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

1 comment:

  1. Dolly Parton? Bahahah! Awesome. I googled a bit about the "initiation schools" which was an interesting read. I'd never heard about them before. How are your jobs going, What's you garden look like? Is it warming up?