Thursday, January 26, 2012

Not finished with the Cape Town photos yet!


Hello again,
So, our trip was like 2 weeks long - We used all of our leave allowance and our money - so you won't have to worry about more vacation photos any time soon after we finish with these. I'm going to begin posting the photos actually from Cape Town next. We had kind of an interesting experience at the begining of the Cape Town segment. We had booked this hostel on an organic farm - in an eco village even, in one of the nearby suburbs. The hostel was even next to the train station - OMG public transport! So, we got there on the train and the train itself was a bit dodgy (not terrible but important to keep the gaurd up while riding) so we weren't particularly keen on riding it more than 2X a day for the next 9 days from the begining. We got to the hostel and it was terrible, run down, no sign of a farm, and the other people staying there made us a bit nervous too, also the walls were paper-thin and, especially I, did not get more than two hours of sleep.

The next day we had planned to go to the farmer's market and (yay!) the Phantom of the Opera, so we decide that we'd do that and then the following day find a new place. That day we also had the pleasure, of touching base with the family of one of our friends from back home that lives near Cape Town. In short, we are so grateful to them, they actually came and picked us up and invited us to stay in their guest house for 2 nights while we regrouped and found a new place. It was such a lovely time, and it was so fun to meet and visit with such a nice family. Their house was great and they even had a pool (wonderful for the hot days!), they also commercially grow basil:-) and were just generally great. It was really fun to stay with them also because it reminded us of "real life." The whole family, and house with running water (showers) - even a washing machine! Electric ovens and generally comfortable atmosphere. It really turned a bad experience into a really great one. I'm sorry to say that their family has since suffered a tragic loss, and we would appreciate if our other friends and family could keep these lovely, kind, people in their thoughts.

So, the Farmer's Market was great and so was the Phantom! We really tried to not let the bad hostel experience over shadow those fun times. We then moved into a very cute little appartment that was let out for holiday stays. It was really reasonably priced, especially for the location - which was great, really close to everything! So, then we pretty much finished out our stay doing normal tourist stuff: Table Mountain, beaches, the Waterfront, Greenmarket Square and the Aquarium that you will see in the ample quantity of photos. Shane was really happy too, because he got to do Ju jit su while there - which he hasn't really gotten to do at all since we left. (Though now he is making a plan to start a Ju jit su club here). Basically, it was very lovely overall and a great little respit from some of the challenges here in Lesotho. We got to shower in a real shower every day of the trip! And, we ate a lot of perishable food because we always had a fridge! We found a smoothie shop near our appartment and I think we had like 5 smoothies while we were gone!

Coming back has been fun, friendly faces and familiar rountines, our cat is bigger and is a boy (don't remember if I've said that or not yet). We eased ourselves back in culinarily by bringing back real butter, cheese and even heavy cream! Which we've had to pretty much binge on before it spoils, that hasn't been so bad though! Still enjoying the Cook's Illustrated cookbook a lot, it has been fun to have butter. I made a chocolate chip cookie recipe where they said you should brown the butter first to add depth of flavor - they were amazing, thanks for the chocolate chips! We even made blueberry pancakes, just so we could put the real butter on them:-) (also thanks for the dried blueberries!).

I wanted to share the above photos, they are both from work that I  (Carol) have been doing. The one with all of the women is one of the groups that I have been working with. We had a few seeds in the office, just sitting here - so I gave them to a couple of the groups I work with. Unfortunately, a lot of the seeds aren't exactly "culturally appropriate" like the zucchini, but I told them that they could grow it and I would teach them how to cook it. So, I got to the village (before we left) hoping to do a composting demo, then it started raining as soon as we got into the garden! I noticed that their zucchini was ready so, we decided to do the cooking demo. I told them I was going to teach them to cook it like KFC (really, really big here!), so we made fried zucchini slices -  they liked them, but added a bunch of salt. I know that I'm supposed to be teaching healthy stuff, but that recipe it just so delicious and I was sure they'd like it because of the KFC thing, and it was easy. It was really fun though, and maybe you can see that they aren't very used to getting their photos taken! This group is great though. This time, as soon as we pulled up they welcomed me by giving me a jar of canned peaches to take home! My collegue explained to me that "even though Basotho people can be counted among the poorest of the world, they will still give anything they have to make you feel welcome."

The second photo is of the bakery I've been working with. For a long time they have just been in that shipping container, but with no sign or anything. The bakery is great too, it makes these bars, that I swear are exactly like the Nature Valley granola bars, as well as custom baked cakes. So, I've been encouraging them to make a sign - even just paint something on the side so people know what it is. They told me that when we got back from Cape Town, it would be done - and guess what - they had done it! No small gratification in the greater scheme of PC projects! So, I see I've been verbose again, and you still need to go look at more pictures so, I'll leave it at that. As always, our best wishes to everyone who is keeping up with us. Lots of love from Lesotho!
Shane and Carol

PS- please don't forget to write and tell us how you guys are doing!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Back from Cape Town!

Greetings from Lesotho!
We hope this post finds you all well!
I noticed that my good friend Sarah just posted a comment about how long it has been since we have posted - we have been in the winelands and Cape Town since the 9th, we just got back on Saturday pretty late after about 15 hours of straight travel we just made it (in drenching rain) through the border gate to Lesotho before it closed, after waking up in Cape Town. The wonders of modern transportation! We've created a new page that I'm slowly loading photos onto - the internet connection - though wonderful to have is still very slow and, bear with us, we've got a ton of photos! I'm trying to narrate through the trip using the photos, so please for this post, check out the Vacation pics page to hear too much about wine, and to see pictures of food and flowers. As of today I've gotten the pics uploaded for 3 nights we spent in the winelands (where I also got my first haircut since May - yay!). We'll ease up on the food pics for the Cape Town section, but I couldn't help myself on all of the cool plants on top of Table Mountain! So stay tuned as well.

We are now back home in Lesotho - there I said it "back home" after 8 months here! It has been fun to come back to familiar and friendly faces, our "jobs," house and our kitten who isn't so tiny any more! The change in weather has been extreme. It was swealtering hot in Cape Town, and here it has been rainy/misty and coldish and so it goes. We send our love, hugs and best thoughts and wishes to you.
Carol and Shane

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hello Everyone!

We hope that your holidays have been wonderful and we hope all of the best for you in the New Year. In Sesotho: selemo se secha semonate le mahlohonolo. We have had a pretty quiet holiday, just trying to save and prepare for our upcoming Cape Town adventure. We are so grateful for the gifts and phone calls we recieved, as it was one of the first Christmases ever without our family nearby. Shane wanted pizza for our Christmas feast so we made taco pizza and a mediteranean one as well. We had that and amazing chocolate cake! Otherwise we just rested ang hung out. We went to midnight mass at the church, but we have been going to bed much earlier here and we are not used to staying up so late, and it was in Sesotho so we couldn't really understand. There was a lot of beautiful singing though - we wish we could share that with you as well. Basotho in general like to dance and singing - it is unbelieveable, you can take small children and they will be able to easily sing in mulitpart harmony together. The group at the mass is a group of youth that come and practice singing together almost every week - it was amazing. I think that Grandma Dar would have loved to hear that beautiful singing! Above is a photo of the church, it is actually from about 1 month ago so things are even greener now, but I thought this was a good - very typical photo. Note not only the "free range" cows but also the cell tower on the hill in the background.

For New Year's Eve we had a small get together with some of the Peace Corps Education program volunteers, that was pretty fun. We had butternut squash ravioli (homemade by one of the new volunteers), carmelized onion foccocia bread and chocolate cake - this chocolate cake is really amazing! We tried a new wine, Nederburg's Cape Reisling, it was very drinkable and delicious. We also lit sparklers, and two super-sized bottle rockets! That was also fun. Then Shane and I had to kiss of course to start the New Year off right.

We even got to take yesterday off. We hiked up the mountain behind our house to the cattle post of Shane's supervisor, that was interesting to see but unfortunately we forgot the camera - they build a house for the "herd boy" to live in until May, and a corral from stones. All of the men working up there looked very tired. All of the men from the village of Shane's supervisor, stay near each other at the cattle posts too. The posts are pretty much just summer pasture. Shane's supervisor had a heard of over 120 sheep and goats up there too! From the top of this mountain was such a beautiful view. I know some time we will go up again and then upload the photos. We also found some onion starts for sale that we planted yesterday, the ones we started from seed died because it was too dry. We played Scrabble and also read our books. Shane is reading the Small Wonder book by Barbara Kingsolver, and I am reading When the Emporer was Divine. Both are good.

I know that this is a bit off subject, but I'm not sure if I've talked about how many immunizations that we have had since we've been in Lesotho. When we went to training last month we got even more. We are officially immunized for everything, tetanus, rabies, hepatitis of every kind, yellow fever, I honestly don't even know what else. The whole first week we were in the country we got an injection every day in each arm! We got even more when we went back last month. Hopefully that will be it until the give us the mandatory flu shot next winter! Maybe this is a testament to how committed I am to being here, between the shots that I am extremely afraid of, the dogs and even the snakes!

Also, a bit more from the training last month, something I have learned is that I am no longer suprised by anything. We had a goat come in to our classroom during our Sesotho lesson, and I thought it was fun and cute and tried to take a picture to share with you all - but suprised, I wasn't. The hetero young guy in a pink scrunchie topped shirt obviously made for a woman - still not suprised. The Barbie doll in a cake that makes her dress that I just saw in my favorite bakery - not suprised there either. 

Another thing that I'd still like to share with you from riding the bus home from the training last month is another attempt to describe the bus. I wanted to take a lot of photos, I can't because I shouldn't take out my camera because that will make me stand out even more and Shane will reprimand me for living through my camera. So I have to tell you about the beautiful friendly little girl about 2 and a half with butterfly hair clips in her hair, her name was even the same as my Sesotho name. Also I have to write about the beautifully freshly painted red doors and the replowed tiered fields and the rangeland finally turning green to everyone's relief. Those sights were tied in to the Sesotho music and other sounds and smells of the bus, like the smell of Makoenya grabbed as a snack, even the smell of beer on the morning bus - no chickens this time though.

I think that I do have a lot more to say about food, but for now I am just trying to talk a bit about the holidays and some of our activities, I'm sure that I won't post until after Cape Town, but be prepared for PHOTOS! We are so excited and we really appreciate all of your support and encouragement as the adventure continues. So, I have been trying to talk about some of the ridiculous things we've been eating while I'm giving general updates, and I'll probably talk a bit more after our lives get back into the normal groove and I don't have very much material!  

We both hope you are all very well, and as always we think of you often.
Best and hugs,
Carol and Shane