Friday, March 16, 2012

Basotho Culture: an introduction

Hello loved-ones and other interested parties,
As always we hope that you are doing well, happy and healthy wherever you are reading.
We hope you enjoyed Shane's post last week. He is really doing some great and interesting things as well as finding creative ways to pursue his personal interests! Things have been going pretty well here. We got two letters since the last post! Both included photos and they immediately went up on our wall - we really enjoy the "hard stuff" even if we are able to easily communicate digitally.

It has been in the mid-high 50's during the nights but still getting pretty warm on most days, also still having occassional intense storms. We have been enjoying some of the produce from our garden, even though the success with it has been marginal since we refuse to get chemical fertilizer. Our pole beans have been going crazy - still. We've been enjoying some tomatoes and an occasional zucchini. We've also been enjoying some of the fruits that are growing near our garden. We are realizing how amazing fresh grapes are, but also figs, even apples and peaches are being sold in town for an average of about 5 US cents for one! Shane mentioned that I canned - I spent several hours working with 4 small jars. Reusing peanut butter jars from the store - I know you aren't supposed to do that, but that is what they do here - I didn't have a rack, a proper pot or, most dear to my heart, jar grabbers; but it seems like the 3 jars of peach sauce and one of salsa turned out OK, we'll see when we open them.

We also JUST recieved a Christmas gift card to Amazon(Thank you!), and since we have both been spending more time reading and planning what to read - just thinking about how best to use this on our Kindle wish list has been entertaining us (life without TV...). Shane is currently reading Born to Run and I'm still reading James Michner's Texas - I hit page 500 last night and I'm not even halfway through but it has been a great read. Shane is wanting us to both start working on Charlie Munger's reading list - it looks pretty good, but not as much soft, fun reading...

So, as the title promised - I will stop chit-chatting and talk a bit about Basotho culture. I first have to say, this will not be accomplished in one post! I also don't think I will do them completely sequentially as next week we were thinking about doing a post on what we packed to come here, in hopes that maybe the new CHED 12 volunteers that are getting ready to come might find it useful.

Basotho culture is like an onion. I should have written this post several months ago, because it would have been simpler! However, we had the opportunity to go to a celebration last Sunday in honor of Moshoeshoe day (Moshwayshway). This was very interesting because it was a dance competition between the primary schools in the district - so we got to see many different kinds of traditional dancing, singing and outfits. I took photos, but they didn't capture the amazing-ness of everything. I also took videos but they are bigger than my infamously slow net connection will allow me to share with you at this time. I'll try to get up a few photos soon though. This event really captures something we really appreciate about Basotho culture - singing and dancing are both integral to the way of life here.

Truly, you can generally assemble a group of random Basotho and they will arrive upon a traditional song and immediately and easily break into 3 part harmony - amazing doesn't even begin to describe it. That would never happen in America, we tried to give a "concert" before we left our training villages and we had a hard time getting row row row your boat together with 6 of us! Meetings in most settings open and close with a prayer - whether you are in a professional workshop or a traditional village gathering at the chief's place. In more traditional meetings they also close with a song. Songs are used to welcome people, like when we first arrived in our training villages and the whole village was singing and uulating to welcome us. They are also used to say farwell, I've been to two going away parties now and they both included a lot of singing and dancing as well as wearing of the traditional outfits. School is opened and closed with prayers and songs and of course, singing is a big part of the church services. Maybe you can also see that even in the face of globalization (most people here love Coke and Fanta) they have built in a system for mantaining important parts of culture, especially by teaching these things in schools - and I was in rapture watching those kids dance and sing on Sunday! I was a little bit like a pow-wow but of course African and different.

You've also seen by this description how much religion is present within the culture. Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Anglican are the three major religions of Lesotho and almost everyone goes to church and if they don't everyone is still assumed to be Christian. Us, not attending church here is constantly questioned and we are often invited/asked if we are finally going to come this Sunday. Many of the primary schools are actually associated with one of the major religions. Some of the orphanages and even some of the hospitals and clinics. There are also religious NGOs that work here such as Catholic Relief Services and World Vision is very active here too.

On the other hand, almost everyone here believes in witchcraft. There isn't bad luck, someone has bewitched you. They believe that some people can control lightening and make it strike people they don't like. Traditionally women hide their pregnancies so that no one can "witch" their babies. Ghosts, black cats, and even a funny little man called a Tokoltsi (somewhat like a leprechaun but like a witches mignon) are all very real here. One Tokoltsi siting was said to force the relocation of an entire village to the extent that livestock don't even graze there any more! To help protect yourself from witchcraft, you can go to the traditional doctor called the sangoma, who can give you herbs/roots/ general potions or charms for anything.

I think that is a good start to Basotho culture and I'm about to take off for the weekend. Hopefully it is a good one for you all and Happy St. Patty's day!

Lots of love from Lesotho,
Carol and Shane

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post guys! It was fun to see what Shane has been up to as well.