Thursday, April 26, 2012


And this is why I've had 3 tetanus shots in 6 years!

Hello Dear Readers,

I appologize for the slightly less regular post this time around - here is the confession: I've been both a little bit busy (which is great!) and also trying to take a bit of time to decide what to write about. As you can imagine - some times are more inspiring than others to keep this monologue alive. As always we hope this post find all our loved ones happy and healthy and looking forward to spring as we dive head first into winter here in the southern hemisphere. So, I woke up this morning and it was in the high 40's (Farenheit) IN OUR HOUSE. For those of you who are familiar with the preferred climes of the McFarland household - 40's is very far from that list! We are still trying to get our coal fired stove situated (yes, the hippie in me is dissapointed, but when you're really cold, well... you do what you gotta do and we console ourselves by saying it will be better than contributing to the mass deforestation/erosion problem here in Lesotho).

So, I wanted to share with you a little tidbit of what I've been doing at work last week. I actually worked with two remote schools to build "Keyhole Gardens." When PC told me I'd be working with "permaculture" - this is what they were talking about. Different than the keyhole gardens usually promoted by "real" permaculture, the Keyhole Garden in Lesotho has been heavily promoted by World Vision and has caught on with other development projects and the Ministry of Agriculture. It is useful for people who don't have a lot of land, (or soil), it can also keep the soil warmer longer, as I understand due to heat absorbtion by the stones, you can use grey water from the house in it and it is good for people who aren't easily able to bend over. I see it as an interesting "development" icon, because it is sometimes seen as "the solution." Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC's)? Build a Keyhole Garden. People living positively? Keyhole garden... I can say they are pretty gratifying as you maybe can see by the photos. And you can count them, which is good for reports. It took about 3 hours start to finish with a larger group of hard workers and all of the materials already present (it is a large investment).  But, in this case, it was really nice - this particular school doesn't have a lot of topsoil and they have a problem with livestock grazing, so we figured they could protect this area more easily from the animals.

Begin from nothing...

Work together...

Something to be proud of!

Shane has been looking into graduate schools lately. It is hard to believe that we will soon be coming up on a year in Lesotho, and it is not too early to start making post-PC plans! So, we'll see how that comes together... We got a visit from our PC Country Director last week. She just came to see how things were going with us volunteers. I worked together with my co-workers to drive across the Senqu River (not on a bridge, in the Land Cruiser!) to take growth measurements of preschoolers that WFP is giving food to. Shane got to share all of his progress on his projects as well as be reviewed for a grant application he submitted - he is really looking forward to implementing the program that it is based on (yes, it is largely ju jit su and women's self-defense based). We had some fun cooking last weekend, making blueberry bagels from scratch and for dinner we had salmon burgers with honey mustard on a bed of arugula - this PC thing sure is rough! We have also been reading- of course! Shane has been reading The Four Agreements, Wilderness First Aid and Body by Science. I have been reading a book that was loaned to me by another volunteer called Enough -I really like it! It is dealing with why, after the boost in agricultural productivity brought on by the Green Revolution and all of the other technological advances, that there is still famine and the need for so much food aid. It is interesting, but not uplifting, especially as an American.

 So, I thought it would be nice to talk a little bit about the family and the household aspects of culture here in Lesotho. I was just doing a Life Skills lesson on gender and asked the students to show me how their families were by acting things out - it was very illuminating and the kids had a lot of fun. First of all the way family is defined, not only here, but I think in Africa as a whole, is a bit different than what we think of in the U.S. The extended family is the most common family unit, and with the economic situation and the impact of AIDS in Lesotho it can be an amalgamation of grandmothers/grandfathers, aunts/uncles, brothers/sisters, cousins, and children of distant relations as well as fathers and mothers, all thrown together in the same group (or house, or even same matress), maybe with some living apart but sending money from RSA, Maseru or another district,  depending on the different situations they find themselves in. It is very common for grandmothers and great-grandmothers to take care of young children as the mother goes to pursue education or employment. Even the language denotes the specific family relations, such as the husband of the younger sister of your father. The oldest brother in the family, especially on the fathers side is given a special name too, that turns into grandfather for everyone if the biological grandfather passes away. It is his responsibility to care for the family. However, it is the responsibility of everyone to care for the family unit, especially children. It is common for aunts and uncles to take care of children whose parents have passed away or are otherwise absent. It is also common to refer to cousins as siblings.

In marriage, the man pays "lebola" - bride price usually in cows or their monetary equivalent (not cheap!)- to the bride's family. The bride is then taken into the man's family, where she is given a new first name as well as a new last name. The new first name is given by the mother in-law and implies the first name of the first born, but with the addition of Ma as a prefix to stand for "mother of, " for example: my mother's name would be Macarol. Then, when the first baby was born, it would have to be named Carol. However, the woman always goes back to her mother, and her family for the birth of any baby - so if there are complications, it can't be blamed on the mother-in-law. In Lesotho, it is expected for a couple to have a baby at just the right interval after marriage. You can maybe guess, soon enough to demonstrate proper fertility ability (we are seen as freaks here because we don't have children!) but not so soon as to imply that it came into the marriage with the mother. It is also important when the baby is born to say how much it looks like the father.

I'll keep the general roles of tangible work distribution to the nuclear family, they will likely not be suprising:
The father, if he is not working outside the home and sending money, usually does the "harder" hand-on work, like plowing the fields, building and also working with the livestock (except pigs and chickens). 'After' he is finished working hard, it is very, very common for him to go to the local bar to drink and B.S. with the other men, drinking either traditional beer (fermented corn or sorghum meal) or, the national beer of Lesotho - Maluti (pretty much like Bud Light), from quart sized bottles. Men also smoke (not always just tobacco), whereas it is not acceptable for women to do so. The boys in the family are expected to do similar tasks/help their fathers. It is very common here for teenage boys to be the shepards for the livestock while they graze in the mountains (the culture of this phenomenon is almost its own post).

The mother is responsible for the house area - this includes: all cooking, sweeping (inside and the yard), washing dishes and clothes, collecting wood, caring for the kitchen garden, the chickens and pigs, weeding the fields, and pretty much everything else. The girls help their mothers with everything, but most commonly by collecting water from the community tap, collecting wood, cooking and sweeping - they also work really hard from a young age. I have noticed that washing clothes can be a more collective activity with many women helping each other and giving them a chance to be social and gossip.

I'm noticing that this post is probably at a good stopping point, but we hope you enjoyed it and we look forward to hearing your responses as well as about your adventures. Again, we hope that you all are staying well and I'll try to put something interesting together for next week.

All our best from Lesotho!
Carol and Shane

1 comment:

  1. YIKES 40 degrees?? That is not fun! It sounds like sleeping bags would be optimal in that sort of situation. Those pics of the Keyhole Garden were helpful too in showing just how big the gardens are. I was thinking maybe a foot off the ground, not quite half my height off the ground.