Monday, August 13, 2012

From Dust to SNOW!

Serurubele checking things out!

Hello everyone,
I've got a pretty fun post this week but I want to start out by saying that I saw a bumper sticker this morning that said "Drinking the blood of rhino poachers cures HIV" - we got a kick out of it, especially because there are many people that say different (sometimes really whacked and sometimes just horrible) things will cure HIV...

On another note, pretty much the only news that we have from last week is SNOW! Lots of it! So, I mentioned last time that I was supposed to go to a workshop on Tuesday right? Well, we woke up early Tuesday morning so I could catch the taxi, and after a while of getting ready, Shane looked outside and said something to the effect of "umm... I don't think you're going anywhere today" as you can see from the photo of Serurubele seeing snow for the first time, there was quite a bit on the ground already! I've been talking about the cold for a few months now, but, we haven't actually had any snow to speak of, which suprised us. There were maybe two rainy days, but otherwise not a whole lot of precipitation - so, this was actually much needed moisture. Being from Montana, we are pretty used to snow, so, it wasn't really a big deal for us - as Shane said, "If this were Bozeman, I'd still be delivering pizzas in this..." here, the world pretty much stopped... which was actually pretty awesome - below is a chronicle of our snow days:

DAY 1:

After discovering the snow, we still had electricity, so we ate breakfast, listened to some Christmas music, drank hot chocolate and played Scrabble. Then, we proceeded outside to build a snowman (it wasn't actually really cold outside and that was a great way to stay warm, because it was pretty darn cold inside).

Our garden now...

The snow was pretty powdery, but we made it work

Please note that the "Motho oa lehloa" (snow-person) is holding the National Beer of Lesotho - Maluti

Our neighbors were fascinated by the fact that we even went outside in this and briefly came out to stare at the crazy white people and take pictures with their cell phones. At this time, the only people out moving, were people going to the latrines and they were making the only tracks. We had more hot chocolate, and the power was off in our house by this time, as was the water. Fortunately, we are getting used to this and had plenty of candles, extra water, food and gas for heating and cooking. Shane, the brave and dedicated soul, decided to rouse one of his counterparts to start working on one of their projects. When he returned, he said that most other people were not at work, there were no cars or public transport (the snow-preparedness infrastructure is a little bit different than what we are used to) I knew no one would be out at my job, and that anyone else to work with was hunkered down trying to stay warm, so, I read my Tony Hillerman book - start to finish, it was great because it has been awhile since I've been able to do that. Shane got back and we had dinner by candlelight and called it a night.

DAY 2:

We slept late, because we knew there was still no one going to work and there was still no power. We looked outside to find a perfect and pristine world of about 2.5 feet of snow covering everything! We were running low on hot cocoa mix, so I decided to do a little French Cafe breakfast morning, I melted Rolos and added milk for a rich chocolate-caramely, warm start to the day; then, I made crepes, some with my peach sauce, canned last summer and some with shitake mushroom egg filling, we even played French music...

Serurubele checking out the snow on Day 2

Yes, we know we are spoiled and lucky and we really appreciate all of the help we've gotten from you guys with that! Then, being cold again, we decided to go check out our snowman and build a snow cave...

You can see it snowed quite a bit more! Most people were still not really out moving around yet, just a few small basic paths, but pretty much nothing. Some of the kids were moving around a little bit and some people were collecting firewood. No one was able to graze their animals either, one of our neighbors said he had three cows die from this. Since livestock are where most of any family's weath is, it is like having several thousand bucks from your savings account - die.

We used our dish basins to make bricks to build our snow cave-

Will this be warmer than our house?

That night, we actually built a fire inside - it was great, actually a bit warmer than our house and our defunct stove, a lot cheaper and warmer than our little gas heater, and the roof was still somewhat open, so we got to enjoy the really beautiful night sky of Lesotho, and, we still had hot chocolate and hot apple cider that we drank while we were out there. Meanwhile, Shane started reading "The Tipping Point" by Malcom Gladwell and I was reading "The Paris Wife" about Earnest Hemmingway's first wife - we were both about halfway through with those by the evening. We were also happy to have our little Solio solar charger, our phone batteries were starting to go, the water was still off too - we were (slowly) melting snow to flush the toilet (don't tell anyone I told you about that downside to an indoor toilet!) but otherwise we were still ok.

DAY 3:

We woke up in the morning to the tremendous sound of A LOT of snow falling off our tin roof. By the afternoon there were some brave souls that were starting to go into town, mostly to get paraffin to heat their houses, and our neighbors were shoveling their path to the road. Also, some people were going around just to start checking things out, visit, get warm and sit in the sun. We feel that we are quite fortunate to have 2 different neighbors that checked on us and asked if we were still alive! Some of them even said they'd never seen snow like this before. Also, they were all quite suprised when we said that we had - most Basotho think of all of America in terms of upper middle class L.A. Our neighbors also could not image snow at Christmas! We also tried to tell them about the wonders of snow shoes - which we wished we had! Most people were wearing regular rubber boots (gum boots) with plastic bags over the tops as gaiters (how about that REI!).
We went down to visit the Sisters as well, and helped Sister Magdalena with feeding her animals, and we found that she had been single-handedly shoveling her paths (remember, she's like 70 years old)!

Beautiful, snow-covered Lesotho

More work on the snow cave
People were also becoming more and more fascinated by our snow cave, especially as it grew... they would pass and ask us about it - what we were going to do for the roof, if we were going to sleep in it... we even invited some people to come sit in it with us that night. One of our neighbors took us up on that. We roasted potatoes on our little fire, Shane played guitar, and we visited a bit - but it got pretty smoky and we decide that our venting and orientation technique was not as good as that of the Eskimos. We did have fun trying though. The electricity was back on that evening for a little bit, as was the water, so we frantically tried to charge some things and refill our water reserves. Also, I finished my book and started "A Buddha in the Attic."

DAY 4:

The electricity was off still in the morning, so we took our time getting going but thought it would be a good idea to go into town to check things out, as people were really starting to move around and the sun was melting things quickly. With no electricity and still a lot of snow blocking the way to places, there really wasn't anyone working, but there were quite few people in town. We stocked up again really well on food, especially as we heard rumors that there might be another big dump of snow that night!

One of the main streets was actually plowed...

Local equivalent of Kmart, operating on a generator

Best restaurant in town...

Shane, with his super-heavy backpack of food, with the beautiful snowy Drakensburg in the background

This is how firewood is collected here

When we returned we found that our snow cave days were finished
It was really interesting to see where the paths were and where they weren't. As I said before, the most important paths were the ones going to the latrines, otherwise - mainly people walked on the road, rather than on the shortcuts that are usually used. Mostly men were out, wearing their blankets, talking on the street, exclaiming how much snow there was. Children were also sent to get the bit bags of Maize Meal, Cabbage and paraffin. We saw a very few cars out, and not many that were from the villages or that were leaving our district.

DAY 4 and DAY 5:

This was the weekend anyway. It was REALLY windy, and we were sure that the rumors of the second snow were true. At the same time, the snow had been melting quickly, electric and water were still spotty. We got enough power to watch a little bit of "TV" on our laptop to mix things up a bit. We also tried our coal stove once again and it actually kind of worked - we even toasted some marshmallows (they have coconut coated ones here!) Read more in our books, played Scrabble, Shane played guitar, I baked - of course. I had to make the delicous wintery day gingerbread that I've talked about before, I also made garlic-rosemary breadsticks, "Everything cookies" and honey - raspberry biscotti. The baking really helped to warm up our house. I think with both the oven and the stove it was almost above 60 degrees in our house! We were very suprised to see that even church seemed to be canceled on Sunday, though people still came to visit the priest.

DAY 6 (today):

Things are getting back to normal. Though not quite. Kids were told to come back to school on Thursday! But public transport seems to be running, hopefully the shops will be able to restock - especially on paraffin and gas! There is still several inches of snow on the ground, except in the real sunny spots. And the second snow still hasn't come. We are actually expecting company, as a few of the new volunteers haven't been able to reach their remote site yet because of the snow! For us, it snowed exactly a year ago, right after we got here, on our first workday.

In any case. We hope you enjoyed the snow day chronicles and a taste of how a "Snowpocolypse" goes down in Africa... I think a lot of Basotho spent a lot of time in bed, sleeping. It was quite a treat for us "super-busy-lifestyle" Americans to have a pure, guilt-free, staycation, that was a bit cold, but also with that cozy feeling that so much snow outside can give you. I felt bad though, we don't make that much money here, but we do make enough to be resilient to an event like this. I am sure that this was really devastating to many people in this district that don't live in houses that are as strong as ours, and that don't have the ability to have reserves of food and water, or fuel to cook with. I also thought about the police, but more importantly medical care and how that was affected during this time. I thought about the ambulances with chains and plowed roads back home - they are definitely not here! There aren't even real  snow shovels...

We hope this post finds you all well, and helps to cool you off a bit - we hear it has been hot up there!
Hugs from Lesotho,

Carol and Shane

PS - Shane has started reading "A Stroke of Insight" and I have started "Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close"

1 comment:

  1. It looks like you had fun with the snow! My kids go bananas when winter arrives and they just love playing outside. On the other hand, my husband and I are on alert during winters due to snow piling up on our roof. It causes damage to insulation if left untreated and they could also freeze your gutters solid. It might be cliché, but checking on our roofs is vital especially during this season to save ourselves from a lot of headache. I unfortunately learned this the hard way.

    Chantay Smithingell