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