Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not hiding...

Lesotho slide...

It has been awhile since my last post! It is common here, if a Mosotho hasn't seen you for a while to ask why you have been hiding yourself... hence the title of this post.

The previous post was put up right before we left for our mid-service training near Maseru - yes, we have officially passed the mid-point of our service, we have 10 months left! We enjoyed the training, it was fun to catch up with the other PCVs in our group and see all of the accomplishments of our terrific volunteers. We also got to stay in a pretty swanky (for Lesotho) hotel where we got three full meals a day and bathed with hot running water! After the training, as Shane and I awaited our transport, we got to spend time in Maseru. Peace Corps sent us to the dentist, and then we went to the mall! We got to go grocery shopping in a real grocery store, eat pizza at a nice restaurant, I got to have a real mocha, we even checked out some new clothes (the people in the shops didn't know that we can't afford them!) And to top it all off we went and saw Dark Knight in the movie theater! We got large soda, popcorn and candy too and the whole thing cost us just over $10- imagine. As one of our fellow PCVs noted, we have been in Lesotho far too long, if Maseru is that exciting for us.

September has been eventful in our Peace Corps world, I'm not sure which stars aligned this way, but it really hasn't been a great month for me, as well as several other volunteers we know. I'll spare you the details, but we were supposed to have a BBQ party to welcome our new CHED 12 volunteers, but most of us weren't in the mood to celebrate and the weather happened to be cold, rainy and terrible for an outdoor BBQ on the planned date. So, we got together briefly with the others, and we also had the pleasure of hosting Lin and Bruce again, we had a great time drinking coffee, playing cards, cooking, talking and we even got to see a fun suprise from Sister Magdaleana:

Adorable Tabby Kittens!

who also gave us the first rhubarb of the season which we enjoyed in a very delicious apple rhubarb crisp.

As for our projects, Shane has been continuing to do really well. They have currently submitted a preliminary proposal for the construction of a Green Building on the Snake Park, that will be used for meetings, workshops, etc... but also as a dojo for the martial arts academy. They are pretty excited about that. They are still axiously awaiting the mats for the academy that were in the last grant. Shane has also assemble a team to go teach the Fight Like a Girl women's escape training to high schools around the district and that has been going really well so far,

Shane with his FLAG crew

and it sounds like the girls are very receptive to it - but they are still waiting for the protective suit to be sent from the states so the girls can get the realistic scenario training that is fundamental to the program philosophy. He has otherwise been doing really well, he is diligently trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up and how we can make it happen. He finished reading Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer, has been working on Body By Science, and he just started The Kite Runner.

New Puff Adder brought to Snake Park in a WFP bag

As for me, last week things fell apart a bit - PC challenges! Fortunately they seem to be on the way up this week. The electricity has been off at the WFP office/education building since the begining of this month. Also, we have been registering people for the Emergengy Feeding that is a response to the Prime Minister's announcement of the food shortage crisis, so - the car has not been available for my school activities. This has led me to reach out to my secondary projects, 'M'e Matumelo (from the bakery) and I had been working on doing a business training about record keeping for some of the women with micro-business here in town. Unfortunately, after a lot of good and hard work planning, she came to me two days before the workshop saying that she was having some pretty severe family problems and she wouldn't be able to go through with the workshop. So, we decided to ask one of the trainers from the government ministry to step in a just do a quick and dirty one day training, so that we wouldn't have to cancel.

Women's small business training

At the same time, last week one of the guys who is working with the bees shattered his collarbone! So, he wasn't sure when he'll be up to getting together again! The water tank for the sisters is coming along and is almost finished, though the worker we hired has been a bit reluctant for some reason - so, we dealt with that last week too, but the tank is, in fact, finally almost finished!

Finishing up the tank

On a lighter note I did get to attend "Nutrition Corner" for nursing mothers and spronsored by EGPAF last week. We cooked "enriched papa" where we added eggs and milk for extra protein to the traditional staple - papa. We also talked about delivering assertive messages and even did practice role plays, including disscussing with their husbands the use of contraceptives and taking their children for the recommended clinic visits.

Yummy - enriched papa

I also had my first yoga class with some of the local, professional women last night and 5 showed up and seemed to like it - this is a great start and I am really hoping for it to continue. So, PC life continues. Our garden is growing pretty well, the rains haven't really come yet, so we are mostly watering by hand but it seems to be OK so far. We've had some rabbit nibbling on our stuff, but nothing devastating, so that is good. Other gardens around are starting to show signs of life too, and the farmers have mostly planted their fields - we saw this planter, which maybe has potential to be no-till...


It is starting to get noticably warmer, which is also good. I've had three favorite things lately: one is our camp/solar shower that we recently hung up above our otherwise worthless bathtub - now we can boil the water, mix it up and have an up-to-7-minute shower! Number two is a triple decker PB&J, 3 slices PB between two, and jam between two... yes, these are the important things in life. Lastly, I have been in love with Parmesean cheese! We brought some back from Maseru and it is such a nice addition to almost anything, just to "kick it up a notch" normal lentil soup really does morph into something amazing with a few grates of Parm, cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil! We also made homemade ricotta and spinach with parmesean cheese stuffed ravioli from scratch, that was pretty delicious.I haven't been baking as much because I've been busy but recently made some pretty delicious banana bread and a friend inspired me to make bagels again. I've been reading a lot, I really enjoyed the book "We are all Welcome Here" I also read a book by Wallace Stegner - Crossing to Safety and just finished "Man's Search for Meaning" by holocaust survivor and "logotherapist" Victor Frankl.

I've got to run right now, so I'll leave it at that. Hope you all are doing well and enjoy the update and photos. All our best from Lesotho.

Carol and Shane


Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day

 Hello Dear Readers,
We hope you all are reading this in good health and happiness.
As fall quickly approaches on you guys, I am really enjoying sharing my sentiments of spring with you all. So, here goes... with plenty of photos.

Yesterday, I was reading in our rocking chair. Outside the weather was sunny and in the high 60's, but quite windy. I noticed a bird perched on the peach tree in full bloom right outside our window and it was very lovely. By the way, I made sun tea yesterday - which by Shane's prediction means summer has arrived! We've been doing a bit of spring cleaning too, and I'm proud to say I've been a good house 'M'e and asked the woman who helps us do our wash to also wash our blankets, so for about 3 dollars a pop, our blankets joined the ranks of all the other blankets on the lines yesterday to celebrate the arrival of good weather, coming in at the end of the day with that clean and fresh smell exclusive to line dried things.

I went out to one of the WFP primary schools to do some agricultural education last week and on the way, I realized one of the things I've really (already?) grown to love in Lesotho. It is this time of year when the countryside is covered with pink blossoms. I've never seen anything like it in America, and I will miss it next year! In the above photos I tried to capture the loveliness as best I could. Below are a couple photos to prove that I do in fact do "development" work, and this time I was even using some of my education! You can see me - even giving the thumbs up (do I look like a PCV yet?)! And there is also the classroom and students taking notes below. Below that, is a photo of some of the guys Shane has been working with, enthusiastically about to depart for a martial arts tournament in a neighboring village.

As I wax on about spring, Shane noted about the last post, how different the photos look from the actual experience. Walking home, the photos don't capture the feel of the wind and your heavy backpack, the smell of burning plastic and often urine or sewage, the sound of bells on the animals, the kids playing, overly loud music coming from shops and cars, and hearing poorly mantained cars drive too fast nearby. In any case, we're doing the best we can to convey the experience to you electronically. Also, on that note - if you have any suggestions for topics that you'd like to hear about, please email me or Shane or feel free to comment.
I've just been talking about the sensory experience of the place and I thought it would be a fun time to point out that in Sesotho, there is only one word that includes the sense of taste, touch/feeling(also includes feeling emotions), hearing and sometimes even smelling. I had 'my' library kids go outside last Saturday and write down what the experienced for each of their 5 senses... it was fun and of course, sounded like poetry, but I really noticed that they didn't sense nature as much as the human components around. I heard birds while they heard cars, and they even turned on their cell phone radios so they could hear music, they smelled food and saw houses. But they did great and hopefully got them thinking about expressing themselves and connecting to the environment.
I try not to get too philosophical as I write here on the blog because that can get tiresome. However, I'd like to mention something that I've been really impressed with about ourselves as our Peace Corps service has continued. We have always been pretty resourceful and creative, but PC has really given us an opportunity, out of neccesity, to constantly flex our resourcefulness muscles. As examples, I've included a photo of Serurubele playing with his new favorite toy that we have made him, it is a stick with a plastic bag on the end - he loves it. Also, below that you can see a photo of his scratching post and self-feeder that we made out of 2 peanut butter containers. Duct tape is usually at the core of a lot of these projects!

Several people have commented on my resourcefullness in cooking - thanks.. I really can't help myself and there really isn't a lot in the way of entertainment so... below, I present to you a photo of falafel from last weekend. Does it look like something from a restaurant? I homemade the pita bread, the 'feta' cheese, the honey-mustard sauce and of course the falafel balls, and then topped it all with cabbage and diced tomatoes. I have to say, it was pretty delicious and Shane was also happy!

 I've mentioned our seedlings previously, - here they are below "hardening off" and getting ready for being transplanted out to the garden. We might wait a bit longer so that we don't have to frequently water them by hand like our other seedbeds and newly germinated veggies. The wind is not only taking the soil also taking the soil moisture with it!

I know in some of our other posts I've talked about problems with livestock eating our crops, as well as rabbits, insects and even moles. One of our other challenges is very poor soil quality where we are growing, last year this, along with the other factors, really depressed any actual vegetable production. I tried to plant several successions of pea plots as well in attempt to green manure - and they got eaten by livestock too! Many of you already know this, but a pretty important factor in growing organic successfully is the legacy of your plots. I've been cursed by this several times and have had terrible luck growing several gardens now. So, this is year two, we've rolled up our sleeves, made a fence, have compost ready to go and have resigned our selves to hauling a lot of water. I'm not sure if that will be enough. So, Saturday I went into one of the small (shack-like) businesses that sells ag products to scope it all out, and even consider buying some fertilizer (I know what many of you are thinking...) regardless, what I found was actually interesting. I think most of our lovely readers are familiar enough with fertilizer to be suprised that all I found was 6-3-2-31... the 31 being sulphur. Most of it was parceled out into smaller (completely unmarked) 1 kg plastic bags available for about $1.50. I spoke with another ag minded PCV about what was available to him and he said that 2-3-2-22 and 3-2-1-25 was what he commonly found. I'm a lot more comfortable with soil building and organic nutrient input methods, but notheless I was extremely suprised not only by the low primary macronutrients but by the high sulphur! As I understand sulphur numbers like this are mainly for canola and alfalfa... certainly not maize, which is the main crop here! In any case, I suggested to the woman that owns the shop that she may help her customers by writing the numbers, at least, on the smaller plastic bags (PCV on duty 24/7...) and I returned and she actually had done that on a few, yay for the small victories of PC!
I think I'll wrap up now and wish you all a very nice labor day off and as I talk about our garden begining again - I hope you all are enjoying a bountiful harvest. Though I have been hearing a lot about the drought and even seeing some of the effects on global food prices and food aid! In any our best wishes and -
Thinking of you from Lesotho,
Carol and Shane