Tiger (my dog) lounging:
My family's baby cow in my front yard (so cute, loves to run, so dumb)
Back yard (I have to walk this way to use my latrine)
Cooking rondavel/where my boabuti (brothers) sleep
View from halfway up the mountain I live on
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.
The Boys (my brother is further away)
my whole village (the school and stuff is there...)
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)
Lesotho's "wild life"
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.
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)
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)
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