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