My first site visit:
Monday morning we left bright and early (5:30am local time) and took a 7 hour ride on a “sprinter” which is essentially a conversion van with four sets of seats + the drivers row. It’s “illegal” for there to be more than 22 people in the sprinter, there were easily 40 in ours, it was incredibly packed. One of the other PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees) I went with had a little kid on his knee, someone else’s bag in his lap and a woman’s breast on his head (Breasts are not a big deal to anyone here in Lesotho, they are referred to as mountains and are used by women to hold money etc.). We finally arrived and there was some confusion about where I was staying, so my bag ended up at the wrong place, so I didn’t have access to any of my stuff (including my camera) till late the last night I was there.
We arrived in Qacha’s neck at about 3pm and sat down and had a decent meal at one of the restaurants, everyone else had either fried chicken or fish and rice and some other local dishes, I just got rice and the local sides, and the total (including a coke) was about $2.80 USD or 24 rand/maluti. Here in Lesotho, the currency is the maluti, but it is at a stable exchange rate with the South African Rand, which is accepted as currency everywhere within the borders. We hung out for a bit and had people gawk at us (we are Lahua, which translates as white people) and even had a young lady come over and take pictures of us with her camera phone, apparently just being fair skinned earns you celebrity status in the country. We sat around a bit and then headed back to Chris’ (my host for the few days) rondavel. I was very impressed by all the stuff he was able to keep in it and the amount of room in it etc, especially because Chris has spent $0 of the money he had before the PC since being here. He told me about his vacations to Namibia and South Africa that were paid completely by his PC salary, so it’s nice to know that I’ll be able to trek around without digging into my (rather paltry) savings.
I met Chris’ ‘m’e (‘M’e translates as mother, ntate as father and abuti and ausi as brother and sister respectively and all names are prefaced by one of these four words) who was very nice although she spoke no English and toured his garden and met the pigs owned by the family and then took a little walk down to the canyon that hosts the Orange River and hung out and talked about PC and hikes and trips we’ve both done. We went back and cooked dinner and listened to some music and passed out early. The PCVs here tend to go to sleep at or a little before 9pm, because it gets dark and there are no lights or television to make staying awake easier (there are candles though!). We did go sit under the stars (which are super super super impressive) and watched a lightning storm in the distance for a few minutes before calling it quits.
We woke up the next morning at about 6:30, made oatmeal (which is a luxury here, to keep things in perspective) and walked around a bit and headed to Chris’ school, where I met some of his students, coworkers, and his principal who were all very nice and encouraging to me. I met a fair amount of people from his town, as everyone wants to talk to the white people, and it is especially endearing when the 6 year olds walking around ask you in English, “How are you” and don’t know how to respond when you ask them the same question back (they tend to just reply with “How are you” again).
We got back to Chris’ rondavel, made lunch (PB&J is also a luxury food here, but the peanut butter is especially delicious) and set out on a 9 mile hike up and down some pretty decent hills (we did have to climb up and down some rocks) and wound up at the place we’d be staying for the night after hitching a ride. We met up with another group of PCTs and their host, had a few beers, talked about life (both before and during PC) and crashed pretty hard. I got really really sunburnt (I didn’t have any of my stuff as I mentioned earlier) and am blistering a little while writing this (oof). But, this is Africa, and I’m sure this will be low on my list of memorably bad incidents by the end of my service. I would like to mention that aside from the red skin, my trip was really enjoyable and I am doubly excited to get my own rondavel and start doing some real work in the community.
I woke up this morning at 5, hopped on another 7 hour bus ride, got to Maseru and ate some pretty decent pizza (there are a few decent restaraunts in the capital, they’re a bit pricey on PC salary, but we’re still being fed plenty of extra money by them at the moment). I ate a full pie and drank two cokes for 42 rand, or roughly $5 American. Made it back to the compound, caught up with the other PCTs, wrote a few emails (I love you Danie) and am sitting here, enjoying the perfect weather and writing this in the corner of the PC Compound. I’ll hopefully have a few pictures online from the busride back (the only time I had my camera) within a few days.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving with the ambassador (HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE)
Friday is my first practice teaching assignment.
I think Sunday we head out to our villages for a while, which means the internet will be a lot less accessible, so I bid you all adieu for a little and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to talk about after that trip.