Monday, May 2, 2011

Easter Vacation

May is here and the weather is cold. What a difference it is from the states! Normally my birthday month is full of sunshine and fresh flowers. Here in Lesotho it's marked with frost and the end of tank tops. I thought I was excited to break out the winter hats, gloves, and scarves, but that excitement ended when I remembered I'd also have to watch movies from the comfort of my sleeping bag, and bake cookies just to heat up the hut. Ahhhhh.....African winter. I'm going to purchase a small gas tank just for my heater so I can at least attempt to stay nice and warm.
The transition into winter was made even more difficult since I spent my Easter holiday on the beaches of the Eastern Coast of South Africa. Karolina, Parker, Chris Jones and I spent about a week in the small town of Cintsa. Our hostel was beautiful, right on the water, and every night they offered a free wine activity! Vacation doesn't get much better than that! Chris Jones and I met Parker up at his site in Mokhotlong and we traveled down to SA via Sani Pass. I knew Sani was in the mountains, but I had NO IDEA how terrifying the trip down would be! The three of us were stuffed in the back seat of a combi (public taxi) driving STRAIGHT DOWN the face of a mountain. The switch backs seemed to be never ending. At one point we stopped for an overheated radiator, and then again for a blown out tire. There were about 5 b0-ntate (men) working as conductors for just this one taxi! I was convinced that something would go wrong and we would plummet to our deaths. I'm normally pretty afraid of heights, but I've experienced some bad roads in Lesotho. I thought I was beginning to overcome my fears. Nope! My leg was shaking and had I had the Sesotho skills to speak to the driver I would have explained that I'd walk down and they could pick me up at the bottom. Instead I rode it out. The boys found my fear pretty amusing, but were supportive still. Once we were safely on flat ground I was relieved and ready for a cold beer. I will NEVER drive over Sani pass again, but I'm happy to have had the experience. I just wish I wouldn't have been so scared so that I could've taken some photos of the road.
In total we took 2 and 1/2 days to reach the town of Cintsa. We were traveling on a public holiday using public transportation. No matter how early you wake up you can only get so far! Plus, we went up through Mokhotlong and over Sani which took extra time, but I'd promised Parker I'd visit his site again. On the return trip we smartened up and came through the south of Lesotho. I've now been t0 9 of the 10 districts in Lesotho. YAY!
My amazing grandfather sent me a new camera so I've got LOTS of pictures to post. I'm now going to attempt to put up some pics from our Easter vaca. However, I always struggle with this part of the blog process. Here's hoping.......................................Didn't work :( I'll keep trying.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nothing Much

As promised I'm doing my best to keep on the blog. I don't have much to mention this time, but I suppose I can just do a quick update on what's been going on.

Dance class is going great! The girls are still loving it! Now the students at the other primary school (Hlotsenyane) where I teach Life Skills are bugging me to dance with them. I don't know if I'll have time to do both. Especially since I have to split up my current class into two different days to accommodate the big age differences. I told the girls from Hlotsenyane just to come up and join the current dance class. We'll see if they actually do it. They'd have to walk about 20 minutes up hill to get there :( However, while teaching Life Skills at Hlotsenyane last week I honored Mr. T Maresco by playing some music for the students during and activity, and then allowing them to have a "one minute dance party". They really loved it!!! Tom said he did this with his students, which makes me laugh cause the kid couldn't dance for crap, but he was right when he said the students really enjoy it!

Early Childhood Care and Development, also known as my "primary assignment" here in Lesotho. My job is to train the teachers. This second year with my teachers has gotten off to a slow start. I feel frustrated because we're discussing all the stuff that I trained them on last year, all over again. I hoped to get passed "how to do a lesson plan" and onto more interactive ideas. I wanted to get into things like classroom management and specific activities they can do with their students. We touched on these things a little bit last year, but now they want to cover the same stuff all over again. I worry about what will happen when I leave. I was hoping to have laid a stronger foundation last year so that this year the Area Resource Teachers could work as the trainers. This way once I leave they'll still have someone who can teach them. We're off to a very slow start. I'm not giving up, but its clear that I've got my work cut out for me.

This Friday, March 11, is Moshoesheo's Day (pronounced Ma-shway-shway). This is a Lesotho holiday honoring King Moshoeshoe. Last year I went to some ECCD events. Basically I sat in the sun while the teachers and children did races and some traditional dances. This was fun for an hour or two, but by the end of it I was hot and tired. This year I decided to skip the events and use the long weekend to visit my friend Parker in Mokhotlong. Mokhotlong is the most northern district in Lesotho. Getting there is a long and uncomfortable taxi ride. But I've only gone once, and it was to deliver very tragic news, so I thought I should go back on a happier note. However, in the last couple of days I've caught a nasty little cold. I'm pretty sure I got it from my host family. They were all sick last week, and the kids spend A LOT of time hanging out in my house. Now I'm suffering from a soar throat, headache and constant runny nose. I'm not looking forward to feeling this way on a taxi ride up the mountains for 4 hours to get to Parker's site. I'm going to decide in the morning if its worth me making the trip, or if I should reschedule. We'll see.

Not much else is really going on. I've got some beautiful sunflowers growing outside of my rondoval (I'll post a photo once I have a camera again). I would have a lot more flowers to go with them, but my family has been doing some renovations on the house next to mine, which lead to the destruction of my seedlings.
My family adopted a cat a few weeks back. We (fellow PCV's) named him Zygote, to go with the dog, Fetus. But we were calling him Ziggy. When I returned home last weekend after a visit to some friend's houses Ziggy was nowhere to be found. I asked the kids where he was and they said he either ran away or was eaten by dogs. Sad right? But animals tend to come and go here and no one thinks much of it. I don't like cats a whole lot, but I was pretty excited about Ziggy. He used to come sunbathe on my porch all day. He was a cutie :(
I planted a garden a while back and am now reaping the benefits. However, the benefits are few. As with my flowers, my family dug up my garden without realizing it. My Ntate (host father) went out to weed my plot one day. He didn't realize I'd planted on the whole thing, as he couldn't see anything sprouting up (this was only weeks after I'd planted the seeds), so he dug up most everything. He left the lettuce that was just beginning to sprout, but the peppers, cucumbers, and zucchinis were lost. I was disappointed, but I can buy all that stuff in town. I was left with TONS of delicious leafy green lettuce, which I cannot buy, so I guess its okay. I've been having some AMAZING salads, and those are hard to come by in Lesotho. My family has some tomatoes growing which they share with me. I buy onions at the shop and green beans in town. Add some American Ranch dressing and I'm one happy girl!

Well I suppose that's enough for one day. I hope everyone reading this is doing well. I miss you all very much. But I thank you for the letters, phone calls, packages, and blog comments. Like I've said before, you're an amazing support group! Miss you!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Callling all Pitsos

First of all I should start this blog by wishing my older sister a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! I hope she reads this and feels special. Especially since I forgot to send her a bday card this year. Please forgive me, sister. I thought about you all day, and now you're getting an Internet birthday acknowledgement to try and make up for my slacker tendencies.

Now on with the day to day updates. The title of this post is "calling all pitsos". Many of you are probably wondering what a pitso is, so please allow me to explain. A pitso is basically a village meeting. The chief always attends a pitso and any everyone in the village is responsible to uphold any agreement made at a pitso, whether they were in attendance or not. These are pretty important meetings, and they have the potential to be great venues for getting things done.

I requested to have a block of time in the next village pitso about a month ago. The reason I asked is because my wonderful friend Elissa donated hundreds of toothbrushes and other dental care items to me for the people in my village (Thanks!!!!). I could easily give these things away in one of my life skills classes, or to the teachers at a workshop. However, I decided I would try and disperse them amongst the most needy people in the village...the orphans. When I asked to have time at the pitso to do this I explained the plan. The chief told me he would call the orphans to the pitso and I could discuss whatever I wanted with them at that time. The first pitso was to be held three weeks ago. When that fated Sunday morning came I was told there would be no pitso. WHY!?!? Well, it seems that the chief of the village had been arrested. Since the chief is needed to have the pitso, it was going to be postponed. Okay fine. We rescheduled for two weeks later.

Two weeks later came, and I had declined an invitation to poker night with a bunch of fellow volunteers. This was a real bummer cause I'd been wanting to play poker since I got here! But I had an obligation to my friend Elissa and the orphans. I woke up early Sunday morning and was told that the pitso would not be at the chief's place this time, but in a donga down at the bottom of the village. For all of you American readers, a donga is basically a big ditch. They're not known for their cleanliness....teenagers go to dongas to get into trouble. I thought it was quite strange that the pitso would be at the donga, but I went with it.

I was unsure which donga they were speaking of, so I used my limited Sesotho skills to ask a young boy to help me find the pitso. The poor kid wondered up and down the village with me asking around for half an hour. No one seemed to know anything about this meeting. I was getting very frustrated, hot, and mad that I'd missed poker night for this! After speaking with a few more people the boy left me at the side of a donga, just standing on the dirt road with two bags of toothbrushes. He said, "You should wait here, and the people will come". I couldn't believe it. I was now at least a half hour late, yet there was no one around, and I was literally sitting at the edge of a ditch! After a few minutes b0-ntate (3 men) offered me a chair and told me to sit on a small cement platform. I sat there, in the scorching morning sun for 2 hours. There was not an orphan in site! After a while some women and men gathered, but still no chief and no orphans. The assistant chief came, greeted me, and tried to call the chief but there was no answer. We continued to wait. Just when I was trying to decide which Sesotho phrases I could string together in order to gracefully avoid sitting here for the rest of the day the assistant chief approached me again. He simply said that the chief was unavailable, and that we should re-schedule....AGAIN. I agreed, as I'd already waisted a good portion of my day doing nothing. However, we decided that since Sunday pitsos had failed us twice now, maybe this time we'd try for something during the week. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dance, Dance, Revolution

My first ever Lesotho dance lesson brought tears to my eyes! About 50 girls attended the class, ranging from ages 6-16, or higher. I knew right away that the next session was going to have to be divided by age groups. One day a week for the older girls, and one day for the younger ones.
Dance in Lesotho is much different than the dancing I know how to teach, clearly. In order to give the girls a vague idea of what we were going to learn I showed them the "Halo" dance from Glee. So, there we were, 50 girls crammed into a teeny-tiny, sweltering hot church. I busted out my tiny little computer and told them to, "just watch". They were undoubtedly curious and confused as to what they were about to see. However, as soon as the song started and those girls on the screen, all dressed in their yellow dresses, started dancing the b0-ausi gathered as close to the computer as they could get. The amazement in their eyes brought tears to mine!
After the clip we started with some VERY simple technique. We started with plie's (plee-ays) in first and second position. I thought they'd hate it, but they really tried, and seemed to love it! We did some other simple warm-ups, stretching, across the floor routines, and then finished with each different grade level standing up to perform "step touches" that we'd learned during the warm up. The moves were about as simple as I could make them, and they will continue to be. Dancing here in Lesotho is vastly different than your typical American dance class, as you can imagine. The simple idea of standing on, or pointing their toes blows them away. However, the excitement, pride, and happiness I was able to see in their faces made me feel better than I have in a long time.
I don't believe for a second that this is a "sustainable" project, which is what we strive for as Peace Corps volunteers. However, I don't really care either. I know these girls are comfortable and having fun, and that's all that matters to me. If I can build up self confidence in even a few of them I will feel accomplished! Of course I've got lofty dreams of what this could turn into, but I'll be happy with spending a few hours a week making these young ladies feel valued! I'll do my best to keep the blog posted on our progress.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing"

The quote above is from a card sent to me from my very special friend Sammy. The words hold very true to my recent days here in Lesotho. Yesterday was Thomas Maresco Jr's birthday. Knowing that the date was coming up, and only a day after Vday was difficult. I tried to honor him in the best ways that I could. I made some delicious food. He would've been very proud of this, as he was the best cook in Lesotho, and I'm deffinitely not known for my culinary skills. I allowed my IPOD to play through the songs that I normally would skip in order to avoid the sad thoughts. I "felt the feelings" as I've been advised to do. February 15th was, and will forever be, a difficult day for everyone who knew him. My heart goes out to all of his family and friends!!!
Today is a new day and the sun is shining. Yesterday I may've "fallen down" a few times. But today I'm up and dancing...literally. This afternoon will be my first ever Lesotho dance lesson. I've invited b0-ausi (girls of all ages) from the village to join me in the church building after school for dance class. I'm assuming a BUNCH of them will come this first day. They will probably be dissapointed when I start with technique and simple steps. This is sort of what I'm going for. I want the group to dwindle down to only those girls who are serious about being there. I hope to have 10-20 girls who come once, or maybe twice weekly. I look forward to seeing what will play out. You can never really tell!
As promised, numerous times, I'm making an honest effort to keep up on my blog this year. My camera unfortunately is not working, so pictures will be limited. I will do my best to keep up on the narration though. Thank you to the readers who haven't given up on me :)
Khotso (Peace)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Brightening things up with some photos.

Posting photos in Africa is difficult, at best. My intention was to post five or six photos, but it's just not working out. Here are the two that loaded succesfully. Hopefully I can get some more up in the future. I'll keep trying.

The photo on the bottom is of the giant boulder that sits outside the front door of my house. The family dog, Fetus, named by the family, is in the foreground and you can also see his tin-roofed dog house.

The photo in the top right is of my host sister
Mohlabase. She caught this moth and is showing it to me through my
burglar bars.

I'll work on getting the other photos up later. But for the moment I'm frustrated with this process.

The Second Year

Everyone says the second year of Peace Corps goes by much faster than the first. My first year flew by, punctuated by cultural integration, fantastic vacations, and getting to know some of the best friends I'll ever have. Sadly, it all came to a screeching halt in September. Since that tragic day I've been struggling to put the pieces back together. I'm just now able to write about my experiences of the past few months, and still I find the task to be a challenging one.
Monday, January 17th marked the beginning of the school year in Lesotho. Whether I'm ready for it or not I am forced to face my second year of work, integration, and general African lifestyle. However, this time I have to do it without the support of some of my best friends. So far the rain has been pouring down daily, which makes moving about quite difficult. Roads are flooded, bridges are non-existent, and everywhere you step you wind up covered in mud. I have no doubt that this year is going to be full of daily ups and downs. Latrines are flooding, houses are crumbling, rules are changing, and I'm always missing my friends. My first year here was one big adventure. Everything was new, exciting, and fun. The reality of Lesotho has changed a lot for me. This second year will surely be nothing like the first and that makes me more sad than I can explain. I can only hope that I will be able to enjoy the positive things that my work, my remaining friends, and Lesotho have to offer.
I will attempt to write on this blog more regularly, but I can't promise anything.
....Here's to year two....