Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More, you know you're in Peace Corps when...

Something that did not suprise me...

Flannel sheets become the highlight of your week...
You can give both male and female condom demonstrations in front of a large group in an obscure language and feel completely comfortable...
Downloading a new book for your Kindle is a big deal...

Hello Dear Readers,
Thanks for your overwhelming positive response to the last post! We, as always hope this one find you all well, too. I'm slowing down a bit partially because life in Africa is, suprisingly normal. I'm sure you all love to hear about the delightful "Indian Summer" (not sure what to call it here in Lesotho) we have been having the last few days. (But the bucholic ramblings might get old quickly...) Did I mention before that Basotho mark the season of fall by "when we eat corn" the most delicious way to eat it is roasted directly in the fire that is made under the traditional cooking pot while they are cooking their other food. Regardless of the nice weather, fall is wrapping up quickly, with the leaves of the fruit trees near our garden all on the ground (mulching the beds of our garden in fact!). Farmers have harvested their wheat, which appears to have done OK this year. They are in the process of harvesting their (dry) beans. Unfortunately, those crops aren't very common, and it is the exceptional farmer this year that is going to get very much from his maize crop. Shane and I were supposed to go to the village of his supervisor on Sunday to plow his field with oxen, an experience Shane has had- but I have not. We were not able to go because, get this, one of the oxen fell off the side of the mountain and "broke itself!" This is a relative tragedy, you see, it is very common that most of any family's savings is tied up in livestock, sheep, cows, goats etc... They literally use them similar to a bank account. So, as it is the oxen that has "broken itself" is worth at least $1,000, this may not include the exceptional training that Shane's supervisor is known for. Also, he is currently unable to plow his fields at the proper time because he is short an ox and he has lost time in either trying to fix it up, or butcher it. Wow, right?

We just enjoyed a nice weekend. I went to the library and read "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" to the kids and then they drew the characters from the book and we hung them on the wall. I must confess that I am also in love... there is a small orphange in our town and I have been going to visit them occasionally - like this Saturday - and my heart has completely surrendered to them and their smiles and energy. There are 16 kids ranging in age from 7 to 17, and when I went to visit them, in traditional Basotho fashion they offered me a plate of food to welcome me (I may have mentioned before how painful it is for me to accept food from people here, especially because even though our salary is small, we are never wanting for food). We also spent a little time in their garden, cleaning dry beans for their dinner, and, of course, playing. 

Kids here love to play ball, not baseball, but you give them a ball of any kind - even tightly wrapped plastic bags made into a ball and they will play! The girls like bouncy balls, or tennis balls, because they "skip" them. Like bounce the ball and swoop their leg over it and avoid getting hit (which is impossible for me to do!) or they bounce the ball and jump over it almost like a jump rope (I won't blatantly mention where you get hit if you mess up this one, but I'll just say, it isn't very nice).  Of course, there is soccer, or just kicking, bouncing or throwing the ball so it will bounce off you head in preparation for soccer (this is usually done by boys, but girls will sometimes play soccer too). Girls usually play net ball, which I think is like basketball. Also, we played a kind of keep-away this weekend too. I would like to point out that these ball games, usually involve the ball getting away multiple times. I'm not sure if you all have really looked at the photos from here and noticed that the sloping terrain is merciless - this has significant implications if you are playing games that involve a ball! Girls will also make jump ropes from plastic bags tied together or braided grass. Boys here reallly like cars too, and will make them out of any materials they can find, used boxes and bottle caps. Most often you will see elaborate cars and trucks made from wire, that can be "driven" with a wire steering wheel extended to the boys height. I keep meaning to get a good photo of one, but I am still waiting for the right opportunity - they are truly amazing! We have previously heard that boys here, especially the ones that herd the cattle, will eat anything. Moles, cats, birds... I was a bit disbelieving of this at first (though I shouldn't have been because of how all of our Basotho collegues tell us how good intestines are and goat/chicken/pig feet are, brains etc...) However, I saw it this weekend, one of the boys caught a random bird, killed it, plucked its feathers just like a very small chicken, gutted it, roasted it on the open fire (I did tell him to cook it very thoroughly!), and ate it... so there you have it - what they say is true.

What has Shane been doing lately? Well, he submitted his health (and HIV/AIDS) education through Ju Jit Su grant to PC, and bit by bit it is going through the approval process. He is very anxious to get this thing going. He also has just put his mind to running a High-Altitude Ultra-Marathon next December, just so that he can practice training for it (there will always be some things about each other where we just can't relate!). Did I mention he read Born to Run and is currently reading Body By Science, so those are kinda fueling the fire if you will. He has lately been beating me at Scrabble (gasp!) with a recent score of 502 after playing squatters on two triple word scores, he has gotten scores of over 400 twice since then! We had to bust out Banagrams last night just so I could experience some redemption. We are coming close to our 100th game of Scrabble since leaving America. (Thank you so much Donna for the new Travel Scrabble board before we left!)
 Also, we got another lovely care package last week with many of our favorite things, including Cadbury Eggs - that definitely tasted like America!, and we want to express our deep gratitude - I know I say this every time but it really is lovely to get even the smallest things by mail (like a sweet postcard from Ireland from the Roches too!) I will say that it is probably good to be aware of sending anything fragile, if you are the kind sort to send packages to us. The packages we have recieved since being here seldom look like I'm sure they did on the other end - and this last one was almost comedic. Shane said it reminded him of the begining of Ace Ventura Pet Detective (if anyone else can actually remember that!)

Amazing feat of Scrabble!

"Handle with care"

I have been working, gardening, cooking, reading. I've mostly been taking growth measurements for preschoolers at work. We just finished that up, so will be trying to get some school visits in before the exams and break starts at the begining of June. Gardening has actually been going satisfactoraly, trying to grow peas, we've got arugula, and some Siberian Kale, trying for chard and cauliflower too, so we'll see. Also, have been really trying to mulch and compost like crazy, even putting left over laundry water onto the compost so that it may infuse a bit of phosphate (severly lacking here!) into the compost. Cooking has been really fun, and lately has included blueberry bagels, almond biscotti, yellow pea Asian dumplings and a roast chicken and things made from it for several days. For my reading I'm finishing up Enough - loved it, they even briefly mentioned WFP in our district in one of the chapters! Will very soon start The Bottom Billion, but we are also listening to Creating a World Without Poverty on starting social businesses, so these will hopefully prove to be insightful and they've been really interesting so far. I am really starting to realize how much economics and policy are tied into poverty and even agriculture. I knew that before, but I think the scale is starting to resonate more now! I think that flat out charity is sometimes necessary, but from a more sustainable perspective there really needs to be some other, more effective, solutions - sooner rather than later. What those are going to be, are being seen in some places and remain to be seen in others.

Blueberry Bagels

So I think I'll wrap up there for now, rather than do a seperate chunk about culture for this entry I've tried to integrate it into our "news" hopefully that was fun. Also, speaking of fun - please, please, please take a moment to check this out, it is hilarious - though won't likely apply to Shane and I we were really easily able to relate to it!

We hope the best for you all as you are exeriencing the joys of spring up there!

Hugs from Lesotho,

Carol and Shane

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