goods, but as we sat there half a dozen men with trucks approached us asking for the opportunity to transport our goods. Normally I get frustrated when people ask me for jobs as it is simply because they see my translucently white skin and assume that I have jobs to share. In this case, however, it made perfect sense as I obviously had not vehicle and had purchased large goods.

Watching them load 30 bags of cement.
While we waited…and waited..and waited for our goods to get loaded up, Bo-‘M’e grabbed the four of us lunch from a roadside vendor. We sat in the sun to stay warm while eating our meals amidst cement dust and a dozen men walking back and forth with building supplies.

Finally they began loading a truck with our goods. While three of us observed, a man came by and asked us for the job of unloading the thirty bags of cement he could see already loaded. ‘M’e ‘Majustice started by telling him that we did not have money to pay him. He tried bargaining with her, changing his offer from 80 Maloti to 70 to 60 and finally to only 50 Maloti. When she repeated that we did not have money to pay him, he transferred his attempts to me. I repeated the same things she said. He quieted for a bit before trying again. As frustration set in, I elaborated, explaining that the supplies were for a community project so we did not have money to pay people for labor. He immediately changed his tune and wished us luck. After he walked away, ‘M’e ‘Majustice quietly observed, “He must be very hungry, to do this much work for only 50. He is hungry.”
Still loading our supplies...almost done.

Throughout the loading process a number of younger men came up offering their strength to unload our supplies. None of them was willing to do it for less than 70. Each time I listened to ‘M’e ‘Majustice talking with them, I felt guilt over the hungry man. Although I remained polite externally, I had been frustrated by his persistence, not even reflecting on how disproportionate the work he was offering to complete was in comparison to the money he would accept. Days later, I wish I had simply accepted his offer and paid him out of my own pocket.

Finally our goods were ready. We learned the driver could only take one of us with him. After some discussion, it was agreed that ‘M’e ‘Majustice would go with him and that they would make a quick stop to purchase the trucks of sand we would need to mix with our cement. I gave her the money for the sand.

Ausi Mareisi, ‘M’e ‘Matukelo, and I then headed to the taxi rank, getting completely sidetracked. In front of one of the shops near the rank was a performer rapping and dancing. We stopped and watched the show, dancing and laughing together, until our taxi driver spotted us. He came over and told us there were only two spots in the taxi and he wanted to leave so we better get going.

Unloading the supplies
Thankfully, when we arrived, there were exactly three spots for us to take up and off we went. When we arrived at the community building, a handful of the women in MCCC were there. They had spent the day cleaning up the tall grass around the building while awaiting our delivery. Four men were unloading all our goods: three from Boloka Building Supply and one from the village. MCCC “tipped” the men from Boloka the same amount that we would have paid the man who begged us to hire him.

After the truck left, the women and I surveyed the goods in the hall. The women were thrilled that things are happening. They kept thanking me as I kept trying to say it was not me, but their efforts and work that made this happen. We finally agreed to disagree as we locked up the building.

As I walked away just before sunset, I marveled at what a productive day it had been. Other than the woman who worked with us at the building supply store and occasional conversations with Ausi Mareisi, I had completed an entire day in only Sesotho. We had bought our building supplies and sand. I had arranged to pay the deposit for our cages. While I had started the day thinking we would also buy the cement blocks for the house, time had not allowed it, so we had rescheduled that for later in the week. After a long day out and about, I was excited to head home and excited about our project taking shape.

*Bo-‘M’e:. ‘M’e means mother and is the title given to all married women. It is made plural by the “Bo” preceding it, so in this case it means more than one woman or mother.

MCCC’s Egg Laying Chicken Project has been in development since March 2015. After many delays, MCCC and I were able to write a successful grant proposal for a VAST grant through Peace Corps. VAST grants are funded by PEPFAR to help with HIV-related work and OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Children) care. It is due to MCCC’s work with OCVs that qualified us for the VAST grant. Otherwise, we would have applied for a PCPP [Peace Corps Partnership Program] grant and would have been asking for assistance in funding this grant proposal. I encourage you to consider supporting other PCPP projects.

Posts about this project include:

Workshop Woe, Busiest of Birthdays, Checking Out Chickens, A Day with Bo-’M’e, Chicken Coop Construction Day One, Day Two, Day, Three, Day Four, Day Five

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