Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to you all!

Holiday Greetings to all of our family and friends,
             We have really been thinking of you all and sending you the best wishes for Christmas and the New Year (but this is nothing new, so you should be used to all of our good wishes coming your way by now!) We also send our deepest condolences to the families of the 2 PCVs who were killed in a car accident in Mozambique yesterday, as we remember to count each of our days as its own blessing.
              So, it is the day before Christmas Eve, most employees (including my co-workers) have "knocked-off" for the holidays. Things have seemed to both speed up and slow down during this time. Town is packed with people, the people that have moved away in search of jobs, returning to spend Christmas with their families. The shops are also packed, with people stocking up food and buying complete new outfits for their children - that is the main jist of Christmas gifts here, clothes for the children. The offices are empty or their are a few people in them playing computer games (if they are lucky enough to have a computer in their office). The schools have been closed all of December, and having meetings in the villages is futile as people are traveling, in town, are cleaning their houses (re-smearing them with the mud/dung mixture and repainting some traditional designs), or - especially with the men - they are drinking traditional beer. The photo above shows the young people of our village in training practicing a dance routine to perform as part of the traditional Christmas celebrations, there will actually be a fake "wedding" of two children, with everyone getting dressed up, a feast and dancing. We liked this photo because the rainbow led us to a different sort of "pot-of-gold."

             The weather today is a thick, socked-in, mountain mist, a bit of a drizzle and a bit chilly. Overall the weather has been hot during most of the day, giving way to downpours of rain, and intense thunder and lightening storms - that often make us lose power. This is not the kind of weather we have been used to at Christmas time and we extend our hopes that you are all staying warm "up there" as you celebrate.
            We don't have very big plans for Christmas. We were blessed with several packages recently that we have somehow mustered the self-control to not open most of them until Christmas. We are so thankful to the senders - you know who you are! I will also hope to cook something delicious from my newest Kindle book - The Cooks Illustrated Cookbook! Woo-hoo, I'm sure you can imagine that we'll be enjoying that one:-) This is Shane's first Christmas away from his family, fortunately we do have each other and a couple little Christmas traditions that we hope to mantain. We were able to find National Lampoons Christmas Vacation so, we will be watching that on the computer. Shane has also requested pizza for Christmas dinner. I went to Maseru last weekend and was able to find some goodies (like cheese) to accomodate that request. We have also recently come into some delicious dried mushrooms and even some dried basil that will be eaten atop our Christmas pizza. In Maseru, I found a few other amazing surprises, sparkelers (like the fireworks) and mushroom gnocchi so those are our Christmas treats. We also will mostly likely attend the midnight mass that will be happening on our compound, we have not been to one before and certainly not one in Sesotho - wish us luck! I also just had the fun opportunity to read "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to a few young Basotho boys, it was really fun to share that with them as they were unfamiliar with the story. We talked about how in America we know him as Santa Claus not Father Christmas, and they really enjoyed pointing out all of the strange things in the whimsical illustrations typical of Dr. Seuss's books. Two of the boys weren't as strong in English so, we had the older boys give a little summary in Sesotho, which was also pretty fun!
         We won't be exchanging gifts with each other this year (we did make some peanut butter cookies to share with our Basotho friends), we made the decision to channel all our meager funds to our upcoming vacation in CAPETOWN! At the begining of this week, we learned that Phantom of the Opera is on stage in Cape Town, but only through the 14th of January. We had been planning to go to Cape Town after a few more months of saving, but after hearing about this show - we looked at each other and agreed that we should try to make it happen. We did our "feasability study" and we are proud to say our leave requests got approved barely under the wire yesterday afternoon. So far, we are looking forward to Phantom, a stay on an organic farm within the city limits, the Stellenbosch winelands, a 23 hour bus ride(!) and numerous other adventures that we've been perusing online and in Lonely Planet.
          I think that is most of our news, please accept the appologies for not keeping on track with the blog, I've been a bit busy with work, out of the office, and then working on the details of this trip. Please enjoy a few more photos posted on "The Real Thing" page, some of them can help give you an idea of our season right now and how the plants are really enjoying the rain finally coming.
Best Holiday Greetings to All! Stay warm, stay safe and enjoy!
All our Love,
Shane and Carol

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas is around the corner!

 Hello Everyone, I'm going to keep this a bit short - I am about to go to the field again, but I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to post again. I wanted to put this up before we collected even more front page pictures! We were at a Peace Corps training in our "Host Villages" again, where we stayed when we first got here. It was fun to see the other volunteers and hear what they've been up to - we've got a really passionate and amazing group. I find it really impressive that with all of the aid money that Lesotho has recieved from America, I believe that the most cost effective aid work is done through PCVs -but that is a subject for another post :-)

At the top of our photos is our improvised Christmas tree for this year, we thought we'd share with you. We got the idea from one of my new favorite websites- We also just got two lovely care packages (one of which was mailed in JULY!) from my mom and the lovely Liz. Thanks so much for thinking of us, the timing was perfect! And it is funny to think about how happy a little box of tea, airborne and handsanitizer can make a person - especially if they aren't really having a good day! Serurubele also really liked the care packages as you can see in the above photo. She stayed with her sister and Sister Magdelena while we were gone and we've decided she has gotten taller and is starting to look like a small cat rather than a kitten. It is also very much enhanced by the grown up cat mannerisms she is adopting - like ignoring us while using us for the comfort of our lap.

I really will write more about our food, so as part of that we wanted to share some photos. So, before we left our comfortable bed, our kitten and our oven to return for the training - Shane suggested that we cook something special to make ourselves happier about leaving. So, the recipe for baked doughnuts from (also much better food photography than ours!), has been sitting in the basket for about two months - waiting for us to undertake them. It is always difficult for me to undertake a 2-3 hour wait time before breakfast because we both usually wake up hungry. We decided to go for it, and it really paid off, they were a delicious and amazing treat, and as you may be able to see, I also used my last Starbucks VIA to make a delicious ghetto mocha to accompany our treat! I really did like these better than fried doughnuts and they really weren't that difficult, especially after we figured out what to use to cut them out, most of it was just wait time for them to rise. -I am also a sucker for anything with that much cinnamon! We shared the doughnut holes with the Sisters and they claimed to really enjoy them too! Shane wouldn't give up any of the actual doughnuts! Another food adventure we had was when Peace Corps took us to a cute cafe in Ladybrand for the official wrap up of the third phase of Peace Corps training. The food was amazing (I had bacon, brie foccaccia bread topped with arugula, Shane had chicken pot pie with roasted vegetables - and we both had chocolate milkshakes, but I had a shot of esspresso in mine!) and the cafe was adorable in a little garden setting with a bunch of crafty things for decorations and for sale! I am so sad to say I forgot my camera, but they had a large trampoline but at ground level and raspberries growing in their garden - need I say more? It was a lovely conclusion and a reasonable preface to having to get up the next morning to take the crammed taxi back home at 5am!  

All in all we've been doing pretty well, the rain has come and our garden is starting to grow more which is really gratifying. Work is ok but is stalling a bit for the holidays, so you'll hear from me again next week. I'll wrap it up here.
All of the best and warm wishes for the holiday season!
Carol and Shane

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Hello and hoping you all had the best Thanksgiving! Above you can see the attempt for Thursday night, there was no turkey, but we found hamburger - so we had hamburger patties, carrots, cranberry sauce from dried cranberries, Shane's favorite - mashed potatoes and we finished it with the amazing Chocolate Loaf cake from 101 cookbooks. We worked all day and then came home and put this little dinner together, we also had a special and delicious Cabernet-Shiraz from S.A. We also got to enjoy a couple calls from our parents, so that was also very special - thanks guys!

And, it snowed, so we felt right at home. So, I mentioned before how hot and dry it has been, well we finally got some rain on Wednesday, and then on Thursday it was drizzling and cold all day but then it actually started snowing. It is supposed to be coming on to the middle of summer here so I think this was like the freak late June snows in Bozeman. We didn't really have anything to cover the tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash and the few other (cold sensitive) plants remaining in our garden that have survived all of the other bad conditions and pests that Lesotho has thrown at them so far. So, does anyone else find it ironic that the climate change summit has just started in Durban? Also, now between the drought and the snow I am praying that things turn around so that we are not extra busy with WFP emergency feeding next year. It is definitely one job that you can be thankful when you don't have business.

So, we did also enjoy visiting some other volunteers over the weekend. We had a reasonable sized Thanksgiving day feast, with chicken, squash, Stovetop stuffing sent from our homeland and many other delicious dishes. We had a great time visiting with and enjoying the culinary talents of our fellow volunteers. During our visit we also got to participate in an HIV/AIDS awareness activity hosted for the community by the PCVs that also hosted our T-day party. We got to watch MTV's "Shuga" created for the staying alive campaign. We really liked that show and it is a great way to open discussion on important topics especially for young people. They also had an anonymous question box, so the youth could ask questions on paper and then at the end we answered them all. They asked some very good questions about making choices, responsibilities, drugs, alcohol, sex, pregnancy, slang terms from the movie and many others. So, we the PCVs got the pleasure of answering these delicate questions in front of a relatively large audience of impressionable young minds - no pressure!

So, one of the reasons for the event is that World AIDS Day is this Thursday, so as PCVs in Lesotho we are encouraged to organize or help organize awareness events in our community. Shane and I have been working with some of the stakeholders in our district to organize the celebration for the whole district; however, I'm not going to talk further about this experience on the open acess forum of our blog. We are excited, but we are sure it is not going to be put together before this Thursday, stay tuned - we'll post some pictures when it happens. I am also going to read a book aloud at the local library -to help promote use of the library and reading in general, and we also will have some art projects to follow. I think in honor of World AIDS Day I am going to select a book that is themed toward HIV/AIDS related issues (as you can imagine, there are many).

So, I have just finished visiting some of the schools I have been working with and doing composting demonstrations - that has been really fun for me, hopefully also for the primary school kids. I have been continuing with some of the projects that I am working with WFP beneficiaries on, I just helped one group to make a plan to make and sell traditional beer while all of the men are at home for Christmas, so they can raise money to buy young layer chickens for their chicken project. Hopefully they will have good luck with that. Shane's supervisor is getting a visitor from S.A. that is one of his collegues and he is bringing new snakes - so that is pretty exciting!

I think that is most of our recent newsy tidbits, we are going back for a week of training, so we will be out of touch for abit, and I've been busy with work trying to get as much done before we leave as possible, because when we get back there won't be much time left before the country shuts down all productivity for a month in honor of the holiday season. We have been talking more and more about vacations which is really exciting, I know you will all enjoy photos from those exciting places! Our kitten has been getting bigger and is still really cute and fun with huge eyes, not a whole lot of tricks though it plays with its piece of twine, duct tape ball and climbs its ghetto carpet-wrapped-around-the-desk-leg-with-duct-tape scratching post. Otherwise, it sits on ours laps and looks cute, or scratches Shane, which he doesn't like. I do have a few more "you know you are a Peace Corps Volunteer when" for you, we agreed to them collectively at the party.
You know you are a Peace Corps Volunteer when:

Peeing in a bucket in front of 7 people doesn't phase you

You get extremely excited about "REAL" - Purell

You believe that regular text messaging (only after 7pm of course) constitutes and intimate relationship

You fantasize (sometimes collectively) about appliances, large and small

I think that does it for now, I'll write the continuation of the food post soon-ish, and you know I will!
As always, sending lots of love!
Shane and Carol

P.S. - Looks like the flower photos are staying, I'm so glad:-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

By One Reader's Demand: Our Food in Lesotho

Yesterday's breakfast: Cornmeal crepes with strawberry jam, toasted almonds and ghetto-homemade-from-UHT-milk-ricotta

Our anniversary pizza with: tomatoes, chard, carmelized onions, balsamic vinegar reduction and yes, chedder -we paired it with dissapointingly terrible red wine

Halloween chocolate cake - replete with scary severed fingers and glow-sticks!

Hello everyone! We hope you have all been staying warm and well "up there" in the Northern Hemisphere. It has been quite hot here, still worringly dry and windier than really any other place we've known (this includes - Great Falls). Hopefully this food post will coincide nicely with thoughts of Thanksgiving day feasting. We are going to celebrate with other volunteers, we're just not quite sure where yet. We will see what our first PC T-day looks like as we think about my mom's usual delicious feast and wonderful family, that we have accostomed to joining.

Thank you guys for voting on the little polls, I think I'll keep them coming to continue to try and let you all have a say on what you want to hear about. I will stretch this one out over two posts (I'll try to keep it to two!).  I do want to start though with talking about how and what we've been doing lately. The weekend before last was pretty busy with a few social events including a belated Halloween party with a couple of the other volunteers, this weekend we needed to just relax as Shane has had a nasty sore throat. One of the highlights was that I was able to download the This American Life podcast and we listened to it while concocting and eating a really nice breakfast and rounded all that out with our 49th game of Scrabble since being in country (wow almost 6 months now!) - it was pretty fabulous for us. We've both been enjoying our recent attempts to get up early (yes Dad - early, like in the morning) and do some yoga before work, we've been enjoying reading -Shane just finished Fast Food Nation and really liked it. I just finished Mansfield Park - after watching it on Masterpiece Theater in the states it was a really fun read. One of Shane's recent books The 4-hour Body described the creation of a T-bar that he can take to the gym, put weights on and treat like his favorite piece of excercise equiptment from the states - his kettlebell... this has been making him very happy! Please note here: Shane has a gym membership in Peace Corps. He has also been moonlighting as a pool shark, we went out last week to bid farewell to one of the friends we've made since being here - one of the doctors at Baylor Clinic. He's from Zimbabwe and is great to be around both at work and after, he's also pretty darn good at pool and swore ruthless vengence on Shane for beating him! We hope he is able to visit again soon. Shane's been getting better aquainted with some of the back story involved with his job and still putting together some of his other projects. Also, you can check out the photo page to see some of what I've been up to in the last couple weeks - including more flower pictures and adorable kitten pictures (Shane made the comment the other day that if we decide to have kids we'll have to put aside a lot of extra money every year just to develop all of the photos I'll take of it - not to mention scrapbooking them all...). A note on the kitten: its name is officially Serurubele which means butterfly in Sesotho and we don't actually know what gender it is -yet.

So... food. This is a subject that I'm sure almost all of you know is very near and dear to my heart. I'll start by saying that many of the vegetables and grains grown here are very similar to what we are used to. Field crops being: CORN, sorghum, wheat, beans, peas - haven't seen really any lentils or barley but I think there may be a few fields in the country. Vegetable crops consist mainly of cabbage family crops, especially cabbage, mustard, turnips, there is also chard, beets, carrots, potatoes, peas, beans, corn, winter squash, some tomatoes, onions, green peppers, occassionally garlic and melons. We were extremely stoked a few weeks back by the discovery of our neighboring convent having rhubarb, they said they didn't know what to do with it so they never used it... we were more than happy to help with that and we really enjoyed it ourselves! You will see strawberry plants growing around, but it is a little bit like the people don't care that much about them. There are gazillions of peach trees, quite a few apple trees, also, grapes, apricots, plums, and even a few figs and orange trees (we are very, very excited for fruit season). Not exactly the exotic African food we imagined at one time but it is great because there isn't that big of a learning curve with the garden. Actually though, even though these things grow most things that you find are imported from South Africa, especially this time of year.

So, traditional Basotho food (lijo tsa Basotho) consists of papa - the hard cornmeal porridge and moroho, which is greens - chard, mustard, cabbage, turnip tops, even wild greens... very finely chopped and sauteed in oil and salt. Sometimes they will put milk with the papa. That is what most people eat most often, people with money might also have theirs with nama (meat). Other traditional foods include samp, whole corn, mush stuff which is rehydrated and cooked for a long time that they load with MSG laden spice product until it is delicious. Beans, again with "spice." Steamed bread. Salads, which are a vegetable like peas or carrots slathered in mayonaise and salt. Also, rice is a pretty common starch to substitute for papa. They also make chakalaka which is a pretty delicious tomato based almost salsa-like thing with beans in it too. For breakfast is sorghum porridge that is very much like malt-o-meal. They also will eat eggs boiled or fried with the MSG spice stuff. The food is generally pretty good, generally plain - they don't tend to mix things together very often like I tend to do. Also they think we are crazy for not eating things like chicken feet and intestines because those are the best parts. Most often those things are cooked in a big cast iron kettle over an open wood fire (that is often in a little shed or rondavel near the house - which is killer for smoke!) I almost forgot to mention the Makoenya. Literally that translates to "fat cakes" as you all may know I think almost every culture has their own signature gob of deep fried dough - also true of Lesotho, and they are amazing! All this walking has been extremely important in my weight maintenence on account of these delicious treats.

You also find of course, that the grocery stores cater to the demands of the Basotho so, maybe you can infer that variety isn't exactly the highlight of the "grocery stores" here - they actually should just be called shops as they are extremely different from any "grocery store" that would generally come to mind using that term. So, what is generally available is a spice/boullion blends containing a lot of MSG, or curry powder, occassionally ginger, black pepper and garlic flakes. Of course there is also sugar and salt and even cayenne pepper. Grains are maize meal, sorghum meal, the samp stuff, white parboiled rice, wheat flour (yay, they have whole wheat too!) and even small boxes of expensive oatmeal. Since we aren't really eating meat our protein is pretty much limited to pinto-like beans, white beans, yellow or green dry peas, eggs, peanut butter and occasionally us PCVs celebrate the arrival of tuna at one of the shops before we go buy it all ourselves, also there is the boxed milk.

Produce of course, varies with season and we are still trying to mostly buy local but also maintain a balanced diet so we typically eat a lot of chard right now, we just had about 2 weeks of fresh greens peas, we'll pick up a few tomatoes, onions, potatoes, garlic and carrots, we have bought 2 cabbages also, before we got to site winter squash and beets were in season and we were eating those as well. For fruit, oranges have been in season in S.A. so they have been cheap and plentiful so we ate some of those but also a lot of apples and some bananas. A lot of our produce we don't get at the main grocery shops, if we don't buy them from the grower, we will find smaller shops or even street vendors that sell better produce at slightly better prices. Produce and protein as you might expect are pretty expensive things and we actually really spend a large percentage of our stipends just trying to eat a balanced diet. Suprisingly the food prices here are not that far off from what they are in the states.

I think that is definitely plenty on food for right now. I'll try to continue these thoughts next week, and in the meantime we both wish you all a great Thanksgiving, we know we are thankful for all of you and your love and support! Wishes for the best of everything as the holiday season kicks off.
Shane and Carol

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Cat in the Hat... Our newest addition!

Hello again everyone,
I don't have much time this morning to write - I'm sure that is a relief after the last really long post. However, we finally got our kitten on Saturday and we are VERY excited about it and so we thought we'd share with you. It is the most adorable tiger pattern, even having a "ring tail." On Saturday we walked to a neighboring village to get it, and at the end of the day my pedometer read 20,000 steps! Our Sesotho tutor (the very tough, 70 year old sister) came with us and picked up one of our kitten's sisters. They will be neighbors and will have very different lives. The photo above shows the result of it living in our house and recieving entirely too much attention from us - after the bath and putting on the flea collar we decided to have it try on our souvenier traditional Basotho hat. We have also been cuddling it a lot, and taking pictures of it, a photo of it napping with Shane on the first evening of its arrival will be posted sometime soon. It is adjusting rather well. Here, cats are fed cooked maize meal (papa) with milk. We put actual soil in the litterbox - wish us luck with that. The jury is still out on the name, it will likely be in Sesotho - we'll keep you posted. Have a lovely week!
Lots of Love,
Shane and Carol

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our Peace Corps house...

Lumelang (Doo may lah ng) - or Hello everyone,
      We both hope this post finds you all as happy and healthy as can be. We are so happy that you all seem to be still reading. We've heard that the weather "up there" may really be starting to turn to winter - all the best wishes as that progresses and we sincerely wish you all of the best with your central heating! Here, it has been fluxuating between hot and cold, not quite hourly... and it is getting very dry. There is actually a growing amount of concern over the usual summer rains coming so late this year. Many creek beds have completely dried up only leaving garbage and dried algae. Even some of the community pumps in villages are drying up because the water is becoming so low. We are hauling water to our garden almost daily, and it takes several trips from the tap with both watering cans, especially as our garden is expanding to accomodate our ambitious vegetable planting. We are luckier than most that we can water by hand so conviniently. As my work takes me to schools and villages to talk about gardens, I begin to appreciate our (seemingly basic) accomodations even more.
      So, I'm sure you've all looked at all of our awesome pictures that were uploaded from training. So, now that we are reasonably caught up, maybe I can begin the blog post with one or two photos either taken very recently or that are related to the theme. So, I see from the poll that some of you actually voted (thanks!) and the majority of you voted for us to talk about the house. I'll post some more photos under "the real thing" page for you to get the full effect, but for now you can see from the above photos that we really do live in an octagon! The lower picture is the first view we got of our house when we arrived. This house is loosely based on the traditional rondavels, but this one is made from concrete blocks - it is called a Mokhoro.
      So, there are an amazing array of different syles of houses in Lesotho, and I believe you will find a PCV in every type of house (except one like the ambassador's really fancy house). There are the traditional round house made with mud, stone, stick and cow dung houses called rondavels, you will often find the roofs thatched with a special type of grass. I believe the photos will show those, there is also a square version of those same construction materials - but more commonly you may find those with a tin sheet metal (only) roof, that will be tied down with wires and weighted with stones so the very strong winds that we get here don't blow them away. There are also concrete block houses and brick houses, they are usually square but as you can see with ours, sometimes they are "roundish." Sometimes you will find a block house with a thatch roof, the combinations are endless. And though many people have a sheet metal latrine (also weighted down for the wind), not very many houses seem to be constructed with just sheet metal; however, this is common for some of the small business buildings that are often along the streets in towns.
    So, we live on a mission, the priest is our closest neighbor and our "host father" here at our site. We have even been given his last name to go by while we are here. It is actually very beautiful, at the base of a mountain, with a pond nearby and a lot of trees. The previous priest was also really interested in agriculture so there are many fruit trees and a nice garden area, an old kind of run down rain-water collection system, I even think I saw an old root cellar! There are also really nice flowers all around including a lot of nice roses, and and amaryllis that is blooming right now. There is a small community on the mission including several unmarried young women, many school children and the older nuns have a convent near our house. The community has been very welcoming to us, especially when we are out working in our garden. Many people pass us, greet us and talk to us as they are collecting their water from the communal tap that is just past where our plots are.
     We are very lucky with our housing situation - compared to many Basotho and even other PCVs; because we actually have electricity now, and running water in our house. So in our house we have one big room that is our almost-everything-room, kitchen, bedroom, dining room, office, even our yoga/excercise space, and it is actually where we take our bucket baths as well. It has a very high ceiling that is wood panel lined tin and we have a wood-tile floor. So, because many of the houses in Lesotho only have one room, we were told in training about the importance of meticulously separating the space so that Basotho don't think you take a bath in your "kitchen"which is dirty and the strategic placement of your "night bucket" so you will not be considered a totally disgusting heathen.We fortunately don't have to worry about the "night bucket" because with running water we actually have a toilet! So, that is actually our other small room, the bathroom. Our water comes from there -only. The bathroom sink sees a lot more use than most bathroom sinks, even if we decide that we want to use the actual bathtub that is there, we have to use a plastic pipe and secure it to (one of) the faucets on the sink and then run it into the tub. Also, if we want hot water, it must be heated on the stove, but WE HAVE A BATHROOM IN PEACE CORPS. I was not expecting to come to Lesotho and have the weekly chore of cleaning the bathroom, it is kind of funny to do - but I mind it a lot less here! Consider that the next time you have the toilet brush in hand (by the way ours is hot pink!). We also have a small closet, something that has actually been coveted by other volunteers. We are also very happy to have that to put miscellaneous stuff like the manure tea for our garden.
     Our kitchen is comprised of a 4-burner stove and gas oven combo - which is amazing and for that I am also very, very thankful, especially the oven - because it allows me to continue the hobby that you almost all of you know is very near and dear to me (and to Shane!). There is also a little cupboard with a table top surface, I prep food on it and we store our food/dishes in it. There is another little table that is kind of the dish station, it also has the water filter on it and we have hung our pots and pans from it underneath and we also store things under it a bit like a refrigerator. Next to that is one of the two electrical outlets that we have - it kind of blew up, so we are down to one actual outlet. Above the outlets we have hung all of the nice cards we have recieved since being here. We have a decent dining room table with really unstable chairs that get used a lot because that is really the only place to sit in the house except for our rocking chair (yay!) or the bed. As you can see we have nice big windows on our house and currently there are seedlings in long-life milk boxes and lentil sprouts sitting in the sill. The windows have deep purple curtains, they are pretty. We have a carpet on the floor that we sweep with a traditional stiff bristled grass broom. The carpet was essential because of the cold floor. We also have a desk and one of the ghetto brick and wood stacked bookshelves. We have a couple very warm blankets, we went for a duvet with an orange and brown motif. The duvet was strategic because washing an entire blanket in a basin is a real b#$*h. Next to our bed on one side we have hung all of the pictures of our family and friends (that's you guys) that we brought, on the other are the glow in the dark stars and planets that we also brought because we are fun like that. We also have a wardrobe for our clothes that we share, it also has some games and other miscellanous stuff that doesn't go in the closet. We have the small gas heater that I have mentioned before and also this funny fire place that the priest said is supposed to burn anthracite coal(???). We will probably try to figure out whatever that means sometime next winter. Finally we have the door, it is wooden and blue and it doesn't have a very tight seal with the door jam, so we put a blanket curtain up on the inside of it that we close at night when it is cold. We have also gotten several polar fleece blankets and hung them across the middle of our room to help with the heating - yay for being from MT, and it also divides the room a bit. Lastly, you will see on the photo that we have wrapped our mosqito net around our burglar bars so that we have a nice screen door - this idea was a really good one that we copied from another volunteer. I think this is long enough, so I won't talk about the garden any more right now, I'll try to post more pics on the other page for you to see what I've been describing. I'll also get on more of those "you know you're in PC when." I think that is most everything for now. It has been a good week and we just had a visit from the PC program director, that was a treat especially because he brought us a few goodies from Maseru like cheese and avocados, even a little chocolate! Tomorrow I teach a small computer class, then next week is WFP distribution and then I will participating in a postive deviance program training with WFP - this is a really interesting program that is starting here to help in the goal of combating malnutrition. So, sorry this got a bit long but I wanted to get it out there before I got even more busy. Shane has been staying busy himself, in addition to beating me at Scrabble and working with his primary project at the park he has been working with the prison to get the program going to teach life skills and also another project with the child and gender protection unit to help raise awareness of recently revised sexual assault laws. We have also been sporadically attending a really fun youth group when we have a chance on Saturdays, we're planning on going again this Satuday but - we are finally (hopefully) going to get our new kitten and we may be tempted to just stay home and play with it. We are too excited about it! Sorry that got long - don't worry you'll have a couple week break. Lots of love and good wishes to you all from Lesotho!
Carol and Shane

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More On Our Lives as PCVS: Part 4

Hello Everyone,
We hope you are all well and enjoying settling into fall as we continue into spring here - which, like Montana is often characterized by 4 seasons in one day!
Hopefully you have gotten a chance to check out some of the photos and that you have been enjoying our posts. Last time I talked about transportation, a few things I forgot to mention were: that the paths where we walk, scathe my agroecological soul because they are everywhere causing soil compaction and killing the plants and generally contributing to erosion - though most of the "paths" here are not always what we may think of as an actual place where a human being is able to walk. We were walking straight up a mountain path/rock face with a wonderful 70 year old Catholic Sister (our Sesotho tutor) on independence day, on a path that we did not think was possible, and she was going faster than us! We walk up and down mountains, on these "paths" through dongas (where there is sometimes a creek, but is just identified by the voluminous soil erosion) that are strewn with garbage and reeking of sewage. Even now there are some trees blooming that smell nice near one of the dongas we walk every day, sometimes I take a deep sniff in to enjoy the tree smell and end up with a big whiff of sewage - can't wait 'til summer really comes!
  In general Basotho walk everywhere, kids will walk several Km, even more than an hour just to get to school, the women come to WFP food distributions on foot and carry the food home on their heads. Also, it is common for Basotho to ride horses or even donkeys. More on our walking around though is the Fishbowl effect that they tell us about before we come, that doesn't really sink in until we get here. We really are the only white people that live in the village/town, so people always notice us and stare, often they ask us for things: candy, money, sunglasses, clothes, shoes... really anything, I think some of it is because they think we have money, some of it I think is the African "sharing" culture, and some of it is just an excuse to talk to us I think. It is actually true that most people look at our shoes whenever they see us, I'm not sure why - but it might be some sort of status thing, if you have money, you can afford good shoes. I've seen many different kinds of footwear here, from fancy men's dress shoes, Converse All Stars are big here, high heels and fancy sandals, boots, the school students shoes (Grasshoppers), bedroom slippers for normal footwear and flip flops to play basketball. All of these kinds of footwear are also seen in varying stages of repair and, as the case may be disrepair, we've also seen Tom's shoes - on one end being on volunteers, and on the other end being worn by orphans because the company legitimately donates them
As we walk around we greet everyone, that is another part of the culture here - our first Sesotho words were Lumela (doomehla) - Hello and O phela juang - how are you? and it is mandatory to greet and disrepectful if you don't... sometimes it takes much longer to get places because you must greet everyone. It is also common to be asked where are you coming from and where are you going; but, the fishbowl effect is so much that in training village our host mother would already know all of that even before we got home and she was able to ask us.
So, there is greeting and then there is good byes, if there is any English that Basotho children know, it is "bye-bye." When we first got to our site, we found the group of small children that live near us would scream - really scream like that reverberating mostly unpleasant sound - "bye-bye" every time they saw us, coming or going. It has been one of our Peace Corps Volunteer goals to teach them a little more than that. Now, when they see us, some times they will scream "hello" instead, but usually only if we say it first. We are almost at "how are you?"
The Fishbowl effect is also sometimes very confusing, because almost everyone in town knows us, especially because for me (Carol), I have been working - and introducing myself all over the district where we live. So, many people know our names - but it is uncommon for us to be able to smoothly reciprocate, especially because many Sesotho names are extremely difficult to hear, say, generally understand and remember...

So, I will wrap up with a few "you know you are in Peace Corps when..." have people over for dinner, and they have to use a tupperware lid as a plate and nobody notices for the worse have a clothes line in the middle of your house with all of your underware on it and you are so used to it, you forget to be embarrassed by it when you have company start keeping a tally of how many Kg's of peanut butter you have consumed also start keeping a list of books you have read and how many games of Scrabble you have played have a hardcore party and everyone goes to bed at 11pm
Next time I will talk more about our jobs and I will talk to Shane about more "you know you are in Peace Corps when..."

It is very beautiful here, we enjoy the beauty of this mountainous country every day and the beauty of the people. We are coming along on our garden, but have been having a bit of problem with either a sheep or a goat getting in and eating our green! We'll try to get some more of the training photos up so we can keep more up to date with the photos. We are doing well, both working hard. Shane was on the National Lesotho Television News, and has been teaching some escape classes to kids. He has also been beating me at Scrabble! Last night he got a score of almost 450! However, I got almost the highest possible cribbage hand Monday night, the one with all of the 5's and the face card! We have also been reading, Shane just finished "Mountains Beyond Mountains" and is reading "The 4-hour Body" he has really enjoyed them! I just finished "Small Wonder" by Barbara Kingsolver and it was really good, I think a lot of you would really enjoy it - you know who you are! Also, just to add to the walking tidbit - I have lately been wearing a pedometer and have been easily averaging 8,500 steps in a day, even if I spend a good amount of time in the office or in the car! That is the news for now.
All the best to you all, and sending all of our love and hugs!
Carol and Shane

Thursday, September 29, 2011

By Reader Demand: Our Lives as PCVs Part 3

Dear Friends and Family,
We do hope that you are continuing to enjoy our blog. We were able to get some photos up, please check them out under the Philly and Training page, sorry about the non-logical order. There is one if you haven't seen, under "The real thing" page. I really like that one, it is probably the best one that I've taken in Lesotho so far. Please enjoy. We are happy to say we just got our first piece of mail at our new addy - thanks so much Grandma Gloria, Grandpa Jerry, Auntie Kirsten and Casey - you guys are fantastic!
General news in Lesotho is that local elections are coming up this weekend and the Lesotho Independence Day is October 4, so there will be celebrating and everyone has the day off - yay!
So, I have finished for now talking about the basic lack of luxuries like electricity and how that impacts our lives, but I also will take a moment to describe a bit more what it is like to live without any car. I have touched on this in previous blogs where I mentioned the buses. To get to Maseru (the capital city and the only town of reasonble size in the country), is anywhere from 5-8hrs by bus. The buses are often crammed with people, with even the aisle stuffed like a sardine can so that you are practically suffocated by people, some of whom may not bathe as often as we'd like to hope and some of them are also the big, beautiful African women. Sometimes the bus even blares music - music of all genres such as gospel, rap, Dolly Parton is also big here, other African music, traditional Sesotho music and even the Famu music of Mafeteng which largely consists of shouting to a beat. Though I have had at least one experience with this, where we were riding on some incrediablly scenic roads (while standing) and listening to the very loud African music and it was a real reminder of being here and having a very cool, very African experiece. Another thing is, because it is so often cold here, the Basotho people in general feel it is very important to be excessively warm whenever the opportunity presents itself, so that means no open windows on the bus. At this point, the bus drives on either of two roads in the country, the north road or the south road. *Moms should stop reading at this point* Both, are very winding and mountainous in general. If you are on an actual charter bus, there is frequent stopping and going to pick up people and drop people off, which can be quite disturbing if you can really picture how crammed these things can get. If you are on a minibus/kombi/sprinter/quantum/taxi thing, usually they go straight through to your destination, but that means they go extremely fast - which can be a bit worrisome for several reasons, such as that we are in Africa and their maintenence standards aren't quite what we are used to from the States. Also, since roads are roads they are often the easiest for people to walk along or on, there is also frequently livestock on the road or crossing it - I live in constant fear of being in a vehicle when it hits a cow or a person. Even in some villages the soccer field (which they have in every village) is directly adjacent to the road, so if the ball goes out of bounds a child must run into the road to get it back. Fortunately, so far, I have only been in a vehicle when it has hit a dog. There are also normal car taxis, we don't take those very much because of the cost but again there is the maintenence standard and often the drivers smell like the local libations. To catch any of these modes of transportation from a town, you find yourself having to got to the "taxi rank" notoriously glamorous places the world over, the most marked impression of the taxi rank for me is the olfactory experience, it smells like garbage, B.O., street food, and often sewage but at least urine. There are vendors of all kinds, taxi drivers hasseling you in Sesotho, bad English, good English, Afrikans... there are many people, a lot of traffic and generally a lot going on. Oh yeah, and then the fact that we are the only white people there makes us stick out like nothing else! Needless to say that being country bumpkins from MT, we don't exactly thrive in the taxi rank, and public is not the most comfortable part of our experience here.
There is also the way we get around the most in any given day: walking. We now walk a lot! The place where we live is extremely mountainous and we have now figured out how it is possible to walk uphill both ways to somewhere, as was described by our grandparents in stories from "the hard olden days." This varies a bit for some PCVs here, but I think it is very safe to say that we all walk a lot here. So, to get to work for me, I walk down the hill our house is on, then up the next hill to get to the road, then I walk down that hill and through the village and then get to my work which is halfway up another hill, this takes about 25 minutes now, down from when we first got here and it took about 40 minutes. Shane, being generally awesome, will often walk me to work and then walk through the village and up yet another hill to his work - and then he will walk a little bit farther even, to go work out... Anyways, this is just in the morning, sometimes with WFP, we go to do monitoring for school feeding and can walk anywhere from 1km up a mountain to, I've done about 5-6km so far, but I think they have been breaking me in slowly, I've heard though that maybe after 10 km we try to rent horses. Again, I have mentioned that if we buy grocerys we have to walk to town and then carry them back usually in our backpacks, Shane even carried bricks one day so we could build our ghetto bookshelf. Really to get anywhere is a pretty long walk, Shane's boss walk about an hour one way everyday from his village. Even to visit the other volunteer here "that lives in the same town" is about 45 minutes walking. Also, for safety reasons we have somewhat of a curfew, in that it is generally a good idea to be home before dark. This has put a bit of a damper on our social life and Shane is still trying to figure out how (and when) to do Jiu Jit Su and still make it home before dark. For the most part I am lucky though, because any place I go with work we do take the WFP car, so I have the luxury of not having to ride public as much as maybe I would otherwise. Even with all of this walking neither of us has had any marked change in weight, good for Shane - I am still undecided about myself though. I will close with two unrelately small bits of news in our lives, Shane as I write is learning to plow with oxen - I am jealous! However, I did beat him last night at Scrabble with a score of over 400, this may be a new record for me. On that note we both send you all our best thoughts and wishes and I will hopefully get another chance to post within the next two weeks.
Carol and Shane

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

By Reader Demand: Our Lives as PCVs Part 2

Hello Everyone! My IT problems are resolved and I'm back online. A quick shout out to the McFarlands (not us - the original ones) for the great care package, thank you so much - we loved and appreciated it and really enjoyed thinking of you, also thanks to Dad Froseth for taking care of our business stuff while we are here - I know it kinda sucks especially with all of those Victoria's Secret Catalogs! We also appreciated the anniversary cards we recieved - Thanks again everyone!
We both hope you are all well and enjoying the onset of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, we believe the weather may be identical in both places at this time (at least for our friends in family of the great state of MT). Cold mornings, temperate afternoons, dry, dusty and smoky. The main difference being that we are going into our first spring in a year. We have been enjoying planting our garden with all the normal stuff - peas, beets, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, onions, beans, squash, potatoes, and of course - chard. We are looking forward to eating our own fresh veggies again. My favorite thing so far about the spring here is the pink peach trees blooming across the hillsides in all of the villages - it really is beautiful!
The end of last week we just spent celebrating the 50th Birthday of Peace Corps. We had a big celebration with all of the volunteers in country coming, along with the US Ambassador (Michelle Bond) and King Letsi III. There was a lot of food - including the 5 cows the Prime Minister donated to honor the PCV he was taught by a long time ago, traditional dancers, singing, and us the CHED 11's got to swear in and become real volunteers again! We will try to post some video or photos but you may find a youtube link along with other Lesotho volunteers' blogs here It was a good time. Then Shane came back home and I went with some other volunteers to "Pony Camp"at the house of one of the Ed volunteers who is about to go home. It was exciting, I have now ridden horses in 4 countries, but I still have a hard time really "being one" with them. We also almost had a close encounter with one of culturally iconic initiation schools for young men, they actually started chasing us - danger!, but we were on horses and fortunately we had no problems getting away from that area quickly and were able to replan our ride for the day. Got home last Sunday night and was graced with a visit from the flu, I have now been sick in almost every way possible since getting here - bummer! Which is amazing considering we've had about 10 immunizations since being in country. Oh- well, Shane takes great care of me even if there is no laying on the couch and watching movies here -  and I am now invincible again!
So, I'll talk a little more of the inconviniences that were the main subject of the last post. We have since hired out the washing of our laudry, because my "real job" doesn't really afford us the time to spend about 4 hours washing our clothes by hand in large basins and the rest of the day watching all of our expensive REI-esque things dry on the line so they don't get stolen. But we have done it for several months - long enough to appreciate the washing machine and dryer we left back home. Also,  the Basotho are very clean, meticulous people. For example, our host father in training village once was watching us wash and the next week our host mother told me that he had instructed her to teach me how to make sure that Shane's socks were white-white when they came out of the washing bucket. I was greatful that I did not pack white socks myself. Also, I swear we will post pictures soon - and washing photos are among them.
Of course electricity is a pretty fantastic convinience. One of my favorite reasons for it is central heating. As we bid farewell to winter in Lesotho, I can only savor every moment of warmth that stands between me and next winter in our cement block octagonal house, with vaulted tin roof and single pane windows. Next winter I will be hugging our gas heater with its 3 2"x4" panels (we actually can't afford to consistently use all three on the Volunteer Stipend), because it really only heats about a one foot radius around the front and I've already melted one skirt by getting too close out of desperation. Again, we are welcoming spring with open arms! Also, we never really realized how much of a contributer electricity is to what we Americans generally think of as productivity. Without it, it is difficult to see to cook dinner, study afterwards, or even have a reasonalbe length evening. Without it, our bedtime was about 8pm - it even put a damper on our Scrabble games! Even now, as we have it, we have one outlet for a pretty sketchy lamp, charging cell phones, and our electric tea kettle. We have one overhead flourescent tube lightbulb and one (hanging from wires) compact flourescent in the bathroom - it makes a huge different. It is not however, reliable. Also, as you may have guessed, I have a computer at my office. Unfortunately, I could not use it much of the week before last because there was no electricity in the building, a few days the electric all over town has been out - for like, a whole weekend. - One of the reasons we have not been eating meat here is because of sketchy refrigeration! I will close with the aptly stated rule on modern conviniences in Peace Corps - if you have any luxury you can only have two out of three at any one time (the three being phone/internet, water or electric). For example if you have working power and water, the cell phone tower will be down. Or if you have access to the internet, you will go home and the water will be off. You get the idea. I will post again before a month has gone by again, work has been keeping me in the field and the electric being out put a damper on the blogging. We have been loving it here, and have been thinking of you all from here and wishing you the best of the best.
Carol and Shane

Thursday, August 25, 2011

By Reader Demand: Our Lives as PCVs Part 1

Hello Everyone, Thanks to those of you who voted on the poll. I would love to get some involvement from you guys so maybe we'll try it again. I was thinking that having more focused posts could keep them shorter, clearer and more organized. Also, hopefully it would make for interesting reading - Sarah, note taken on the women's issues! There is so much we would love to share that we have been learning and experiencing. I think since I am online a bit more I'm going to try to post at 1-2 week intervals, but Shane doens't want me to do it too much so you all get bored, so I'll try to keep myself under control. Photos are coming, we promise! I'll try to do one really cool one I took yesterday with work, it is incredibly representative of Lesotho. Also, I posted a link to the Free Rice website, check it out if you like trivia and donating food through WFP. I would like to put it out there if anyone would like to check out the African Library Project we've hear it is a great program that is active in Lesotho and there is already a library in our town, but it doesn't have a ton of books, it is also a great way to get books in to schools. If anyone wants to collaborate on a project here please get in touch with one of us by email. It seems like it could be really cool! Everyone is so sweet with talking about care packages, we definitely don't expect them but the couple that we have gotten have been really pleasant suprises and we have enjoyed and appreciated tham - but we know that they are expensive and again, of course, we don't expect them! It was really sweet though to read your comment Ellie (and Larry) it is really fun to know that you guys are keeping up with us, we are thinking of you guys often too!
Now that I have prefaced this entry with house keeping I'll try to be complete but not too long. I'll start by talking about the striking reality of life without conviniences. Please, enjoy your next trip in the car - not having to carry your grocerys home on your back, especially your next hot shower or bath, being able to use your oven with no worries, having central heat or air conditioning, having a washing machine, dishwasher, computer, watching movies, listening to whatever music/podcast/audiobook... again enjoy those things the next time you do them in our honor and maybe even tell your washing machine what a great job its doing - really! So we now have a few more ammenities than we did in training, but they of course are still limited. I never realized how OCD I was about washing my hands until it became incrediably inconvinient to do so - like having to fetch water, and boil it and then mix it with cold water until it is the right temperature and ideally have someone else pour it from a pitcher and then the pitcher often runs dry before you can actually get the soap residue off your hands and then find something cleanish to dry them - as paper towels are nonexistant here. That is how we wash our hands, and we want to do it a lot too, so we don't get sick - but really... it is a bit more difficult. That was just washing hands, I'll spare you all the gorey details of taking a bath, but I will say it happens in a small basin, a washcloth is a must, and only a very small portion of one's body (if you are lucky) gets to be actually warm at any given time, also I have fully given up conditioning my hair - it takes about 1L of water just to shampoo. Last weekend we tried to have a treat and take an actual bath because we have a tub in our house- really, just a tub, the faucet doesn't run in to it and we have to heat water on the stove. It took three rounds of heating all three of our cooking pots just to fill the tub half way and to an ok temperature - this is our life now - as I said please embrace your next shower. Now there is also doing the dishes, which again happens in a basin, and we have to heat water and it seems very technical - which Shane has been really working at trying to figure out - I generally just try not to think about it too much. Also, we are now lucky to have a real, flushing toilent in our house. However, in training of course we did not - I have always previously taken being able to go to the bathroom comfortably at night, I will no longer do that! But, I also have always taken a reasonable temperature for the toilet seat for granted as well - I also will not do that any more, it is the little things really. On that note, I would like to take the time to post the photo before I have to go - will continue on the same subject next week. All of our best!
Carol and Shane 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Finally got the V!

Hello Everyone,
It was so nice to get comments on the last post - I'm so glad to see who is following and how awesome you all are.
Appologies for it being so long since the last post.
So big news! After a long and arduous 10 weeks of Peace Corps Training - as Peace Corps Trainees - We swore in a on Sunday the 7th, took the Peace Corps oath and we are officially Peace Corps Volunteers! Now, all 19 of us are spread out all over Lesotho. It is crazy to think that we are now PCVs after starting to apply in April of 2010. Swearing in was cool because our Bo-Me (all our host mothers) started Saturday, cooked all through the night and into Sunday and we along with our entire village had a huge feast. I felt bad though that they had to work so hard to make such a fun celebration come together.
Training was not what we expected, we did some cool stuff like field trips and games with youth groups as well as panel disucussion -  and some really monotonous (but I assume necessary) class time. We didn't have much down time at all, even for reviewing the Sesotho that we had in class every day. We even got grades on things (I confess to only getting a 70% on my garden... that is the price we paid for free-range chickens I guess). We both passed Sesotho at intermediate-mid level, so that was good but we will continue with tutoring. Now we are at site with tons of books and training manuals that will help us do our jobs over the next two years. So yes, I did just say that we are at site! I will have much to say about it over the next two years, expecially because we will have more regular access to the internet, even from the phone - but it is difficult to do anything but read stuff from the phone, which I found out with the last blog post that failed when I tried to post it from the phone.
Anwyays, I guess I should tell you a little bit about the begining of our new life as real Peace Corps Volunteers. We are in the Highlands of Lesotho in the Drakensburg mountains it is beautiful here and cold - it even snowed today, just like those sloppy wet May snows in Bozeman! It is almost spring here and we feel at home. Shane is working at a Snake Park, and he is so happy to be there and it is beautiful. I am working for the World Food Programme now! One of the one the ground field offices, so I'm looking forward to how it will come together. We are settled in to our house now after a night without furniture and two nights without heat. But it is a pretty nice house and we will talk more about it later just to keep you all reading. (Cliffhanger....)
All the best to everyone reading - sending lots of love from Lesotho!
Shane and Carol

Friday, August 5, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Have toilet paper, will travel!

The title is again not a joke! Toilets are few and far between and good, bad or in between - they never have TP, so this is our new Lesotho survival strategy! We are now in week three of training and doing ok - so parts are harder than others. Our family is still really awsome! Sorry the photo thing hasn't really worked out so far, we are trying! We have done some cool stuff in the last couple of weeks, we visited two orpanages and a couple of successful businesses a jewerly making group for HIV/AIDs affected women that doubles as a health care plan We also went to a successful weavers guild that takes mohair from start to finish - one cool thing was the bicycle tire spinning wheels! Today we hiked Thaba Bosiu where the Basotho nation was founded and we saw the grave of Moshoeshoe the first and second! We got our first care packages! Thanks so much to both moms! What a nice treat and we definitely felt loved! Thanks so much again! Please keep the chocolate and handsanitizer coming.
We also have been on some great hikes, we also gave the whole village we are staying in a nutrition lesson:-) and we had an interesting ag panel talking about the status quo of farming here: main crops, corn and sorghum, big problems - not being able to afford inputs also soil erosion is huge. I now also have a personal goal of learning to plow with oxen like many locals do! I also saw my first John Deere tractor on Wednesday! I have seen others, new holland, landini etc... this was the first JD. We got our site packets today and will look through those to "apply" for jobs and placement for the next 2 years. I am kind of hoping for quacha's nek where I visited before. Unfortunately any travel does seem  to make me incrediably motion sick and that is pretty far out! We now hope to know where we will be placed by next Sat.
The King's bday is tomorrow and we are going to go celebrate and hopefully see lots of great dancing and traditional dress. We will have a pile of pics when we do get to post.
I'll stop rambling but we both hope all is well with everyone and all of our best from Lesoth!
Shane and Carol

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Udate from Peace Corps Training

Hello Everyone,
Thanks Sarah for commenting :) that is always fun to see.
So we are going to post some photos (hopefully) to show you a little bit of some of our experiences in training.
We just got back from visiting volunteers all over the country - I went to one of the most remote parts of the country - very close to the Sethlabathebe National Park. It was pretty cool! Shane went to the northern part of the country - so now we have two different view points of volunteer life in Lesotho. It seems like we will be finishing training in another 5ish weeks and then we will start our real life as volunteers!
We will let the pictures do the talking for now though!
Lots of hugs!
Shane and Carol

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ha ke na mata (it really does mean no problems)

Hello everyone!
Sorry it has been awhile since we have been online! But we have been in Lesotho since June 3rd. They took us straight from the airport to our training villages outside of Maseru, and we have not been able to get onto the blog since then. I really don't know where to start... so, when we got to our "training villages" (where we will live for about two months with host families until we swear in and go to our permanent site) with four other volunteers; as the Peace Corps vehicle drove through the village the driver started honking and everyone ran out of their houses and we all went to the cheif's house where everyone met and sang and the cheif gave a speech, and there was more singing. Then we got to me our host mothers (our 'me) and they were really excited and we were all really happy. Then we went back to our 'me's (pronounced may) house and they gave us Sesotho names and met the rest of our family. We are living in one room in a really nice house that is made of concrete, with tile floor and a nice sheet metal roof, it also has a rainwater collection system, a borehole/watertower, beautiful couch set and a dish with a big screen TV, but the generator isn't working right now so we all do not have power. Our 'me also has a huge garden, rose bushes and chickens. We are using a tin shack pit latrine with a wooden seat, and our life in buckets has begun! Every night we bathe in buckets and once a week we wash our clothes in buckets which is actually pretty hard and does take awhile.
Our family is so awesome! Our 'me is quite sophisticated and speaks very good english, our Ntate (father) works in a platinum mine in SA, we also have a married younger sister and a 14 year old brother who is also very cool. They have been really great to us and even threw me a surprise b-day party.
Our days have been pretty long, trainings are from 7:30am starting with Sesotho class and then we got to a different village with everyone else and learn about other safety, health and development stuff until about 4pm when we start the hour long walk home. It has been getting light at 7am and dark at 5pm. The weather has been pretty good, but definately chilly - and we are rarely very warm. The buildings are often colder than outside. It is frosting at night but there hasn't been snow - though we did have hail on the first Wednesday that we were here and with the sound on the tin roof we couldn't here anything the teacher was saying.
Lesotho is beautiful! The Basotho people are beautiful and for the most part very friendly. We have only been on two hikes so far because we have been so busy everyday with training, but I know more will come. We have also been eating a lot of traditional food - leshile shile which is a sorghum porrige just like malt-o-meal, papa which is a corn mush thing that is white with not a lot of flavor sort of like white rice and moroho which is a sauteed mustard green. We have also been eating other things but those are the most unique. I should probably wrap this up now. We've taken a bunch of pictures but we have to be really careful about not loading viruses onto our camera with public computers so I will post those later. We did get a cell phone and it seems like we can recieve calls from the states so please email us for the number if you'd like to call - we would love to hear from you, we are 8 hours ahead of MT and the current volunteers say that using an international calling card from the states is the easiest/cheapest way to go. We have also had people recieving letters and care packages - taking about 2-4 weeks so please use the address we posted to write to us! We miss you all, but we are having a good time so far. Please feel free to post questions for us to answer in the comments to help direct the blog.
Lots of love!
Shane and Carol

Friday, June 3, 2011

In Johannesburg!

Hi Everyone,
Just wanted to let you all know that we had some flight delays and we are overnighting in Jo'berg and we made it through that crazy-long flight and we are officially in AFRICA!!!!! We saw beautiful sunrise and sunset from the plane and some great views of the Atlantic ocean... however, we are in desperate need of sleep at this time so we are keeping this short!
Lots of love,
Shane and Carol

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Last Day in America - in the birthplace of the nation!

Hello again,
We wanted to post a quick little update - we made it very successfully to Philidelphia, all of our baggage has made it this far too... we are taking this as a good sign. It is really hot and humid here (suprise!) it was forty degrees when we left Great Falls in the morning and when we flew in the pilot announced that it was ninety-one degrees here! Shane almost flipped:-) For staging we registered ourselves and just got Yellow Fever vaccines. We have been meeting some of our fellow volunteers and will have more icebreakers and briefings this afternoon. Yesterday we had a fun time taking a couple of hours to wander around the historic district of Philidelphia, it is very cool (actually hot!) but there were so many cool old buildings, cobblestone streets and beautiful gardens, we even got to visit the US mint here- so check out the new photo page for a few fun photos! We head out super-early tomorrow morning and then get on the super-long flight to Africa. Check in again soon for our next posting from "The Mountain Kingdom."
Sending our best to all of you!
Shane and Carol

Monday, May 30, 2011

Almost Ready... (or as ready as we're going to be)

Dumela (we think that means "hello") Everyone,
We both hope this post finds you all well!
So, it has been a bit since our last update - Shane hasn't been letting me bore you all with the gorey details (I have not been letting Carol overwhelm you all with posts...). Anyways... we had a lovely rest of our time in the midwest (the flooding in ND was unbelievable!) and an incredibly long - delayed - Amtrak ride back to Shelby and have pretty much been laying low and enjoying our time with family. Playing pinnocle and banannagrams, going for walks - thinking about painting Shane's parents house while watching it rain a lot! We'll post a few more pictures of Shane and the first wild aspargus plant he found when we went out "hunting" with Auntie Kris, the apple tree that we planted in the McFarland backyard in honor of Carol's grandpa Stanley who passed away last summer and a pic of us at our favorite romantic getaway in Hot Springs, MT - where we took a little break for a couple of days.
Yes, despite being essentially homeless and unemployed - we decided we needed a little break... Unfotunately as I am always a fan of sharing the somewhat unglamorous side of things, the last couple of months have truly been a never-ending to do list with lots of packing and sorting!
We have to say how much we have really enjoyed the last almost two months that we have gotten to visit as many of our family and friends as we possibly could - we will miss everyone and have unmitigated gratitude for the time and hospitality everyone gave us. We hope that you found it as enjoyable as we did and it really was priceless!
Just to give you a quick update on what is coming up very soon - we fly to Philidelphia early Tuesday morning (so watch for pics of the Liberty Bell - hopefully!) for about a day, where they will collect us up with the 20 other volunteers, immunize us, introduce us to each other and ask us if we are sure - and if we are sure we are sure! We will then get on a very early bus to get on a very early, very long flight, to South Africa. So, we will get to meet our host families and the people who will train and supervise us, on June 3rd. It sounds like we will get to actually stay together with a host family for the 10 weeks of training, (after which we will know more about where and what we will be doing). As for the training itself it looks like we will definitly be having Sesotho lessons everyday! And more shots we think... it looks like they also cover a lot of safety information. Tomorrow is our last day in Montana, we are expecting a frenzy of trying to slim down our packs and cram everything in and organize things in case pieces get lost... if we get a chance to take a picture of everything that is going into the packs we'll try to post it. Otherwise, we will update as soon as we get a chance - because, theoretically the exciting part of the blog is about to start!
We have had some requests for an address - so here is the P.O. Box of the Peace Corps, it seems that padded envelopes rather than boxes are easier/cheaper to send.
Shane and Carol McFarland PCVs
U.S. Peace Corps
P.O. Box 554
We would love, love, love to hear from you in the form of letters, comments on the blog and emails!
All our best to you!
Shane and Carol 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"It's not the breaths you take, it's the moments that take your breath away!"

Good Morning!  And Happy Belated Easter!
I have good news - I figured out how to add a seperate page connected to the main blog. We didn't really like the format in the blog when we posted the appartment pictures, so now you can click on the link in the sidebar to get a glut of "Sharol's" photos whenever you'd like!
We have been having an awesome time here in the Midwest! We very much enjoyed our visit in Des Moines. Please don't be mad at us if we end up going to graduate school in Iowa, it really is quite nice. We enjoyed our stay with Liz and Bruce, we went on a walk with them and got to see cardinals, and blooming plants everywhere - I understand it is still snowing in Bozeman, so that was a treat. It did rain the whole time we were down there so when we skipped to the next county over to check out the covered "Bridges of Madison County" and the birthplace of John Wayne, it was pouring on us. We were however, the only idiots out there being tourists on a rainy Tuesday morning in April, so that was OK (check out the photos  we took on the other page). We then cruised back up to Minneapolis (in the rain) and got to visit the University there and hang out more with our wonderful family. Shane did a lot of Jiu Jit Su while we were there - including testing to advance to the next belt level! We were all very excited for him! Video was taken but we have misplaced the memory card, so stay tuned and we will hopefully have a little snippet of the video of Shane getting beat up for your enjoyment.
We stayed downtown Friday night with Andrew and went to "The 90's" where we enjoyed the show and dancing and a few drinks. The next day we headed back up north to meet up with Carol's dad, who has since been treating us to the delux Lake Superior tour a la the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. We stopped in Duluth to check out the museum at the port, and then headed up to the Porcupine Mountains "The Porkies" to the locals. There, we enjoyed amzing scenery and nice hiking - we stayed in a primitive cabin right on the lake shore. We were able to watch the sun set (definitely check out those pics!) and then after hanging out around the campfire, the stars came out and we left the campfire for the shore to check out the sky from there - it was incredible! When morning came, dad woke us up early so we could also watch the sun rise over the lake, we got pretty spoiled with great weather and amazing views. After leaving the cabin, we went up to Lake of the Clouds which is its own lake, very close to Lake Superior, but with several hundred feet of elevation change in a short distance - it was pretty cool. There were some amazing views up there of both the Lake of the Clouds valley and Lake Superior! Now we are in dad's old stomping grounds of Houghton/Hancock on the Keewenaw penninsula of Upper MI. We will be touring the penninsula today and staying in another cabin tonight before we head back to Brainerd and then Minot; for more visiting and catching the train back to Great Falls. Check out the pics page, because the photos are way cooler than my verbose descriptions and we'd love to hear from you!
Shane and Carol

Monday, April 18, 2011

On The Road...

Hello everyone,
We've been trying not to burn you all out by blogging too much. We left Bozeman with our moderately jam-packed U-Haul last Monday morning, after checking out of our apartment that was very clean thanks to the help of great friends (Kara and Trey). We spent a long day driving to Mandan, ND at 55mph - it was a beautiful day and we had lunch on top of Pompey's pillar but we were sure "over" crawling across eastern MT. As a bonus though, we got to enjoy the sun setting over the badlands in our side mirrors. We enjoyed getting to visit and catch up with our friend Preston. We then traveled farther east than Shane has ever been before going to Carol's dad's house in Brainerd, MN. We unloaded our stuff there and took our MN driver's license tests - we passed - woo hoo! We also spent some nice time with Carol's dad and then drove down to Minneapolis to visit grandma, grandpa, auntie and cousin - as well as good friend Andrew. They all took us to the Mall of America. We rode a roller coaster at "Nikleodian land" and saw lego land - amazing! We have a few photos that we will try to upload soon. Today, we arrived in Des Moines, Iowa to visit some friends and the university campuses. We went for a walk and everything is budding and green here, we also saw many bright red cardinals! Summing up the last week, we have been driving and really appreciating our time with friends and family.
Best to all, Shane and Carol

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Countdown

Thanks to everyone who came to our party last night! What a great time, and a nice chance to see everyone - we will miss you all. I'm taking this little break to share with you the unglamorous part of leaving for the Peace Corps - our house on moving! We got our U-haul today, the countdown begins. We leave for MN bright and early Monday morning. We have been taking a couple pictures over the last few days. I will try to figure out how to post those. Enjoy! If anyone has any fun/clever/witty suggestions, we would love to re-name the blog something more interesting. Also, if you have signed up for the email update thing - let us know if it works well.

Best of everything to you all, and we will try to hold off on further posts until we have something cooler than our messy apartment to share:-) Signing off to go vacuum mini-blinds.
Shane and Carol

Friday, April 8, 2011

Welcome to our new blog!

Hello everyone and thanks for coming to check out our blog - hopefully this will help us to better keep in touch will all of you wonderful people back home. Please continue to follow our posts and we would love to hear comments from you!
We will not be leaving for Lesotho until the end of May, but stay tuned as we pack, move and otherwise get ready for our two years in the Peace Corps.