March 31, 2009

today, pictures pheela

staff room on friday (of course there was a chicken wandering around when i went in)

Left to Right: Katleho, 'm'e moipoma (my former counterpart who just quit being a teacher in order to go back to school to get her high school degree), kori, myself, 'm'e moroesi (my new counterpart)

went out for the day with Ro, Cullen and John at John's town.

found this cave

cadbury assorted slabs of chocolate for sale at shoprite

March 21, 2009

my bicycle request was approved by the peace corps

SOOOO siked

March 19, 2009

Pictures pheela

View from near the school

My rondavel

Family's Compound

My toilet


Roof of my brother's living quarters


Cheesin in my rondavel

An article featuring me graduating from training, another featuring me dancing during graduation and an article from the local paper about a man stabbing a policeman with a spear

Family duck

I hate these geese so much


My brother's quarters and their "stove"


March 18, 2009

So as I write this, I’m hanging out in the VRC (Volunteer Resource Center) in Qacha’s Nek.
The VRC is a room, five feet by ten feet of what feels like a little bit of heaven. There’s a computer, a big bookshelf packed with a lot of classics, and electricity (even a lightswitch with a working light)! There’s also a flush toilet and a running faucet around the corner, and although neither of these things actually increases my quality of life by much, it makes everything here seem so much easier and more pleasant.
The reason I’m enjoying this comfort is because my dog bit me yesterday. I was attempting to apply tick/louse medicine to him, of which he’s terrified and a few minutes after trapping and pinning him, I attempted to pet him and he found his revenge by cutting my hand a tad. This is the kind of injury I wouldn’t even consider in America, but the Peace Corps has a pretty strict “dog bite” policy that requires me to get a Rabies shot for the most provoked bites (and I understand and appreciate the rule). Tiger (my dog) has been acting a bit weird recently and I figured I’d rather stay on the safe side.
So instead of writing lesson plans for tomorrow, I’m taking it easy on Qacha’s Nek and eating a little bit of cheese with some Frank’s Red Hot (thanks to a package from home!). This is definitely a luxury meal here, for better or worse.

On the Tsoelike Sweat:
This past weekend was the Tsoelike Sweat (it’s alliterative if pronounced correctly, this I promise). I met up with Gwen and hung out at Christina’s place in Ha Monteko (a 4 rand 4+1 ride out of the camptown) on Friday. Three other girls came over after finishing a backpacking trip (on their way back home) so we had a packed night at Christina’s (and even snuck in some good scary stories, provoked by a mix of local insects/herd boys/and strange episodes from the home front).
On Saturday Gwen, Christina, and I headed out to Au Plaas (part of Tsoelike in the same way Ha Sterling [where I live] is part of Tebellong) and met up with Chris, Ben, and Victoria. We hiked down the little canyon near Chris’ place and set up our Sweat Lodge right next to the river Chris lives near. We all went out and gathered some kindling/mild firewood to add to the stuff that Chris had bought from his school (hauling it down was not a lot of fun for my back). An hour later we had the fire blazing and a few rocks sitting inside accumulating heat.
After letting the rocks heat for a while, we put them inside our sweat lodge (constructed of two rain-flies from tents and a whole bunch of burlap bags stretched over the top). We read some poetry and Chris poured water over our coals and we got a nice sweat/steam going on inside. After doing this for a while we ran outside and went for a wonderful swim in the river which definitely invigorated all of us (it’s a little chilly in Qacha’s, maybe 65 or 70 degrees F outside on this day). We spent the rest of the night Braai’ing (BBQ’ing) and having ourselves a fair amount of drink and lots of good talk/hanging out. Most of us forewent the tents we’d constructed and chose to sleep outside (and even endured a middle of the night drizzle). We hiked out the next day and had a GREAT time over the course of the weekend.

On school matters:
I did recently find out that one of my coworkers (a teacher) impregnated a Form E student (senior year high school by American standards) last year (maybe the year before?). Apparently shortly afterwards he had an affair with another of my coworkers (a female teacher) and he reportedly beat her. She threatened to contact the police, but I don’t know how far all of that went, but the situation was “resolved” well before I came (she was probably shamed into keeping quiet).
My best friend at school, and my counterpart (PC sets up people in the community/job that are supposed to aide the transition of PCVs to their community/job) is leaving my school. She’s leaving because she’s going to take her COSC (senior level exam). This means that one of the most competent teachers I work with is leaving to return to school so she can practice for the equivalent of the SATs in America. Also of note is the fact that I am indeed the oldest teacher in my school (aside from the principal who teaches Sesotho only) out of 10. I am also only one of three of the ten teachers with a tertiary degree (this means most of the teachers in my school have the same degree that the students they’re teaching hope to obtain by the completion of school).
In other news, one of my students in Form C, A sophomore of high school, has dropped out due to pregnancy. Fortunately due to the young age of teachers at my school, we remain rather liberal (despite the fact that I teach for an Anglican Christian school) and even encouraged the student to return to studies. Unfortunately she has apparently teased several past impregnated girls so she probably will not return.
Another Form C student’s parent was murdered. Apparently his father had been after a married woman for a while, was beaten nearly to death (the family assumed they’d killed him) and continued to pursue the same woman. The second time the family, utilizing a spear was able to successfully (?) murder the boy’s father, so he’s now a double orphan. Unfortunately, this makes him one of the many at my school. Lesotho is supposed to reimburse at least partial tuition on these students (those who are double orphans) but they inconsistently come through on their promises. Fortunately, my school is rather liberal and will allow him to continue assuming that the government will pay (this is not true in all places).
Not that everything in school is sad and bad, there’s plenty of great stuff going on. The Form B’s are doing quite well in their quarter presentation (they have a big test every quarter… theirs is coming up next week). The Form A’s are working hard (their English is still pretty horrid). I have a hard time assessing the Form C’s because I only teach them Physics and English Literature (not language) so it’s hard to get a good general standing from them, but their summaries of the horrible British play we’re reading are pretty good.

On Vacation:
Looks like I’ll be heading to Bloemfontein (sp?) in South Africa for my first break (before April 6th I won’t be able to leave the country due to PC regulations). I’ll be crashing at a friend’s friend’s place thereabouts and will spend a fair amount of time between coffee shops, book stores and a movie theatre (none of which exist in the country in which I dwell) with Jack (and I have no idea who else is involved in this caper, it seems most people are heading to Durban, which rests on the coast of the Zulu Nation and is about as close and expensive for me to visit as Maseru, so I’ll definitely be heading over there at another point).

On actually arriving in Maseru:
Turns out the Rabies shot has to be done in two sessions (the first was today... I had three shots during preservice training) and another on saturday. So that means I'll be chilling here till then. AKA I'll be on the internet a bunch and reading a bunch and being really smelly (only brought one change of clothes cause I thought I'd only be here for an overnight)

March 13, 2009

+1 week

the internet is real slow in the camptown, so only three pictures for now. they're older than the last set and I never uploaded them (and the computer picked randomly which ones to upload for whatever reason)
more in two weeks when I'm back in Maseru for more PC training

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just got a load of packages, super siked. I also just mailed out letters to 9 different people. so everyone who's been slacking about writing to me needs to pick up the pace

one of my students dropped out because she was pregnant this week

another one's father was beaten to death by a family for being in love with a married woman

and so it goes

tsoelike sweat lodge this weekend
I'm siked!

March 7, 2009

4 months in Lesotho

Tiger (my dog) lounging:
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My family's baby cow in my front yard (so cute, loves to run, so dumb)
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Back yard (I have to walk this way to use my latrine)
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Cooking rondavel/where my boabuti (brothers) sleep
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View from halfway up the mountain I live on
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Aids ribbon above my place. My littlest brother (tsepo) and my neighbor (mohapi) followed me up. I live right at the base of this part of the mountain.
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The Boys (my brother is further away)
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my whole village (the school and stuff is there...)
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The pyramid that I summitted while taking these pictures (I had to hike up to where the picture was taken from, then down to the river, then up again to the top via the back side)
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Lesotho's "wild life"
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The river I jumped across on the way there (boulder hopped) and had to take off my shoes and socks and walk across on the way back.
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View from the pyramid (the mountain in the foreground is where I took the first set of pictures from, those in the background are South Africa)
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The river I have to cross (the road in the background is the closest road to me, it takes about 30 minutes to get to the point where this was taken, and 15 down and ten back up, the way back is a lot worse as you can tell by the descent, especially with all my groceries in my bag)
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Hey Everybody

So it’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to do a full update, so I hope you don’t expect me to encapsulate everything I’ve been up to in this post (but I’m going to try).

As I write this, I’m in Maseru at the T-House (Transit house) which also doubles as the training center. It’s 7am and I’m enjoying being able to use my own computer. It’s the first time in 7 weeks that it’s had power! My solar backpack can’t charge laptops, so I’ve been able to use my kindle, iPod and cell phone and keep them more or less charged. By more or less I mean there’s been a few days (and at one point a week) where it rained and there was constant cloud cover during the day, so I was barely able to maintain my cell phone’s charge and had to rely on my battery charger for my cell phone (don’t worry, rechargeable batteries are being recharged right now).

First, I’ll start with what happened for me to get to Maseru, the capital of this beautiful country. I left class Thursday right after lunch, about 1:15 P.M. From there, I walked to the river, which takes about 45. Then I wait for the boat, figure about 15 minutes to wait for them to get to my side and then to cross. Then I wait between 10 minutes and an hour and a half for the taxi to leave (they have to have enough passengers, the taxi is about the size of a conversion van). It then takes about an hour to get to the Qacha’s Nek camp-town. Then I have to spend the night.
My other option is to skip the trip to Qacha’s Nek and get on the bus/sprinter when it passes White Hill (where the boats are) but then there’s a slim to none chance that I’ll be able to snag a seat.

QN (Qacha’s Nek) has a VRC (Volunteer Resource Center) with a computer and electricity that I can crash at from now on (and charge my stuff! Woo!). I can also stay at one of the volunteer’s sites in the area, I crashed at Christina’s this weekend and Clare was there too (a volunteer from Quthing), we had fun and ate grilled cheese (mm!). I have to wake up at 5:30 so that I can catch a 4+1 (think 4 people can fit in the car + 1 driver, as I’m sure you can imagine, fitting 3 full sized adults in the back of a car can lead to a tight fit) in to the camp town, get on the Sprinter (a very large, sometimes comfortable conversion van: Sprinter is actually a model name for Mercedes-Benz who produces them, feel free to Google yourself a picture). Then I usually sit there or wander around (after claiming a seat) for about an hour before we finally head out from QN.

At this point I can enjoy the scenery AND all of the seeming near-misses created by the driver going 80km/h over the tops of hills and around corners, while passing lots of cars. It’s quite exciting (read: nerve-wracking) if I don’t put my head into a book. The ride takes between 6 and 9 hours depending upon how many stops we make (dropping people off and always picking people up, even if they have to stand and squish, but you adjust to the close-nature of these rides relatively quickly).
What made the ride particularly interesting this last time was the 12 year old girl I sat next to. I was zoning out staring at the DVD of local music (the video’s are really really really strange) and almost asleep when I look over and see the girl with a phone that looks just like mine in her hand. This is a little strange because while the phone isn’t extraordinary, most Basotho children I’ve encountered opt for the absolute cheapest phone. She put it away. I checked my pockets a minute later and realized that my own phone was missing (and I remembered it being in the pocket closest to her). I asked her in English then Sesotho if she had seen my cell phone. She responded with no. I asked Clare, who was riding with me to call, but there was no service. After 20 minutes (and making sure that I had checked all around me, anywhere it could have been) we finally got to a place where I had service and my phone rang… in her pocket. I chewed her out vocally for a little and she spent the rest of the ride really embarrassed (the phone had probably fallen out of my pocket and she took the opportunity to upgrade). Oh well, at least I got it back and learned that I definitely have to secure stuff in my pockets if I’m planning on Z’ing.

Ok, so that’s what it’s like for me to get here. Fortunately, for about the same cost and travel distance I can go to Durban in South Africa, which has much much much better everything (even Matatielle [sp?] right on the other side of the border from me has much better selection than Maseru). Unfortunately, I can’t do this until another month, when I’ve finished Phase III of my training.

Things are going well at school. I teach 30 classes a week, at 40 minutes each. I was teaching 19, but after having to constantly explain basic science to our “science teacher,” I decided to take over, so I’m now a science teacher. Unfortunately my school has absolutely no supplies, so any experiments or explanations have to come completely from me. I don’t even have a syllabus for what I’m supposed to teach, as I have yet to acquire one from the PC (they also have a bunch of other materials). I’ve also started teaching Life Skills, which are all the things that they teach you in Health class in America, plus a lot of AIDs/HIV education.

In further school news, 6 out of the 40 kids cheated on my last test in Form B. They were the 6 lowest grades ANYWAY, I don't know why they think cheating off the not so smart kid next to them is going to help them, but it's impossible to keep them from eying their neighbors papers when they're all crammed in 3 or 4 at a desk. Fortunately, they're not creative enough to change the wording on the answers, so when I'm marking, picking out the copies (THEY'RE EXACTLY THE SAME) is pretty simple.

My counterpart (my cultural liaison with the school) is leaving. This is a major bummer for me, as she’s basically my best friend at the school. She’s leaving to go back to HIGH SCHOOL and take her COSC (the test you take to graduate from high school) in Maseru. This should tell you a lot about the state of my school. She’s very smart and I’m sure she’ll pass, and at my school she only teaches agriculture and Development studies to the secondary kids (8th grade through sophomore year of highschool in the US). This is still pretty strange, having a teacher who hasn’t passed high school teaching essentially middle school kids. And she’s definitely one of the better teachers at the school.

At school last week there was a frog in the staff room in the morning. Most people would assume that Africans wouldn't run out of a room screaming because of a harmless frog. Those people would be wrong. I had to escort the critter off the premises before they would return to the room. SOO strange how ok they are with spiders and insects and other animals always being around, but a little frog can scare them so much.

In unrelated community news, the river that I have to cross has been killing people. Three people died last week by drowning where I have to cross. One committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. The other incident involved three people crossing the river in a boat filled with supplies. The boat flipped over about halfway and only one of the guys made it to shore. The Basotho are infamous for not being able to swim (and thus being terrified of water). As a result of these deaths (and a few others further upstream involving similar situations) I’m going to try to teach Basotho river workers how to swim when the river gets lower. I could probably even use this as my secondary project, develop a self-perpetuating swimming club.

The hiking’s been a lot of fun. I get to bushwhack (hike where there are no trails) on virtually every walk, and get to climb rocks and stuff, it’s lots of fun and it only takes me about an hour to get to a spot where I see nothing manmade and no one.
As a result of my hiking and my limited access to fatty foods (there’s no chips or anything really at the store in my village) I’m down to about 200 lbs. My goal is to stay at this weight, which means I’m gonna have to up my intake of Rama (margerine) and home-made baked goods (I’ve been making all sorts of breads and brownies and stuff from scratch, I love it).

I've been learning relatively little Sesotho because everyone around me speaks english all the time. This is both great and sucks for obvious reasons.

Lots of reading at site, lots of hanging out and enjoying the quiet. Unless my family’s geese are being loud, in which case I have to restrain myself from strangling them.

Khotso, Pula, Nala