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