December 31, 2008

Aloe and Cactii

These photos are not really organized:
Photo's taken right outside my training village:
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Just after touching down in Lesotho
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My new dog, Tiger:
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My room for the next two years:
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View from the front door of my new house:
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Lots of exciting stuff:
We had a ton of AIDs/HIV training, because Lesotho has the third highest percentage of AIDs prevalence in the world. There are about 2 million people in the country, and 24% has AIDs, which means that somewhere around 500,000 people in the country have the disease. There is a very strong social stigma regarding AIDs here, to the point that you will never hear about people dying from the disease, instead you will hear dozens of cases of people dying from ?the common cold? or ?a broken finger? etc? anything but this highly stigmatized disease.
At the end of the sessions we were all tested, and the testing here is very different than the United States. They prick your finger and put a drop of blood on this little slip of paper that functions similarly to an American pregnancy test, and then you stare at the paper for 15 minutes and hope that the paper doesn?t change color. I was tested shortly after leaving the states (negative) as a result there was virtually no chance that I was going to test positive, and it was still pretty frightening to sit and stare at this paper. I can only imagine what it?s like for Basotho, who stand essentially a 24% chance of having the disease. There are state-sponsored ARVs, which can treat the disease, but a large portion of the population doesn?t know that they exist and that they actually help. These people believe that knowing their status won?t do them any good, which contributes to the stigma.
Moving on from the HIV talk, I?ve had a very exciting week.
On the 24th, we moved out of our CBT (community based training) village , and had a huge feast as a result. We prepared the day before (peeled a whole lot of vegetables) and had about a hundred people show up, including my CD (country director) Ted, who surprisingly speaks very little Sesotho. My friend Cullen said to one of the trainers, ?Ha Ke Na Matata,? Ted responded, ?That?s not Sesotho?. The nearby Bo-?m?e (married females) corrected him (It sounds just like Ha Ku Na Matata, which you may remember from the Lion King (did I post about this already?) and means ?No worries?. We danced some with some of the crazier townsfolk and sung a bunch and then peaced out to the TC (Training center)
We had a few drinks and something like 20 packages which had just arrived were dropped off. We waited a few hours and opened them on Xmas eve, I got a new pair of shoes from my wonderful girlfriend and some teas and assorted things from my mom which are greatly appreciated.
I slept outside on my travel hammock and it was something like 75 degrees out at night (I believe it was in the 90s otherwise).
Christmas day we cooked all our own meals and we ate really well? ?M?e Mamothe, who is in charge of training, went to South Africa and picked up our grocery list, so we had almost all of the trimmings of home, and there were a boatload of good cooks.
We hung out the next day (boxing day is a holiday here!) and on the 27th departed for our permanent sites.
I showed up at about 3 o?clock at the river (the Senqu river, also known as the orange river) and took a boat across with my stuff (which had to be bailed a little, and was essentially a row-boat with logs with boards attached that served as paddles). I re-met my counterpart (who is essentially in charge of making sure I?m not committing cultural faux pas?) and my ?M?e and my Ntate, who will serve as my host family (along with a few sisters and brothers) . I moved all my stuff in and spent the next few days meeting the community and exploring the area.
I went to church on Sunday for a wedding ceremony. I showed up at 11:40 for an 11 ceremony (my counterpart showed up late). The entire ceremony was conducted in Sesotho, so I understood very little, but the wedding ceremony seemed pretty traditional. That is, until after the I do?s I was told it was time for donations (this was about 12:30). They call for donations in groups (first they?ll announce a school, then another, then a profession, then various church organizations, then just the bo?m?e and bontate). This means that most people go up a few times and every time a group is called they sing a very invigorated 5 minute long song. This took approximately 2 and a half hours. Then they did a wrap up, I was introduced to the community and then we took off for the party. I sat at the table of honor, which initially made me feel weird (I thought it was because I was white) until I realized that one of my sisters (who I had not met yet) was the maid of honor and I think the bride was a cousin. We ate really well (all feasts entail an open invite to the community and lots and lots of food).
I spent the rest of my time in my village, which is called Tebellong, hanging out with my dog, Tiger, my host family and checking the place out. I love the site and I?m very excited to start teaching.
Next post will entail some more specifics about the school and community members, I just haven?t posted in a while, so I?m sorry if this wasn?t very exciting.


December 19, 2008


everything's going well
I don't have any time at all to write
I'll be back within a few days of xmas (I hope) to update
meanwhile I've been writing letters
expect them soon

check out other pct's blogs on the side

call me/write me/send me a harmonica
merry christmas


December 13, 2008

20 minutes to summarize another week

We received site announcements today. I am going to Qacha's Nek. "Qacha" is pronounced with a click noise in the beginning, otherwise it's exactly how you'd think it would be pronounced.
I HAVE A PHONE: (to call from the us) 011+266+59167839
you can purchase 15 minute phone cards from 711 for about $10, feel free to call me (I don't really have regular hours as of now that I can tell you I can pick up, but in a few weeks I will). I will try my best to pick up, but there are tons of situations here where I can't (but it shouldn't eat up the phone card).
Back to Qacha's Neck: I will have a rondavel, and to get to it from one of the two highways in the country (the only paved roads outside of the capital) I have to take a boat across a river and then hike up a mountain. I WILL HAVE A BIKE (at some point, it's currently nonoperational from what I hear). The site sounds really good and I'm excited to meet my family (I think 3 more weeks?)

Now to try to summarize the week:
Apparently the words in Sesotho for "little boy's penis" and "rainbow" are very similar, replace an o for an a, and you can really confuse people when you talk about how much you love rainbows.
I received my first letters since I've been here (and no packages yet). They were letters 2, 4, and 5 from my mother (thanks mom)... so realize that stuff always ends up getting to me, but it may be delayed etc.
I've been here a month. That still kind of blows my mind.
My pit latrine has a spider in it. Apparently it's a Brown Button Spider, South Africa's second deadliest (which makes it not at all deadly), but does mean that I can't even poop in peace here. I also saw a wasp fly down the hole right after I opened the door to my latrine. Needless to say I waited half an hour before coming back.
I finished my practice teaching at school. I taught my kids about metaphors and similes, and they really grasped the concept, which made me feel terrific (a lot of other teachers had a hard time getting concepts by, for a lot of different reasons). The last question on the test required the students to write a new metaphor about themselves. The most interesting was, "I am a fat dog". Americans might assume that this was self depreciating, however being fat (especially for women) is a very desirable trait here, so she was actually being self appreciative.
Also, students don't "cheat" in Lesotho, they "confer with collegues". The kids have tried to pull all sorts of things with the teachers, but don't really get away with anything, as we're pretty good at not falling for their ruses. This will be a lot easier at site, as we'll be able to establish ourselves as people who aren't going to fall for lame deceipts. They do love their check marks (they will actually do extra work and try to do real well if you promise them a sticker/red check mark on their papers).
I found ants in both my sugar and peanut butter. This IS Africa (and I am a volunteer without a lot of money), so I just mixed them in.
I walked in to my current house the other day and the thermometer on my travel clock was so nice as to inform me that it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn't feel like Christmas.

Ok, so I gotta jet. I realize a lot of people have been asking me what kinds of things I'd like, so I compiled a small, cheap list of little stuff that I would appreciate:
New Yorker magazine
News magazines (just about any, used ones are very acceptable)
Notecards (I can't find them anywhere, and they'd definitely help me with my language training)
A book of chess puzzles/any xword puzzle books
A french/english dictionary.
A good knife that I can use for cooking
Mix cds, I'm hurting for music (my computer and ipod crashed days before I left). Specifically I would love any Johnny Cash and any Q and Not U.

Love all yall, my next update will probably be after Xmas, in which case, PEACE AND MERRY CHRISTMAS


December 6, 2008

The village

My Room/The View ^

Oh man, it's been nuts being in village. My host mother, 'M'e Mamaseliso, is a crazy alcoholic. In Lesotho, women can only drink if they are older (and usually have to be widowed), and my 'm'e is and she takes full advantage. She's very nice though, and the crazy is more charming than anything else, she loves screaming RAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA when she sees me (which essentially means my little baby, since I am her newest [but not youngest] child). The people in town are incredibly nice and considerate.
The other day we hiked to the top of a nearby mountain, and literally 25 kids from the age of 5 to 15 followed the three other volunteers and myself to the top. And by followed I mean beat us... and only four of them had shoes on. They have a ton of energy and love showing off for us, and are amazed any time we do anything. They got us to sing a few songs, and then kept telling me what a beautiful voice I have (anyone who knows me knows this is a terrible horrendous lie).
I did manage to get real sick the other day and spent a real long time on the "toilet". Hopefully this will be my major illness of my time here and it's out of the way.
I was given a Lesotho name by my host mother, and it is Thato Chele. Chele being my 'm'e's last name, Thato meaning strong-willed.
Life here is really good and beautiful and I love all of it, and I finally get to start cooking my own meals tonight.
I'm planning on writing out next weeks update (coming next saturday!) before I get here so I can type it up in time and so it's not disjointed (like this one is)

send me stuff! (letters, tea, snacks, the new yorker, books etc)

Brett Burk/PCV
US Peace Corps
PO Box 554
Maseru, 100
Southern Africa