Monday, July 30, 2012

Lighter this time... - chatty tidbits on life in PC Lesotho

Hello Dear Friends and Family,

Can you believe it is almost August! I bet it is hot there - and have been hearing that it is hot, dry and firey in MT. Basotho have been talking about summer and school is starting again on Wednesday. This weekend was sunny, but there was still a bite in the air. We really are looking forward to winter waning, you haven't lived until you've bathed in two litres of water with an ambient air temperature of 49 degrees! In that light, I've got another couple you know you're in PC-Lesotho when...

You wear a baselayer under your PJs.
Water-less shampoo is a significant component of your personal hygiene.
Slippers, hot tea and going to bed at 7:30 or 8pm is really normal, even though you are in your 20s!
You jealously think of PCVs in other African countries who get to eat Mangoes and Avocados fresh everyday while a good produce day here is beets and cabbage.

And by the way... we are lucky enough to have the indoor flush toilet - so we have not needed to name our pee bucket.

So, it has been a bit since I wrote last. Thanks for keeping me in line and harassing me to write! Actually, the electricity was off at the office, so I was busy working with some of my other projects. Also, the last two posts were a bit heavy. Today, hopefully you guys won't mind if I put up some pictures, talk about cooking, gardening and chit chat. I'll start with that the above two pictures are actually from this morning. I was walking to work today and thought it would be fun to take a photo of what I usually see on my walk to work, if you can make out the 2 level brick building with the green roof, up the hill in the background, that is the building where our office is. The second photo is of our office (with the power on!) three of us share this office and the only heat is a small, electric heater, but it's not too bad - especially for PC! I realized you've seen our house and Shane's workplace, but not mine - at least not the office.

So, I think the last time I wrote, I talked about working on a puzzle, here it is completed - it was a fun little winter activity; and since we went to the Bridges of Madison County before we came, it was fun to do this puzzle even if the bridge was from Oregon. The Harry Potter movies have been replaced by the book The Challenge for Africa written by Nobel Peace Prize winning Kenyan woman Wangari Maathai, it has been interesting but I think I'm getting ready for a little dose of fiction! However, I have been having my interest heavily piqued in economics by these books - I actually found a Macroeconomics textbook here at the library that was donated... I've started reading that one too. On a side note, it is funny to think about a Mosotho reading this book. Economics is great for using examples that people can relate to, but because this one was written for an American audience - I was wondering how someone who didn't know America would percieve a lot of these examples... funny thing is, I think a lot of books are like that! So, Shane is still working on The Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer. He's been busy working on another proposal with his supervisor, training for the High Altitude Marathon and thinking a lot about Ju Jit Su rather than reading!

This weekend was pretty nice. Normally, I have the library kids program on Saturday morning. Last Saturday, I had also asked one of the guys from the Ministry of Forestry to come and do a fruit tree pruning demo for me, Sister Magdalena and the orphans. Unfortunately, the library program was canceled because the Librarian was sick, and the man from Forestry also canceled on me, I was disapointed... but... I got to really embrace my Saturday morning, with the cat, my books, my new super-sized French Press full of delicious coffee while Shane was off trying to figure out how to get money to America so he can order things for the implementation of the Martial Arts Academy - not such a bad really, it was also about 52 degrees in our house, so it was also a great excuse to stay in bed and warm!

As I mentioned, Spring is rumored to be around the corner and this also means thinking more about the garden. Last week, I started some tomato and pepper seedlings in milk boxes again, this time we actually had some finished compost to use and I had fun involving some of the orphans in the planting. They were very proud to bring their own boxes of tomato seeds back to their place. Also, I think several of you have been hearing my rants about livestock getting into our garden. We have tried to resolve that problem this year by constructing this stick-and-twine fence that you can see in the photo below - we were told by one young man here, that we did a good job using "appropriate technology." One thing that we are lucky for is that we had sticks available, that isn't usually the case in a lot of places in Lesotho. We also been trying not to "till" a lot, since we re-broke the soil last year, and also to plant in a way that will catch the water better, in case we have drought like we did last year. I'm a little sad that the photo below doesn't show the several successive stands of peas that were planted and growing, I was really making a good attempt trying to use them to improve the crappy soil - but the livestock ate them all! In any case, when Shane got home on Satuday afternoon, we worked in the garden some, planting a marigold seedbed, carrots, kale, even some sweet pea flowers I found to remind us of Bozeman... you know, spring things, but without getting too carried away because we will likely be hand watering most of it for awhile. Wish us more luck this year than we had last year!

Trying to get a good start for Summer 2012/13
 Sunday was also really nice, again, it was sunny with a little bite in the air, but it was a great day in the McFarland kitchen! We started the day with cake doughnuts (yes, fried!), then I started "Rustic Dinner Rolls" hoping to replicate some kind of crusty artisan bread - They were a lot of fussy work, but turned out pretty good, our gas stove has no top element, so it is hard to get things browned on the top without over-cooking in the difficult-to-regulate-and-uneven oven.
I also made Raspberry, Oatmeal, Almond Scones; Double Chocolate Cookies, Lentil filled -Baked Samosas, and Baked Potatoes. We had the potatoes for dinner with a hamburger-lentil sloppy joe style filling with fried cabbage, with unbeatably delicious cookies for desert. We're really feeling the brunt of seasonal eating these days, but I'm still trying to make the best of it - we had scalloped potatoes and turnips with tuna burgers the other day, if that helps to complete the picture! I think if I could go back to America right now, the first thing I would eat is a fresh, fancy salad - I think Shane would gorge on protein! We have really been appreciating lentils as a great PC food, they are cheap (though not available in our district), pretty quick cooking, versatile, protein and generally healthy. Lentil soup has been a huge staple for us this winter, and Shane loves the lentil burgers with real HFC-free Heinz ketchup (from Maseru).

So, next week, we will officially have been PCVs for a year! We have said goodbye to all of the CHED 10's in our district already and we will be welcoming the CHED 12's before we know it - in about a week. I know I've talked about this before but our little volunteer community here is hovering around 10 people, so we lost 4 and will gain 3 - this is big stuff! As we've said to many of you in personal conversations, we are already starting to plan our next step, that we have heard comes all too soon. So, grad school - we're coming for you... Stay tuned - and please wish us luck with that too! It is crazy though, we really are starting to feel a bit out of touch with America... we've missed "The Hunger Games," The Occupy Movement, we've heard tea is the new big thing (is this true - I hope so, because tea is awesome), and glamping... really people? and everyone has a smart phone now right?  Also, we've heard about the recent tragedy in Colorado - is it even possible to say anything about that? I'm sure there is so much more that we haven't even heard about - regardless, it feels a little bit strange. Life here is good though, you can see by my ramblings - life is pretty normal, we're really feeling pretty settled in, we know people in our community, they know us (we still get kids shouting "lekhooa, lekhooa" - white person, white person, but not as much) and we've really experienced just how true the recruitment posters that say "the toughest job you'll ever love" are. I've been getting little glimmers of really embracing life here; for example, listening to all the different birds while taking down the clothes from the line (yes, I love me some bucolicism). We are both thinking we will be ready to come back next year feeling good about our service - our sources say that it is pretty bittersweet. I'm not sure how well I've portrayed how differently Shane and I's Peace Corps services have developed. They say that every experience in PC is very unique, and we can really see that, we are in the same country, town and even house - and yet our services have taken different shapes. Shane's job is a lot about big projects and proposals, because that is what the people he is working with are needing. Mine seems to be more about working with people, and helping to support them in their growth - I've really loved the youth component of my service as well. (Watch for the difference below when I talk about our projects...)

So, there is a little bit of philosphizing for you all... I also thought it would be fun to share a little bit about a recent success I've been seeing. Do you guys remember the bakery? Below, I've included two photos, one from the week before last when the owner came to our house and we baked quiche, cheddar muffins, chocolate cake and she taught me to make the traditional sour porridge made from sorghum called motoho it may be official that I'm a Mosotho woman now... It really was a blast, we listened to Shania Twain (I didn't have Dolly Parton), and talked and even joked that we should start a cooking show. But we costed the muffins and quiche as items she could potentially sell, the quiche was really promising - hopefully that works out well. Please also note in the photo - my seshoeshoe apron, the seed starts in the windowsill, all our awesome cards and you can barely see the space blanket between the two curtain layers behind me - in our attempt to keep our house a bit warmer (Thanks Dad!). Also, I've been working with her on the computer. We really started in April, and have been focusing on helping her to keep her business records in Excel. She had never worked with a computer before and was visibly afraid of it when we started. She has been religiously practicing typing, really building her skills with Excel and we started making a menu in Word last week and she was a star! Typing about 10wpm and not afraid of it - it was so great, I was really proud of her - she has been working hard to conquer this computer and she is succeeding! So, below the cooking picture is one of her on the computer.

With school starting again, my gears will shift a bit back to WFP Life Skills activities and I am sorry to say I won't have so much fun time with the orphans. We'll see how it all goes.
Shane continues to be a powerhouse volunteer. They've got to proposals pending submission and they are in the thick of implementing the plan from the VAST grant they recieved. Below is a photo of the roof for the Snake Park office being re-thatched. It will soon be home to the records for Snake Park and Tourist Information Center, The Face Your Fear Support Group and Self-Defense Academy and hopefully a handicraft center as well - its pretty great that it won't be moldy and leaky anymore!

Shane is really excited to be getting mats for the Martial Arts program really soon, and he will be able to officially start teaching youth and adult classes as well as training up instructors to continue teaching after we depart. He has also been encouraging me to teach a yoga class... As I mentioned, Shane is basically a Super-volunteer, as he is also getting geared up to teach a couple people massage. This is on top of working with the Child and Gender Protection Unit on the girls' self-defense curriculum that they've been trying to get in order to implement this year. Needless to say, he's been busy and running around a lot (literally). I think that is quite enough for this week. I hope that was a little break from the intensity of the very relevant stats I threw at you all the last two posts - but it wasn't exactly dolphins either. I'll conclude with a couple pictures of some of our neighbors... The boys are cooking up a wild bird that they caught, very excited to eat meat, and the girls below were jealous that I took the boys' photo and not theirs, so I "shot" them standing at the door of their house.

Hope you all enjoyed that post about what has been going on with us. We look forward to hearing from you guys and hope you are all doing well.

Best from both of us in Lesotho,

Carol and Shane

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