Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hats and Cat

Serurubele LOVES this bag... he stayed in it for more than a hour playing, attacking Shane through the cloth...

It climbed up here completely on its own!

This one is for perspective
Hello everyone,
We haven't been taking a lot of pictures this week, so hopefully you enjoy the cute photos of our kitty. We hope you are all doing well. We are fine here (our stove is finally working!). People have voted in the elections, but there aren't official results yet. The government is set up like England as a parlimentary monarchy, so, there is the King (who doesn't change), a parliment and a Prime Minister. So, there are similar numbers of elected seats between the parties now, and it seems like it is confusing things. As we understand, in two weeks there will be a final outcome, especially of who will be Prime Minister. Also, PC has been doing a great job of staying in touch with us as things move along.

Otherwise, we stayed pretty low-key since our last post. Enjoying watching movies on our laptop, cooking, reading, going for little walks around our place, and visiting with our close neighbors. We are thinking of our families though. I know this time is really exciting for a few people, between graduations and moving into new houses, we are thinking of you all!

I believe the new CHED volunteers are going to staging really soon, so they will be joining us in Lesotho in just a few days - we are looking forward to meeting them. We are also interested in watching the volunteers who arrived in 2010 get ready to leave. They are wrapping up projects and purging belongings, making all the big plans for the next step - we'll miss them. We have come to realize that before too long that will be us - eek!

Shane is doing so well with his projects, his grant finally got approved and is going through. Him and his supervisor are really, really excited about that. That grant will also include a small order of yoga mats - so, I could be an informal yoga instructor soon. Shane is also trying to put together an African Library Project application to get a collection of science and nature books for the Snake Park.

I went to the bank today and it took forever - the customer service in Lesotho in general isn't efficient or good, but that is another story. While I was waiting, I noticed the hats - and thought that the hats are a really interesting part of the culture here. I believe in America, there is one basic style of winter hat that is common, you pull it onto your head and go, right? Today the woman in front of me was wearing a beanie, but she had tied it in a rubber band in the back, around her little pony tail. In the summer the women love big summer hats to keep the sun from darkening their skin. Actually, the most common time we see umbrellas are when the sun is really shining. The women carry them around to keep the sun off of them (one of the volunteers has embraced this and has an umbrella that looks like a frog with eyes that stick up from the top - it's name is Bouncer). Another important item of headwear especially for married women, is the headwrap (this is also good for us volunteers - do you remember the entry about trying to wash hair?) Something that has been really interesting to me, has been learning about hair care here. The women, go to the "saloon" every three weeks (or something like that) to get braids, or a weave, or straightened (did you guys see the doll a couple weeks back?). When they get braids, I guess they are really tight at first and they hurt, but then they start to itch, so you can usually tell how long it has been since a woman has gotten her hair done if she is trying to desperately scratch her head. Also, sometimes, one will come loose and fall on the ground, so it is a funny site to see little hair braids on the ground every so often. Sometimes friends will do it for each other, anywhere - so you can check your bag at the grocery store parcel counter and there will be two women in there, the one who is working and the one who is doing her hair. I usually, just for fun, ask what they are doing, and they always say that they are trying to make their hair look like mine. It seems like a lot of work, but it also seems fun because they are always able to change their hair style - like completely. This can be confusing though when you are trying to get to know people because it is hard for us to recognize someone if their hair has completely changed. So, women's headwear is interesting, but the men have really embraced hat fashion as well, especially with winter hats.

In the winter, the men and boys really shine with their hat syles. The most common is the ski mask - covering the face with holes for the eyes and mouth. Shane actually reminded me the other day that when we see someone wearing one of those when we get back to America, that it isn't normal and that the person will likely try to rob us. Now there are different ways to wear the ski mask hat, you can roll it up, so the holes are covered and wear it like a normal beanie, but the trick is to leave the little pointy nose covering part sticking out - for fashion. Another way is rather than pulling it over your head, just drape it over the top (I don't know how they keep it from falling off, but I don't know how the women keep their big loads on their heads either). Another way is to take a normal beanie and roll it up so much it just barely stays on the top of the head. Do you guys remember our kitten with its traditional grass Basotho hat? The style of the top part of it is often embraced, in winter hats - so it is really common to see a normal beanie hat pulled up off the top of the head so that the material makes a little bulb at the top, these vary in size. Another one, is to see the ski mask, with the bottom encircling the forhead as if it were a normal beanie - with the rest of the face mask part coming up and over the back of the head. As you can see, the styles are all but infinite - I really should try to get some photos of these. I have to say that it isn't necessarily all men, or all women absolutely that do this. There are definitely many people, especially among the professionals that are a little bit less traditional in some ways - especially dress, so its not like you see the local equivalent of the mayor wearing a ski mask; but this is a big cultural thing especially among the men and boys who herd the livestock. The typical shepard wears a ski mask (even in the summer), a blanket (even in the summer), carries a molomu (the fighting stick), and has more than one *scary* dog that walks around with him.

This is also iconic of the initiation school boys. I don't know that much about initiation school as it is very top secret what happens there. What I understand is that it is a 6 month time where adolescent boys go and live with each other in the mountains and transition into manhood. They collect firewood, learn a special language, get circumcised and learn how to really fight with the traditional molomu. Other people are not welcomed anywhere near where the schools are held (do you guys remember the horse riding story where they chased us?) When they come back from the mountains they are welcomed by the villagers, they decorate their blankets with baubles all over and sing and dance. Initiation school is actually a really important part of the male culture here. There is also one for girls, but I think it is not as prevalent. They sing/shriek and find people to beat with sticks until they pay a few rand, and they stretch their labia (yeah, that's what they say... better than some of the alternatives I suppose.)

I think I'll wrap up with that, but we're thinking about you all and look forward to hear from you - as always.

Hugs from Lesotho,
Carol and Shane

1 comment:

  1. Woot, good to hear Shane's projects are going through! It sounds like some cool stuff is being brought to Qacha's Nek!

    And your cat is cute :). I like his collar.