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


  1. Holy Crap you guys! Your little home is really nice- I'm not sure if I was expecting dirt floors and straw or what, but it looks very cozy, way to go! Interesting bit about the garbage in the river in the picture section, it would make you think more about what you throw away if it wasn't so compartmentalized like it is here. Garden looks great! The bag gardening makes me happy :). I've done that with potatoes. I'll write! Hope you guys are doing well-

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  3. "Next to our bed ... are the glow in the dark stars and planets that we also brought because we are fun like that." <-- You guys are awesome.
    And you are getting a kitten! i am jealous! But we already have enough fun with two cats that hate each other- on to the next post to read about your adorable kitten!